Who's ready for some good news today?
Well, the first good news is that I want to welcome all of the students who are with us today. And all of your families.
Sitting in here today is the power to change the world.
Here is the title of my talk today:
Maybe It's Not Them—Maybe It's...
This talk is part two in a series called A Maverick Spirit.
We are opening the Bible to one of the ancient prophets of old. His name is Amos. His writing is from 3,000 years ago. And you say what can a prophet from 3,000 years ago possibly say to me today?
Amos has quite a lot to say to us today. I hope that you will see that. Because the use-by date on truth never expires. I pray that you will open your heart to God speaking to you today by his Word.
So let's pick up from where we left off last time. And I have to give a little warning that this place in the Bible is rough.
"Thus says the LORD: 'For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they have threshed Gilead with implements of iron. But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, Which shall devour the palaces of Ben-Hadad.'" (Amos 1:3-4)
Like I said, it's a rough passage of scripture. It's pretty harsh actually. It's talking about the judgment, and the wrath of God being poured out on a place called Damascus.
I asked a question last time and I want to ask it again. What should we do with this? If we believe the Bible is the Word of God, and I do—and I hope you do or at least I hope you're open to it—then what should we do with this? What should we do with the hard places in the Bible? Should we skip them? Should we water them down? Should we explain them away? Should we do some theological magic tricks, and make them no longer relevant?
Personally, I say no to all of those things. May I respectfully suggest we do some thing else. Actually 3 steps to make sense of the hard sayings of God's Word.
I think the first thing we have to do is always let the Bible speak for itself.
I think we'll do ourselves a lot of favors if we make a commitment to adjust our thinking to the Bible rather than try to adjust the Bible to our thinking.
The second thing we have to do is look really really really closely at what it says.
So let's do that now. If you look closely at this verse, you will see that there is a word in italics. It is the word punishment.
Normally, when we see something in italics, it means that it's being emphasized. But that's not how it works in the Bible. When the Bible has a word in italics, there's a totally different reason. Italics means that the word is not there in the original language, but the translators put it there to help you understand.
Were the translators cheating? Were they putting stuff in the Bible that doesn't belong?
No. It's the nature of translating from one language to another. Sometimes you need extra words to make things clear. We just have to look really really closely.
Another thing you'll see if you look closely is that phrase "for three transgressions and for four." In a minute we're going to see that again. Actually, it's here 8 times. Three... actually four...
God is basically saying, I am patient. I am long-suffering. I have given you every opportunity (three). But you guys have crossed a line (four). You went too far. You pushed it too far. You just had to go there.
So, even in these oracles of judgment, we see the first glimmer of God's mercy peeking through. Whatever judgment is happening here is only happening after a whole lot of patience and mercy from God.
When you have a tough Bible verse you have to let the Bible speak for itself, and you have to look really closely at what it says.
But the third thing you have to do with a difficult Bible verse is probably the most important of all. And I'll get to that. But I want to show you what comes next...