Amos lived in very messy times. How messy? Judah had rejected God in favour of idols. Things were not much better in Israel where society denied justice to the downtrodden and also worshipped strange gods.1 Today our societies have largely forgotten about God too, and even in the Church we can make idols of our own good works. And our world is awash in injustice. Maybe it’s for this reason that the book of Amos is so relevant to us today.
Through Amos, God gave a very sobering message: Because they ignored Him and “lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idol, the star of your god, which you made for yourselves. Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Damascus, says the Lord, whose name is God Almighty.”2
The Sabbath is not a day set aside to think about ourselves. It's for us to remember God’s great creative power . . .
Here is a depiction of a people who have made their own gods, worshipped the work of their own hands. When God sent a messenger to them, they turned against Amos, falsely charging him with conspiracy to overthrow the king. Amos replied (Amos 8: 1-6) that Israel would certainly go into exile because they had lost or abused the true meaning of the Sabbath in addition to denying justice and goodness.
Why is the Sabbath mentioned? It’s mentioned many times in the Old Testament in reference to God’s people departing from Him.3 Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel are particularly strong on this point. It’s because they forgot that it is a sign that God saves and sanctifies, or makes us holy.4
The Sabbath is not a day set aside to think about ourselves. It’s for us to remember God’s great creative power; the kind of power that saw Him open the Red Sea for His people to escape the Egyptians. Remember, God’s people had absolutely nothing to do with that miraculous escape—it was all God’s doing!
It was that creative power that supplied them with food and protection in the wilderness, and not one shoe wore out! And the temple services, had they understood, pointed to God’s eternal salvation through a sin Bearer, His own Son Jesus, who would provide mankind with forgiveness and restoration through nothing we do, but only through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ. That is why the Sabbath is a reminder to us that God “sanctifies” us!
But this only raises a question. Is this why we have wandered in this world so long? Have we repeated the sins of Judah and Israel in these last times? Has God been waiting for us to grasp His message? Have we missed the point? Have we built idols of our own works, our own righteousness; a faith in our image rather than the image of Christ?
The three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 involve the preaching of the commandments and the Sabbath. But they are described by Ellen White as being the message of justification by faith.5 The law includes the Sabbath. If we understand what the Sabbath really is, it makes sense that the message, which says, here are they who “obey his commands and keep their faith in Jesus”6, is about the Gospel.
Ellen White wrote, “To all who receive the Sabbath as a sign of Christ’s creative and redeeming power, it will be a delight. Seeing Christ in it, they delight themselves in Him. The Sabbath points them to the works of creation as an evidence of His mighty power in redemption.”7 It is a weekly reminder of the God who not only created all things, but who through His Son provides a way for everyone who believes to have a part in His eternal kingdom.
The people failed to listen to Amos’s calls for repentance and were carried off into exile. Similarly, we as a people failed to grasp and accept the full meaning of the message of justification by faith in 1888, and I wonder if we remain exiled in this world as a result? Like the Jews in exile, God has given us the opportunity to accept His gift today. Now is the time to heed His call.
“Even so, come Lord Jesus!”8
1. See Amos chapters 1 and 2
2. Amos 5: 25-27
3. Isaiah 1: 13; 56: 2, 4, 6; 58: 13; 66: 23; Jeremiah 17: 21, 22, 24, 27; Lamentations 1: 7; 2: 6; Ezekiel 20: 12-24; 22: 8, 26; 23: 38; 44: 24; 45: 17; 46: 1-4, 12
4. See Exodus 31: 13; Deuteronomy 5: 15; Ezekiel 20: 12
5. E G White, Review & Herald, April 1, 1890
6. God’s Word Bible Rev. 14: 12
7. Ellen G White, The Desire of Ages, p 289
8. Revelation 22: 20
Graham Morris is a retired journalist and teacher who attends Lilydale church in Victoria.