“Thus says the Lord: ‘For three transgressions of Damascus and for four, I will not revoke the punishment because they have threshed Gilead with threshing sledges of iron.'”
It’s interesting, this language is poetic. It starts here in verse three and then you see the same thing in verse six and the same thing in verse nine, verse 11, verse 13 and then into chapter two. What you’re reading, what we have in the book of Amos starting out here, are pronouncements of judgment from God through Amos on neighboring nations around Israel and then on God’s people, Israel. And each one starts with this language. “For three transgressions of,” Damascus or Gaza or the Ammonites, for Edom, “for three transgressions of,” whatever nation, “and for four, I will not revoke the punishment.” And the whole picture as we see that, so just maybe to help you understand what this poetic expression in Amos means, basically the picture of three symbolizes the plural in Hebrew, in the language that the Old Testament was written in, and then kind of by raising it to four, the idea is for more than just many. It’s basically a picture of multiplicity of transgressions among each and all of these nations. God says, “I will not revoke the punishment.”
We long for the day when justice reigns over the nations.
So the picture is clear. God, in his holy judgment, will punish sin. And this is good. This is very good. Now, you think about a judge on a bench in a court. If people who had committed vile crimes came before that judge, and time and time again there was no punishment handed down, he just overlooked vile crimes, no big deal, kind of move on, we would have that judge off the bench in a heartbeat. Why? Because that judge is not just. Justice requires the punishment of guilt and the deliverance of the innocent. That’s what justice in a court is. And the picture here in Amos is God holding court among the nations, including his own people.
And the reality is he will one day hold court among all the nations and among all people. And he will be just and this is good. It is good to know that injustice we see around us in this world will not have the last word, that God in his perfect justice will have the last word. At the same time, that is a terrifying thought apart from faith in Jesus, because if we stand before the holy God of the universe in our sin, then we deserve judgment. And the beauty of the gospel is that God has sent his son Jesus to live the life we could not live, to die the death we deserve to die, to endure the judgment we deserve on a cross and to rise from the grave in victory over sin and death. Be encouraged in a fresh way today by the gospel. Jesus has endured the judgment you deserve so that you could be free from it. All your multiplicity of transgressions against God will not be ultimately punished because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and your faith in him.
And so, God, we pray all over again today, thanking you for sending Jesus to die on a cross for our sins, for the life we have in him. Even as we praise you for your justice and we long for your justice to reign, God, we hate injustice in this world. We want to see an end to it. God, we hate, whether it’s trafficking or abortion or racism or just the unjust treatment of people, God, we hate it. We long for that to change. We long for evil and wickedness to be no more. And we praise you for the promise of your coming justice in the world upon the nations, that injustice will not have the last word. God, we praise you for that reality even as we praise you in a fresh way for Jesus, who saves us from the judgment we deserve.
And God, we intercede together on behalf of Southern Kurds in Iran, almost three and a half million of them, very few followers of Jesus, God, all of them who don’t know you, most of them having never even heard the good news of Jesus, have never even heard the good news of the gospel, under your judgment right now. God have mercy. God, cause the gospel to go to them. God, please send out laborers into that harvest field. Pray for the spread of the gospel among the Southern Kurds of Iran, for the spread of your good news of what you have done to save people from judgment through Jesus. God, we pray for that. Even as we praise you for your mercy in our lives, we pray for the spread of your mercy through our lives, as we pray like you’ve taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done,” your justice reign on earth as it is in heaven, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.