The Day of the Lord
November 9th, 2008
We are in the season of “special days” both in our church and in our country. Last week in the church was All Saints Day, the day before in our society was participating in Halloween. This week is Veterans Day, and of course Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day are all coming up quickly, as I’m sure many of you have noticed. Many things revolve around these days, and while there may be a bit of trepidation at getting things done for these days, for the most parts these holidays are days we look forward too. At the very least there is no school, and maybe for some there is no work. In adult bible class we are going through Biblical celebrations, that were part of the Hebrew calendar. These were celebrations, reminder points, of what God was doing for his people. Rash Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, and God’s faithfulness to Abraham when he was about to sacrifice Isaac was reminded. Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement, was a day to remember our sin, and the ways in which God took care of that sin. The Passover was a reminder that God defeats very real enemies, and the list goes on. However, there was another day that that God’s people throughout history have looked forward too. Unlike other holidays, this day was not on a particular calendar, but everyone knew it was coming. This day was a day when God would come in a powerful way, and make all things right. We call it judgment day, and today’s text it is called the “Day of the Lord”. A day when all God will no longer hide himself in such things as Words, Water, and meal. It would be a day when he would be visibly and experientially there for all to see. It would be a day he would judge humanity, and bring home his very own. It is a day we are to be “on the watch for”. The big question is are we ready?
The people at the time of Amos, and the five maidens or virgins in our text thought they were ready. In Amos they were still participating in a lot of the religious rituals. On the outside it looked like they were doing the right thing. The 10 maidens or virgins were both awaiting the bride groom. They thought they were ready, but we find out in our text five were not ready. How about us? Are we ready?
In June of this year Thirty five thousand participants, were part of what many believe is the largest religious survey’s ever taken in our country. In this survey religious Americans were asked whether they believe that many religions lead to religious life. Of mainline protestant churches 83% said they thought yes many religious lead to everlasting life. 79% of Roman Catholics said the same thing, and even 57% of Evangelicals, those who believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of God, believe that there are many different paths to eternal life. Now, I think this survey might be skewed in that Christian and non Christian religions are not distinguished. I think a better question would be can you be saved outside of Jesus Christ. Having said that, the gist of the survey seems to bear out that as long as your “somewhat” religious, that’s got to be good for something. Translation, the day of the Lord, is something not to be concerned about and if anything something for all to look forward too.
This view was shared by the religious practitioners during the time of Amos. This view was also probably shared by the five virgins without oil awaiting the bridegroom. God, through Amos, says to them don’t be fooled. You may think this day is something to look forward to, but for you it will be darkness rather than light. It will be like fleeing a lion only to run into a bear. It will be a day of gloom and darkness. This is a surprise, because these folks looked like they were doing the right thing. They had their offerings, they had their sacrifices, the outward vestiges of religion were in front of them. The day of the Lord, was a day where because they did their duties, God had to do his part, or so they thought. In verse 23 God says your songs are just noise, they are just chatter. Sort of like trying to listen to a radio station that is just out of frequency range. The numbers on the dial may be right, but it’s just static, why? Simply because you are not close enough, we are out of range. As if God is saying You pretend that you are close to me, but really you are not. What was the problem? In Amos, they combined the worship of the local gods with their own gods. The pagan gods said, that if you did this, then they might respond. It was a tit for tat. One favor deserves another. The pagan gods said that if you said your prayer a certain way, then I might actually listen to you. The pagan gods made connecting to God dependent on us. In fact God wasn’t in control, you were. This was the lie. In this realm, repentance or recognition of sin was not part of the equation. Sin was passed over, not relevant, not a big deal. What was the result? They had religion without forgiveness, and hope without God’s promises. To this group there will be judgment and condemnation, because ultimately Jesus will not force himself on anyone who deems him unnecessary or even mildly helpful.
However, there were five maidens, five virgins who were prepared. They had enough oil. They received what was offered. They took what God offered. Later in Amos it says this “In that day I will restore David’s fallen tent. I will repair his broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be. There would be another day, where the justice of God landed upon Jesus and thankfully not on us. It was a dark day, some call it good Friday. The light went away on this day. This past week we watched the account again of Jesus crucifixion in our Wednesday confirmation class. It is always a stunning and convicting picture of suffering, and love of our God. Only in him, can we somehow face the day of his coming. In the book of Hebrews it says “Without faith it is impossible to please God”. Without faith and trust in this Savior, all our outward acts, all our attempts, are simply static in God’s eyes. Without Jesus as our brother, Savior, and forgiver we can no more stand before God on Judgment day, then a blade of grass can be upright in the midst of a ferocious tornado. Yet, through repentance and faith in Christ, we will stand. 1 Corinthians 1:8 says “he will keep you strong to the end so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Philippians one says “being confident of this, he who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Jesus, who is the author of your faith, has committed himself to finish the job. What was missing was trust, that this God, this bridegroom Jesus, has enough for each of us. His love, and his forgiveness purchased and won for us, are more than enough to hold us upright both here on earth and on that day of the Lord. With him in the picture, we really can look forward to the very real day of the Lord, and folks we won’t be disappointed. Amen.