6th Wednesday in Lent – March 20, 2013

 Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel.” (Amos 7:12) 

 One of the biggest difficulties with understanding readings and stories from the Bible, and then applying to your own life, is the very fact that they are old. This is especially so when they’re from the Old Testament. Old places in distant countries and odd names of people we know little about make Bible stories distant and easy to ignore. Well, how about the phrase, “Keep your opinions to yourself.” Do you understand this statement? Can you relate to it?

“Keep your opinions to yourself.” This is basically what Amaziah, the priest in charge of Israel’s main temple in Bethel (think of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.) was saying to Amos. “You’re not from around here anyway, Amos. So, go on home and proclaim your opinions there. You have nothing to say to us.”

“Keep your opinions to yourself.” I’ll bet you’ve been told this before. Perhaps someone said this to you when, like Amos, you expressed your religious beliefs and spoke out against something. “Keep your opinions to yourself.”

This is one of the most frequent, and most successful, attacks on our faith. It is successful because of how it views faith: as opinion, as personal viewpoint, and not as the acceptance and confession of truth. It is successful because we believers in God also buy into this premise ourselves.
 Often it’s when, like Peter, we face opposition, and so out of fear and the desire to be accepted we say nothing, or end what we say with, “Well, that’s what I think; that’s my opinion.”
Opinion will not strengthen you to stand against opposition; or help you overcome temptation; or comfort you when you’re dealing with guilt or loss.

“The Lord took me and said to me,” declared Amos. He had no doubt that what he said was what the Lord said. Nor should we. “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus testified before Caiaphas, and He blessed His disciples with the Holy Spirit to ensure that they would rightly record what He said and did. God has blessed us with words and teaching that are not only true; they are saving. They speak to and govern everyone, from kings to paupers, from the oldest person to the infant in the womb. No one is above their rebuke, nor is anyone beyond their blessing. Christ died for Caiaphas, and Peter, and the soldiers who arrested and abused Him, and for us all. His death for us is the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus taught this openly and declared with certainty (John 8:31-32): “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” – free from sin’s slavery and condemnation. If you believe this, accept it as true and not as opinion, then you stand in God’s favor and under His blessing. You can look forward with certainty to the freedom of living in God’s house forever as His son or daughter.

There is no blessing, however, when the response to God’s Word is, “Well, that’s your opinion.” God’s judgment and curse follow, and can impact many people.

Consider Amaziah, the priest of Bethel. He would have been happy to receive Amos’s preaching: if he had proclaimed that God would bless the people. But, when Amos instead announced God’s judgment for the people’s sins, Amaziah rejected both Amos’s words and Amos himself. He told him to leave and reported him to the king, hoping that the king would deal with him.

God’s words can be, and often are, rejected. Those who proclaim them can face great opposition. God will stand behind His words, however. His judgment will surely fall upon His opponents, and at times also on others. “Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city, and your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword,” Amos told Amaziah. We must keep this in mind when we are tempted to say, “Well, that’s my opinion,” instead of, “Well, that’s what God says.” Speak confidently, so that God’s Word can be a blessing! God will stand behind His words, and also behind those who hold to them and speak them.

“Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!” May these words of Psalm 43 be our faith, our confession, and our prayer to God: for ourselves, and then for many others. Other people, along with you, will then be blessed, and God will be glorified and praised! For, God’s words are never empty, or powerless, or just opinion. They are “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes,” as St. Paul declares in Rom. 1:16.