Lion alert!

Amos 7:10-17 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent a message to Jeroboam king of Israel: “Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. The land cannot bear all his words. 11 For this is what Amos is saying: “‘Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.’”
12 Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. 13 Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”
14 Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. 15 But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ 16 Now then, hear the word of the Lord. You say, “‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and stop preaching against the descendants of Isaac.’
17 “Therefore this is what the Lord says: “‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword. Your land will be measured and divided up, and you yourself will die in a pagan country. And Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.’”
Sixteen years ago, our family of four was at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. Our two daughters were in the double stroller in front of Lion/Tiger Hill. When our 3-year-old Abi saw the male lion in the back of the enclosure with its powerful size and majestic mane, she did what any 3-year-old would do. She roared. It was just a cute little childish roar.
To our amazement, the lion roared back! It was an amazing, body-shaking roar.
A few people who were gathered at Lion/Tiger Hill started chuckling. Then Abi roared again. And the lion roared back!
Their conversation continued for a good two minutes as more and more people heard the lion roar and rushed over to see what was making him so boisterous. To their surprise, they saw a little girl in the back of a stroller roaring at the top of her lungs and a huge lion roaring at the top of his lungs.
It was all fun and funny … because the lion was safely in his enclosure.
Except, it would have been terrifying if the lion had been on the loose in the zoo and we had heard that same body-shaking roar. The lion needed to stay in his cage!
Amaziah, the priest at Bethel, is building a career around keeping the Lion in His cage. Only this Lion’s name is the Lord.
In Amos 1:2 the prophet announces, “The Lord roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem!” Amaziah the priest is calling for a “Lion Alert.” So whatever the cost, whatever the compromise, this Lion must never be let loose in Israel. Amaziah’s policy means that anyone who rattles, shakes, and opens cages must get out of Israel immediately.
That’s why Amaziah had to get rid of Amos, a shepherd and caretaker of sycamore-fig trees from the south in Judea.
Amaziah calls for a Lion alert to Jeroboam, the king of Israel. “Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel.” Amos is preaching stern judgment upon the royal house of Jeroboam for its toleration and proliferation of false gods. In fact, Bethel, where Amaziah is priest, is an official sanctuary where the Israelites are supposed to come to pay their homage to the golden calf erected in that false temple.
Amos’ prediction of judgment against the royal house sounds like treason to Amaziah. So he says to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there.”
Amaziah wants nothing to do with the Lion of Judah, the true God and Lord. So he calls for a Lion alert.
We live in a culture that systematically attempts to domesticate, de-fang and de-claw the roaring Lion. The Bible is speaking of our present age when it declares: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days … people will have the form of godliness but deny its power” (2 Timothy 3:1, 5).
The enemies of the Gospel – the current co-conspirators of Amaziah – try to keep the Lion of Judah locked in a cage. They attempt to disparage and defame the Savior. But have you noticed that the enemies of God seem mighty confused?
No, they’re not confused with trying to keep Him quiet. They’re confused as to what method they should use to accomplish their task. Let me explain.
Method #1 was recently used in an intercultural communications class when a professor at Florida Atlantic University made his students write the name “Jesus” on a piece of paper. Then he said they should put the paper on the floor and stomp on that Name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9). When a student refused to do so, he was told he would be suspended from the class.
At first the university defended the professor and said this was an example of “open dialogue.” After Florida’s governor weighed in on the matter, the professor was given a leave of absence.
Method #2 was used by Principal Lydia Davenport at Heritage Elementary School in Madison, Alabama. When Easter rolled around, the teachers were not allowed to have any activity that referred to the religious nature of the holiday. Naturally, that meant there would be no reference to Jesus. But this principal went further. The teachers were told they couldn’t have an Easter egg hunt or even an “academic egg hunt.” But it got even weirder when the teachers were told they couldn’t have anything even “egg-shaped.”
Oh, in addition to Jesus … they banned the Easter Bunny, as well.
Do you see the problem these educators have? One brings out Jesus’ Name so it can be stomped out. Another refuses to mention Jesus or anything that might remind a student about the resurrection.
This is the kind of culture in which we are living. This is the spiritual climate that we are sending our children into. The Lion-tamers are out there. They are trying to silence the Lion’s roar.
What are we to do?
What does Amos do when Amaziah calls a Lion alert, tries to send Amos home and silence the Lion’s roar?
By forbidding Amos to prophecy, Amaziah has set himself directly against the Lord. Amos did not make his own decision to preach against the people of Israel. He was a layman, not a “professional” prophet. “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’”
Therefore, Amos will not be silent, even if his words offend the king of Israel or if the king’s high priest commands him to stop preaching. In fact, Amos emphatically repeats that Israel will go into exile in a far-away land. He sharpens the point of his message: the judgment will come during Amaziah’s lifetime. Invading enemy soldiers will dishonor the high priest’s wife, treating her like a prostitute. The priest’s own sons and daughters will be among the causalities when their city falls. Amaziah’s fields will be divided as spoils of war and Amaziah himself will die in exile in a pagan land.
Amos is like you. He had no theological training. He didn’t spend years in a seminary. He just knew and loved God’s Word. He held fast to that Word and was called by God to uphold and defend that Word against His enemies.
Amaziah tried to silence the Lion. Pontius Pilate and the Sanhedrin crucified the Lord. And now the enemies of Christ tried to do the same today.
Why can’t Christ’s enemies just ignore Him? Why don’t they just let Christians believe what they want? Why do they feel the need to attack the Son of God, who gave His life for their eternal salvation?
I suppose it’s because they don’t like to be reminded that they’re sinners. They don’t want to be told that Jesus is the only way to heaven. They want to believe they are fine just the way they are.
Why should this shock us? Enemies of God have opposed Him for ages. And each time God has called normal laypeople like you to proclaim His Word.
Moses confronted Pharaoh with the Lord’s thunderous, “Let my people go” (Exodus 5:1). Nathan courageously put his pastoral career on the line when he called out King David with the words, “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7). Elijah took tremendous heat from King Ahab, who called Elijah “the troubler of Israel” (1 Kings 18:17). Jeremiah daringly rewrote all of God’s words after King Jehoiakim burned the previous scroll in a fire.
And if you are afraid to be bold to speak up for the Lord, remember how Jesus was bold and spoke up for His God. Jesus once had the courage to make a whip and use it to cleanse His Father’s house (John 2:13-16). Another time He looked the religious leaders of His day straight in the eye and said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites” (Matthew 23:27)! Climatically, He stood before His high priest and confessed, “In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62).
Jesus is the roaring Lion. He will not be silenced!
Oh, they tried. The religious leaders slapped His face. The soldiers stripped His back of skin. The crowd insulted Him. The enemies of Christ killed Him.
But they could not silence Him. On the third day He rose again from the dead! The Lion of Judah is alive and roaring once again! His roar terrifies His enemies. His roar opens graves. His roar comforts His little lambs.
And His roar gives courage to His lay-preachers. That’s you. You are Amos. Stand up for Jesus. He stood up for you. In fact, He laid down His life for you. You will not let the Lion be silenced. You know that Jesus died to save your soul. Now you are willing to be shunned, hated, criticized, debated and unfriended because you care so deeply about the souls of others. He has forgiven you. Now you want others to experience that same life-changing forgiveness. It isn’t pride that causes you do this. Rather, it is your deep love for your Savior. It is even more about His even deeper love for you.
The roar of a 3-year-old little girl is cute. The roar of a full-grown male lion is terrifying. That lion needs to be kept in its cage. And if it gets out, there needs to be an immediate lion alert.
But when it comes to Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah, He cannot be caged. He cannot be silenced. The Lion is roaring through you, the Amoses of today. Our world is mighty confused. The Lion is roaring to give you the courage to help unconfuse them by proclaiming the Savior and His Gospel loud and clear.

Let the Lion roar. Amen. 

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