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Wasting Prosperity

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Amos 3–6

Wealth and ease are more commonly obstacles to faith rather than aids to it. When we are comfortable in life, we should be especially alert to the subtle development of an attitude of self-sufficiency that sees no need for God.


Wasting Prosperity

Amos 3–6


I remember reading some time ago about a man who won $314 million dollars in a lottery. It was not long before his personal life turned into a series of tragic disasters. He spent his money wildly indulging his desires. He made friends with the wrong people. He ended up being robbed on two different occasions. He was arrested for driving under the influence. He got deeper into gambling and was eventually sued by a casino for bouncing checks totaling over a million dollars. His granddaughter also found many new “friends,” and they pulled her into a life of drugs that eventually took her life.[1]

You know, we can do a lot of wonderful things with money; but the bigger question is, what does money do to us? Financial prosperity has this unique potential to lead us away from the Lord, convincing us that God must approve of whatever we do and that the luxuries we crave are really needs. Prosperity is no doubt more dangerous than poverty.

Well, during the ministry of the prophet Amos, the nation of Israel is experiencing great prosperity. Many people are living in luxury. Indeed, everything about Israel looks healthy and prosperous, but the nation is like a shiny, red apple that is rotten at its core.

In chapters 3 to 6 in the book of Amos, the Lord reveals the rottenness at the very heart of the people and explains why judgment is coming to the northern kingdom of Israel. There are three messages in these chapters, and each one begins with: “Hear this word.” My mother would have put it, “Now you need to listen up.”

The first message, in chapter 3, is a reminder that Israel is God’s chosen people. God tells them in verse 2, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” They are His special, covenant people, but that special privilege brings with it special accountability.

Verses 3-6 then present a series of questions revealing Israel’s unfaithfulness and why God’s judgment must come upon them. The Lord asks in verse 3, “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?” The implication is that God cannot walk with people who no longer want to walk with Him.

He asks in verse 4, “Does a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey?” In other words, a lion roars because it has caught its dinner for the night. In the same way, the roar of the Lord is not meaningless. It indicates that judgment is on its way.

And this judgment will involve all of Israel. Verse 11 says, “An adversary shall surround the land and bring down your defenses . . . your strongholds shall be plundered.” Samaria, Israel’s capital, will fall; the altars at Bethel, Israel’s religious center, will be destroyed; and the summer and winter homes of the wealthy, the “great houses,” will “come to an end,” verse l5 tells us. No part of the nation will be spared.

The second message begins in chapter 4 and is directed first at the “cows of Bashan.” Bashan, east of the Jordan, was known for its pasturelands and cattle. Here the wealthy women of Israel are pictured as pampered cows who do nothing productive, but demand more and more luxuries from their husbands. They are unconcerned that their demands result in the oppression of the poor and the crushing of the needy.

We tend to think that people’s self-centeredness and self-indulgence hurt only them. Here we are reminded that it harms other people too—those who suffer directly, as well as those who watch and follow their bad example and also waste their lives.

The Lord promises in verse 2 that the enemy will “take [them] away with hooks.” More than likely this is a reference to the Assyrian method of leading captives with hooks through their noses, attached to ropes. These women are going to suffer the same indignity as those poor people they oppressed.

Above all, Israel is guilty of religious hypocrisy. They had set up a golden calf at Bethel, which probably was portrayed as representing the Lord. In reality, it blasphemed the Lord and violated the Word of God.

Now the rest of chapter 4 is an indictment of Israel for their refusal to respond to God’s discipline. He says, verse 7, “I . . . withheld rain,” but, verse 8, “yet you did not return to me.” God also sent pestilence and other calamities designed to get their attention and bring them to repentance, but all that was ignored as well. In fact, throughout this section, in verses 6, 8, 9, 10, and 11, we read the repeated statement, “Yet you did not return to me.”

Sadly, the Lord says in verse 12, “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” This is not going to be a pleasant meeting, by the way. This is like my elementary school teacher telling me to prepare to meet the principal. I knew I was in trouble then. Here Israel is in trouble. The Lord is coming in judgment, and there is no turning Him back.

Chapters 5 and 6 form the third message. The fifth chapter begins with the Lord’s sorrow over the coming fall of Israel, but then in verse 4, He says, “Seek me and live.”

Though the nation is headed for certain disaster, the Lord graciously reminds individuals within Israel that they can still repent, turn to Him in faith, and find life in Him. Seek God and live.

That message has not changed today: reject God, and you are going to face eternal judgment; seek God, and you are heading for eternal joy. Even when our world is set on rejecting God and running headlong into His judgment, we don’t have to go along with it; we don’t have to suffer the same judgment.

Any dead fish can float downstream with the current; it takes a live one to swim upstream against the current. It takes boldness today to swim against the prevailing current of culture, but God gives us an invitation here in Amos 5:14: “Seek good, and not evil, that you may live.”

The self-deceived majority in Israel saw themselves as righteous, certainly better than their pagan neighbors. They were even longing for the day of the Lord to come, as if that would bring destruction only on their enemies. But the Lord says, “Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light” (verse 18). In other words, when the judgment of God comes, it is not going to be sunshine and flowers for these nations, but it will not be that for Israel either.

Amos’s message includes the well-known words here in verse 24: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” You need to understand the Lord is not talking here about the justice and righteousness of God, but of the people of Israel. This is what they ought to be doing—letting “justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” The trouble is, the river of water in Israel is polluted. It is not flowing; it is stagnant.

We come, then, to chapter 6, where Israel is described as feeling secure and living in luxury. But their prosperity has deceived them. The Lord declares that they are no better than the Philistines and says, “Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory . . . who anoint themselves with the finest oil” (verses 4, 6). Verse 7 says they will “be the first of those who go into exile.”

Oh, they are prosperous, but they have wasted their prosperity and think only of themselves. How about you today? Are you wasting your prosperity, or are you using what God has given you to help others? How about the greatest treasure of all—the gospel? Are you sharing it with the people God has placed in the traffic pattern of your life? Let’s use what we have been given for the glory of God.

[1] April Witt, “He Won Powerball’s $314 Million Jackpot. It Ruined His Life,” Washington Post Magazine, January 30, 2005,

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