Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“Come to Bethel and transgress . . .”
God is a poet and a singer, a clever writer and an artist. This is revealed in many ways that we can easily see, and in a few others that we do not so quickly grasp.
In the verse above from Amos 4, God is speaking to Israel through the humble herdsman Amos, in mockery of the call to worship that Israel usually heard. The false prophets in Israel would call to the people to “Come to Bethel and serve God!” But God spoke through Amos in mockery of them, saying, “Come to Bethel and transgress!” In English, the cleverness of God cannot be seen, but to the Israelites, it could not be missed.
The Hebrew word for “serve” is avad. That Hebrew word rhymes with the Hebrew word for “transgress”, which is avar. So, Amos sounded just like one of the false prophets, calling the people to worship before the golden calf at Bethel — until the last syllable was spoken. That last syllable, an “r” instead of a “d”, made the rulers in Israel furious, and it must have stunned the people who were deceived by them. Because of the way Hebrew letters are shaped, even when those two words are written, they can easily be confused, just as Israel was confused in Amos’ day concerning what was service to God and what was transgression against Him. The calls of the false prophets to come to Bethel and worship promoted the very thing that divided the chosen people, the very thing God hated most. The worship at Bethel was a curse, not a blessing, and yet it was promoted by virtually all of the leaders of Israel, religious and otherwise, including the kings.
What would the Lord say to us now? His people now are divided into a thousand different Christian sects, and instead of being ashamed of ourselves and crying out for Jesus to come make us one in love and faith, we boast of our divisions as if they were good. The false prophets of ancient Israel did no worse than what many of the leaders of God’s own people are doing now.
Have you ever seen the bumper stickers and billboards which call men to “Join the Church of Your Choice”? But church religion fragments God’s children; it divides them into various sects that are contrary to each other in doctrine, in traditions, and in practice. The signs are promoting the curse! Division is a curse, not a blessing! We can never be united in Christ if we all “join the church of our choice.” God’s heart must be broken for the divisions in His earthly family, and yet those divisions are unashamedly promoted as if Christ died for us to be divided and to be taught different doctrines about him and the Father.
I wonder what God might write on the billboards which promote the curse of division among His children? Instead of “Join the Church of Your Choice”, I think He might write, “Join the Curse of Your Choice!”
Fathers, have you picked out a curse for your family yet? Mothers, which curse is your favorite?