Feast of Dedication Devotion
Read: Amos Chapter Four
"For behold, He who forms mountains,
and creates the wind,
who declares to man what his thought is,
and makes morning darkness,
who treads the high places of the earth -
The LORD God of hosts is His name."
In his second message to rebellious Israel, Amos brought charges against the people for their sins which were destroying the nation. Israel had been set apart as a holy nation unto the Lord, yet rather than humbling themselves and being led by the Lord, they chose instead to go their own way; soon they would be caught with hooks and led away as prisoners at the hands of another nation that spurned the Lord. "The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness: "Behold, the days shall come upon you when He will take you away with fishhooks, and your posterity with fishhooks" (v. 2). One of their sins was living in luxury while ignoring the needs of others. Unlike Abraham and David who were wealthy men but used what they had for the glory of God, these "cows of Bashan" were living in luxury and satisfying their own selfish desires and pleasures, while the poor all around them were suffering and being exploited. They were too blinded by their own excess to see that all they were doing was fattening themselves up for the slaughter and providing a sinful example to their children and the people around them. In addition to the sin of luxury, they were being called to account for their hypocritical worship practices. Bethel and Gilgal were popular places of worship in Amos' day. Both these towns were historically important (Genesis 35:1-15; Joshua 4:20-24); but now the Lord was rejecting Israel's dishonest and meaningless worship. They loved the ritual of their religious ceremony, but they didn't love God and what He loved (Isaiah 29:13). "Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, proclaim and announce the freewill offerings; for this you love, You children of Israel!" says the Lord GOD" (v. 5). Rather than being houses of prayer and worship, these places were shrines for worshiping pagan gods. The numerous people who flocked to these areas to offer sacrifices made it seem like the people were experiencing religious revival, but the Lord wasn't impressed; He saw the condition of their hearts and the impurity and hypocrisy of their worship. In order to reform their ways and drive them to repentance, the Lord sent five calamities upon His people.
"I overthrew some of you,
as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
and you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning;
yet you have not returned to Me," says the LORD."
Time after time, the people refused the Lord's correction as He sent famine, drought, destruction of crops through disease and locusts, plague and defeat in war, and the destruction of Israelite cities. The Lord continually turned up the heat upon His people, yet despite the continual affliction they suffered, they would not reform their ways and return to the Lord. "...yet you have not returned to Me," says the LORD" (vv. 6, 8, 9, 10, 11). Not unlike Pharaoh, whose heart grew harder with each passing plague, the people of Israel reacted in rebellion rather than with remorse and repentance. "O LORD, are not Your eyes on the truth? You have stricken them, but they have not grieved; You have consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return" (Jeremiah 5:3). The Lord longed to teach His people faithfulness, using His hand of discipline and punishment to instruct them, but they had set their feet to the path of destruction and would not turn back despite repeated warnings provide through His prophets and through natural disasters. "The punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment, with no hand to help her!" (Lamentations 4:6). Israel's continued willful disobedience would result in a more terrible fate than all the others.
"Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
because I will do this to you,
Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!"
The Lord had showered His chosen people with many blessings and privileges, but they continually provoked Him with their contempt and ingratitude. They were a rebellious and hardhearted people who refused to return to the Lord, therefore they would "meet [their] God" whom they had scorned and rejected. "Do you not fear Me?' says the LORD. 'Will you not tremble at My presence, who have placed the sand as the bound of the sea, by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass beyond it? And though its waves toss to and fro, yet they cannot prevail; though they roar, yet they cannot pass over it" (Jeremiah 5:22). The Lord does not want to send judgment upon us, but He will use affliction to get our attention when we refuse to obey Him. May we heed the message the Lord would have us to hear in this hour, as we bow before Him with humble, repentant, and obedient hearts, willing to reform our ways as He shows us those areas that need correction. Our gracious Lord is long-suffering and patient because He wants to give people the opportunity to repent. "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). In this Christmas season, let us praise our "merciful and gracious, longsuffering" Lord, as we remain steadfast in prayer, with grateful hearts for His first advent by which He "has appeared to all men, bringing us salvation and teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works" (Titus 2:11-14).
"For behold, the LORD is coming out of His place;
He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth."
The Feast of Dedication
The Feast of Dedication is a memorial feast of the dedication of the new altar and the purging of the temple by Judas Maccabeus in December, 165 B.C. after it had been profaned by Antiochus Epiphanes, as prophesied by Daniel (Daniel 11:31). Today the Feast of Dedication (see John 10:22-38) is known as the Festival of Lights or Hanukkah. In commemoration of God's plan of complete restoration for His people through His Son Jesus Christ, an additional "feast" is provided each day of this journey to be enjoyed with your family. As we celebrate this week of the Feast of Dedication and light the candles on our tables, may the light that is within us grow ever brighter as we feast upon the Word of God and share His love with others. Continue today's journey with a time of prayer and blessing for the whole family with the devotional link below. May your home in this season be filled with the sweet fragrance of Christ and may every heart overflow with His joy and be permeated with His peace as we celebrate the birth of our Savior!