As I mentioned in my last post, Israel had rebelled against God by establishing centers and forms of worship that God had not prescribed. The Israelites were busy worshiping God with golden calves in Dan and Bethel, but that is not the place wherein they should have expected to hear God. He was to be found precisely where He said He would be found, in Jerusalem (Amos 1:2).
In chapter one verse two, Amos starts out by opposing false worship. Many people opposed Amos, especially as he preached in and around the false centers of worship. By condemning false worship at the outset, Amos is saying that those who do not worship God the way that He has prescribed cannot be speaking for God because they cannot possibly have heard from Him. You cannot hear the Lord at Dan or Bethel because He is not speaking there. He speaks from where He promised to be.
Since Amos’ day, the Gospel has gone out to the nations and God knew full well that we could not hop on a camel (or a plane) every week to go to Jerusalem for church. This is one of the reasons why, in the New Covenant, God has moved the center and broadened the center of worship. The temple used to be a physical building made with hands in Jerusalem, but that building was torn down and rebuilt as a temple composed of living stones. The church body is the temple.
This temple is built on three main stones: the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus Himself (Ephesians 2:20). This means that anything claiming to be a church must be built on Scripture and especially Jesus Christ. Jesus and the apostles command us to baptize, take communion, and be responsible to elders. This means that a true church must baptize, administer communion, teach the Bible, preach Jesus Christ, and practice church discipline. If you are meeting regularly with such a body for these things, then you are meeting in God’s temple. You have come to Mount Zion (see also Hebrews 12:22), the place from which God utters His voice.
I’ve written a few posts on the importance of the church for changing the world, but Amos is here making worship in God’s temple a prerequisite for hearing God. This is an admonishment to anyone who does not regularly attend church and a twofold encouragement to those of us who do.
The admonishment is that if you call yourself a Christian but don’t go to a true church regularly, you should be very concerned. You cannot live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God. You may think that you are getting sufficient Spiritual nourishment through reading your Bible and listening to podcasts, but Amos here challenges that. A person who is not regularly going to church to be with God’s people and hear His Word is spiritually starving Himself. If you want to hear from God, find a true church and become a member.
The encouragement for those who do go to church is twofold. First we see that God has promised to speak from true churches. You may not feel like you are hearing from God, but He has promised to speak to His people when they gather to hear His Word. It may be that you don’t hear Him, but it’s not because He isn’t speaking. By this promise, we are encouraged to go to church expecting to hear God, leaning on His promise. If we do this, we can know that He will be faithful.
The second aspect of this encouragement is that churches that have abandoned God’s Word, baptism, communion, or preaching Christ cannot hear from God. While they might make arguments from Scripture, you know that they did not get those arguments from God. He is speaking at your true church, not at the false church that has rejected His Word. Churches that practice church discipline, meet regularly to teach God’s Word, baptize new covenant members, take communion, and preach Christ have a monopoly on truth.