Amos 2:1–3 (NKJV)
1 Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because he burned the bones of the king of Edom to lime. 2 But I will send a fire upon Moab, And it shall devour the palaces of Kerioth; Moab shall die with tumult, With shouting and trumpet sound. 3 And I will cut off the judge from its midst, And slay all its princes with him,” Says the Lord.
In our text today the prophet Amos pronounces the Lord’s judgment upon the kingdom of Moab. Moab was situated just opposite the Dead Sea from Israel and just north of the kingdom of Edom. Between Moab and Edom there was frequent strife and warfare.
In 2 Kings chapter 3 we are informed of one particular battle between these two kingdoms that occurred some years prior to Amos’ prophecy. The battle went against the Moabites. So, in great extremity, the king of Moab endeavored to break through the army of Edom and slay their king. He failed. And when he saw that all was nearly lost and that his kindgom was likely to be destroyed, the king of Moab made the shocking decision to sacrifice his eldest son to implore the help of his god. The sacrifice worked – the Edomites and their allies retreated in disarray.
However, from this day forth, the king of Moab nursed a grudge against the king of Edom, longing for revenge for the death of his son. And some time later either he himself or one of his descendants took his revenge by burning the king of Edom’s bones to lime. As Matthew Henry remarks, the king of Moab “seized him alive and burnt him to ashes, or slew him and burnt his body, or dug up the bones of their dead king…and, in token of his rage and fury, burnt them to lime, and perhaps made use of the powder of his bones for the white-washing of the walls and ceilings of his palace, that he might please himself with the sight of that monument of his revenge.”
The actions of the king of Moab are condemned in the harshest terms by God. Even as the king of Moab burned the king of Edom, God will burn down the king of Moab’s kingdom. And the very fact that God condemns the Moabites for an offense against the Edomites illustrates that God is not only concerned for how men treat His elect people but for how they treat one another. Man’s inhumanity to man is an affront to the God in whose image we are created as human beings.
Amos’ words remind us that as human beings we bear the very image of our Creator and that we must, therefore, treat fellow human beings – even those who are our enemies – with honor and respect. Revenge is forbidden; cruelty is forbidden; inhumanity is forbidden.
The Apostle James chastises his readers for misusing their tongue simultaneously to “bless our God and Father, and [to] curse men, who have been made in the [image] of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” (Jas 3:8-11) And if it is offensive to God when we defame the image of God in our neighbor with our words then how much more when we debase image of God with such extreme inhumanity as is charged against the king of Moab.
“The Lord commands all men without exception ‘to do good’ [to everyone even though] the great part of them are most unworthy if they be judged by their own merit. But here Scripture helps in the best way when it teaches that we are not to consider [what] men merit of themselves but to look upon the image of God in all men, to which we owe all honor and love…”
After some examples Calvin concludes:
“Assuredly there is but one way in which to achieve what is not merely difficult but utterly against human nature: [namely], to love those who hate us, to repay their evil deeds with benefits, to return blessings for reproaches. It is that we remember not to consider men’s evil intention but to look upon the image of God in them, which cancels and effaces their transgressions, and with its beauty and dignity allures us to love and embrace them.”
The king of Edom had been made in the image of God and should have been treated with reverence by the king of Moab – instead he was debased and desecrated.
So what of us? Murder is not limited to the actions – Jesus traces it to the heart. So are we reverencing the image of God in our children? The image of God in our employees? The image of God in our neighbors? The image of God in our enemies? This is our calling.
Reminded that we often overlook the majesty of the men and women and children with whom we interact, let us kneel and confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of private confession followed by the public confession found in your bulletin.