No Matter How Dense the Fog, the Mountain Doesn’t Move

Pastor Jeff Struecker

Today we’re moving our way through the book of Amos. We’re on Amos chapter four, and I want to ask you, have you ever had one of those situations in life where you just feel like everything is cloudy around you? You’re kind of walking through a fog?

I’ll tell your true story. In March of 1993 I traveled the day of a massive blizzard. I’m serious. Go Google this: the blizzard of ’93. I was traveling that day to do some training in the mountains, in the Appalachian mountains. I was going to do some navigation training. I spent the next two weeks hiking through the mountains, doing this military training. This is not an exaggeration; for most of those two weeks, I was in snow up to my waist. And there was this specific day. I’ll never forget it, because I’m on the side of this mountain, and the fog starts to roll in.

If you’ve never seen mountain fog, it’s this phenomenon where it is thicker than any fog you will ever experience in your life. The ground is cold. The air is warm, and it starts to create fog so thick that you can’t see your hand in front of your face. Everything that I knew about navigation was being tested on the top of that mountain in West Virginia, back in 1993, because I couldn’t see anything in front of me except for a compass that told me which direction I’m going, except for a map that told me where I’m supposed to be. But I didn’t know if I was about to walk off of the face of the earth. I didn’t know if I was about to run right into a tree directly in front of me, because I could not see. And the thing that helped me make my way through the fog that day, the thing that helped me navigate is a principle that I had to keep reminding myself of through hours of this thick fog. 

You’ve been there, right? You’ve had one of those circumstances in life where “God, it feels really cloudy. It feels really confusing. God, I don’t know what to do next.” 

I’m on the side of that mountain, and I had to remind myself, “Jeff, trust your compass. Jeff, trust your map.” And here’s the real thing that I had to bank on, on top of that mountain: No matter how thick this cloud gets, the mountain doesn’t move. 

If you are going through or are about to go through one of those really foggy, really difficult moments in life, I need you to understand something. No matter how dense the fog, no matter how thick it gets, the mountain doesn’t move.

No matter how dense the fog, the mountain doesn’t move.

What we’re going to learn today is about the character and the nature of God. And I just want you to hear me. Sometimes in life we get so busy, we get so self-occupied, so self-absorbed that we totally forget God exists. That just happens naturally, sometimes. Sometimes in life it gets bad, and we want God to move mountains in front of us. But there are a few times, and perhaps only a few times in life, where it’s so bad that we need to know that no matter what happens next, our God is powerful. Our God is rock solid. Our God doesn’t move. And we need to be able to take that to the bank.

You see, Israel got busy. Israel got preoccupied. Israel started to think about themselves. And honestly, Israel started to act like God didn’t exist anymore. And God is going to remind his children in Amos chapter four who he is and who they are. He’s going to remind them, “I don’t bow to your will; you come to me on my terms.”

In fact, here’s a verse that I think you ought to commit to memory, because this is God’s way of dealing with his people. In Amos chapter four, God says to his people:

Amos 4:4 Come to Bethel and rebel; rebel even more at Gilgal!

“Bring your sacrifices every morning and your tents every three days.” God is basically saying, “You think I’m going to come to you and bow to your will? It doesn’t work that way. If you think you can just approach me any way that you want at Bethel and Gilgal, it doesn’t work that way.” And he’s going to describe for them how this relationship with him works.

We started reading through the book of Amos about three weeks ago, four weeks ago. And what I said is, “I believe God could have written this book yesterday to speak to what’s happening in our country, to speak to what’s happening around the world.” I also believe that God chose this really unlikely prophet, a guy by the name of Amos, and Amos is challenging us today. 

First, find your voice, and second, if you don’t like the way your culture and your society is going, then become a voice, a voice that speaks to the society that exists around you. Here’s what God says to his children starting in Amos chapter four, verse one. 

Go ahead. I dare you! 

Basically, here’s what God is saying today, treating his children, Israel, like a bunch of rebellious kids, “Go ahead. I dare you. Go ahead and act this way, and I dare you to see what happens next.” Listen to Amos chapter four, starting at verse one:

Listen to this message, you cows of Bashan who are on the hill of Samaria, women who oppress the poor and crush the needy, who say to their husbands, “Bring us something to drink.” The Lord God has sworn by his holiness: Look, the days are coming when you will be taken away with hooks, every last one of you with fishhooks. You will go through breaches in the wall, each woman straight ahead, and you will be driven along toward Harmon. This is the Lord’s declaration. Come to Bethel and rebel; rebel even more at Gilgal! Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tenths every three days. Offer leavened bread as a thanksgiving sacrifice, and loudly proclaim your freewill offerings, for that is what you Israelites love to do! This is the declaration of the Lord God.

I wish I had an entire week to spend on this first verse in Amos, because this first verse in Amos is where a lot of Western society is. I’ll explain to you this “name calling” that Amos does in verse one in just a moment. This is the Lord’s declaration: Come to Bethel and rebel. Bethel is this site of pagan worship in ancient Israel. Rebel even more at Gilgal, a second site where God’s children have committed adultery and rebelled against him. Come and rebel even more at Gilgal.

“Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tents every three days. Offer leavened bread as a thanksgiving sacrifice and loudly proclaim your freewill offerings for this is what you Israelites love to do.” This is the declaration of the Lord. The nation of Israel got off track when families got out of whack. And Amos is just a simple sheep herder. He’s a businessman. God has tapped on his heart and started to show Amos what’s happening around him. Amos can’t remain silent anymore. So now he feels like, “I’ve got to speak out against what’s happening in my country.” 

He calls the high-class women of Israel a bunch of fat cows. I love this guy, because he’s holding nothing back. He’s saying, “Let me tell you what’s happening in the nation of Israel. When the families get off track, the nation starts to go haywire.”

What verse one is describing is how the God-given roles in the home have become reversed. Now the society is starting to unravel. If you live in the United States or perhaps you’re in another country and you live in this post-Christian world where people have a basic understanding of the Bible, but they don’t live like that anymore. What Amos is really saying is, many of the problems in our society today are problems that developed in the home, because the home is the basic building block for society. 

When families aren’t healthy, when families aren’t holy, the city and the country aren’t healthy, the city and the country aren’t holy. So if you live in the United States, this should cause you to pee in your pants just a little bit, because what Amos is saying is, “As the family goes, so does the society.”

We should be looking at our country and saying, “Oh my word! What direction are we heading if the way that families go will determine what society looks like?” And God says, “I’ll just tell you what’s going to happen next. I swear to you by my holiness what’s going to happen next.” And you should be asking, “Wait a second. Why does God have to swear in the first place? Doesn’t what he says always come to pass?” 

God is saying, “You can take this promise to the bank. I will tell you what’s going to happen next. And it’s going to be very painful for you because, Israel, I don’t move to you. You come to me. And you come to me on my terms, Israel. You come to me and I will show you the way things are supposed to be.”

Last week I had the privilege of sitting down with three guys in one week and sharing the gospel with all three of them, three different guys at three different times. Two of these three guys definitely, no question, are born again believers. But when I asked one guy a question, I asked him about his soul. I asked him about his relationship with Jesus. Listen to this. And I asked him about eternity. 

He immediately answered with how he goes to church, how often he goes to church. I was thinking to myself, “Praise God, hallelujah! I’m glad you’re going to church. I’m glad you’re watching it online. But that’s just not the question that I asked you. You see, I asked you about your relationship with the God who created you, and you answered it about going to church.” And the truth is, I don’t get frustrated by that, because for many people, their idea of approaching God is very much like Old Testament times.

They approach him like some deity, that if I do the right things, he’s going to bless me and give me good things. This is the idea of a dead religion. And religion just simply says, “I follow the rules. God, you’re supposed to do for me good stuff if I follow the rules.” But Christianity is not a religion. It’s a relationship with the one who created you. In Christianity, I want to be able to look at this guy and share with him Jesus’s very explicit words in Matthew chapter seven, because this ought to cause you to do a little self-examination. 

It’s not about doing religious rituals. It’s not about giving your tithes. It’s not about saying the proper prayers at the proper time. Jesus said this in Matthew 7:21 and following: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord! [and he’s talking specifically about Christians] will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my father in heaven.”

Then to just clear things up, Jesus says it this way: “On that day, on the day that you meet God, many people will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord!'” And look at this impressive list, “‘Didn’t we prophecy in your name, drive out demons in your name and do miracles in your name?’ And I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you law breakers.'” 

Jesus is describing vividly the difference between religion (doing a few things in God’s name) and a relationship. And Israel, in Amos chapter four, traded a relationship for a religion, and they expected God to bow to their will. God says, “You just keep right on doing what you’re doing in Bethel and Gilgal, and see where this winds up.”

Tapped snooze too many times. 

And then here’s what he says next. He says, “I tried to warn you. I tried to get your attention. And every time I sent prophets, every time I sent some bad things to happen in your life, you tapped the snooze button and you just rolled over and got annoyed and went right back to sleep. And I kept trying to get your attention. And you just kept on hitting the snooze button.” Listen to how much God has done to try to get the attention of his people. Amos chapter four, starting in verse six (and hear the many times that God sounds the wake-up call in this passage):

I gave you absolutely nothing to eat, in all your cities, a shortage of food in all your communities, yet you did not return to me. This is the Lord’s declaration. I also withheld the rain from you while there were still three months until harvest. I sent rain on one city but no rain on another. One field received rain while a field with no rain withered. Two or three cities staggered to another city to drink water but were not satisfied, yet you did not return to me.  This is the Lord’s declaration. I struck you with blight and mildew; the locust devoured your many gardens and vineyards, your fig trees and olive trees, yet you did not return to me. This is the Lord’s declaration. I sent plagues like those of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I caused the stench of your camp to fill your nostrils, yet you did not return to me. This is the Lord’s declaration. I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a burning stick snatched from a fire, yet you did not return to me— This is the Lord’s declaration.

God is saying, “Listen Israel, I love you. You are my child, and you’re walking down the wrong path. I don’t want to let you go down this path, because it’s going to destroy you. So I’m trying to get your attention. I’m doing all of these things to get your attention. I swear to you [listen to what he’s saying] by my own name,” because there’s nothing greater to swear by. “I swear by my holiness, I would have to tell Sodom and Gomorrah that I’m sorry. I would have to go back to Egypt and tell them that I’m sorry. If I don’t do to you what I did to those lands in the Old Testament, because you’re my children and you’ve turned around and you’ve walked away.” 

What Amos is really saying is, “You’re as sick as Sodom and you’re as evil as Egypt. Those were foreign lands. Those were the neighbor kids. They’re supposed to act like they’re buck wild, because they don’t know how to act. But you’re my children. And I wanted to get your attention. I tried to get your attention by sending plagues. I sent drought and I sent foreign armies, and you wouldn’t listen. So now I’m trying to get your attention one more time. I’m sending my boy, Amos, up there to talk to you. And he’s offering you a chance to turn around and to return to me. But the mountain doesn’t move, Israel. I don’t come to you on your terms. You come to me on my terms.”

If you’ve ever had this moment in your life (and for most of us, you’ve had this moment when you were a child), you were doing something wrong. You know you were doing something wrong, and Mama and Daddy caught you right in the act of doing something wrong. Do you remember what it was like? Can you remember back to that feeling in the pit of your stomach when Mama or Daddy took you to the woodshed, figuratively or literally, and when you were getting ready to receive some kind of punishment, can you remember what that felt like in your stomach? Because what God is saying is, “I love my children too much to let them go down this road and not try to get them back.”

Parents will discipline a child. Sometimes it’s physical; sometimes it’s taking something away. Sometimes it’s putting them in timeout. That discipline hurts for a little bit, but it’s designed to hurt a little bit so that you don’t hurt yourself a whole lot more later on down the road. That’s what God is saying. “Israel, I’m trying to get your attention, and you just keep hitting the snooze button and rolling back over and ignoring everything that I’m saying.” 

I was thinking about this yesterday, because very early at some unholy hour yesterday morning, I was driving down interstate 95 in central Florida. It was totally dark, this dark stretch of this massive interstate. No exaggeration, there’s a car right in front of me on the interstate that was driving with no lights on whatsoever. I didn’t even know the car was there until they turned their turn signal on and went to the lane next to me. Then it was flashing in my face like a yellow neon light.

I hit my bright lights a couple of times trying to get the driver’s attention. Nothing. I drove around him and passed him, because I don’t know if this guy’s asleep at the wheel. I don’t know what’s going on. Now, I watch out of my rear view mirror, and there’s a truck that’s behind me that sees the same thing. Now, this truck slows down, pulls behind him, turns the lights on and off, not once, not twice, but three times, flashes their bright lights, doing everything they can to get this car’s attention that they’re driving down the interstate with no lights on and nothing works. The truck just pulls around him and keeps on driving. I was thinking, What on earth can get a driver’s attention on the interstate at this hour in the morning if flashing your lights and turning them off and on don’t work?

You see, what that truck was trying to do and what I was trying to do is to prevent something terrible from happening to this car, to prevent somebody from just plowing right into them and not even knowing that they’re there until it’s too late, because they’re cruising down the interstate and they run into this car. 

I just need you to hear something from me, 2 Cities Church. What we’re reading today in Amos chapter four is why we’re so passionate about explaining the good news. Your friends, the people that go to school with you, the folks that were work with you that don’t know Jesus, they’re just driving down the interstate with no lights on. They don’t even know that they don’t have lights on, until somebody that knows Jesus starts to point out what’s about to happen and tries to help them understand how much Jesus can radically change their life.

But you may also have to point out, “If you keep going down this road, it could get very, very ugly for you. So don’t keep going down this road.” That’s why we as a church take conscious efforts to share our faith by explaining the good news of Jesus. 

This whole sermon is building to a question. God says to his people of Israel, “Go ahead. You keep right on rebelling, and see what happens. I don’t come to you. The mountain doesn’t move. I don’t move to you. You come to me.” And then when the children of Israel hear from God, they roll over and they hit the snooze button. And so here’s what Amos is going to flat out ask people today and I’m going to ask you the same question. Are you ready? 

Are you ready to meet God?    

If today was the day, are you ready to meet God? Because Amos is going to look at his brothers in Israel, and he’s going to tell them, “God has tried over and over again to get your attention. And now you’d better be ready to meet him. And when you meet him, it’s going to be very, very painful.” Let’s wrap up Amos chapter four. Here’s what he says. Amos chapter four, starting in verse twelve:

Therefore, Israel, that is what I will do to you, and since I will do that to you, Israel, prepare to meet your God! He is here: the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, the one who makes the dawn out of darkness and strides on the heights of the earth. The Lord, the God of Armies, is his name.

Amos is saying, “I want to remind you of who this God is that you’re going to meet. The mountain doesn’t move to you. You meet you the mountain on the mountain’s terms. Here he is. He’s the one who formed the mountains. The one who creates the wind and reveals his thoughts to man. The one who makes the dawn out of darkness and strides on the heights of the earth. The Lord, the God of armies is his name. He is about to meet with you. He loves you. He calls you his child, but he’s not going to let you keep walking down this path, away from him without challenging you to come back, without calling you back to himself.”

I just want you to picture this in your mind for a second. I want you to picture that you’re going to meet God tonight, and you absolutely know tonight’s the night. You also know that he’s the kind of God who knows everything about you, who understands the desires of your heart, who knows the thoughts that flash across your head. He sees your actions. Imagine that you’re going to meet God tonight. Imagine that you’re going to have to stand before God tonight. Imagine what that’s going to feel like for you. 

You see, for those of us that are in a right relationship with Jesus Christ, who have been covered by the blood of our sinless savior, when you stand before God, you stand before him clean, holy, without error, without sin. Because that sin has been cast away, as far as the East is from the West. But for many of your friends, for people that you know, or those that are in your family, who don’t have that relationship with God, when they stand before him, they stand before him with the full weight of their sin on their own shoulders. 

You see, either Jesus carries the weight of that sin and pays for it on the cross, or you and I carry the weight of that sin. Amos is saying, “God has tried over and over again to get your attention, you fat cows, and you would not listen. And now when he meets with you, it’s going to hurt. But he’s hurt because he loves his children and does not leave his children to just wander through the darkness, wander through the fog because he calls you his own. He’s going to reach out to you one more time. And this time, it’s going to be painful.”

I just finished reading a literary masterpiece. Really, it blew me away how well the book, Passing, was written. A book written by Nella Larsen about the 1920s. It takes place in the Harlem Renaissance. Passing is about a light-skinned woman by the name of Clare Kendry. Clare is a beautiful woman. Most of the people don’t realize that Clare is an African-American. They just see her as a beautiful woman, and because their skin is so light, they just automatically assume that she’s a white woman. 

Clare starts to just… She doesn’t lie. She doesn’t try to pass herself off as something that she’s not. She just doesn’t mention to people her heritage. So much so, that Clare eventually marries a white man who is very, very prejudiced. Clare is associated with a bunch of very powerful and very racist people around her.

Clare starts to live this lifestyle. She gets a lot of attention and a lot of looks, because of how beautiful that she is. Then one day, Clare runs into a high school friend, and Clare finally lets her guard down and tells her high school friend about the lifestyle that she’s living. I’m not going to ruin the book for you, because you really do need to go read Nella Larson’s book, Passing, because the end of the book describes how conflicted and how frustrated and, ultimately, how miserable Clare is when she’s finally confronted with the fact that she’s living a false life, that she forgot her identity.

See, Clare forgot who she was. She started to become somebody else. When she finally remembered who she was, it became so overwhelming for her, I’m not even going to surprise it for you, that she took some drastic steps at the end of the book. 

I need you to hear me right now, because what God is saying through his prophet, Amos, this simple businessman, is reminding Israel who they are and reminding Israel whose they are. I really believe what God is calling us today, his children, to remember who we are (we are his children), and to remember whose we are. We belong to our King. As a result, we should live in such a way that tomorrow, if he were to call us home, we could stand before him without guilt, without shame, with nothing that we regret.