Nothing speaks louder about a relationship than silence!

Pastor Jeff Struecker

Have you ever had someone give you the cold shoulder? In a marriage relationship, cold shoulders usually lead to cold showers. Have you had somebody who not only gave you a cold shoulder, but they gave you the silent treatment? 

When you’re in a relationship (maybe it’s a marriage relationship; maybe this is your best friend) and things are not good between the two of you, all of a sudden they don’t respond to your text messages. All of a sudden, they’re not answering your emails. Pretty soon they’re not replying to your voicemails. This is how you know things are not good between two people.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a marriage or a friendship. Whatever it is, in any kind of relationship, that’s when things are not good. But let me tell you where it goes really bad. -when they stop reading the text messages, and your emails don’t even get opened. They go straight to junk. -when the voicemails get deleted before they even get listened to. When somebody goes completely silent, you know things aren’t good. You see, not answering the texts says it’s bad. But the silent treatment can sometimes say it’s much worse. The silent treatment sometimes says, “I’m over. It’s done. I’m moving on.”

And in a relationship, any kind of relationship, when you get the silent treatment, things are really, really bad. They may be beyond the point of no return. And what we’re going to do is, what happens in a relationship when you hear nothing. 

Here’s what I want you to understand from the Bible today: We’re going to be in Amos chapter eight, and you’re going to hear what it looks like when God is silent. Here’s what the Bible is saying to us today. Nothing speaks louder in a relationship between two friends, between a husband and a wife, and nothing speaks louder in a relationship between God and his children, nothing shouts louder than silence. And sometimes, when you have been ignoring God for so long, he starts to become silent. 

Nothing speaks louder about a relationship than silence!

If I were to summarize the book of Amos for you leading up to this point, here’s what you’re going to read. In Amos chapter one, Amos is speaking to people in the nations surrounding him. He’s speaking to all of those pagan nations. Now, I just need to remind you that Amos is a businessman. He’s not a professional prophet, and Amos hears from God. He annot get the voice of God out of his head. And now Amos is compelled to speak on God’s behalf. He goes to the pagan nations around him in chapter one. And you know what they say to him? “Amos, we don’t care. Stop talking.”

In Amos chapter two, he speaks to his own brethren, his own country, on God’s behalf. And you know what they say to him? “Amos, we don’t care. We don’t want to hear it. Stop talking.” In Amos chapters three through six, he speaks to his cousins in Israel, and he’s just laying out for them what God has told Amos to say. And do you know what they tell him? “Amos, we don’t care. We don’t want to hear it.” Literally, they tell him to shut up. In Amos chapters seven and what you see in Amos chapter eight, where we are today, is you see the results of what happens when people tell God long enough, “God, I don’t want to hear it. God, I am sick of listening.” Pretty soon, God stops talking.

In fact, I’ll give you what I believe is the pivotal verse from Amos chapter eight and perhaps one of the most tragic verses in the Bible. Amos 8:11 says this. This is what it looks like when God stops talking. 

Amos 8:11 Look, the days are coming— this is the declaration of the Lord God— when I will send a famine through the land: not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.

There is going to be a point when you want to hear from him, and he’s not talking anymore. And then the rest of Amos chapter eight is going to describe what it looks like when this famine happens and God stops talking to his people. Amos 8:11 describes tragic circumstances. Now this is really the point of no return. 

I just want to beg you today. I want to challenge you. Don’t let your relationship with God get to the point of no return like ignoring him or having no interest in hearing from God until your life gets turned upside down and you’re facing this massive tragedy. And then all of a sudden you’re crying out to him, but you don’t hear anything in reply.

That’s what it looks like in Amos chapter eight, verse 11 when it’s too late. And what we’re going to do is, we’re going to open up the Bible. We’re going to look at this chapter from the prophet Amos, and we’re going to try to see what it takes to prevent it from ever getting to the point that it’s too late with God. 

So, we’re just going to start at the beginning, Amos chapter eight, verse one. And here’s what you’re going to hear: If you and I are going to be the kind of people that are hungry to hear from God, be ready to listen because we don’t ever want to get to the point where the relationship is so bad that he’s not really speaking through his Holy Spirit anymore.

1. Get honest  

The first step is to get honest. Can we be honest with each other before we even get into the Bible today? Getting honest with somebody in a relationship is not easy. The reason why it’s not easy is because of the natural fear of rejection. What if I’m really, really honest, and you learn about all of my faults and about all of my mistakes and you turn your back on me and you reject me? In fact, I think a lot of people approach God this way. “What if I’m really, really honest with him and he sees the junk that’s in my life and not only does he reject me, but he discards me, or he disowns me when he finds out the junk that’s going on in my life.”

And so many people, unfortunately, sometimes even Christians, don’t get gut- level really honest with God. Let me show you what it looks like when you don’t get that honest with God. Amos chapter eight, starting in verse one. It says it this way:

Amos 8:1-6   The Lord God showed me this: a basket of summer fruit. He asked me, “What do you see, Amos?” I replied, “A basket of summer fruit.” The Lord said to me, “The end has come for my people Israel; I will no longer spare them. In that day the temple songs will become wailing”—this is the Lord God’s declaration. “Many dead bodies, thrown everywhere! Silence!”

Amos was just doing his job. He was taken care of sheep, and then God showed him the fourth vision out of five visions in the book of Amos. The temple is going to become silent because they have cried until there are no tears left. They have wailed until there was no more wailing or mourning to do. Now we’re just silent and dumbfounded before the Lord.

It’s almost summer here in our part of the United States. Now, if you don’t live in our part of the United States, let me just tell you how it goes down here. We have basically two seasons down here: We have summer and then we have not-summer. Not-summer is just about over, and summer is about to start in this hot humid part of the United States, which means months of relentless temperatures and high humidity.

In Israel, summer was the time when the fruit and the vegetables became ripe. So God is using this season of the year to make an analogy to his people of Israel. He says it this way: “Listen, while the fruit is ripening on the vines, there’s still hope. When it’s at the point that it’s at the perfect ripeness, it’s perfectly ripe on the vines and on the fruit trees, there’s still hope.” But what happens to fruit when it stays on the tree or on the vine for too long? It doesn’t get harvested and it goes past becoming ripe. What’s the next stage? It becomes rotten. 

What God is describing about his children in Israel is, “I was trying to nurture them, take care of them, and make them ripe. And I wanted them to be ready to respond to me, but they waited and ignored me. And now the season is over with.” And listen to this. “Now they’ve become rotten.” 

I hope you know this already. You can do a lot with fruit that is perfectly ripe. In fact, you can basically do just about anything with perfectly ripe fruit. You can even do stuff with fruit that isn’t quite yet ripe, but there’s almost nothing that you can do with fruit that’s rotten. It’s basically worthless.

And what God is describing in this fourth vision to Amos is, “Israel has become rotten fruit to me. And now you can take a basket of rotten fruit, but I can’t do anything with this basket of rotten fruit because they’ve sat there and they have forgotten or ignored me for so long.” Do you know what God has been asking his children to do? He’s been asking them to repent. 

Now, if you don’t understand this Bible word repent, it’s getting really honest with God. It’s saying, “God, we’ve made some mistakes. God, would you forgive us? God, I’m sorry.” And repentance always leads to remorse. “God, I was wrong. God, I’m sorry.”

Repentance is really important because the next step after repentance is remorse. And the reason why that’s so important is because now God can restore you, now that you’ve been really honest with him. “Yes, you’ve made some mistakes, but I still love you anyway, and I want to restore you to myself. But there’s no short-cutting this. You can’t skip beyond repentance and get straight to restoration.” And God says, “I wanted to restore you, Israel, and I tried to get you to get honest and repent, and you didn’t listen. Now you’re rotten to me. And now what I’m going to do next is just simply stop talking. I’m no longer listening to your prayers.”

Israel failed to listen when they had a chance. They got too busy, and they ignored the message of God. They got so consumed or self-preoccupied or so enamored with everything that was happening around them. They just pushed God to the curb for so long, that pretty soon he’s going to stop talking. And Amos is saying, “This day is on its way and nothing and no one can stop it.” 

If you don’t want that day to happen to you, the first step and perhaps the most important step is to just get real and honest with the God who created you, who loves you and who knows you completely anyway. Hide nothing back from him this week.

2. Show compassion   

Step number two, “Israel, I wanted you to honor me. Israel, I wanted you to represent me, and you didn’t do it. In fact, you abused the good gifts that I’ve given you.” I want you to see the next two words that the Bible uses because in these next two words, you’ll see just how far God tried to go to get His people’s attention and to cause them to listen to him.

Amos 8:4-11  Hear this, you who trample on the needy and do away with the poor of the land, asking, “When will the New Moon be over so we may sell grain, and the Sabbath, so we may market wheat? We can reduce the measure while increasing the price and cheat with dishonest scales. We can buy the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and even sell the chaff!” The Lord has sworn by the Pride of Jacob: I will never forget all their deeds. Because of this, won’t the land quake and all who dwell in it mourn? All of it will rise like the Nile; it will surge and then subside like the Nile in Egypt. And in that day— this is the declaration of the Lord God— I will make the sun go down at noon; I will darken the land in the daytime. I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; I will cause everyone to wear sackcloth and every head to be shaved. I will make that grief like mourning for an only son and its outcome like a bitter day. 

This is the Lord’s word to the people of Israel. Now, how you and I treat people says a lot about what’s going on in our hearts. How you and I treat the people around us says an awful lot about the condition of sour hearts. But how you treat the helpless says even more about the condition of your soul. 

You see, what Israel was doing is taking advantage of the most vulnerable people of the land. The business leaders were cheating the poor and taking the little that they had, and they were using deceptive business practices to do it. They were buying and selling people and treating them like a commodity.

You see, the way that you treat your friends, those that are kind to you and close to you says a lot about what’s going on in your heart. But the way that you treat people that are helpless and can’t offer anything in return says an awful lot about what’s going on in your soul. And God is saying, “Israel, I made you to honor me. I wanted you to represent me to the nations around you, and you missed it. You completely missed it, Israel. I wanted you to show compassion to people who couldn’t return your favor, but instead of showing compassion, you took advantage of them. Your bad business practices and your corrupt government started a scenario where this thing just went from bad to worse. And you started by cheating just a little bit and pretty soon you were cheating people out of everything and treating them, discarding them, like the worthless parts of the grain that you can’t sell at the market.”

God is supremely concerned when bad business practices and corrupt government policies continue to exist. And no matter where you are, that ought to cause all of us to have nightmares tonight. You might say, “Wait a second, Jeff, what God said in the book of Amos way back in the Old Testament is still true today? And God cares about the business practices in my city? He is concerned about the kind of government policies that go on?”. If that’s the case, then wherever you live right now, you and I are facing really difficult circumstances ahead.

No matter where you are on the world right now, there are businesses that are cheating people. There are government policies that are deliberately, intentionally treating people like a commodity. And so God says, “Let me tell you what I’m going to do to you, Israel. I’m going to make your ground quake.” Now, if you were with us at the very first week of the book of Amos, you remember that this prophecy was given. Amos tells us exactly when this happened: two years before the earthquake. THE earthquake is the exact language that Amos uses to describe it. It says that there was just AN earthquake. It was THE earthquake.

“When our children and grandchildren talk about it, they don’t talk about the little tremors that happened over and over again in Israel. They talk about the big one, the big one that happened in the year 763 BC.” And God is saying, “Israel, let me tell you what I’m about to do to you. I’m about to make the earthquake below you. I’m about to strip away all of your finances like the Nile surges and then it disappears. I’m about to make the sun go dark in the middle of the day. This is going to be my hand against you, Israel, because you were supposed to be my representative. You were supposed to act like me to the nations.”

I say this a lot around here, and it’s because I don’t want you to ever forget it. The name 2 Cities speaks about the two places where you and I live. As Christians, we belong to the eternal city. We are children of God, and our ultimate dwelling place is Heaven, which means we’re supposed to love God and we’re supposed to honor God. But we also live in a second city. This is what the name 2 Cities stands for. We live in the City of Man, and we’re supposed to represent our God while we’re here in the City of Man.

One of the most vulnerable groups of people that you will run into are the poor, the homeless, and the needy. “And Israel, instead of taking care of these people, instead of treating them the way that I would treat them and representing me to these people, you took advantage of them.” Our church is so committed to being good citizens of 2 Cities that this week, on Saturday, like we do every month around here, we’re going to go to serve people in our community. We call it Serve Saturday around here, and this coming Saturday, we’re going to be in a low income government housing project loving and serving the kind of people that Amos chapter eight is talking about, because that’s what God’s people are supposed to do.

We care about people like that because God cares about them. And we show compassion to them that can’t offer us anything in return because that’s what God calls his children to do. I want to invite you to join us this Saturday as we go knock on doors and love our neighbors across the river at the Riverview Apartments. See, if you’re going to prevent this thing from ever getting to the point of no return in your relationship with God, first, you get honest. Second, you show compassion. 

3. Listen carefully     

Third and finally from the book of Amos chapter eight today, you get to the point where you listen carefully to what God says next. I really believe these next verses describe perhaps some of the most tragic verses in the entire Old Testament. When God says, “I tried to get your attention, Israel. I wanted you to listen carefully, but you weren’t listening. And so now, Israel, let me tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to stop talking for 400 years. You will not hear from my voice again.” Amos chapter eight, let’s pick up again at verse 11:

Amos 8: 11-14  Look, the days are coming— this is the declaration of the Lord God— when I will send a famine through the land: not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and roam from north to east seeking the word of the Lord, but they will not find it. In that day the beautiful young women, the young men also, will faint from thirst. Those who swear by the guilt of Samaria and say, “As your god lives, Dan,” or, “As the way of Beer-sheba lives”— they will fall, never to rise again.

Dan and Beersheba are cities in Israel where Israel created temples of idol worship to false gods. And it’s going to get bad, and people are going to go back to what’s natural for them. When it gets bad, they’re going to turn to their idols and hope that their idols will deliver them. And God says, “Those idols will not be able to deliver you. I wanted you to hear from me, and you became adulterous and turned to somebody else, turned to false gods.”

I want you to picture something in your mind for just a second. Picture this with me for just a second, will you? Imagine that there’s a husband, a good man, a godly man, who is married and trying his best to keep his marriage together. He’s providing for his wife. He’s praying for her, and he’s doing his best to love her and to honor her. 

But he’s married to an unfaithful wife. You got this picture in your mind? Imagine that she’s not just unfaithful once; she’s not just unfaithful two or three times, but she’s a serial adulterous. And she continues to break her vows and continues to sleep with somebody else outside the relationship. ‘still got the picture in your mind?

Now imagine that the guy works diligently to try to restore this marriage, adultery after adultery after adultery. He doesn’t ever minimize it. He doesn’t ever act like it’s no big deal. He tries to convince her to be pure. He tries to convince her that he loves her. He will take care of her, that the men that she’s with are just using her, but she refuses to listen to him. Now, you still got the picture in your mind?

Now imagine that we’re talking about your brother or your son or your best friend. And I want to ask you, do you tell him at this point, “It’s time for you to stop winning her heart back. It’s time for you to look her in the eyes, tell her it’s over, and move on.” Or do you tell him to hang in there; maybe she’ll listen this time? After the last 20 times that she didn’t listen, how many of you say to him, “Just hang in there. She may listen the next time or how many of you say, “You know what? It’s over, man. It’s time for you to move on”?

You see, what God is saying is, “Israel, I loved you with this selfless, sacrificial love. And I was calling you into a relationship with me. I was showering you with good gifts, calling you my children and honoring you. And we entered into a relationship, Israel. It’s called a covenant. I made a promise to you, and you made a promise to me, but you broke your promise not once, but many times over. And when it got bad, instead of running back to me, Israel, you ran to your false gods, to your temporary idols and looked to them to make things better. I’ve tried over and over again, Israel, to call you back to myself, and you wouldn’t have it. So Israel, I’m done talking. And now you are eventually going to get to the point where you want to hear from me, but I’m not talking anymore because when I tried to talk to you, you weren’t listening.”

That’s exactly what happened in the Old Testament. Listen, y’all. This didn’t just happen in the Old Testament; it happens in the New Testament, and it happens today, where God is trying to get people’s attention and they’re not listening. 

And then there’s a point where He stops trying to get your attention. And now what happens next is very severe. What happens next is brutal in the land. And God is saying, “I tried to win you back, Israel. I tried to speak to you and to call you out of this muck and mire and the mess that you created in your life, but you weren’t listening. And now I’m going to be silent.”

Historians will sometimes talk about one of the most brutal battles in World War II. In fact, I think if you look back over the course of human history, this may have been one of the bloodiest and the most brutal battles in human history. It’s the battle of Leningrad. The battle of Leningrad really started in September of 1941, and it probably shouldn’t be called a battle. It’s better referred to as a siege that lasted for almost three years. It started late in the summer, and most people would tell you that first winter in 1941 was without a doubt the worst part of this battle because of the weather in Russia, because of the troops that surrounded the city and cut off the supplies of food and now were being starved to death and were completely isolated from the rest of our country. And it looked like the city was going to fall.

And in the midst of the winter of 1941, Stalin did everything he could to prop up this really important city. He wanted to make sure that people didn’t lose hope. So Stalin used the radio to keep that attention and the hearts of the people in Leningrad. He started to ask people to come on the radio and to read novels just so that people had something to listen to when they were starving and freezing to death in the winter of 1941. He asked poets to come and to read poetry on the radio so that people would listen. He asked musicians, “It doesn’t even matter what you play, would you come to the radio and would you play?” And they played until they were faint with exhaustion because there was nothing to eat, nothing to drink, freezing to death.

There was a point on the radio in Leningrad, the winter of 1941, where the people were so exhausted that no one had the energy to keep reading, keep speaking, keep singing. There was just a metronome in the background that people in the city could listen to. Tick, tick, tick, tick. That’s all that the residents could hear… and then the metronome went silent. And when the metronome went silent, people became desperate. In fact, the radio engineers did everything they could to at least get the tick of the metronome broadcasting through the radio station, because people started to treat silence as death.

“If the radio goes silent, now there’s no hope for us left. We are going to die because now we can’t even hear the regular tick of the metronome.” Silence equaled death. And for three hours, there was total silence until the radio engineers could get the tick of the metronome going again and give the people whatever hope that they could. 

God is saying to the nation of Israel, “I’ve tried over and over again to get your attention, but you weren’t listening, Israel. And now it’s too late.”

I’m asking you today, please, for your sake, would you get quiet and would you get alone with God this week? And would you do it for your soul and for your future? Get quiet before God, before God starts to get quiet to you? Because he’s been talking, and you haven’t been listening. And so eventually he stops speaking and doesn’t speak to you. His Holy Spirit isn’t speaking to you anymore. 

I’m going to ask you to run to him, hold nothing back to him, get really honest with him, and just admit where you’re at. He already knows it anyway, but he wants to hear from you. He wants to speak to you. He’s regularly trying to get your attention.

He wants you to put your faith into action and show compassion. But if you’re not careful and you blow him off long enough, the New Testament describes this picture very well. He can hand you over to the desires of your heart. He can give you exactly what you’re asking for. “God, I want you to stop talking because I’m not listening. And one day he says, “Okay, if that’s really what you want from me, I’ll give you what you want.” And now all of a sudden when you need to hear from him most, he’s silent and he doesn’t speak to you anymore. The voice of God is a gift from your Creator who says, “I love you, and I want to be in a relationship with you.”

Listen, the cold shoulder is bad. The silent treatment is really, really bad. And God, unlike selfish, sinful people, doesn’t give the silent treatment because he’s angry or because he’s mean. He gives the silent treatment because he will not cheapen himself and compete with the other voices for your attention. So there’s a point where he says, “If you’re not listening, then I’m just going to stop speaking.” For the children of God, I’m going to ask you, would you get before him? Would you spend some time listening to Jesus, your King?