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Friday, September 22, 2017

God-focused: Beginning with Thanks

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken throughout the whole world.” Romans 1:8

Paul told the Roman Christians he was thankful for them. He spoke about a people he had never met. Paul expressed thanks for the future-theirs, and his with them.

Paul was thankful the world knew of the Romans’ faith. People heard Roman emperors expelled the Jews from Rome. Since the Roman Christians worshiped in Jewish temples at first, they experienced similar persecution without expulsion.

Paul desired to be with the Roman believers. He was thankful in advance he could enjoy their companionship. Paul anticipated giving them further knowledge of the gospel. He wanted western believers to be able to stand firm in their faith.

Still, Paul didn’t expect only they would benefit from his visit. He wanted to be encouraged by/with them. Surely Paul’s faith was greater than that of the Roman Christians. Yet, Paul said together they would be encouraged mutually. For this, Paul was thankful.

Paul’s travels created home bases for him in the east. He’d never been to the west. Paul needed a home base in Rome. Often growth in faith comes from standing with other believers supporting each other. Christianity is a faith in community. We meet to pray, study the Bible, worship, encourage, and grow stronger in knowledge and faith to proclaim the Gospel. Paul understood he needed a home base for encouragement and growth in faith.

Paul began his letter to the Romans with thanks for them-past, present, and future. We must begin our day thanking God for who will enter our lives-Christians for growth and encouragement or unbelievers to hear the Gospel.

Lord, help us recognize the importance of being in a community of believers and seeking unbelievers with whom to share Your Gospel

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Sifting


In Amos 8, God gave Amos a fourth vision, that of a basket of ripe summer fruit. Through that vision, He wanted Amos to understand and tell the people of Israel their sins amassed one upon the other and were now ripe. No further delays of their judgment by God would occur. What God told them through other prophets and Amos would happen soon. His mercy for them ended. His great love for them required discipline to lead them to turn back to a right relationship with Him.

The sin God highlighted and of which Amos told the Israelites regarded the corrupt merchants. They considered time away from their stalls and shops to worship and rest as a waste of time when they could make money instead. These merchants used two sets of weights in their business dealings. They stole from the poor by giving them less than a full bushel or half-bushel. The merchants stole from other merchants, too, by not giving them the full measure of silver or gold their purchase required. God included the southern kingdom of Judah in this judgment, too. He said the earth would quake and lamentations and mourning would arise from everyone in the nation. God’s judgment would affect all segments of the Israelite population. The festivals of the Israelites would turn to mourning and gloom. A famine for bread and water was only one area of drought. The people would thirst for the word of the LORD and would not find it; no prophet or priest for the LORD would live among them. The entire socio-political base of Israel would fall.

With Amos 9, God gave a fifth and final vision to Amos. This vision was of Him destroying the temple at Bethel and killing the escapees from that destruction by the sword. God said in verse one, “They will not have a fugitive who will flee, or a refugee who will escape.” (NASB) All people of Israel would experience God’s judgment.

As we have studied this book of the Bible, we realize this prophecy is not mainly about the Israelites. It is, and it isn’t. Yes, the Israelites sinned repeatedly. God gave them their due punishment. We should learn we each deserve punishment and then repent and return to a right relationship with Him. Yet, what we should notice most of all is this book of the Bible, this prophecy, is about God. This book recalls to the Israelites who God has been from creation. It reminds them of His mighty hand to create and then to protect His chosen people. Amos recollects for the Israelites their covenant with Yehovah and their covenant unfaithfulness. It recalls for them the goodness and provision of the LORD. This book reminds them of God’s power and might alongside His love and mercy. With the final chapter, the people of Israel received a reminder they can have hope in I AM, the existing One who was, is, and will be. Throughout the whole of Amos, God’s covenant faithfulness, His righteousness, and His justice are the focus. Each of the prophets and priests who walked with God before Amos, stated these things, too. In the New Testament, Jesus explained this as well. When Lazarus died and Martha questioned Jesus why He waited so long to come to them, He said it was so people would realize God’s glory (John 11:38-44). Making God known is the biggest purpose of Amos and any priest, prophet, or believer. Just as Lazarus’ death was not about Lazarus or his sisters, but about God and His glory, so these prophecies by Amos were to highlight God and bring Him glory while teaching the Israelites and us about ourselves and our relationship with Him.

With that understanding, we can study and look for how Amos made God known. Of what characteristics of God did he reveal or remind the Israelites? What personae of God did Amos relay to them? What imagery did he use to relay God’s message to the Israelites? These are very clear in Amos 9.

This final Bible study from the book of Amos, chapter nine, breaks into four segments with two each in a section. Each of the sections show characteristics of God and His personae and use an image to convey the message. The first seven verses form the first section and break into two segments: verses one through four and verses five through six. Verses eight through fifteen comprise the second section of this chapter. The two segments of this section are verses seven through ten and verses eleven through fifteen. Let’s study these verses to understand what God said through Amos and consider God’s characteristics, personae, and imagery.

God’s Omniscience and Omnipotence

All-Knowing and Powerful Judge

In Amos 9:1, we read of the fifth and final vision God gave to Amos to relay His judgment upon Israel. Earlier God gave Amos visions of locusts, plumb lines, fires, and summer fruit. God used an image of destruction, death, and captivity in the vision in chapter nine. The visual part of this vision shows God stood by the altar. The aural part of the vision is Amos hearing the LORD’s voice in verse 1a. Amos experienced God like Jacob when he met Him at Bethel in Genesis 28:13. This vision is similar to Isaiah’s when he saw God in the Jerusalem temple in Isaiah 6:1 and to Ezekiel’s when he saw Him by the River Chebar in Ezekiel 1:26-28. Amos said in verses one through four,

I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and He said, ‘Smite the capitals so that the thresholds will shake, and break them on the heads of them all! Then I will slay the rest of them with the sword; they will not have a fugitive who will flee, or a refugee who will escape. Though they dig into Sheol, from there shall My hand take them; and though they ascend to heaven, from there will I bring them down. And though they hide on the summit of Carmel, I will search them out and take them from there; and though they conceal themselves from My sight on the floor of the sea, from there I will command the serpent and it will bite them. And though they go into captivity before their enemies, from there I will command the sword that it slay them, and I will set My eyes against them for evil and not for good.’ (NASB)

In the first verse, Amos saw, looked at, perceived, and considered the Lord, Adonay, as He spoke to him. He recognized this Person who revealed Himself and spoke to him. It was Adonay, the awesome and revered Lord of all. When God reveals Himself to humanity that is a theophany. The definition of theophany is the appearing of God to people, generally to bless them. Moses, Amos, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and others in the Bible experienced theophanies. The unusual thing about this theophany is that in most theophanies God proclaims His blessings on people. This one announced His destruction of Israel. We recognize this when God said in verse 4b, He “set His eyes on them for evil and not for good.”

How did God appear to Amos and what did He say to Him? God appeared by the altar. We assume it was the altar in Bethel since Amos received his other visions in Israel and his prophecies were for the northern kingdom of Israel. Remember, too, in Amos 3:14, God said He would punish the altars of Bethe in 9:l. He said, “Smite the capitals so that the thresholds will shake.” Here God said He would strike and destroy the capitals, the tops of the pillars in the temple so the temple would fall. The pillars held the weight of the roof. When pillars crumble and fall, the roof falls cracking, shattering, and destroying everything under it. Zephaniah 2:14 prophesied even animals would lie down in the destroyed temples. God’s destruction would come suddenly with no warming, once again like a thief in the night. This destruction of the temple would break it on "the heads of them all.” The all in this verse were the people inside the temple-the priests and the people inside who worshiped the false gods. God’s presence at that time would be like an earthquake. The Israelites would remember the devastation from the quake around 762 BC. God’s destruction of a place is an oft-used metaphor for an enemy invading and destroying a nation. This vision speaks of a judgment against the people outside the temple, too. God said no refugee would escape Him. He emphasized this by calling them fugitives and refugees. God would surely make His judgment fall on each person in Israel. As Jeremiah 11:11 says, no one would escape this disaster.

With verse two, God gave a conditional statement. If the people should go to Sheol, He would find and take them. He gave five conditional statements: two matched pairs and a single. The first matched pair spoke about cosmic extremes: Sheol and heaven. Though the people dig to the depths of Sheol or go to the heights of heaven, God would reach them. He knows where all people are and He would find them. God is omniscient, all-knowing.

Next, in verse three, God used earthly limits and said, “Though they (the Israelites) hide on the summit of Carmel” or “conceal themselves from My (God’s) sight on the floor of the sea,” He would find and punish them. Mount Carmel was the highest point of Canaan and was in the northeast of the Promised Land on the Mediterranean coast. God said He would command the serpent to bite them. He would find them at the lowest depths of earth, too. God would know where they went and He has command of all things–water, sea, serpent, earthquakes, land, heavens, rains, enemy armies, etc. The serpent spoken of in this verse is the servant of God. David said in Psalm 139:9 that no one can hide in the deepest part of the sea from God. God is all-knowing and all-powerful. His punishment is absolute; it will happen.

The final conditional statement of this part of the vision says, “And though they go into captivity before their enemies, from there I will command the sword that it slay them, and I will set My eyes against them for evil and not for good.” (NASB) The Israelites believed Yehovah God held no power outside the borders of the Promised Land. This implied opposite stated for the Israelites God’s power and knowledge expanded to all parts of the earth, not just within their territory. God is the God of all places, people, and things. Even if the Israelites willingly went into captivity and thought themselves safe from God’s punishment, He would find them and command a sword to slay them. He has charge-power-over manmade things like swords, and those who wield them.

Finally, said with undeniable meaning, God reminded them of what He said in Amos 5:14. He would “set His eyes against them for evil and not for good.” No one would escape His knowledge or evade Him and His judgment. Instead of the LORD bringing good upon them-goodness defined by His character-and keeping evil away, He would remove His goodness from them and allow evil to happen. God made a promise with Abraham in Genesis 44:21. He said He would set His eye upon him. It meant God blessed Abraham. God used this same phrasing in Jeremiah 24:6, 39:12, and 40:4 to mean He blessed the people of Israel. With Amos 9:4, having God’s eyes upon them meant the opposite; it was for evil and not for good, to curse them. God cherished the Israelites and blessed them even when they broke their covenant with Him. Their sins were many and God had given His mercy to them for hundreds of years. Now, He had to be faithful to the unpleasant side of the covenant with the people of Israel. God had to remove His hand of blessing from them and allow evil to occur. He even caused some of the distress, injury, and trouble. Leviticus 17:10, 20:3 & 6, and Deuteronomy 28:15-68 each speak about why God would “turn His face away from Israel” and cause or allow curses to come upon them. The people of Israel understood and agreed to this. They covenanted with Yehovah before they entered the Promised Land. Amos urged the Israelites to seek good and not evil, but they refused so God’s judgment came upon them (Amos 5:14). Their actions were conditional. Whatever they chose to do, it brought a consequence. They chose evil, so curses would come upon them; God’s judgment would come upon them.

With these four verses, we recognize God’s power and omniscience. He knows where each person is who tries to hide from Him. God told them He would find them and His judgment of them would occur. There was nowhere the Israelites could hide from Him because He is all-knowing. God’s personae of omnipotent and omniscient Judge showed in these verses. He used the image of a conquering army-the Israelites’ enemies-to give the Israelites a vivid sense of the devastation that would fall on them because of their stubborn unfaithfulness.

How does this fit with the next two verses? Why do these six verses form a section of this chapter? Let’s look closer at verses five and six to understand better.

All-Powerful Creator - A Doxology

With verses five and six, a third doxology occurs in Amos. Remember, a doxology is a hymn of praise to God giving Him glory and honor. In these two verses, Amos did that, but began with an ominous tone reminding the Israelites of God’s power. He followed that with a standard praise of God about His power in a positive sense. Amos relayed in verses five and six,

The Lord GOD of hosts, the One who touches the land so it melts, and all those who dwell in it mourn, and all of it rises up like the Nile and subsides like the Nile of Egypt, the One who builds His upper chambers in the heavens and has founded His vaulted dome over the earth, He who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the face of the earth, the LORD is His name. (NASB)

Amos wrote doxologies in 4:14 and 5:8. In the first, he praised God as the Creator of the universe. In the second, he began with creation and referred to Yehovah’s control of the rain. With 9:5-6, Yehovah is the One who touches, builds, and calls. In this doxology, He is Creator, too. GOD’s creative power turned into destructive might. Notice, too, each of the verbs describing God’s actions are in present tense. God touches, builds, and calls, and keeps on touching, building, and calling. Because He was, is, and always will be, He continues to create.

The revered Yehovah-the existing, all-powerful GOD of hosts-of all creation touches the land He made. He remakes it by destroying and rebuilding. This same GOD would destroy and rebuild His chosen people and nation. This part of verse five shows GOD has power over all the earth. He didn’t just create, then let it go and become. GOD has control of the earth-one part of creation-just as He does other parts of creation. His touch melted the earth. It caused it to soften, melt, and/or flow like an earthquake or like lava. GOD softened it to remold it for His purpose, just as His judgment on Israel was remaking Israel for His glory and purpose. Psalm 104:32 and 144:5 speak of the Lord touching the mountains and they smoking. Isaiah 64:1 says the mountains quaked at God’s presence. Micah 1:4 says the mountains melt under God. Remember, the earthquake could be a literal earthquake or it could relate to destruction by another means like a subjugating enemy army. Either way, God’s great might that causes the earth to move and change would cause the people who lived there to mourn because of the devastation and loss. His creative hand and His power to create can cause mourning and destruction.

Amos further stated in verse six GOD builds. GOD builds the upper chambers in the heavens. He established and causes to continue the ascent or stories of heaven. GOD made and keeps making and maintaining all in the heavenly realm. Amos explained what those areas in the heavenly realm were in the Hebrew mind. He said, GOD founded-He established and fixed-His vaulted dome over the earth. For the Hebrews, the vaulted dome was the sky (Genesis 1:6-8) and it fit together as an arch that rested on the earth at its extremities (Job 26:11). This arch banded to the earth. The English word, “dome,” comes from the Hebrew word, ‘aguddah, which means banding to earth the heavens. Within the vault, heavenly beings moved and birds flew (Genesis 1:20). Above the arch was the storehouse where GOD kept His rain (Job 38:22 & 37), and above that was where GOD sat on His throne. Psalm 104:3 & 13 says this similarly. David said God laid the beams of His upper chamber in the waters. The earth would shake and the bands that tied God to the earth in human minds would break, Amos implied. God’s presence over their world would seem to end. His power to touch and to build overlap and show how great the devastation would be when He removed His hand and presence from them.

With the second half of verse six, Amos said the LORD is the same GOD who commanded the waters of the sea-the waters He poured out on them when creating. This GOD is Yehovah. The One who touches and builds, calls, too. Amos 5:8 said He calls for the waters of the sea and pours them on the surface of the earth. Baal, one of the gods the Israelites worshiped, supposedly gave them rain. When God caused it to stop pouring on the earth, the Israelites would realize Who calls the water. Yehovah is greater than Baal, an idol. The Israelites recalled this from Elijah’s encounter with the 400 prophets of Baal. Baal’s prophets could not call down any water from it. GOD can bring a blessing at the right time with rain or a curse of too much rain or not enough.

God’s creative hand could keep watering the earth or restrain it and allow drought and famine. Figuratively, He could restrain Himself from giving the bread of life-His words-to the people of Israel so they would seek to and fro for the word of the LORD (Amos 8:12). Having no word from the LORD was the second kind of famine God said would occur to the Israelites. God would withhold His power to create and provide. He would create a desire for Him and His Word among the Israelites.

When God touches, He creates. His creating never ends. He continues to build and calls out for His creation to form. This creation can be for the good of people or a curse upon them. God’s omniscience and omnipotence show Him as Creator and Judge. His judgment can create for good or cause devastation. How Israel related to Him, He said, caused mourning when His re-forming and remaking of the earth and the Israelites included pain and destruction. It did not cause the rejoicing of a doxology for God’s positive creation. The Israelites would know Yehovah is the great GOD from whom they could not hide. Amos made sure the Israelites knew this GOD of whom he spoke is the LORD. He iterated it here and in Amos 4:13.

·         Do we take God for granted? Do we do whatever we want assuming He would always bless us?
·         Have you done something that God detests, didn’t repent, and then felt God’s punishment?
·         Did you realize before that God’s creative hand also remakes and reforms all things to bring Him glory, even you? When you do things against Him, He will remake you.

God’s Justice and Wisdom

Just and Wise Judge

Some theologians believe verses five and six should have been after verse ten or before verse one, not after verse four. However, in understanding that the doxology praises God as the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator, it goes well with the first half of this chapter. Just as well does verses eleven through fifteen, the redemption, fit well with the second half of the judgment about wisdom and justice. The personae spoken of God in these verses is of a judge. The imagery is of a farmer, like the imagery above was of a conquering army. GOD’s judgment could bring renewal, but it also separates the faithful from the unfaithful. Let’s consider each segment of this section together and individually.
Amos began this second section reminding the Israelites Whose they were. He said in verse seven,

‘Are you not the sons of Ethiopia to Me, O sons of Israel?’ declares the LORD. ‘Have I not brought up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?’ (NASB)

On first look, we should recognize these people other than the Israelites of whom God spoke were descendants of Ham, the son Noah cursed for seeing him naked in his drunkenness (Genesis 9:20-25). Ethiopians came from Cush, Ham’s son. The Egyptians and Philistines came from Ham’s son, Egypt. The Arameans/Syrians came through Cush’s son, Nimrod. When God said the Israelites were like the sons of Ethiopia, Egypt, Philistia, and Aram, He meant they were the same as them. God loves all people. He also meant some of the Israelites’ descendants came from these other nations, like Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, and her father, Laban, who came from Aram. Moses called Jacob a “wandering Aramean” in Deuteronomy 26:5. The Israelites came from out of Egypt as their other ancestors came from Aram and Kir. They were no better than these nations. The only difference between Israel and these other nations, any other nations, was God chose them and covenanted with them to be His people. The Israelites took their covenant with God for granted. Since God called them His people, they assumed they could do whatever they wanted and not be hurt. The Israelites did not live by their covenant with Him, but only by the convenient parts. They lived the way they wanted, sinfully. God’s creative, powerful, just, and wise hand would bring the punishment upon the Israelites they deserved. They would be no better than Ham’s cursed family line. The people of Israel would receive judgment and punishment like the Philistines and Arameans in Amos 1. Remember, God gave the Philistines and Arameans land in the Sinai Peninsula just as He did the Israelites. He could take it away, too. The Israelites’ special relationship with God would end. He would treat them like any other nation that deserved punishment. God would not have mercy toward them anymore. He is sovereign over each of these nations and He would judge them all because He loves all people. God wants all people to come into a right relationship with Him. The only difference between Israel and the other nations is the Israelites had a covenant relationship with Him. His mercy kept Him from acting on the judgment part of the covenant because of His love. Yehovah waited to give them one more chance to be faithful to Him. His love and justice determined that time was the right time to enact the punishment, the curses of their covenant recorded in Deuteronomy 28.

With this understanding, Israel was no more special than any other nation. God said in verse eight,

‘Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are on the sinful kingdom and I will destroy it from the face of the earth; nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,’ declares the LORD. (NASB)

This statement begins with “behold” meaning because or since. Since the eyes of the Lord God are on the sinful kingdom, something will happen. The Israelites had a choice. They could follow the LORD or they could go their own way. Because of their covenant with GOD, they realized the results for each, either blessings or curses. What would happen to the Israelites? “How would the LORD know anyway?” they may have thought. GOD explained. He said, “The eyes of the Lord God” see the sinful kingdom. This is like verse four. No one can hide anything from GOD or hide from Him. Just as GOD watched over the Israelites so no enemy could harm them, now His eyes watched over them because they did not do right. Because they chose to do evil, and not good, as Amos spoke of in chapter 5 and Jeremiah spoke of in Jeremiah 44:27, God kept His eye on them. The Israelites were sinful and deserved His judgment.

Remember, Yehovah’s policy was to destroy every sinful kingdom (see Amos 1-2). His judgment on Philistia, Edom, Aram, and Israel notes this. Just as God destroyed the Amorites in Amos 2:9, He would destroy these nations. The Israelites could not get away from their just judgment especially since they agreed to it in their covenant with GOD when He chose them to be His people. Their destruction would remove them from the face of the earth. The sinful Israel, of whom Amos estimated to be ninety percent of the kingdom, God would destroy (annihilate) from the surface of the earth, from their territory, their nation. He said this in 6:10 and 7:17, and would say it again in 9:10.

Amos hoped because he experienced God’s mercy, not all the Israelites would face extermination. He expressed this in Amos 3:12, 4:11, 5:3 & 15, 6:10, 7:17, and 9:10. Amos spoke of the divine judgment with the possibility of future salvation and redemption. Jonah and Joel, also prophets, added this same hope in Jonah 3:9 and Joel 2:14. Amos loved his brother and sister Israelites and had hope God would not destroy every one of them. In Amos 5:15, he said, “It may be that the LORD…will be gracious with the remnant of Joseph.” (NASB) Because of this hope, Amos included in 9:8, “‘Nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,’ declares the LORD.” (NASB). He believed God would leave a remnant. Amos believed and trusted in the wise and just Judge Yehovah had always been.

With verse nine, Amos showed the personae of the wise Yehovah. He said in this verse,

[GOD said] For behold, I am commanding and I will shake the house of Israel among all nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, but not a kernel will fall to the ground. (NASB)

God used the imagery of a farmer in this verse. He carried it over through the rest of the chapter. GOD’s judgment of the Israelites had been merciful for hundreds of years. Now He would apply wisdom even more. Yehovah loved these people, the Israelites, whom He chose as His people from among all the people of the world. He had a covenant relationship with them and did not want their utter destruction. Wisdom was necessary to sift the kernel from the pebble. John the Baptist used a similar metaphor when he spoke of the wheat and chaff in Matthew 3:12. Both metaphors meant the separating of God’s faithful people from unfaithful people. During the time of the divided kingdoms and after, farmers used a sieve with holes small enough to allow kernels of corn and wheat to go through, but not pebbles. The kernels represented the remnant of Israel, God’s faithful few, and the pebbles represented the sinners. God’s judgment, the exile, was the sifting process, the separation of grain from pebbles. Yehovah would destroy the political kingdom of Israel and sift the people. His remnant few would survive. Isaiah used a sifting metaphor in a similar way when he said God shakes the nations in the sieve of destruction in Isaiah 30:28. Luke reminds us Jesus told Simon Peter “Satan demanded to sift him like wheat” in Luke 22:31. Jesus told Simon He would pray Simon’s faith would not fail. 

The sifting metaphor was common for the Israelites and the neighboring nations of the time. Wise farmers knew not to throw out good kernels just because rocks hid among them. They also understood not to accept everything without sifting because when they ate the kernels a tooth could break, a person could choke on the pebble, or it could cause an internal injury of the person who swallowed it. If God left the pebbles in His kernels, it could cause more injury to His people. His wisdom required judgment occur.

With verse ten, Amos completed this segment of section two. God said,

All the sinners of My people will die by the sword, those who say, ‘The calamity will not overtake or confront us.’ (NASB)

Though the people could not hide from Yehovah, they would be brazen enough to think GOD would not cause them harm. They would petulantly and proudly state the distress of which Amos prophesied would not harm them. The arrogance and blind hearts of the Israelites would make them stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the inevitable and, thereby, make them unrepentant. These people would each “fall by the sword.” Amos asked the Israelites in 6:3, “Do you put off the day of calamity, and would you bring near the seat of violence?” (NASB) Nothing the Israelites could do would stop GOD’s imminent and certain judgment from coming upon them. This attitude reminds us of belligerent children who refuse to recognize and obey a parent’s  authority. The Israelites, though knowing about God and hearing His judgment from several prophets by now, refused to acknowledge God’s authority, power, and judgement. They thought they were immune to His judgment because they were the chosen people of Yehovah. By denying His authority, they put themselves equal to God or above Him, though they were not. These Israelites were not exempt from Yehovah’s judgment. God, just like a loving parent, had wisdom not to destroy the faithful Israelites, but had to act justly to correct and punish the belligerent unfaithful who put themselves above Him in their daily lives. God was like the wise farmer who knew how to sift out the good from the bad.

This sifting process showed GOD not only as wise Judge, but as Savior. He would redeem the faithful Israelites from the destruction of the whole nation so that the remnant could re-establish the nation of Yehovah. This would bring glory to GOD again so the nations would see His wisdom and justice as Judge, and also as Savior and Redeemer. Amos expressed the actions of God as Savior and Redeemer in verses eleven through fifteen. In these verses, once again he used the image of a wise farmer who reaps abundant produce, contentment, and love/faithfulness. The saving and redeeming of the remnant showed again God’s creating hand.

Just Savior and Redeemer

This part of section two in Amos 9 gives us a peek of the New Covenant through Jesus Christ that would come in the Israelites’ future. In verses eleven through fifteen, God gave hope that a remnant would survive captivity and/or destruction and He would bless them. He would renew His covenant with the Israelites. Let’s consider the hope that a remnant would return as a nation of God.

In Amos 9:11-12, Amos said,

‘In that day, I will raise up the fallen booth and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name,’ declares the LORD who does this. (NASB)

When Amos said, “in that day,” he referred to “the day of the Lord” when God would come to defeat the Israelites' enemies. Remember in Amos 5, Amos told the Israelites when the “day of the Lord” came everyone would receive God’s judgment, not just their enemies. All His enemies, everyone who sinned against Him, would receive His judgment. Contrary to Amos 5, in Amos 9, “the day of the Lord” would be a positive experience. It would bring restoration of the nation of Israel. Amos said, God would “raise up (quwm) the fallen booth of David.” The Hebrew word quwm means to make rise, to establish, and to fix. “Fallen” comes from the Hebrew word naphal, meaning overthrown and the word “booth” comes from cukkah, meaning shelter, hut, or canopy. The LORD would re-establish the overthrown kingdom of David. Peter used this same terminology in Acts 15:16-18 when he reminded the people the prophets said God would return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Isaiah 16:5 was more explicit than Amos. He spoke of the Messiah who was from the line of David who would establish in love a throne from the house of David. Not only is God the Savior of the fallen nation of Israel, He foreshadowed about the Messiah who would bring a new covenant.

Besides re-establishing the throne of David, the throne from which the Messiah would come, God said He would fix the earthly structures of the nation. In verse 11b, He said He would wall up the breaches. God would close off the gaps in the broken wall around the nation speaking of the wall around Jerusalem and the temple. He said He would raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old. God would rebuild the temple to the specifications He gave David and Solomon. The nation, palace, capital, and temple would be like it was during it grandest days of David’s and Solomon’s reigns. Yehovah specified exactly what lands this would entail. He said in verse twelve, “That they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name.” Does that mean God would take the land He had given to Edom and give it to Israel or any other nation to whom He gave land? No. Most commentators believe this means Israel will repossess its territory and the remnant who believed in Yehovah. No matter which nationality they were, God would call them His children. This strong evidence shows God intended all people who believe in Him would receive salvation, not just the Israelites. It adds weight to Paul’s argument that Jew and Gentile are part of Abraham’s descendants.

Amos next grabbed Israel’s attention with the word “behold.” With this word, he said, wait…see, something more would occur. For what did Amos want their attention? He said, “The days are coming,” that is the day of the LORD, a future time of hope and restoration. Amos then described those days. He said in verses thirteen and fourteen,

‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when the plowman will overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; when the mountains will drip sweet wine and all the hills will be dissolved. Also, I will restore the captivity of My people Israel and they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; they will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardens and eat their fruit.’ (NASB)

The image of the farmer from verses nine and ten returns in these verses. God’s image of the farmer is of the wise Savior, too. He would provide for His people; He does not just restore them. God would renew His covenant with Israel, which means He would continue to bless them. These blessings would be like the blessings Moses spoke of in Leviticus 26:5 and Deuteronomy 28. God would provide enough food for the people of Israel and would make them prosperous. He would keep His covenant with the people. God would show He is greater than all the gods they feared and worshiped before His judgment came upon them, the gods they hoped would provide fertility, prosperity, and protection. Amos said the land would be so fertile that all the fruit-the grapes-would not be harvested before it was time to sow more seed. The treader of grapes would still be at work when the sower and plowman were ready to start the next season of planting. Amos said it would be so prosperous it would look like the mountains dripped sweet wine and the hills dissolved. Joel 3:18 spoke of this when he said God would restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem. This Savior and Messiah showed wisdom and creativity like the farmer of verses seven through ten and the Judge of verses one through four.

Verse fourteen might confuse you unless you look at the original Hebrew text. God did not say He would put Israel back into captivity. The word translated in the NASB as “restore” comes from the Hebrew word shuwb. Shuwb means to repair or turn back. This means God said he would repair or turn back the captivity of the Israelites. He would restore them to their lands. This restoration means two things. The literal interpretation of this passage means God would allow and help the Israelites to rebuild their cities and to live in them. Additionally, because God would not restore an unrepentant Israel, this passage means the hearts and attitudes of the people would change and He would rebuild them as a nation for His own. These interpretations mean God’s wrath returned to mercy. He never stopped loving Israel, but He stopped His mercy toward them because of their sin compounded upon sin.

David spoke of this re-establishment of Israel in Psalm 53:6. He said, “Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores His captive people, let Jacob rejoice; let Israel be glad.” (NASB) Isaiah 60:4 speaks about this restoration and says, “Lift your eyes round about and see; they all gather together. They come to You. Your sons will come from afar and your daughters will be carried in arms.” (NASB) Jeremiah 30:3 speaks of it, too, and says, “’For behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel and Judah.’ The LORD says, ‘I will also bring them back to the land that I gave to their forefathers and they shall possess it.’” (NASB) Jeremiah continued in verse eighteen by saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwelling places; and the city will be rebuilt on its ruin, and the palace will stand on its rightful place.’” (NASB) Amos said in verse fourteen, “they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.” We should note a difference here from earlier. The word “rebuild” here means more than cause to establish. It comes from the Hebrew word banah and means to cause to continue. God would cause the repentant remnant to return and establish Israel. He meant this not to be for a short time, but forever. God’s promise to Israel was for eternity because God is eternal and faithful to His promises.

For the repentant, faithful, remnant people of Israel, God would shine His favor on them. He would be true to His covenant with their ancestors and the renewed covenant with the current Israelites. God would restore their fortunes. Whereas in Amos 5:11b He said the people would not live in their houses of hewn stone, in 9:14 He said they shall rebuild. Joel 2:24-27 says what they lost they would regain because of God’s wrath turning to mercy for the Israelites. God wanted a love relationship with His people. He kept His wrath of judgment from them for hundreds of years. Eventually the LORD had to judge the people of Israel, but He promised for the faithful remnant, He would restore them to His promised land and their covenant with Him. He went further than this in verse fifteen.

With the final verse of Amos 9, the Lord said again, using a farmer image, He would plant them on their land. He stated what His intentions were so no doubt would arise. Amos said in verse fifteen,

‘I will also plant them on their land, and they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them,’ says the LORD your God. (NASB)

The LORD (Yehovah) God (‘Elohiym-ruler and judge) promised to plant the Israelites on their land so they would never be removed again. He used another image of farming, “plant,” which also means to establish, to emphasize God’s promise to the Israelites. He then said they would not be rooted out. “Rooted out” comes from the Hebrew word nathash and means to be pulled up, plucked out, or rooted out. God equates Himself as the Master Gardener and the Savior. These remnant few people of GOD would be planted so no enemy ever could pluck them out again. The LORD renewed His promise to them and alluded to the future promise of the Messiah. Just as the LORD purposed to plant them for all time, the people could rely on His promise and so could trust to sow vineyards and crops. They could plant themselves, their lives and futures, in the land God gave them, unlike when they were slaves in Egypt or captives in Babylon (Judah) and Assyria (Israel). Yehovah had an eternal promise/covenant with the people of Israel. Jeremiah spoke of this, too, in Jeremiah 24:6 and 31:28. The LORD said He would build them up and not tear them down. He said He would watch over them to build and to plant them. The LORD God, Yehovah ‘Elohiym, said their judgment would be complete and the faithful remnant would return to their Promised Land never to be rooted out again.

The change for the captive Israelites would be permanent. God’s blessing would not leave them. God is a God of hope where He was a God of judgment before. The lives of the Israelites displayed absolute rejection of the LORD and required His faithfulness to their covenant through judgment. Still, Amos wanted the Israelites to realize and we to understand, too, in the end, the purposes of God will occur. Just like God’s love, righteousness, goodness, and justice will occur, His promises will occur. Added to this, just as God’s hope to the Israelites brought the promise of the Messiah and a new, better, and lasting covenant with all descendants of Abraham, they and we now can know God’s purposed restoration between Himself and humankind will happen.

·         Do you feel like God’s favor has not been on you for some time? Remember, God is faithful to His promise to you. Turn to Him with your whole heart.
·         Do you feel like God is not listening to you? Don’t give up. He hears you and His promise that you will find Him when you seek Him with all your being is true. He will be found by you.


With Amos 9, Amos declared God’s final vision to him for the people of Israel to understand His judgment of them for turning their backs on Him and His laws. The Israelites oppressed the poor, subjugated the righteous, and worshiped false gods. They lived lavish lifestyles praising themselves for gaining great wealth or “getting one over” on another person. God would not forever turn a “blind eye” to their sins. The time had come for His judgment of them and their sins. With the final vision of the destruction of the temple at Bethel, the killing of the Israelites, and the captivity of others, God declared emphatically His judgment upon the people of Israel would most definitely happen, and soon. He had to lay aside mercy and, with His love, institute punishment to re-create His people into a holy nation set apart for Himself.

The Creator who formed the mountains and poured out the waters from His storehouses, also re-forms His world by touching and calling to it. He called to Israel to return to Him, and they did not willingly return. This time, in this vision, the LORD said He would touch the capitals of the temple like He touches the mountains and waters. The LORD said the capitals would break on the heads of all who were in the temple. The Israelites would not escape judgment should they go to the depths of Sheol or the heights of heaven. They would not evade God should they go to the heights of Carmel or the depths of the ocean. Should the Israelites think God is only God of their territory, they could know He would reach into their captivity and exact His judgment on them. The Israelites could not get away from God and His certain judgment.

Amos reminded the Israelites of the power of the LORD with a doxology. He reminded them of His power to create and destroy, of His omnipotence. Amos reminded the people of Israel of God’s omniscience who knows where to pour out His waters whether in blessing or judgment. This great LORD God, Yehovah ‘Elohiym, deserved all praise, glory, and honor, Amos said with this doxology.

Next, Amos reminded the Israelites the LORD is not just Judge and Creator, but He is Savior and Messiah, too. As the wise God of all creation and judge of all people, His wisdom shows when He recognizes the faithful people of Israel. To these faithful, the remnant, He promised a return to their land because of their faithfulness to Him and their repentant hearts. The LORD promised to replant them within the land and make them prosperous. All people of the lands who were descendants of Abraham through faith would receive this promise. The LORD alluded to the Messianic promise of a new and better covenant. For the Israelites, it was a promise never to uproot them again. They would forever hold land from the LORD and He would protect them and provide for them.

Relevance and Conclusion

These prophecies and sermons by Amos to the Israelites of the northern kingdom specifically, and sometimes to all Israelites, remind us we humans are sinful. We want to go our own way and turn away from God. For some of us, that means we assume “God’s got our back” even when we choose our own way, go against Him, love ourselves more than other people, and sin. We must realize, as we studied through Amos, we cannot assume God will always bless us. The Israelites of the northern kingdom did and God eventually withdrew His mercy and applied justice and judgment to them. We notice from Amos, God’s judgment did not mean He withdrew His covenant from the people or that He did not love them anymore. Contrary to this, God is love and is faithful to His covenant.

A major point we learn from the book of Amos is no matter how much we read about Amos confronting the sins of Israel and other nations, this book is not primarily about the people of Israel. The Israelites thought it was about the sins of the other nations and patted themselves on the back. Yet, the book of Amos shows us Damascus persecuted them. Gaza harassed the Israelites. Tyre stabbed them in the back. Edom harbored anger against the Israelites. Ammon’s greed and jealousy for the land of the Israelites made them discontent. Moab disrespected the leaders of the nations. Judah rejected the Lord. The prophet Amos told the Israelites their sins were like all these and more. Amos’ prophecies, more importantly, highlighted God-Who He is, His character, and His love. From the beginning of the Bible, God shows Himself as Creator and lover of all He made. As people interact with God, they and we recognize His mercy and justice, His care and provision, His protection and righteousness, and His holiness and calling of others to be holy as He is holy. God reveals Himself in His interactions with humanity and in creation. He revealed Himself in calling a nation to be His holy people and covenanting with them. God revealed Himself with His promise of a Messiah and a new covenant. He then revealed Himself as the keeper of that promise and the lover of our souls.

So What?

Amos’ prophecies take the reader and took Israel through all these facets of God. He strove to remind, reacquaint, and reveal God to the Israelites and to later readers and hearers of this writing. The purpose of Israel in this story is to lead readers and hearers to God. Yehovah is the main point of this writing. Israel was not the main point and we are not most important in the world. God is. Just as the LORD purposed and promised the Messiah’s arrival, so He fulfilled it and brought salvation for all people. Just as God promised Abraham he would be the father of many nations, so the Israelites by birth were not the only ones for whom God promised a nation, protection, and provision. The LORD made all who believe in Jesus as Messiah the descendants of Abraham. He made each believer an inheritor of the promise of the Messiah.

The Messiah is not just a promise now; He is a reality. The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ (Greek for the Hebrew word Messiah) fulfill Yehovah’s promise for a better covenant. Jesus was born a human baby of God’s miraculous conception in a woman, Mary. Jesus lived as a man in a sinful world, but did not succumb to temptation. He was sinless. Jesus died a painful death of criminals though He did not sin. He did this to take the sin-penalty each person deserves for his or her wrongdoing. Jesus died one time for all humankind because of His love for us. He arose from death fully alive to hundreds of people who could testify to His resurrection and life. Jesus later ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us. He left His Spirit within each believer to guide, guard, teach, and correct us, and to empower us while we live on earth physically separate from Him.

Jesus died for each person for all time. He died on the cross a painful death not because He wanted to feel the pain of three nails pounded into His body or to experience suffocation as His lungs filled with fluid. Jesus died because He loves each of us so much He does not want us separated from God for all eternity. You see, our sins separate us from God because since He is holy and will not be in the presence of sin, we cannot be in His presence without the cleansing of sin from us. Jesus’ death gives that cleansing, the atonement, the at-one-ment, with God.

What do we have to do to get this atonement, this pardon from death? Nothing! Paul explained in Romans 10:9-10 how we receive this atonement, this forgiveness of sin. He said,

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, a person believes resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth, he confesses resulting in salvation. (NASB)

A person must “do” nothing to receive forgiveness. Receiving salvation and forgiveness requires believing Jesus is the Son of God, who takes away the sins of the world, and confessing Him as your Lord. When you make someone lord of your life, you promise to do what that person says and when you do not, you ask forgiveness. To do these things, you keep in daily contact, relationship, with the person. When you make Jesus Lord of your life, you do the same thing, except it goes deeper. Because you know Jesus died for you since He loves you, you want to love Him back. The relationship you have with Him is a love relationship and you want to work to grow it and be closer to Him. Your relationship with the Lord Jesus is greater than any relationship you might have on earth to anyone or thing who could claim lordship over you-your boss, spouse, hobbies, etc. In addition, with Jesus as Lord, you will have all things you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). You have forgiveness of sins and daily life provisions with a relationship with God through Jesus, the Son, the mediator of the greater covenant.

With your confession of Jesus as your Lord, you show your heart belief. With this comes righteousness and salvation. Righteousness is being made right with God. You never need wonder or worry again if you are good enough or if you have done enough right things to get to heaven. With Jesus as your Lord, God promises eternal life with Him. Sin and death will never separate His children from Him. We will always be in relationship with Him and experience the hope, joy, and love that brings.

“So what.” you might say. So, what will you do? Amos showed us the Israelites and their sins against God and other people. He, more importantly, showed us God in His glory, righteousness, justice, mercy, and love. Whether we admit it or not, we will not be the shining light in our own lives. What we do will reflect God’s glory. We can let His glory show by our love and obedience to Him or it can show through His righteousness that passes right judgments on us for our sinfulness. The Israelites were a nation set apart for God. He called them to be His own people. God wanted them to shine a light that showed His glory and love so all people would come to know Him through them. That did not always happen and the Israelites eventually walked so far away from Him, He had to render justice. In Amos 3:9, God called Egypt and Philistia to be witnesses to His justice, righteousness, and might. The Israelites would not be a light for Yehovah, but God ensured He had witnesses who would return to their countries and spread stories about His might, justice, and righteousness. God received glory even while the Israelites endured justice.

None of us is worthy of honor and glory. No matter what we do, our story will eventually give glory to God. I am sure none of us want it to be as the Israelites experienced in 722 BC when the Assyrians overthrew them, destroyed everything, killed people, carried people into captivity, and dispersed them throughout their empire. Not one of us wants to experience hardship. We each get to decide in what way God receives His glory. I would rather be a child of God who confesses Jesus as Lord and believes He is the saving Son of God. I would rather experience this kind of love that comes with a promise and hope than hardship, judgment, and misery.

Did God cause the deaths and destruction of Israel? He removed His hand of protection from them. The LORD caused famine, drought, plagues of locusts, and passed through them. So, yes, He, in essence, caused it. But truthfully, the Israelites caused it. They covenanted, made a promise, with Yehovah that carried conditional statements. If they were faithful to the covenant, God would bless them. If they were not, He would allow curses to fall on them. It was their choice.

Today we have a choice to make.

Will you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior?

You have read about Him and possibly heard testimony about Him. You know who He is and from Whom He came. You understand why He came and what He offers because of His love. Because you know this, you are accountable to decide. Just like the Israelites, you can choose to keep walking the way you want, not accept Jesus as your Savior, sin, and have no atonement for your sins. This choice by you will lead you to eternal death, separation from God. Alternatively, you can choose to confess Jesus as Lord and believe He is the Son of God receiving forgiveness and remission of sins, which brings with it an eternal relationship with God.

What choice will you make?

You have no excuses now. You know like the Israelites knew.
As for me, I will choose to serve the LORD.

Recall what Joshua said in Joshua 24:15,

If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (NASB)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Choose True Joy...Choose Jesus

“You will make known to me the path of life. In Your presence is fullness of joy. In Your right hand, there are pleasures forever.” -Psalm 16:11 (NASB)


What is joy? What is happiness? Are these mutually exclusive? Over time, even Christians separated joy from happiness saying joy comes from God and happiness from circumstances. When we read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, we note God did not intend we have one and not the other. He gives both joy and happiness. Only as people took their lives into their own hands and made themselves their own gods did these two get separated. Read the passage from Psalm 16:11 written above. It says God gives fullness of joy. This phrase means God gives so much joy, gladness, happiness, and mirth that one is fully satisfied and lacking nothing. God’s joy is abundant and overflowing. Let’s consider through this Bible study what the Bible defines as joy and happiness, look at the reactions from them: rejoicing and exulting, understand how we can have joy, and what we do with joy.

What are Joy and Happiness?

Joy is a noun and occurs in one of two ways. It comes as a gift from God to His children or because of something you or someone else did or provided for you. God’s gift of joy is an eternal joy. Nothing can take this gift from you. The second kind of joy, worldly joy, is fleeting. It comes and goes based on circumstances. It cannot affect you for eternity because it comes from people, not eternal God. In the Bible, three Hebrew and Greek words express the English word “joy”. These words are chara, sasown, and chedvah.

The word “happiness” in the Bible is associated with the joy God gives. In the Old Testament, it comes from the word samach, a verb, and ‘osher. a noun. Samach means to cause to rejoice, be glad, make glad, or exult. ‘Osher is a worldly happiness. The word “happiness” comes from the root word “happy”. We must understand these and associated words to understand fully the joy, gladness, and happiness God gives as compared to what the world gives. Let’s study these words in more depth.


Chara. When someone asks a Christian what joy is, most believers will say it is a spiritual fruit. Christians refer to Paul’s letter to the new believers in Galatia in Galatians 5:22-23. In this passage, for Paul, “joy” was chara. Chara is a noun and means joy or gladness. It comes from being aware of God’s grace and favor. This joy/gladness is because of God’s grace, not works. It grows in us as we continue walking and growing in a right relationship with God. Joy/gladness reflects a quality of life grounded in God. People can experience it even when in very difficult situations. The fullness of joy comes when a deep sense of God’s presence is in one’s life. Joy/gladness reflects through the person’s actions, words, and attitude. It comes from the Holy Spirit as a fruit/gift. Paul contrasted the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 with things people did to provide their own joy or gladness. The acts of the flesh noted in Galatians 5 are immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, and carousing. Doing these things may bring pleasure/joy/gladness for a moment, but they each leave residual feelings that are not joy or gladness. The gladness (happiness) and joy these actions create are fleeting and often are against the law. Instead of these deeds, Paul said the fruit of the Spirit, the gifts given by God to Christians, do not pass away but grow and mature as a believer grows in his or her relationship with God. They never end because God never ends. Joy from God is continual and eternal, just like love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The difference between the gladness (happiness) and joy of God and the gladness (happiness) and joy of the world is its effect on the person. God’s joy, chara, produces continual rejoicing and exulting in God while sharing with others about life with Him. The joy and gladness of the world fades and can bring guilt and remorse depending on how people acquire it.

Paul was not the only believer in the Bible to write about this difference. The writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 11:23-26 spoke of two kinds of joy. He spoke of a joy that comes from the passing pleasures of sin. Note, this earthly joy and gladness/happiness is fleeting. Moses chose the joy and gladness God gives. He preferred to endure ill-treatment along with God’s people than the pleasures of sin with the Egyptians because he looked for the reward from God. He had hope in Yahweh, the God who created, called, provided for, and protected Him and the people of Israel.

Solomon, too, thought he would seek the happiness the world desired. He found the pleasures of the world to be futility and meaningless (Ecclesiastes 2:1-2). Solomon found pleasure accomplished nothing. The joy of the Lord is abundant and never ending, but the joy of the world is hollow. The joy of the world has no basis and evaporates.

Sasown. We must note in the Bible God considers joy, gladness, and happiness as a sum together. They are the same, not considered different from each other. This thought was not new to the new covenant, but Old Testament writers understood and wrote about it, too. The Hebrew word, sasown, means gladness, joy, exultation, and rejoicing. People use these English words interchangeably in the Bible and realize they add explanation and depth to each of the other words. Consider Zechariah 8:19. He said, “The fasts will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah.” Joy, gladness, and rejoicing go hand in hand. In Esther 8:16-17, joy and gladness again describe the lives of the Jews at that point in time. Notice, too, even in the Old Testament, true joy, sasown, comes from God to His children. His children, the Israelites, were the ones with whom He covenanted. When they remained faithful to Him, He blessed them and they received joy, gladness, happiness, and then rejoiced. Consider this in these passages – Jeremiah 16:9, 25:10, 31:13, 33:9 & 11; Isaiah 12:3, 35:10, 51:3 & 11, 61:3; and Psalm 45:7, 105:43, and 119:11. Notice Isaiah 51:3-11 states God is the giver of lasting joy. Isaiah 22:13 says gladness fades when it is manmade. Manmade gladness is a false gladness. Even in the Old Testament, the people of the LORD understood that true and lasting joy, gladness, and happiness come from God. They did not differentiate between joy, gladness, and happiness in those times; they were the same.

Chedvah. One other Hebrew word tells us about joy in the Old Testament and adds depth and meaning to its definition to go with sasown. That word is chedvah. Old Testament writers used chedvah only twice, but these provide an understanding that continues into the New Testament. It, too, means joy and gladness. In 1 Chronicles 16:27, the chronicler recorded his understanding that joy is God’s and comes from Him. True joy-eternal and heavenly joy-are from God.

Nehemiah 8:10 explains this to us, too, and furthers our understanding about joy and gladness. Nehemiah told the returned exiles, “The joy of the LORD is your strength.” Joy comes from the LORD, he said. Besides this, Nehemiah told them and tells us, another kind of joy exists in the world, one not of the LORD. Since it is of the world, it is fleeting. Whereas the LORD brings food, drink, and fulfilled promises, which caused continued, abounding, fully satisfying joy, the joy that comes from the world, Nehemiah said, would dissipate when the person consumed or removed them.

There are two kinds of joy, gladness, and happiness – that from God and that found in the world. Both Old and New Testaments record this understanding and many instances of it. When looking in a dictionary, we read joy is extreme happiness. That is the world’s definition. Because the world considers happiness different from joy, we must look at what the Bible says about the words “happy” and “happiness”. Still, with our current understanding of what the Bible considers joy, we must affirm true joy, gladness, and happiness are the same. It comes from the receipt of grace/favor from God, not from a person’s actions as the world sees it. Joy is not more powerful than happiness. What determines the power of joy, gladness, and happiness is from whom the grace/favor comes-God or another person.

Happy and Happiness

Are joy and happiness truly the same thing in the Bible? Based on the above study of the Old and New Testament words for “joy” and their meanings, happy, glad, and joyous are joint descriptors of a person who receives God’s grace. That person received joy because of God’s grace. Because of God’s grace and the joy it brings, the person is happy or glad. Happiness then is blessedness when you find your purpose and fulfillment in God-in a relationship with Him and in His provisions. Let’s look at some passages about happiness to consider this more.

Makarios. Jesus taught the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 to his followers during His sermon on the mount. In that passage, Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” He continued like this for nine verses. The Greek word from which “blessed” comes is makarios. Makarios means happy, blessed, or fortunate. It is an adjective that describes a person upon whom God sends His grace/favor/blessing. Does the world consider people who are mild in spirit, who mourn, who are gentle, who seek righteousness, who are merciful, who are pure in heart, who are peacemakers, and who are persecuted as blessed or happy? Being like those people is contrary to the world’s idea of happiness, but Jesus said these kinds of people are happy and fortunate in God. He held them up as role models. In this understanding through Jesus’ teaching, “happy” is primarily associated with one’s disposition and character rather than one’s emotive response to occurrences and events. No matter what happens, the truly happy person, the believer, will consider him or herself blessed to be a child of God. The believer won’t let the weight of problems take away his or her joy/happiness. The world defines happiness differently than does God. For the world, when good and pleasurable things happen to you or come to you, then you are happy, not when bad things happen, or people overlook or revile you. The world bases happiness on one’s circumstances. Jesus said happiness is not based on circumstances. He based happiness and joy on one’s relationship with the Father. Jesus calls a “happy” person one who is in a relationship with the Father. That believer is growing to become more Christlike and have a disposition and character like Him. A person who centers his or her life in a relationship with God shows a disposition of a righteous life. A relationship with God and resultant righteous disposition allows the person to enjoy happiness no matter what occurs, good or bad. True happiness, joy, and gladness are rooted in the activity of God and His character. God’s character is the lens through which a truly joyful and happy person views his or her world. That person is blessed to be a child of God and nothing can take that away from him or her. God is the blessing and the Christian has true joy and happiness because of the grace and favor of knowing the Lord in that way.

‘Esher. The Bible uses another word that translates as happy. The Old Testament writers used the word ‘esher (noun) to speak about a blessed or happy person. Again, this speaks about the receipt of God’s favor as His child. To be His child is to be in a covenant relationship with Him and receive protection, provision, and promise from Him. In Job, the Hebrew word ‘esher translates as happy are the people who are in a right relationship with Yahweh. In Job 5:17, Job told his friends even when God reproves/corrects a person, that person can be happy because the Lord only corrects the person He loves. That person whom God corrected could be happy knowing God loved him or her enough to reprove him or her. He works to direct each of His children on the right path like a loving parent disciplines his or her child. Even when negative things happen, the Bible says Christians can still have joy and happiness because God loves us and we have hope through Him.

In another biblical instance, in 1 Kings 10:8, Queen Sheba considered the men who heard King Solomon’s wisdom as ‘esher-blessed and happy. Again, “happy” describes a person’s disposition and character rather than his or her emotive response to happenings. Moses, in Deuteronomy 33:28-29, called Israel happy (blessed-‘esher) because God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. David said in Psalms 32:1-2 a righteous person is a happy person because of his or her knowledge that God has forgiven individual sins. At the beginning of his psalms in Psalm 1:1-3, David relayed this happiness and blessedness (‘esher) when he wrote about the wicked and the righteous. He said,
“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD and in His Law, he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields it fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither, and in whatever he does, he prospers.” (NASB)
David called a person blessed and happy when he walks in God’s ways. Walking in God’s ways makes a person firmly planted and watered so fruit grows. That person does not wither and all he does prospers. Because God is righteous, only good comes from Him. He continues to provide growth and fruit for the person who lives in relationship with Him. Happiness and joy come from being in a growing relationship with the Lord. Dryness and lack of fruit come from walking in the ways of the world seeking immediate pleasure that does not satisfy and comes to an end.

Samach. Surely happiness is a state of being, you may say. Let’s look at the times in the Bible it speaks of happiness. Writers of the Old Testament used two words to convey what we know as happiness, samach and osher.

Samach is a verb used 148 times in the Old Testament, 78 of which are in Deuteronomy, Psalms, and Proverbs. It means to cause to rejoice, be glad, exult, and make glad. The following passages show the samach God gives. Deuteronomy 24:5 recorded God’s rule for a newly married man to stay with his wife for a year before returning to the army so he could give her happiness. A good start in a married life was God’s gift to the newlyweds. In other places in Deuteronomy, people experienced happiness and rejoiced when they ate before the LORD the things with which He blessed them (Deuteronomy 12:7, 12, & 18, Deut. 14:26, etc.). In Psalm 5:11, samach means to be glad and joyful. Again, God paired happiness, gladness, and joy. Psalm 14:7 and 16:9 join rejoicing and being glad with happiness (samach). One interesting chapter recorded David recognizing his true joy and hope came from God even though his enemies rejoiced over his stumbling (Psalm 35). David had happiness even though his enemies rejoiced over his misstep, not because he did something right, but because of Whose he was. He was the chosen king and child of God. David recognized the enemies’ joy was fleeting because God was the source of his own joy. His enemies’ joy came from their luck. Further, in Psalm 58:10, David equated happiness with rejoicing when God brings vengeance on his enemies. Bible writers joined happiness, gladness, and joy. They did not separate them like people have done over the last six or seven centuries in other languages.

‘Osher. In Genesis 30:13, Leah called herself happy because her maid Zilpah bore a second son for Jacob. She had a running race with her sister, Rebecca, to give Jacob more sons. Leah would do anything she could to win that race even if it meant going about it in a way God did not want-Jacob sleeping with more women. ‘Osher means happy in Old Testament Hebrew. Leah named her son Asher, a form of the word ‘osher, saying he brought her happiness. This verse is the only instance of ‘osher being used in the Bible. This form of happiness, we can conjecture from the biblical context, is the worldly form of happiness. The worldly form of happiness is getting one’s own happiness at the expense of others, not waiting for God to give the blessing or favor. In doing what Leah did to give another son to Jacob, she used Zilpah and caused pain to Zilpah and Rebecca.

Culture and “Happy”

The words “happy” and “happiness” change based on culture and time. What God intended to come from perfect contentment and relationship with Him changed with the whims of humanity. To arrive at an easier form of joy and happiness, people constructed a lower, non-true form of joy and happiness. The etymology of the word “happy” takes us back to its Norwegian roots. It came from the word “hap,” which meant lucky. From then people connected luck to a person’s contentment and happiness, not to God’s grace and favor. From that point, each person could then make his or her own luck and find his or her own joy and happiness. The only problem with this is the joy and happiness found that way is never enough and never lasts long. It creates a desire for more with the need to do whatever it takes to be happy. Sometimes doing whatever it takes involves hurting people physically, mentally, financially, or emotionally. One person’s luck then becomes another person’s pain (bad luck). When God gives joy, gladness, and happiness, He does not take away from another person. Instead, He gives from His bottomless, eternal storehouse, from His character. When we understand how joy and happiness have changed from its original intent in the Bible, we can understand how people now connect happiness with circumstances and joy with God instead of realizing both come from God and then seeking to be in a growing relationship with Him. Understanding joy and happiness leads us to a question.  How do we express what we experience when we receive God’s unmerited grace/favor? What words do Bible writers use along with joy, gladness, and happiness that tell how we express them?

The Outcome of True Joy

What reactions naturally come from a person who experiences joy, gladness, and happiness from the Lord? The Bible says these people rejoice and exult. Isaiah 35:10 said God’s people will be happy forever. Gladness and joy will overtake them and sorrowing and sighing will flee.

Rejoicing. In Romans 12:12, Paul urged believers to rejoice in hope. The word “rejoice” comes from the Greek word chairo and means to be exceedingly glad, to rejoice, to be well. It’s a feeling that comes from deep within a person’s being. A joy that bubbles up into action, like a fountain bubbling up and overflowing onto anyone and anything around it.

Exulting. In Romans 5:2-11, Paul added believers can exult in hope of the glory of God, exult in our tribulations, and exult in God. The word “exult” comes from the Greek word kauchaomai and means to glory with or without reason in a person or thing, to take pride in or boast. “Exulting” means to take great joy by acting it out in word and action whether for a specific reason or not. Both rejoicing and exulting are actions that come from the bubbling forth of joy and happiness within a child of God. Happiness is not the emotional outcome of joy, rejoicing and exulting are.

Final Thoughts on the Word Study

From these Bible passages, we can understand God’s true purpose for joy and happiness. Joy and happiness are gifts from God given to people. They are blessings from God to His people, those whom He made righteous. The joy and happiness of the Lord does not dry up, fade away, or cause harm to another person. It can come for no reason and, can also occur because of what God has done in and for a person. True joy and happiness spring up from the heart of a person and bubble continually because its source-God-is unending. It reveals itself to other people through rejoicing and exulting in word and action giving glory to the Giver of the joy and happiness, God.

Understanding the words from the Old and New Testaments show us joy, happiness, and gladness originally came from God and continue if one seeks Him and His ways. These come from God because of a person’s growing relationship with Him. They come as gifts of the Spirit just as Paul spoke of in Galatians 5. God’s love for His children ushers forth in favor and blessing as relationship, provision, protection, and reproof. From the creation of the world God provided: man for woman and woman for man, and food, protection, and relationship with Him. Throughout the rest of humankind’s history, God continued to provide as we read in the Bible. His ultimate blessing to humankind is His greatest testament of love to people: forgiveness and new life through the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus, as the death payment for the sins of humanity. This gift brings one of the greatest joys and sources of happiness, and provides hope. This hope gives believers His joy, which helps them persevere during trials.

God blessed humanity and created joy and happiness for each person. When sin entered the world because people wanted to direct their own lives and be their own gods, they corrupted joy and happiness. People seek joy and happiness through temporary means and often at the expense of others. The joy and happiness people receive through their own striving results in a temporary good feeling or emotion. The resultant emotions and/or responses that come from the joy and happiness people experience show from whom joy, happiness, and gladness came: God or ourselves.
The happiness the world espouses is fleeting and often damaging. It’s often contrary to the Lord’s laws and comes at the expense of other people. Paul said in Galatians 5 fleeting joy and happiness often comes from immorality, lawlessness, impurity, sensuality, and anger. It may temporarily bring happiness, but then fades leaving guilt, remorse, and a desire for more without considering the cost. It can be like an addiction. A question arises from this. Will we seek joy and happiness in circumstances or in God? Will we allow circumstances to define God or His character? The challenge is to allow God's character to be the lens for interpreting circumstances so we can know right from wrong and seek God exclusively.

How Do We Get Joy?

As we consider joy and happiness, questions arise. How do we get joy? From where does it come? Is it fleeting or not and why? The answers to these questions came in the word study above and come as you read other Bible verses about joy, happiness, and gladness. Joy comes as a gift from God; it’s a fruit/gift of the Spirit. He gave joy with His blessings at creation to Adam and Eve. God gave Eve to Adam as a helpmeet. He gave them dominion over creation. These were blessings to bring joy and happiness. God promised to bless Abraham, make his name great, and through him to bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3).

Blessing, joy, and happiness are not just New Testament ideas from the advent of the Messiah. Joy and happiness come from God, were originally a result of blessing from Him. If you’ve read through the book of Deuteronomy, you will remember chapter twenty-eight. In that chapter, Moses recorded the blessings from God to the Israelites if they remained faithful to Him. You realize from your reading of Deuteronomy what God gives is not necessarily the blessing, per se. God is the blessing!

Joy comes from knowing and trusting God!

Yes, joy and happiness come from what God gives and does for a person. More importantly, being in a growing love relationship with God is the true blessing that causes joy and happiness within a person. Because God is the source of joy and happiness and because He is Alpha and Omega-beginning and end, I AM-He and the joy that comes from being in relationship with Him never ends.

Joy from God is not fleeting!

You may still ask: But how do we get joy? I don’t feel joyful. I see other people laughing and singing. How can I have joy when I am covered by dark clouds? These are valid questions and believers of the Bible experienced what you experience. Their lives were like yours. Some days the sun seemed to shine for 20 hours, their eyes lit up like the sun, their fields grew without worm or drought, and their lives flowed gently and exuberantly onward. Other days they saw locusts, experienced the death of children, lost possession of their homes, and had to beg from door to door losing their self-respect. Did they have joy even during those hard times? Can we have joy during those hard times.

Remember what Paul said in Galatians 5:22-23. Love, joy, peace, patience and all those other things are fruits of the Spirit. Paul spoke to pagan-background believers in Galatia in this letter. They had no personal history with Yahweh. The Galatians did not know the stories of I AM calling Abraham and Moses, and creating the world. The Galatians knew about empires like Assyria, Persia, and Rome. They lived under the laws and regimes of their Kings and Caesars. The people of Galatia understood good and evil. The Galatian Christians probably experienced the hardness of life at the hands of people who sought their own joy by making themselves more important than them. These pagan-background believers of Galatia knew about immorality, impurity, sensuality and all the other things Paul listed for them. Before they became believers, they did not know about the alternative the Savior would give to them when they believed in Jesus for salvation. Paul contrasted their old ways of living with the possibilities of the new way. The possibilities of goodness came through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who grew the fruits of righteousness in them, fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, et. al. The Galatians could have joy without hurting other people, a joy that was everlasting. They could have the joy God gives through the Spirit because they believed in Jesus Christ as their Savior. No matter what came against them from selfish people, they could have joy. Joy isn’t dependent upon circumstances, but upon the One faithful and eternal God. We have joy because God gives it through His Spirit to all believers. No matter what the days or weeks threw at the Galatians, they could choose joy, choose to act and react based on God’s character, what He did for them, and who He was to them. We can also choose joy and choose to act and react based on who God is and what He’s done for us.

Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit

When Paul wrote to the Romans in Romans 5:1-11, he could have lamented with them about the trials the new believers experienced. Paul could have told the Roman believers they should have expected retribution from their friends and families when they turned their backs on their pantheon of gods, but he didn’t. He stood with them and taught them from his own background. Paul knew what ostracism and hate felt like from the time he believed in Jesus and turned his back on being a Pharisee, a man who judged and condemned Jesus-followers. He explained in these few verses they could have joy in their tribulations because tribulations bring perseverance, proven character, and hope. That hope, Paul said, would not disappoint them because God poured His love into their hearts through the Holy Spirit given to all who believe in Jesus Christ.

Joy grows through trials because Jesus gives hope.

Jesus explained this to His disciples when He foretold his death and resurrection in John 16. He explained to them in verses sixteen through twenty-four He would die and be resurrected, and they would not see Him. The disciples would weep and lament, and the world would rejoice at His death. Jesus then said, their grief would turn into joy. He told them in that day to ask for anything in His name then they would receive and their joy would be full-would be abounding. The disciples could rejoice knowing whatever they asked in Jesus’ name God would give them. They would abound and overflow with joy. Ask with full faith in Jesus; your joy will abound.

Joy comes from believing and asking in Jesus’ name.

Asking in Jesus name is more than a mantra. Yes, from it you will have joy, but it comes because of your faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died so your sins will be forgiven and you can be in God’s presence forever. In 1 Peter 1:8-9, Peter told the believers in Asia minor about the “inexpressible joy” they had because even though they had not seen Jesus, they loved him and believed in Him for salvation.

Joy comes by faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.

The writer of Hebrews stated in Hebrews 12:2 Jesus endured the cross knowing the joy that would come from it. He didn’t die a painful crucifixion because He wanted to feel the weight of his body hang upon three nails. Jesus didn’t die so He could know what it felt like to drown from fluid in his lungs. He died knowing the joy each of us would receive when He cleansed us from our sins. Jesus knew the great joy He would give us by cleansing us. He counted His crucifixion a worthy price to pay for our salvation and joy. Jesus called this excruciating death a joy because of what it would do for people who believed in Him and because of His love for all people. Would you pay that price for someone to experience this same joy?

Joy comes from Jesus cleansing and forgiving you.

As we walk with the Lord daily and grow in our faith, Jesus’ words to the seventy sent-out ones call each of us back to humility and the basis of our faith. Jesus told them in Luke 10:19-20,
“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” (NASB)

We each will get to a time in our lives after we’ve been Christians for a few years that it seems as if God is with us and we are empowered to conquer all that comes our way. At that time, remember again your power and strength to overcome, as well as boldness and courage, come from the Lord. Most importantly, don’t rejoice in what you are doing and seeing, but rejoice that God recorded your name as His child in His book in heaven. Stay grounded (humble) and recall Who did in your life everything you have experienced and seen. It wasn’t you; it was God.

Joy comes from remembering you are God’s child.
Nothing can separate you from Him.

David had a remarkable relationship with Yahweh. He learned to be a shepherd and leader of His people. David learned to protect and provide for them because of the LORD’s teaching. He gave us examples of blessing the LORD in dark days, standing firm in troubling times, and remembering his inheritance and hope while in the valleys. More than anything, David’s life and writings teach us being in God’s presence gives fullness of joy. Being in God’s presence completely satisfied him. Hear his heart in Psalm 16:11.

“You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is the fullness of joy. In Your right hand, there are pleasures forever.” (NASB)
Joy is full, abounding, and complete in God’s presence.

What do We do with Joy?

Ø  We worship the Lord. We dance like David danced.
Ø  We stand strong in trials, endure, and keep hope.
Ø  We testify to people around us as we praise God for saving us, walking with us, making a way for us, cleansing and forgiving us, giving us hope, and blessing us with His gifts.
Ø  We praise with great rejoicing and exultation.
Ø  We be still and know He is God; He is the blessing.
Ø  We sing with David and all creation–
1 Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
2 Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
3 Praise Him with trumpet and sound; Praise Him with harp and lyre.
4 Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
5 Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!                                           [Psalm 150 (NASB)]
Experiencing God’s joy and happiness
creates the over-abounding desire to rejoice!

Application Questions

·         Where are you on your joy journey? Have you met and accepted Jesus as your Savior and are overflowing with His joy?
·         Are you facing trials and enduring because of the hope set before you?
·         Are you remembering God’s joy is not fleeting and, thus, are not chasing after the joys of the world?
·         Are you believing and asking in Jesus’ name for joy?
·         Are you remembering to be humble because it’s not about you, but about God?
·         Are you remembering to know and trust God?
·         Are you remembering you are God’s child and nothing can separate you from Him?
·         Are you standing in the Lord’s presence full, abounding, and overflowing with the joy of the Lord?

Don’t settle for the joy and happiness the world gives.

Choose true joy. Choose Jesus.

Receive God’s forgiveness and salvation and Burst forth with His fruit of joy.
Live with unending, overflowing, eternal joy.
Bound forth with rejoicing. Don’t let the world’s definitions and limitations restrict you.

“Proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” [1 Peter 2:9b (NASB)]

Are you allowing God’s joy to bubble forth and overflow in and from your life?
Go ahead, be a fount overflowing.
Let joy for the Lord be your hallmark.