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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Prohibited Prophet and Condemned Priest


Introduction

In the last Bible study, which covered Amos 7:1-9, we learned God showed three visions to Amos about His judgment of Israel. The first vision showed God allowing locusts to consume everything above the ground. It would affect the food supply for the Israelites. Amos intervened for Israel and asked God to pardon them. He recognized their sin and interceded for God’s mercy. The second vision showed God sending a fire that consumed everything above ground and below such as underground water sources and the roots of the plants. Again Amos interceded for Israel asking for God’s mercy upon Israel because they were too small to withstand such devastation.

The third vision the LORD showed Amos was of a plumb line and a bulging wall. GOD would stand upon the wall-Israel-and let His plumb line fall beside it. The bulge in the wall that showed when the plumb line lay against it revealed the wall was not up to standards, was not “true”. God would destroy the wall down to below the bulge and rebuild it. He and His righteous laws are the standard and Israel did not meet those standards. They rejected the LORD. With this vision, God showed even the leaders of Israel were not straight and Jeroboam’s house would fall by the sword because of it. In this vision, too, the LORD said He would bring judgment on even Israel’s high places, the places of idol worship. With this vision, Amos realized the LORD’s judgment was just, and he did not intercede for the Israelites this time.

With the rest of this chapter, verses ten through seventeen, Amaziah, the high priest in Bethel, reacted to Amos’ prophetic statement of God’s revealed visions to him. In these final eight verses, Amaziah reported to King Jeroboam about Amos. Next, he forbade Amos to prophesy in Israel. Amaziah tried to persuade him to leave Israel. In the end, Amos spoke a prophecy against Amaziah and the priesthood of Israel.


Amaziah’s Report to Jeroboam

After hearing of the third vision God gave to Amos, Amaziah, the chief priest at Bethel, realized God threatened the king and himself. Out of fear, he had to do something to save himself and his means of income. Remember, God did not appoint the priests of Israel and provide for them through His laws. The kings appointed priests and paid them from his treasury. These priests worked for their living instead of serving the LORD. Amaziah owed his allegiance to the king since he appointed him. Earlier prophets’ words in Israel and surrounding nations brought conspiracy against rulers and helped destroy dynasties while starting new dynasties. Because the king of Israel controlled the religion, Amos’ words threatened Amaziah’s income. Amaziah sought to protect the king’s reign. He did two things: 1. Report to the king and 2. Persuade Amos to leave Israel.

Verses ten and eleven contain Amaziah’s report to King Jeroboam. In these verses, Amos said,

Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent word to Jeroboam, king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is unable to endure all his words. For thus Amos says, ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword and Israel will certainly go from its land into exile.’” [NASB]

Interestingly, Amaziah’s name means “Jehovah is mighty,” yet his life and service refuse to recognize Jehovah. To understand this passage, we must remember Amaziah was the chief priest of the priesthood in Israel, whom the king appoints and pays. This rule of the king over the nation’s religion began with Jeroboam I and the founding the northern kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 12:31-32 and 1 Kings 13:33). Jeroboam II charged Amaziah with obeying his rules of religion and leading the other priests and citizens to obey him as the sovereign ruler of the land. Amaziah’s devotion should be to the king first. From this understanding, we can recognize his reactions to Amos’ visions as being self-serving and kingdom-keeping.

In verse ten, Amos recorded Amaziah sent word to Jeroboam about him. What did Amaziah tell the king? He told him Amos conspired against him in their own borders. The word “conspired” comes from the Hebrew word qashar and means to bind together or be in league together with others. Amaziah told Jeroboam Amos conspired to remove his family’s reign from Israel and install new rulers. He tried alarming the king so he would come and put an end to Amos and his prophesying. Amaziah accused Amos of treason against Israel. He sought to bring alarm and fear in Jeroboam’s heart to excite him into action.

Should that statement of Amos conspiring against Jeroboam not excite the king, Amaziah added more. In verse eleven, he said Amos said Jeroboam would die by the sword and Israel would go into exile. We must recognize what Amaziah told Jeroboam was a lie. In verse nine, Amos said, “Then I [God] will rise up against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.” In the Bible and other writings when a person spoke of rising against a house with the sword it meant an army or a person would kill another person and his family. Still, Amos did not say explicitly that Jeroboam would die by the sword as Amaziah reported. When Amaziah told the king that Amos said Israel would go into exile, he reported correctly. He said they would go into exile from their specific plot of land given to them by their tribal leader from the Promised Land Yehovah gave the Israelites. Amaziah exaggerated so it would incite the king to act against Amos who threatened the king, Israel, and himself.

·         Have you ever exaggerated to get someone to sympathize with you and join you in your anger or vengeance? Maybe your boss reprimanded you then you spoke to your coworkers to get them to agree the boss wrongly charged you. From that people would talk about the boss and disrespect him.
·         Have you ever spoken against someone so you could steal their friends or position in the community or in an organization?
·         Have you ever told someone something bad about your sibling or parents to get people to side with you and agree you were right when you chose not to talk to that person?


Amaziah’s Persuasion of Amos

In verses twelve and thirteen, Amos recorded Amaziah’s attempt to persuade him to stop prophesying against Israel, the king, and him. In verses twelve and thirteen, Amos said,
Then Amaziah said to Amos, 

“Go, you seer, flee away to the land of Judah and there eat bread and there do your prophesying! But no longer prophesy at Bethel, for it is a sanctuary of the king and a royal residence.” [NASB]

When giving a persuasive speech, the speaker speaks to logic and emotion. In these two verses, Amaziah touched on both. He called Amos a seer. This comes from the Hebrew word chozeh. This word was not the most commonly used word for prophet, but when the message of the chozeh was spiritual, the people recognized this person as a prophet. Typically, chozeh denoted someone who saw or perceived and then advised like a king’s paid counselors or advisors.

In verse twelve, Amaziah alluded to both interpretations of chozeh. Firstly, Amaziah recognized Amos’ message was a spiritual message, one that affected the spiritual part of a person. He wanted Amos to leave so as not to persuade Israelites to follow Yehovah instead of Jeroboam’s instituted gods. As to persuading because of logic and emotion, Amaziah appealed to his logic and said Amos would not receive payment in Israel for his services as a prophet because no one followed His God. He would starve to death in Israel. Amaziah appealed to Amos’ emotion and told him to return to his own country where people accept him and want to hear of their God. He feigned concern for Amos’ income and sustenance. Food/income and acceptance are big inducers for jobs. They were Amaziah’s own concerns in being a priest. In this verse, we recognize a dichotomy and a misunderstanding by Amaziah. Amaziah assumed Amos prophesied for payment. He erred in this understanding because in Israel prophets and priests received payment for their services. This understanding showed the dichotomy of the offices of priests and prophets in the two kingdoms. Amos did not prophesy for Yehovah because of promised payment. He prophesied because the LORD called him to do it.

With verse thirteen, Amaziah gave the real reason he wanted Amos out of Israel. He prohibited Amos from prophesying in Israel. Amaziah tried to prevent him speaking for Yehovah not recognizing the greater purpose for the prophecy-repentance, forgiveness, and mercy. Just like the Israelites caused the Nazirites to drink wine and commanded the prophets not to prophesy in Amos 2:12, Amaziah commanded Amos not to prophesy. Had Amaziah not heard Amos earlier? Did it only hear it then and not earlier in Amos 2:12 affect his understanding of his sin and cause him to forbid Amos to speak? Possibly. Still, Amaziah’s reason for prohibiting Amos to prophesy testifies to his lack of understanding. He told Amos Bethel was a sanctuary for the king so do not prophesy there. To Amaziah, Bethel was the high holy place of Israel and the place where their king worshiped. Amaziah’s reason for prohibiting Amos to prophesy at Bethel was political. It was the king’s sanctuary, sacred because of the king, not because of Yehovah’s residence there.

 Amaziah tried persuasion to get Amos to flee Israel. Whether he cared about Amos’ welfare or not, he wanted Amos out of his country. Amaziah thought Amos’ removal would solve his problems. He did not consider his and his peoples’ sins as the real problem, just Amos’ meddling. His solution to Amos’ prophecy against the high places of Isaac in Amos 7:9 was to forbid his prophesying in Bethel. Amaziah’s futile attempt to stifle the LORD’s called prophet and His own judgment against the religious and political powers of Israel would not occur by banishing Amos.

·         Have you ever dealt with a problem and thought, it would go away if you don’t think about it? Did your problem go away?
·         Did anyone ever confront you about your character and you jump and lash out at him for “attacking” you? Was what the person said accurate? Did you grow from the way you reacted to the person’s positive critique?
·         Have you ever taken note of a message a teacher wrote on your paper and changed your style or content for a subsequent paper then noticed your grade improved? This shows growth and respect for the experienced teacher or leader.


Amos’ Reply to Amaziah

Amaziah spoke to the king and to Amos in verses ten through thirteen of chapter seven. With verses fourteen through seventeen, Amos replied to Amaziah’s misunderstanding of his “job” and the LORD’s unequivocal judgment of Amaziah. Amos 7:14-17 says,  

Then Amos replied, “I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet, for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs. But the LORD took me from following the flock and the LORD said to me, ‘Go prophesy to My people Israel.’ Now hear the word of the LORD: you are saying, ‘You shall not prophesy against Israel nor shall you speak against the house of Isaac.’ Therefore, thus says the LORD, ‘Your wife will become a harlot in the city, your sons and daughters will fall by the sword, your land will be parceled up by a measuring line and you yourself will die upon unclean soil. Moreover, Israel will certainly go from its land into exile.” [NASB]


God’s Calling of Amos

In verses fourteen and fifteen, Amos told Amaziah who he was, what his job was, and by whose will he prophesied. Forthrightly in verse fourteen, Amos said he was not a prophet. The Hebrew word used here in nabiy and means a spokesman or prophet, one who “bubbles up” with declarations from God. It is the most common Hebrew word used to speak of a prophet in the Old Testament. Notice Amos did not use the word chozeh like Amaziah did. He differentiated between a paid advisor and a true prophet of God who bubbles forth with the words of the LORD. Still, Amos said he was not a prophet. Amos meant he was not of the tribe of Levi and thus a priest/prophet in that way, nor was he a prophet called by God to prophesy exclusively during his life like Isaiah or Elijah. Amos explained this further for Amaziah. He said he was not the son of a prophet and did not go to a prophet school to learn how to be a prophet. Amos received no payment to be a prophet like the students in the school of prophets written about in 1 Samuel 19:18:24, 2 Kings 2, and 2 Kings 4:38-34. His title at that point came not from an inherited position from his own father. Instead, Amos explained his in Judah before God called him to go to Israel and speak for Him. He was a herdsman of sheep, goats, and small cattle, and a grower and tender of sycamore figs. Amos’ job was not as a paid prophet upon which he lived, but instead as a manual laborer.

Through verse fifteen, Amos explained how he came to speak as a prophet for God to Israel. Even though he was a manual laborer, God chose him. Amos recognized his calling came from Yehovah, the existing One-I AM. He said GOD took him from tending the flock and fig trees. The word “took” comes from the same Hebrew word, laqach, that Bible writers used when GOD took Elijah and Enoch to heaven in Genesis 5:24 and 2 Kings 2:11. Amos did nothing purposely to get God’s attention and get the job as prophet. GOD saw him and took him; He chose him. Amos came from a similar background as David, a shepherd, and became the man GOD called to speak to and lead His people (2 Samuel 7:8). David recognized his calling by GOD, too, in Psalm 78:71. Amos’ authority as a prophet came from God, not from a school. He had a divine call, and this verse is the only place Amos references his call. He told Amaziah, “The LORD said to me, ‘Go prophesy to My people Israel.’” The word “said” comes from the Hebrew word ‘amar and means commanded. The LORD commanded Amos to go prophesy to His people Israel. Amos could do nothing but go. GOD’s calling was like a fire burning in his bones, as Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 20:9. The LORD’s calling on Amos’ life compelled him to go. GOD commanded him to go.

One final word. Notice GOD did not tell Amos to go to Israel. He said to go to My people Israel. God still loved Israel and called them His own. He would do much to save them and keep them as His own. The Lord today does the same for us. He keeps calling to His children who have strayed. As a last recourse, the Lord allows hardships to occur in hopes the person will turn back to Him, repent, and seek to follow Him again. God sent many prophets to call Israel to turn back to Him. He loved His people and wanted them to return to a right relationship with Him. God, as loving and righteous, would allow the enemies of Israel to come against and conquer them to punish them and get their attention so they would turn to Him seeking help, confessing their sins, and renewing their relationship with Him.


Amos and the Prophecy Against Amaziah

In verses sixteen and seventeen, Amos spoke to Amaziah. The LORD did not direct this statement of judgment against others, but directly at the high priest of Israel. With verse sixteen, Amos gave the reason for the judgment. Verse seventeen relates GOD’s judgment against Amaziah.

Just as Amos began the other prophecies he spoke in the first six chapters of this book, he began this prophecy against Amaziah. He wanted the high priest of golden calves to realize this prophecy came from Yehovah, the I AM of whom he learned and would recognize. The prophecy stated this way should have made the priest tremble because he would have known about Yehovah and His history with the people of Israel. Besides this, with Amos’ statements above, he should have known Amos was truly a called prophet of the LORD, not an educated, self-chosen prophet for money.

Of what then did GOD charge Amaziah? God said Amaziah told Amos and His other prophets not to prophesy or speak against the house of Isaac. In Amos 2:12, GOD charged the Israelites with commanding His prophets they could not prophesy in Israel. They forbade them to speak GOD’s words-His charges and judgments. Besides this, GOD charged Amaziah with saying Amos “shall not speak against the house of Isaac.” This judgment of God specifically affected Amaziah. The word “speak” comes from the Hebrew word nataph and means to drip or flow. Often Bible writers used it to speak of preaching or prophesying. By using this word, God said Amaziah told Amos he shall not drip/drop words like a refreshing rain or like a bomb against the people, which they would not want to hear. Amaziah censored Amos. He kept his people from hearing the truth and ruffling their feathers so they would not question the worship of idols in Israel.

For this serious sin of prohibiting God’s called prophet to speak to the Israelites, GOD judged Amaziah harshly. He said through Amos in verse seventeen that Amaziah’s family would experience His judgment of him. Amos relayed God’s words and said, “Your wife will become a harlot in the city.” This spoke of the time of their future capture. It could have meant Amaziah’s family would become so destitute during and after the siege of Israel that to have money to feed her family, his wife would prostitute herself. The other meaning is that Israel’s captors would make Amaziah watch his wife’s dishonor as they forced her to be their sexual toy. He would be unable to prevent her dishonor. Either occurrence showed the depths to which Amaziah, the chief priest of Israel, would fall because of GOD’s judgment of his sins. His family would be poor and dishonored. This judgment is like what Hosea said in Hosea 4:13-14.

Amos continued to relay GOD’s judgment about the devastation upon Amaziah’s family in verse seventeen. He said, “Your sons and daughters will fall by the sword.” His children would die violently by the hands of their enemies. The people Amaziah loved most would die a horrific death. His future would not exist because the enemy killed his children. Amaziah’s line would end. For what use then was he teaching false religion and earning money if he would not have descendants? God’s judgment affected his wife and his children in terrible ways.

Next GOD spoke judgment regarding Amaziah’s land. He said, “Your land will be parceled up by a measuring line.” The word used for land here is the Hebrew word adamah. It means a specific plot of land, not a nation or territory, or earth in general. The verb “parceled up” means to divide, plunder, or assign by a conqueror. The enemies would take the land Amaziah’s family received from their tribe leader when the Israelites entered the Promised Land. God’s judgment would take their inheritance of His promise with Abraham away from his family line. This spoke to GOD removing His promise and His hand of protection from them. The Israelites took for granted God’s covenant with them. They considered He would protect them without faithfully keeping their covenant with Him as their ancestors promised in Deuteronomy 28. God’s judgments now horrendously affected Amaziah’s wife, children, and land. His present, and future blessings became curses because of his sins against GOD.

Finally, if these three judgments against Amaziah did not cause him to repent and return to GOD, the last one should have. GOD told him, “You yourself will die upon unclean soil.” The word “unclean” means religious or ritual uncleanness. A priest would make sure to always be “clean.” He would perform each of the rituals to become clean so he could go before his god. With this part of his judgment, Amaziah would live in an unclean, heathen nation. He could not get ritually cleaned. His ministry would remain tainted in his exile. In 2 Kings 17:6 the writer noted Assyria captured Samaria and took the leaders of Samaria into captivity. Ezekiel 4:13 notes the sons of Israel would eat their bread unclean among the nations where God banished them. God’s judgment of Amaziah affected his family, his honor, his inheritance, his descendants, and his income. God would take away each of His blessings to Amaziah. The removal of His blessings and His presence would cause curses in Amaziah’s life.

The words of Amos were not just the words of a man. They were GOD’s words and should have caused Amaziah to turn toward GOD repenting. Amaziah did not examine himself and his nation regarding covenant blessings, faithfulness, and responsibility. He, like the rich people of Israel, felt secure behind the walls of Samaria and behind the rituals of his king-instituted religion. Amaziah remained blinded by these human achievements-fortresses and religiosity.

·         On what do you count to show your rightness when defending yourself against charges from people? Would these acts of rightness stand up to God’s standards or would God consider you unrighteous?
·         When someone brings an error of yours to your attention, do you go on the defensive or justify yourself? Have you considered the possibility the person is trying to help you grow beyond yourself?
·         On what part of your life has God been speaking to you to change? Have you listened to Him, sought His will, and grown? Have you justified yourself and kept walking in your own way? If the latter, you are like Amaziah and many people.
·         We each sin and try to justify our thoughts, words, and actions. God is the standard. Can our thoughts, words, and actions meet His standards? Not on our own they can’t. We cannot justify ourselves before God.

Consider this passage from Romans 5:1-3. 



Recap

Amos spent much time prophesying to the people of Israel and explaining about their sins of which God charged and judged them. With Amos 7, God gave him three visions of His judgment on His people Israel. He withheld His judgment by locust and fire because of Amos interceding for Israel. The final vision of the plumb line would occur. Amos saw the depth of the Israelites sin and did not intercede for them after the third vision.

After the third vision and its message that God through Israel’s enemies would destroy their sanctuaries and rise up against the house of Jeroboam with the sword, Amaziah the high priest sent a report to King Jeroboam II telling him about Amos and that he conspired against the king. Next Amaziah tried to persuade Amos to leave Israel feigning concern for his income and his ability to buy bread. He compelled Amos not to prophesy in Bethel. Amaziah stated Amos was a prophet for hire and did not recognize GOD called him to the position for that time.

Amos refuted Amaziah explaining his calling by GOD to go to Israel and speak His prophecies of judgment against them. He told him his job was a tender of flock and fig trees. Amos said he did not inherit the position of prophet, nor did he attend a prophet’s school. He then prophesied the total destruction and dishonor of Amaziah, his family, and his land. Because of his misdirection, the man to whom a nation looked for spiritual direction would receive a critical, dramatic judgment from the LORD.


Conclusion and Relevance

God calls to each of us to be in a relationship with Him. He speaks to every person to follow Him and grow more like Christ each day. God pricks each person’s conscience when he or she face temptations to sin against Him and other people. He sends people into our lives to teach or preach His Word so we grow and become strong enough to overcome any temptation we meet. These people come into our lives as God’s voice to teach us so we feel pricks from God to our consciences, feel God’s sadness at our disobedience, and turn back to Him repenting. At times, we are the people growing, being tempted, overcoming temptation, or sinning. Occasionally, we are the people God uses to speak His Word so others may grow and conquer temptation, or repent from sin and return to the Lord.

For his time, Amos was that man of God to Israel.

For our time, we know of people like Billy Graham, Charles Spurgeon, and Charles Swindoll.

For our time, God may also use any of us to speak to people-to teach and testify about Him.
For all time –
Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
is the teacher and Savior from God.
He not only came to teach, but to be the final sacrifice needed for our sins to redeem us from slavery to sin and defeat the penalty of death our sinning causes us to deserve. Because of God’s love for us, His mercy and lovingkindness, He provided a way for each of us to be in His presence, to experience eternal hope and joy, and to live eternally with Him. Jesus justifies us to God through His death on the cross.

A passage in the Gospel of John speaks about this. John 3:16-18 –

For God so love the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the word, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in His is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [NASB]

Jesus was not just a teacher to tell us about God; He showed God to us here on earth through His life, love, death, and resurrection. Jesus died so we can have eternal life.

His life was a testimony to us about how to live and overcome temptation.

His death and resurrection were an act of God’s love and mercy to us to save us.

We each must decide if we will believe in Jesus Christ and accept His love and forgiveness.

Will you heed the words of Amos, the testimony of Jesus’ life, and receive the love, forgiveness, and eternal life Jesus’ death and resurrection give from God?
It’s your choice.



Friday, June 23, 2017

Plumb Line of God


Introduction

Amos spoke eight prophesies to the Israelites of the northern kingdom, seven about the nations around them and one about their own people. He then spent four chapters (chapters 3-6) proclaiming the sins about which God charged and judged them. The northern Israelites for their entire time as a divided nation worshiped idols and lived for themselves. During Amos’ time of prophesying, in the 750s BC, the people of Israel, particularly Samaria, were very wealthy and lived luxurious and extravagant lifestyles. They did not care for the poor and corrupted justice in their land. For their oppression of the poor and their corruption of justice, God judged them. He said a nation north of them would take them captive into exile.

In chapter seven, Amos told the people of the northern kingdom about the visions God gave him concerning them. He spoke of three visions in chapter seven and Amaziah, the chief priest of Bethel abruptly interrupted him. Today’s study will cover the first nine verses of Amos 7. This study will lead us to understand the first three visions God showed Amos and how they concerned Israel. The study will stop before Amaziah interrupts Amos in verse ten. These three visions were of locusts, fire, and a plumb line.


Vision of Locusts

With verses one through three, God showed Amos a vision of how His judgment would affect the Israelites. These verses show us the hearts of Amos and the LORD, too. Amos said in verses one through three,

1 “Thus the Lord GOD showed me, and behold, He was forming a locust-swarm when the spring crop began to sprout. And behold, the spring crop was after the king’s mowing. 2 And it came about, when it had finished eating the vegetation of the land, that I said, ‘Lord God, please pardon! How can Jacob stand for he is small?’ 3 The LORD changed His mind about this. ‘It shall not be,’ said the LORD.” [NASB]

The first two visions in this chapter use the same format: vision from God, Amos’ intercession for Israel, and God’s changed mind. Let’s look at what God showed Amos in verse one.

This first sentence begins with “thus” meaning “so.” It refers to the earlier passages where God judged Israel. He told them a nation from the north would enter their territory and take many as captives and leaving their land in desolation. “Thus,” said God, the land of the Israelites would be like when locusts swarm and devour land. God gave Amos a vision. Amos perceived its meaning and impact for Israel. In verse one, Amos saw God forming a locust swarm. The word forming means to fashion and create. The Bible writers used this term for God the Creator. God was the one who allowed and brought the locusts to Israel. He created this swarm to purposely devour the Israelites’ land. These locusts arrived after the king mowed what he wanted from the fields. They ate everything that remained above the ground and all newly sprouted vegetation. Before the produce matured, the locusts consumed it. This vision of locusts reminded Amos and the Israelites of the plague of locusts God sent to devour Egypt’s vegetation when the LORD passed through Egypt and passed over the children of Israel. This locust swarm of the vision would be God’s passing through the Israelites, His punishment on them. With verse two, we note the locusts of Amos’ vision took the hope of food and prosperity from the Israelites. The Israelites’ bellies would growl with hunger. Their wealth would decrease and fail them. This vision would affect the Israelites’ physically, materially, and mentally. They would have no food, no increase in wealth, and dashed hopes for the future.

In the last part of verse two, Amos interceded for the Israelites. He asked the Lord GOD to please pardon them. Amos called on the God of mercy to forgive the Israelites. He recognized the extent of this vision. This plague was a judgment on the Israelites’ sinfulness. Amos begged God to turn His judgment away from Israel because they were small. Because God showed His faithfulness to Israel over the centuries, he did not plead for Israel based on their covenant, but on the basis of need. Israel was small and could not survive God’s judgment shown in the vision to Amos. They needed God’s grace and mercy. Did Amos’ intercession to God for the Israelites help them? Let’s consider verse three to learn.

In verse three, Amos told the Israelites, “The LORD changed His mind about this.” He said, “It shall not be.” Did the LORD see the Israelites’ sin as less because Amos begged Him not to destroy the Israelites? No. He changed His mind about judging them. He showed mercy on them once again. The words “changed mind” from verse three mean to have compassion or pity on someone. These words mean “relent,” too. God relented from this judgment of the Israelites because He pitied them. Their potential suffering from the judgment shown in the vision concerned Him. That is compassion and mercy. Bible writers record this compassion of God many times. Moses told the Israelites about His compassion in Deuteronomy 32:36 when he stated the LORD will vindicate His people and have compassion on them though they sinned and enemies besieged them. Jeremiah 26:19 retells the LORD changed His mind about the misfortunes He pronounced against Judah. Hosea 11:8 says God rued He wanted to cause Israel’s capture. His kindled His compassion for them. Amos stated in chapter five verse fifteen he had hope the LORD God of hosts would be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. Jonah 3:10 says God saw the people turned from their wicked ways and He did not do the calamity He declared on them. He is a loving Father who does not wish to punish His children, but will to correct and bring them closer to Him. His punishment comes from His love for them, His compassion. God knew the people deserved punishment/judgment. He charged and judged them.

Because of this vision, Amos, with attuned heart to his brethren of the north, begged the Lord for pardon. When Amos saw the extent of God’s judgment, he understood the depth of it. As shepherd and sycamore harvester, he understood the devastation a horde of locusts could have on a nation. Amos’ heart felt pain and hopelessness for the Israelites and on their behalf interceded for them to the LORD. He asked for pardon for them. Amos interceded as a priest though he was just a shepherd. He understood his calling from God to be the prophet of the LORD. Amos recognized His love for the people and the esteem God felt for him so went before Him and begged for forgiveness for the Israelites. He was not the only prophet to intercede for Israel. Isaiah and Jeremiah prayed for the Israelites in Isaiah 37:4 and Jeremiah 42:2. Amos reminded the LORD Israel was very small; they would not prevail or even endure against an enemy as mighty as the Assyrians without Him as their might and protection. Just as Jeremiah pled with God to pardon the Israelites for the glory of His name (Jeremiah 14:7, 20-21), Amos, too, reminded God Israel was small and could not stand without His hand of protection and might battling for them. Amos interceded for Israel. God had compassion and relented; He abandoned His harsh judgment. He was still righteous. God’s charge and judgment were just, but His love and compassion for the people of Israel compelled Him to give them one more chance. His relenting was not forever, but a stay of execution of His judgment. Amos’ intercession, the prayer of a righteous man, brought about God’s relenting of judgment. The repentance of Israel was they way to make the judgment go away.

·         Have you been through a time when nothing seemed to work out according to your plans? Perhaps you couldn’t find a job or money for rent. Possibly you had a month like no other–car broke down, doctors’ bills due, electricity bill overdue, and you didn’t know what to do. Those could have been times when the “locusts ate your crops.”
·         Could these times have possibly been when God tried to get your attention to get you to turn around and seek Him instead of trying to live your own life and be your own resource, your own god?
·         Turn back to God, confess your wrongdoings, repent (genuinely regret what your wrongdoings), and give your life to God.


Vision of Fire

After God’s vision of a locust swarm, He showed Amos the extent of His judgment against Israel in a second vision. God’s judgment would be like a fire that destroyed everything, not just above ground, but below, too. He said in verses four through six,

4 “Thus the Lord GOD showed me, and behold, the Lord God was calling to contend with them by fire, and it consumed the great deep and began to consume the farm land. 5 Then I said, ‘Lord GOD, please stop! How can Jacob stand for he is small?’ 6 The LORD changed His mind about this. ‘This too shall not be,’ said the Lord GOD.” [NASB]

Remember, we learned the fire that would come upon the citadels of the other nations meant either supernatural fire from God or fire from their enemies attacking them would come because of God’s wrath. This time, God showed He would cause or allow fire to come upon Israel, the people who considered themselves safe because they were Yahweh’s children. In verse four, GOD showed Amos a vision. In it the Lord God called to contend with the Israelites by fire. The Lord proclaimed His intention to fight against, not for, the Israelites with a devouring fire. In Deuteronomy 32:22, Moses told the Israelites God’s fire burns to the lowest part of Sheol and consumes the earth and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains. Isaiah 66:15-16 records Isaiah telling the people the LORD will come in fire to render His anger with fury. He did this to Sodom and Gomorrah, too. The ancestors of the current Israelites knew from teachings and history that God’s judgment could come down as fire and completely consume a place. The destruction in this vision given to Amos noted the fire would go to the great deep and consume the farm land. What started in the city of the rich would go to the farmland. It would destroy everything above the dirt and go to the roots of the plants and underwater water sources. Nothing would remain after the fire of God’s judgment. No new growth or new life would occur.

Amos once again pled with God after seeing this vision. He begged Him to please stop. Amos did not plead for God to forgive/pardon the Israelites this time. He petitioned God based on Israel’s need and God’s grace. Amos reminded God how small Jacob was and how quickly and completely fire would destroy them. Amos interceded like a priest for the Israelites because of his love for them and because of His love for Yehovah.

With verse six, we understand the LORD changed His mind. He had compassion and relented from destroying the Israelites completely. Amos did not appeal to the LORD’s covenant with the Israelites in this vision. He appealed to God’s compassion. Jonah noted this same relenting from God in Jonah 3:10 when the Ninevites repented and turned to God. Amos knew God is compassionate. He knew loving Father did not want to judge and punish people. Amos’ intercession brought a reply from God of relenting from this judgment of an all-consuming fire.

·         Remember when hard times came and, when you turned to your friends and family, they did not help you?
·         Recall the time when the only way that seemed to offer relief from your burden was going in debt further and you just didn’t know if that was the right thing to do?
·         In each of these instances, you dug through the locust-eaten land searching for the deep waters to get by on only to find dust. You searched out other sources, but they didn’t seem right, still you considered them anyway. That was a time of you being your own god again, using your own wisdom instead of giving your life to God.
·         God is calling you to seek Him, confess and repent, and let Him be your God. Will you go to Him?


Vision of the Plumb Line

With God’s third vision shown to Amos, He expressed clearly the extent of His wrath. In verses seven through nine, Amos recorded,

7 “Thus He showed me, and behold, the Lord was standing by a vertical wall, with a plumb line in His hand. 8 And the Lord said to me, ‘What do you see, Amos?’ And I said, ‘A plumb line.’ Then the Lord said, ‘Behold I am about to put a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel. I will spare them no longer. 9 The high places of Isaac will be desolated and the sanctuaries of Israel laid waste. Then shall I rise up against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.’” [NASB]

Once again God showed Amos a vision. This time the vision showed the standard-a plumb line- by which God held His people accountable. A plumb line is a string or rope with a lead weight with a point (plummet) tied to the end of it. By standing on a wall and lowering the plummet line down the side of the wall, gravity pulls it straight and shows if a wall is straight, bulging, or bowing. If the wall is straight, it is “true”.

In this third vision, God used a plumb line to measure the Israelites. He stood on a vertical wall. That wall was the Israelites whom God built. It was also the wall that would crumble under His judgment. If the Israelites remained faithful to their covenant with the LORD, the wall would stand perpendicularly straight with the ground and have no bulges. When a builder finds a wall that is not true, he tears it down below the start of the bulge starts then rebuilds the wall from that point.

In this vision, God told Amos He was about to put a plumb line among His people to see who was straight and true and who was unjust. This implied He would tear down the wall that was not true and right. This meant the people who did not follow Him but changed His laws and commandments to suit their own purposes God would remove. In Samaria, we understand this meant God’s judgment would bring down most people. This idea was prevalent at the time. Second Kings 21:13 spoke of God stretching out over Jerusalem the same plummet line He used over Samaria and the house of Ahab. Isaiah said in Isaiah 28:17 God would make justice the measuring line and righteousness the level. He said in Isaiah 34:11 God would stretch out over Judah the line of desolation and the plumb line of emptiness. Finally, in Lamentations 2:8, God did the same thing to Jerusalem. God’s righteousness sets the plumb line straight, not gravity. In Amos 7:8, God said He would no longer spare the unrighteous of Israel. That means He would not “pass over” them anymore. He would “pass through” them and judge them just as He did the Egyptians, Sodomites, and later the Israelites and Judahites. Jeremiah recorded in Jeremiah 15:6 God’s weariness over Judah and His unwillingness to relent from His judgment of their sins any longer.

Just as the LORD grew weary of relenting and allowing His children in Judah to sin against Him and people as recorded by Jeremiah, He came to this same point with Israel in Amos. He would no longer spare them. Amos recorded the extent of God’s unrelented wrath based on this vision. God would desolate the high places and lay waste the sanctuaries. The house of Jeroboam would fall by a sword. What did this mean? Are not the first two parts the same? The “high places” comes from the Hebrew word bamah and means cultic platforms and places of worship for idols. These were the places of informal worship of false gods and idols. Genesis 46:1, Hosea 10:8, and Micah 1:5 speak of these. God said these bamah would “be desolated.” The word “desolated” comes from the Hebrew word shamem and means to devastate or ravage. The high places would be ravaged, torn apart, and deserted. It would be ruins.

Besides the high places, God would make the sanctuaries as waste. The sanctuaries in Israel were the formal sacred places such as temples or tabernacles. These were the two places Jeroboam I established for the people of the northern kingdom to worship the golden calves in Bethel and Dan in the south and north of the kingdom. The word “waste” comes from the Hebrew word charab and means to make desolate, in ruins, and be waste. Nothing would remain standing for the people to worship or a place in which to worship. No one would recognize a place for worship because God brought about their ruin.

The LORD God is mighty to destroy the high places of informal worship (mountains, orchards, pastures, and forests) and the formal sanctuaries in the cities. God would destroy every worship site in Israel. The Israelites knew from Leviticus 26:31 God would lay waste their cities and sanctuaries if they were unfaithful to their covenant with Him. Isaiah told the Judahites their adversaries would trample Yahweh’s sanctuary in Isaiah 63:18. The people of Israel broke covenant with the LORD. They oppressed the poor, over-indulged instead of helping others, sought glory instead of giving it to GOD, and corrupted justice. The sanctuaries and high places were places where they flaunted their wealth, oppression, and corruption. God’s destruction came upon these places because the people visited there and they led people further away from their covenant with Him.

Along with destroying the Israelites’ places of worship, in this vision God said He would rise up against the house of Jeroboam with the sword. God would show His mighty power over the Israelites’ ruler and his family as well as their priests and idols. He said He would use a sword against Jeroboam’s house. He would do battle/cause battle to kill the line of Jeroboam. They would no longer be the rulers of Israel because they led the people astray to worship other gods, to oppress the poor and live lavishly, and to corrupt righteousness. In this third vision, God’s wrath dealt with the religious and political rulers of the kingdom for leading the people away from covenant faithfulness with Yehovah. These establishments of leadership among the Israelites would not continue to exist.

A special note needs mentioning here. Amos did not intercede for the Israelites after this vision. He did not ask God to relent from this judgment. Amos recognized the rightness of God’s wrath and judgment on the Israelites. He knew the Israelites’ sins were complete (“for three transgressions and for four”) and understood it required God’s intervention by more than mere prophets. A supernatural judgment needed to intervene in the Israelites’ lives and kingdom.

·         Do you remember hitting bottom and thinking you had sunk as low as you could go? There was no one else to whom to turn. You didn’t know what to do. You wanted someone to take the problems from your hands. You wanted out.
·         God will meet you there. Don’t be like the Israelites who fell into captivity because of their stubbornness and pride. Meet God where you are. Call out to Him with earnestness. Confess and repent and let Him be your Lord.
·         He promised that all who call to Him He will hear in 2 Chronicles 7:14.
·         James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
·         God does not want your utter destruction. He wants a permanent relationship with you, one for all eternity.

Recap

The visions God showed Amos dealt with His judgment of their sinfulness. You will recognize the intensity of the rightness and judgment of God increases with each vision. With the locust swarm vision, God just removed the produce and vegetation of the land. That would affect the Israelites’ bodies and mental states. With the fire upon the land, God would consume and destroy the water and roots under the land, and the land itself. The Israelites would not survive a drought and famine. Israel would be a wasteland. The Promised Land would not flow with milk and honey because God would remove His blessings. The Israelites would experience life without His blessings. The vision of the plumb line is the most devastating. God’s judgment would affect the leadership of the land-political and religious. There would be no government-religious or political. This vision showed God would tear apart the walls that were not plumb with His righteousness. He would take them down to the point where they began to lose their straightness and later rebuild them.

God judged the whole kingdom for their faithlessness to Him and their sins against people. He highlighted mostly the rich and leaders of the land who did not help the poor, corrupted justice, and lead the people of the nation away from Him. Nothing would remain after His wrath came upon them. Israel’s enemy would crack and tear down their walls and defenses. The land would reap destruction and give no sustenance. The people who remained in the land would scavenge to exist. Surrounding nations would learn of the might of the LORD and learn even His people are not immune to judgment for their sinfulness.


Conclusion and Relevance

God called the Israelite people His people. He made them a royal priesthood and a holy nation for Himself. Over the hundreds of years they lived as His people in the Promised Land, they showed their unworthiness of being called His people. These Israelites lived unfaithfully to their covenant with the Lord. They broke His laws and commandments and had other gods besides Yehovah. With Amos’ prophecy, God told the Israelites His judgment of them for their sins and still they did not return to Him repenting. They chose to be their own god and do what they wanted. God explained the severity of their His judgment of them, through their punishment. They still did not repent and return to Him. Within thirty years the kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrian army and became captives and exiles. The Assyrians took the leaders, artisans, merchants, and wealthy as captives. Most other Israelites remained in the land scratching for an existence along with exiles the Assyrians imported from other areas of their empire. The people who lived in the once northern kingdom of Israel were no longer the holy people of Yehovah. They were a mixed group of many cultures, gods, and languages.

Today God continues to call people to come to Him and be His children. Yes, we all sin, but God wants us all to come to Him, be His children, and worship Him. The Lord provided a way for everyone to be His people. This better way did not require daily animal sacrifices from people for remission of sins. That better way is through Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  God gave His Son’s life as the death penalty for each person who believes in his or her heart Jesus is the Son of God and confesses it with his or her mouth. Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins is enough. We need not sacrifice for atonement daily. Does that mean we no longer sin? No, we are all sinners. See Romans 3:23-24, For we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. But, God makes us just, no longer meriting punishment, by God’s gracious gift of Jesus Christ by whom we received redemption. Jesus died for all people so they who believe do not have to die in permanent separation from God. Did you understand that? Jesus redeemed us. We do not have to face eternal separation as punishment for our sins; Jesus bore that penalty for us. That is redemption. Jesus paid our sin penalty. Does that mean God doesn’t punish us when we sin then? No, that is not what it means. God is our loving Father, and just like any loving father, His love means He will give corrective action to lead us from harming ourselves and other people, and to follow Him as Lord. To do that, He corrects us, maybe even punishes us, but He never punishes us to eternal separation from Him. That correction can come in many forms, just like our parent’s correction of our actions, words, and attitudes took many forms. Correction is to train us up in a peaceful way to live with other people in community according to righteousness, God’s righteousness. If you read the Bible, you will see some of the many ways God corrected people. Maybe He allows a person to fail at school or work. Possibly God allows a regular speeder to get so many speeding tickets instead of constant warmings so the person must have his or her license revoked. That would teach a lesson of following the law and being careful of other people around you. None of these corrective punishments causes a person to lose their eternal relationship with God if they are a believer in Jesus Christ. These are for correction.

The point here is God provided a way for us to be in a permanent eternal relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. We have free will and can choose if we want to be a follower of Jesus. Without accepting Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord, you do not have a saving relationship with God. You will experience eternal separation from Him when you die. When God judges His Christians that judgment does not remove our status as child of God and co-heir with Jesus Christ. His judgment is punishment to correct us and grow us in our relationship with Him and our walk in the world. Just as God’s rainbow to Noah was His promise never to destroy the world with a flood again, the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus, is His promise to His children they will never be separated from Him. Both the rainbow and Jesus death and resurrection give hope to people. The first is for all people. The second is for all people who believe in Jesus Christ. God offers eternal hope. Have you accepted this hope He offers through His Son, Jesus Christ? John the Apostle said it best in John 3:16-17.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.” [NASB]
Do you believe Jesus is God’s Son? Do you want eternal life with God?

What keeps you from believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died for your sins?

Will you seek God, pray and repent asking Him to forgive you of your sins, and give your life to Him?

Now is not too soon.

Read James 4:8-10 again,
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and week; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” [NASB]

Who do you choose to be your Lord and God – you or Yehovah?

Friday, June 9, 2017

A People Unto Themselves

Introduction

The people of the northern Kingdom of Israel considered themselves unaccountable to Yehovah. They no longer praised God for His protection and provision, but sang songs to themselves for what they accomplished-victory in battle, excess of provisions, and magnificent homes. These people of Israel abhorred the reminders from righteous people to take care of the poor-widows, orphans, and foreigners. They physically cast them from their sight and refused to hear God’s righteous laws. Though Amos’ last sermon called them to let God’s righteousness flow over and cleanse them, then flow through them to others, the rich and the leaders of the Israelites refused to return to God and follow Him. They refused to be a holy people of the LORD.

As in Amos’ earlier sermons, so the sermon of Amos 5:18-27 proclaimed God’s judgment upon the Israelites of the northern kingdom. God told them they asked for the “day of the Lord” to come. They did not realize they were His enemies, too. He would judge them along with their enemies. God’s justice would come as a flood to remove the detritus from Israel, punish them for their rebellion and iniquities, and cleanse them from unrighteousness. Then would remember Who the LORD is and has been in their history and return to a right relationship with Him.

In Amos 6, Amos preached his final proclamation of prophecy to the Israelites listing their sins. With verse seven, he declared God’s judgment upon them. With the last half of the chapter, Amos told the Israelites of God’s hate of their sins, His judgment, the result of His judgment, and reiterated the peoples’ sins. Finally, with verse fourteen, God proclaimed how His judgment would come upon the Israelites. With this brief reminder of earlier sermons and a preview of chapter six, let’s now study what God said through Amos in chapter six.

Woe to the People

As with Amos 5:18, Amos began this last sermon against the nation of Israel with a lament. He lamented Israel’s complacency to follow the LORD’s laws. Amos said in verse one,

“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria, the distinguished men of the foremost of nations, to whom the house of Israel comes.” [NASB]

Bible writers used the word “woe” to state grief over the dead. See 1 Kings 13:30 and Jeremiah 22:18 and 34:5. Amos lamented the sinfulness of Israel, her coming judgment, the loss of life, the loss of God’s hand of protection against them, and their loss of freedom. In this statement of woe, he referred again to the rich people of Israel. Amos proclaimed woe over those who were at ease. Isaiah 32:9-11 expressed woe toward the women at ease. Luke 6:24 expressed woe for the rich stating their only comfort would be what they had then because their day of judgment would come.

These people were at ease and felt secure because they felt no one could defeat the God who established them. They forgot, though, that this same God covenanted with them promising blessings for their covenant faithfulness and curses for covenant unfaithfulness. These Israelites chose to remember and live only by the positive side of the covenant-God would be their God and would bless them. They were at ease in Zion expecting God to provide for them and fight their battles always. The rich Israelites did not recognize their sin and realize they should not be at ease because they deserved God’s wrath. Amos expressed woe to these Israelites who rested in ease thinking the God of Zion would always defend them and let no harm come to them.

Along with the Israelites being at ease because their God would protect them, they felt confidence in their ability to protect the site of their capital city. It was on a high hill surrounded by mountains. They considered themselves unconquerable. The Israelites of Samaria could see their enemy coming before they arrived. These Israelites trusted in their military preparedness to see them through crises. Amos expressed woe for the Israelites because they had confidence in their own might and logistical strategy and did not recall the LORD had kept them safe throughout their history. Yehovah could remove His protective hand and they would be as vulnerable as any other city/nation of the world. The Israelites felt secure, but they were careless, at ease. They did not keep covenant faithfulness with God. The way to salvation in battle and of the soul comes from the LORD and they were unfaithful to Him.

The men to whom Amos proclaimed woe in this verse were the distinguished men of Israel to whom Israel went for justice, advice, and aid. They were the ones who rose above the crowd in their oppression, corruption, and business dealings. These rich had men controlled the courts and businesses. Everyone had to go to them for help, yet they helped no one who was not a beneficial connection. These rich men of Israel were the real power structure of society, not Yehovah. These wealthy, upper class people of Israel were the biggest offenders in that society. Amos did not preach against wealth or a classless society. He condemned the abuse and oppression of the poor by the rich. The rich had made themselves god of their city and nation.

Rhetorical Questions

With verse two, it seems Amos provided the rhetorical argument the rich Israelites would give to anyone who proposed Israel was lesser than other nations. Amos said in verse two,

“Go over to Calneh and look, and go from there to Hamath the great, then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are they better than these kingdoms, or is their territory greater than yours?” [NASB]

Calneh was probably the city of Calno in Aram near Carchemish. Hamath was a city in Aram, too. These had large territories. Hamath had been part of Israel under Solomon’s and Jeroboam’s reigns. Sargon II of Assyria captured these two places after Amos’ time in 721 BC. Uzziah captured Gath before Amos prophesied. With this rhetorical question from Amos, he showed their arrogance about their greatness and military prowess. The Israelites, per Amos’ rhetorical speaking for them, challenged Amos’ prophecies of God’s judgment on them. Still, Amos rebutted them with his prophecy of their judgment from God.

As Amos continued pronouncing his sermon of woe on the Israelites with verse three, he asked another rhetorical question, this time for the LORD. He said in verse three,

“Do you put off the day of calamity, and would you bring near the seat of violence?” [NASB]

Amos challenged the rich of Israel. He provided them with a question that would have an obviously ridiculous answer if they continued with their arrogance and answered in the affirmative. Amos asked the rich if they could drive away the day of calamity because they assumed greater power than the LORD. God is the bringer of the day of calamity, the day of the LORD. “Did the Israelites consider themselves greater than God?” Amos asked. That is how they acted by disobeying God’s laws and being unfaithful to their covenant with Him. They put themselves as greater than Yehovah. The rich Israelites lived for the moment and did not to consider the day of reckoning would come soon. Their arrogance placed themselves above God and caused them to procrastinate in doing what they knew was right. They cared not what consequences would come.

Amos continued with this question.  He asked the rich Israelites if they would bring near the seat of violence. This has two ramifications. Would the rich Israelites continue to do violence against the righteous and poor of their kingdom? Would they, by continuing this way of life, teach it to their children so they stored up violence now and for the future? Amos made this same statement in Amos 3:10. The other side of Amos’ question is would the rich Israelites continue to disobey God’s laws and thus cause God’s judgment to come upon them. Would they bring God’s wrath upon themselves now because they kept living sinfully? By not repenting, the rich Israelites were not putting off the day of calamity, but with their violence would bring near God’s judgment seat. It would not go away.


Who were these people whom God judged?

With verses four through six, Amos reiterated who the people were whom God charged and judged. He described who these were by what they did. Amos said in verses four through six,

4 “Those who recline on beds of ivory and sprawl on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall, 5 who improvise to the sound of the harp and like David have composed songs for themselves, 6 who drink wine from sacrificial bowls while they anoint themselves with the finest oils, yet they have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.” [NASB]

Amos first described the offenders of Israel by how and what they ate. He said they reclined on their beds of ivory. These beds, built of wood, contained inlaid ivory. The rich Israelites did not sleep on the packed wood floor like the poor of society. They sprawled on their couches. These couches were like chaise lounges upon which they overhung and laid freely in luxury. Amos spoke of these couches earlier in Amos 3:12 when he spoke of the remnant of Israel being like the corner of a bed or the cover of a couch. The rich Israelites knew Amos spoke about them.

Upon these beds and couches, the rich ate the best of meats. They ate the most tender portions, the young lambs and calves. These animals suckled on their mothers. The calves came from the barn stalls and ate grain. Their meat came not from muscle, but was tender from grain feeding and milk. The rich Israelites ate the best food available, but the poor ate little, the meager bits gleaned from the fields after the harvesters. These rich Israelites thought they had no cares and no hurry.

The rich of Israel created songs for their revelry, just as David created songs. A dichotomy existed that David wrote his songs to and about Yehovah, whereas they wrote songs to please their own ears while they ate lavishly and cared not for the people of their country. Isaiah 5:12 says, “Their banquets are accompanied by lyre and harp, by tambourine and flute, and by wine, but they do not pay attention to the deeds of the LORD, nor do they consider the works of His hands.” [NASB] The people whom God judged sang to themselves, not about God nor giving Him praise. They took the glory for themselves for what they had and did not give glory to God.

With verse six, Amos stated again the rich of Israel indulged in wine. Besides this, they drank the wine from sacrificial bowls, bowls used to catch the blood of sacrificial animals. The blood they offered to their gods, Amos re-imagined as the wine they offered themselves as if they were gods. They had put themselves above Yehovah. These rich Israelites made themselves and their desires idols. Besides this, Amos said they anointed themselves with the best oils. Only the rich could afford olive oil and they wasted it on their own bodies instead of it being used to give and prepare food for their Israelite brethren. Remember, too, God used oil for His servants-priests and prophets-to anoint His leaders over the Israelites. Here, the Israelites anointing themselves alluded again to their usurping God’s place in their lives and making themselves their own gods and priests. As priests, their should have had hearts attuned to God and to His desire for the people-their needs, poverty, and sins-but their hearts only reflected their personal desires. The rich Israelites did not grieve over the ruin of Joseph, the northern kingdom of Israel.


The Judgment 

Amos described upon whom God charged and judged most in Israel. With verse seven, he expounded on what would happen by God because of their rebellion against Him and His laws. Amos said in verse seven,

“Therefore, they will now go into exile at the head of the exiles, and the sprawlers’ banqueting will pass away.” [NASB]

The word “therefore” shows reference to the earlier statements. It refers to the rich Israelites sins. Because they oppressed the poor and corrupted justice in Israel, God would judge them and make it happen. God, through Amos, told the Israelites they would go into exile. Their mountains would not protect them. Their enemy would remove the rich Israelites from their wealth, lavish houses, grain-fed calves, abundant wine, and finest oils. Besides this, God said the rich Israelites would lead their nation into exile. These wealthy Israelites, just as they led the people of Israel into oppressing the poor and casting aside righteousness, would lead their people into judgment. They would be the first to go into judgment and exile. The revelry and lavish living would pass away as God passed through them allowing their enemies to overtake them. God would not pass over the Israelites this time.

·         What do you do that tells people you are better than them? Drive a flashy car? Live in a grand house? Take extravagant vacations? Flash your credit cards?
·         Do you boast to others about what you have done, who you know, and what you have?
·         Do you allow the Lord to be God of your life? Or, do you use everything you have and get for what you want without asking God why He gave it to you?
·         Do you allow God’s pricks to your conscience to lead you to share what He gave you with people in need? Do you give whatever God says knowing He will give everything you will need?
·         Do you give glory to God for providing what another person needs by your giving and thank Him for asking you to be part of His plan for helping other people?

God’s Declaration


His hate and abhorrence of their sins

The first half of this sermon described God and Amos’ lament for the people of the northern kingdom. It ended with the LORD’s judgment of their sins, especially the sins of the rich Israelites. With this second half of the chapter, God made declarations to the people about His hate and abhorrence of their sins, the extent and devastation of His judgment, and about how His judgment would occur.

In verse eight, Amos said,

“The Lord God has sworn by Himself, the LORD God of hosts has declared: ‘I loathe the arrogance of Jacob, and I detest his citadels; therefore, I will deliver up the city and all it contains.’” [NASB]

Again, Amos used multiple names of God. Here he said Adonay, a title of reverence meaning the Lord of men, Yehovah, the existing One, the I AM, swore by Himself. This LORD God of hosts is Yehovah ‘Elohiym, the ruler and judge, and the God of the armies of heaven and earth. GOD swore by the most certain thing in existence, Himself. He said He absolutely loathes the arrogance of Jacob. The word “loathes” comes from the Hebrew word ta’ab, which means to abhor or have an intense dislike or disgust. Abhorring is the physical action that comes from hating something or someone intensely. The LORD loathed the arrogance of Jacob and would act because of it. God abhorred the high places of the Israelites in Leviticus 26:30 and destroyed those places. He spurned the Israelites in Deuteronomy 32:19. In Amos, He loathed the arrogance of Jacob. The arrogance of the rich Israelites showed their assumption they were their own providers and a law to themselves while forgetting their covenant with the LORD. God stated He, too, detested the citadels of Israel. The word “detest” comes from the Hebrew word sane’ which means to hate as an enemy. Amos 3:10-11 explain why God hated the citadels of the Israelites. He hated them because they hoarded violence and devastation in their citadels. The citadels, the strongholds, were symbols of the Israelites’ self-confidence, violence, and robbery. With the last of verse eight, he LORD said He would deliver up the city and everything in it. The LORD swore on His name meaning His judgment would certainly occur and it would be complete, nothing inside the fortifications would remain. God would deliver everything to the enemies of the Israelites-people, homes, furnishings, produce, vineyards, animals, and land. It certainly would happen. God’s delivering the northern kingdom to their enemies was His hate in action, His abhorrence of their arrogance. The Israelites earlier ignored God’s prophets and charges. They could not ignore God’s hate and abhorrence when His judgment came upon them.

Result of God’s Judgment

Amos reminded the Israelites of the devastation God’s judgment would bring to their land. Just as he said in Amos 5:3, he reiterated in verse nine. Only one tenth of the people would remain in Israel. Consider what Amos said in verses nine and ten,

9 “And it will be, if ten men are left in one house, they will die. Then one’s uncle, or his undertaker, will lift him up to carry out his bones from the house, and he will say to the one who is in the innermost part of the house, ‘Is anyone else with you?’ and that one will say, ‘No one.’ 10 Then he will answer, ‘Keep quiet. For the name of the LORD is not to be mentioned.’” [NASB]

We must recognize the word “left” in verse nine comes from the Hebrew word yather and means left behind, or remain. This means the dead in the house were Israelites left after their enemy took captives into exile. Of these ten left behind, their kinsman, who had the duty to bury his dead, would carry their bodies out of the house. We recognize another person was alive in the house with the kinsman. It could have been a survivor or a person helping the kinsman. Most likely it was a survivor of whatever killed the other people of the house.

Theologians conjecture the people of the house died of pestilence, plague, or starvation. With the first two, the need for burning the bodies is obvious, to prevent further contamination of the village, town, or city. Death by starvation did not require burning of bodies. We should understand burning of corpses was unusual for the Israelites. Their belief required burial of bodies so the deceased could walk with his or her ancestors in heaven. They believed this was impossible if people burned their relatives’ bones. Recall Israelite men went to their enemy’s walled city of Beth-shan to take the bodies of Saul and his sons for burial in their family tomb (1 Samuel 31:12). Because of the Israelite’s understanding of burials, most theologians agree the deaths of the people in the house were not natural. They came by plague or pestilence.

A curious statement arises in the last part of verse ten of the one man telling the other to keep quiet. No consensus among theologians is available to explain this statement. What is most important is the people collecting the bodies recognized the judgment came from God’s hand.


In verse eleven, Amos continued to describe vast destruction caused by God removing His hands of protection from the Israelites. He spoke earlier of exile. Amos said here in verse eleven,

“For behold, the LORD is going to command that the great house be smashed to pieces and the small house to fragments.” [NASB]

The word “behold” calls our attention to an unusual event that will happen. The destruction at the hand of God would not affect just their citadels like those of the pagan nations surrounding them. Amos said it would cause the utter destruction of their homes, too. The LORD’s judgment would affect both great and small, rich and poor, and leader and led. Great houses with hand-hewn stone would be in pieces like pebbles. The small homes made of mud would crumble into fragments like broken water pitchers. This would occur because of God’s judgment on the people of Israel. Either the judgment would come by natural causes like an earthquake or by an invading army and its war machines. Both could cause this devastation. These things would happen because God commanded it. God’s hands protected the Israelites before, but the time of their judgment would reveal His hand of protection no longer rested upon them. As the people listened, God led the Israelites to know how their destruction would come.

Rhetorical Questions

Amos used rhetoric well to gain the attention of the rich leaders of Israel. He appealed to their educated side and showed them their foolishness. Amos stated in verse twelve,

“Do horses run on rocks? Or does one plow them with oxen? Yet you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood.” [NASB]

The obvious answer to the first question is, “No.” Off course horses cannot run on rocks. It could cause injury to the horse. As to the second question, it would seem the answer is yes. Yet, scholars consider these two questions are parallel and both should have negative answers. Because of that, they insert the word “there” into the question so it reads, “Or does one plow there with oxen?” Still a Hebrew scholar interpreted the plural ending on “oxen” as yam meaning “the sea.” From this, the question would read, “Does one plow with oxen the sea?” With either question, a negative answer resulted. Just as absurd as these questions were to the Israelites, so was their conduct. The rich and powerful Israelites turned justice into poison and the fruits of righteousness into wormwood because of their unfaithfulness to their covenant relationship with Yehovah. Amos spoke of this in Amos 5:7, & 11-12. Justice and righteousness should have brought rejoicing, but instead the Israelites experienced the bitterness of sorrow and despair. Amos sought any means to make sure the people of the northern kingdom understood God’s charge against them and the judgment He certainly would bring against them.

Amos continued to bring God’s charge against the rich Israelites in verse thirteen. With a statement and question he showed the folly of their thinking. Amos said in verse thirteen,

“You who rejoice in Lodebar, and say, ‘Have we not by our own strength taken Karnaim for ourselves?’” [NASB]

Let’s understand what Amos meant by this. The rhetorical thought continued in verse twelve. Amos called the men who acted with such folly as to run their horses on rock, the same as those who rejoice in Lodebar or the capture Karnaim. The word “Lodebar” means a thing of nothing. Amos said the rich Israelites rejoiced in nothing. Their confidence was in minute and fragile things like spider’s webs, as Job 8:14-15 said. Those things would not last and would fall apart quickly. Why trust in them? The rich Israelites would be like the rich man of Luke 12:19-20 who put his trust in his full grain silos not knowing he would die that night. Besides this, Amos said the rich Israelites put their confidence in their own strength. He poked at them by saying they were boastful about taking Karnaim. Karnaim was a horn of black eye makeup. The rich Israelites put their confidence in frivolous things, things that would not stand up to testing. They boasted in providing themselves the finest wines, handmade furniture, and stone-hewn homes. These would not last. Only one thing lasts forever, the LORD God, the One who certainly would bring His judgment against them.

The rich Israelites did not give God the glory for their provision or protection. They refused justice to the people and oppressed people poorer and less powerful than them. These rich Israelites did not give God the glory for what they had, nor mete out justice or give to the poor of their land. They broke covenant faithfulness with the LORD and now would receive from His covenant faithfulness their just reward, His curses as Deuteronomy 28 denoted.


The Judgment Clarified

With explicit words, Amos clarified for the Israelites what God’s judgment meant for them. He said in verse fourteen,

“‘For behold, I am going to raise up a nation against you, O house of Israel,’ declares the LORD God of hosts, ‘And they will afflict you from the entrance of Hamath to the brook of the Arabah.’” [NASB]

In verse seven when Amos told the Israelites of God’s judgment using the word “therefore.” With verse fourteen, Amos said “behold.” He finished explaining their sins. Now, their attention and ours must focus on the unusual and supernatural thing that will happen from God’s hand. In verse eleven the people did not know by what means God would make their homes into rubble, by earthquake or man. With verse fourteen, they heard their destruction would come by men. The Israelites would recognize this never-before occurrence would come because the almighty and faithful LORD removed His protection from them. God would raise up a nation against the Israelites. He would cause them to become powerful and carry out His judgment. In Jeremiah 5:15, this nation is one God brought against them, a strong and ancient nation whose language the Israelites did not know. In other years God made the people of Israel a nation, provided for them, and protected them from this nation. Now God would allow this ancient nation to defeat and subdue them. Notice in this verse, Amos stated Yehovah ‘Elohiym of hosts declared this affliction upon the Israelites. The existing One who is Ruler and Judge declared the judgment for their sins. This Judge said none would escape His judgment. The enemy would afflict the Israelites from their northernmost border at Hamath to the southernmost border at the brook of the Arabah (the north end of the Dead Sea). God would bring His judgment upon each person of the northern kingdom. No one would escape, neither rich nor poor.

·         What do you hold closer than God? Will it survive forever? Is it greater than God?
·         Are you plowing the sea with oxen and running horses on rocks? Is there something you do that you consider important that is really nothing/foolishness when compared to eternity and almighty God?
·         Over what do you claim victory? Does that small victory mean you are great enough to withstand the judgment God will bring your way?


Recap

Amos spent four chapters explaining the sins of Israel to its people. He exhorted them to repent of their sins and then lamenting God’s judgment of them. With chapter six, the Israelites, especially the rich Israelites, could not doubt their sinfulness. They could know the certain judgment of Yehovah ‘Elohiym upon them. The charges brought against Israel mostly related to the rich and the leaders of Israel. With chapter six, most of the charges applied to the rich. Within wealthy Israel, the rich and leaders oppressed the poor and corrupted justice for personal gain. They sought to benefit personal interests at the detriment of other Israelites, their brethren. These rich Israelites chose to make themselves and their own desires their gods and ignored the hunger and desperation of the lower classes. For this, God said He would send an ancient and more powerful nation against them. He would withdraw His hand of protection from them. The Israelites of the northern kingdom would fall, go into exile, and lose everything they counted on for daily life. The rich Israelites who led in business and government in their land would lead the exile and be the first to receive the LORD’s judgment. Their enemy would take away or destroy the things they counted on in their home land.


Relevance and Conclusion

God is almighty. He protects and provides for His children. Sometimes, as the loving Father, He must punish his children so they will change the way they live and return to a right relationship with Him. Before the Messiah’s birth, crucifixion, death, and resurrection, the people of God lived in relationship with God through the old covenant. A covenant relationship existed between the people of Israel and God. Because of human sinfulness, the Israelites often broke their covenant with Yehovah. God outlined for the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land a covenant to which they agreed to live. With this covenant, they received blessings from Him for faithfulness and with their unfaithfulness, they received curses through Him.

For the people of Israel, though they rebelled against Yehovah repeatedly, He did not remove His hand of protection from them. With Israel’s division into two kingdoms and the idol worship Jeroboam I instituted, the people who God consecrated as a people unto Himself (Deuteronomy 7:6) became a people unto themselves. They were no longer holy, but worshiped themselves and their desires. In God’s timing, as Amos prophesied and as history showed, the Assyrians defeated the Israelites of the northern kingdom and took them into captivity. They left a remnant to scratch out an existence in the barren land. The Israelites had no hope of eternal salvation only repeated cleansings for sins through the sacrifice of animals on the altar.

Today, with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, people can receive eternal salvation from their sins from God. No longer is a sacrifice needed daily for sins like the people of Israel performed according to the old covenant. Once a person confesses with his or her mouth Jesus is Lord and believes in his or her heart God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9), he or she will receive saving from his or her sins and the judgment for those sins-eternal separation from God. With Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, each person has hope for salvation. Jesus Christ brought the new covenant with God, an eternal and greater covenant. The old covenant brought mankind to God. The new covenant brought salvation from God.

Today, each person has a choice. He or she can continue to live his or her life as if he or she is a god to him or herself. This person can consider he or she provided his or her own income and their daily needs. Alternatively, that person can recognize God is the provider of every good thing including salvation. He is the One and only God and that person is not a god. Each person must choose if he or she will believe and accept Jesus’ gift of salvation. Without accepting this gift from God, you will receive the condemnation that sin brings-separation from our loving God. You will not be part of the LORD’s holy people, chosen to be a people for His own possession. Without Jesus, sin’s stain will mark you forever as unholy and unable to enter God’s presence.
What will you choose?
Choose to be–

 “A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God. You had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10 [NASB])