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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])





Friday, May 26, 2017

Justice Like Rolling Water


Introduction

Amos spoke eight prophecies to Israel about the seven nations surrounding them and about their own nation. These prophecies were the LORD’s charges against the nations for their sins and His judgment of them because of their sins. God sought to get the Israelites’ attention because their sins were great. Their sins were against people and God.

Beginning in Amos 3, Amos preached and exhorted the listeners of Israel. God explicitly told Israelites their sin through Amos. In Amos 3, Amos told the Israelites they were not immune to punishment because they were God’s chosen people. That would not keep them safe from God’s wrath. In Amos 4 and 5, Amos told the Israelites their ritualistic religion would not save them from the LORD’s wrath. God’s judgment is for all His enemies. This point Amos unequivocally pronounced to the Israelites in chapter five.

With Amos 5:18-27, Amos expressed clearly like what the “day of the LORD” would be. He preached against the religious hypocrisy of the Israelites. In the middle of the sermon, Amos called the Israelites to repentance. He made this stand out by using a chiastic structure in the sermon. A chiastic structure helps lead people to focus on the most important part of a sermon, the center part. The chiastic structure denotes itself as A, B, C, B*, A* where A and A* are the same, as are B and B*. The focus for both parts is C, the purpose of the sermon. In this sermon by Amos, the chiastic structure looks like the following diagram.

                        A  Description of God’s Certain Judgment (vs. 18-20)

                                    B  Accusation of Religious Hypocrisy (vs. 21-22)

                                                C  Call for Repentance (vs. 23-24)

                                    B* Accusation of Religious Hypocrisy (vs. 25-26)

                        A* Description of God’s Certain Judgment (vs. 27)

God’s Certain Judgment

People throughout history, when adversity combats them, cry out to the Lord to hasten the “day of the LORD.” Our inner being recognizes God exists and is greater and mightier than our feeble human selves. The cry for the LORD most often seeks Him to halt or eliminate enemies. Throughout the Bible, the “day of the LORD” calls for God to bring the last days (the end times like Isaiah 5:19, Jeremiah 30:7, Joel 1:15, 2:1, 11, & 31). God will come to earth and judge evil people at that time. Rarely do the people seeking the “day of the LORD” realize he or she deserves God’s judgment, too. Crying out for the “day of the LORD” would bring judgment upon each person on earth not just one’s enemies. People do not think of that in their desperation. In Amos 5:18-20, Amos told the Israelites the “day of LORD” is more than they acknowledge. He said in verses eighteen through twenty,

18 “Alas, you who are longing for the day of the LORD, for what purpose will the day of the LORD be to you? It will be darkness and not light, 19 as when a man flees from a lion and a bear meets him, or goes home, leans his hand against the wall, and a snake bites him. 20 Will not the day of the LORD be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it?” [NASB]

The word “alas” comes from the Hebrew word howy and means “woe.” Amos proclaimed woe to the Israelites. They were not ready for that. Why should woe and lament come upon them? Israel considered themselves justified. God chose them as His people. They performed the rituals in the temple. The Israelites thought they lived correctly, and God would bless them and extinguish their enemies. He had always been the Protector, so why would He not be now or in their future. The people of the northern kingdom did not understand with their hearts and in their spirits what it meant to be the people of Yahweh, the children of GOD.

“Woe to you who long for the day of the LORD,” Amos said. The people desired, coveted, and craved for the day of God’s return to judge all people. Amos reminded the Israelites what that day would entail. It would not bring joy to each person because God’s judgment would occur then. Only the righteous would rejoice. Amos explained in three ways what that day would be like. He said it would be darkness and not light. This “darkness” is more than night, an absence of light. Amos called that time choshek, a day of gloom and obscurity.  Obscurity means to be unknown, inconspicuous, and unimportant. These Israelites would be unknown by God because their sins removed them from His presence. Their sins would bring judgment upon them like their enemies’ sins would for them. The LORD would cast the Israelites away from His presence forever. Amos explained the true reality of the “day of the LORD” for them. The Israelites sought God only when they needed something from Him–protection, provision, healing, etc.–not for a relationship.

Besides the “day of the LORD” being a time of darkness and the Israelites being unknown by God, Amos said they could not escape God’s judgment of them. Just like he said the Israelites could not outrun God’s judgment in chapter two, he said they could not outrun it in Amos 5:19. Though the unrighteous Israelite outran the lion God sent, he would meet with a bear and suffer defeated. When the Israelite ran for safety to her house, a snake would bite her hand when it rested against the wall. The place the Israelite considered himself most safe, his grand winter and summer houses or ivory palaces, would give no place of refugee from God’s judgment. God would judge all sinners, Amos said.

With verse twenty, Amos described to the Israelites again what the darkness would be like when they “day of the LORD” arrived. He said it would be darkness not light. The word “light” comes from the Hebrew word ‘owr and means light of day, prosperity or life. The “day of the LORD” would bring physical darkness, the absence of light. It would also bring darkness on a person’s life-mind, heart, body, and spirit. The darkness on the “day of the LORD” would cause poverty in these facets of life for the leaders and wealthy Israelites. What the Israelites considered came from their own hands and for which they did not thank God, God would remove. The darkness would be in the heavenly lights and within each person. The darkness would oppress them and cause joy and revelry to cease. Amos continued to describe the darkness. He emphasized the darkness by explaining it again. Amos said it would be gloom with no brightness. This darkness would be gloom, giving no light and creating depression and despondency.

When the day of the LORD arrives, God would judge all His enemies. God’s enemies are the people who sin against Him and His laws of righteousness. Though the Israelites called upon the LORD to bring His kingdom to cast judgment on their enemies, He would administer His judgment to all people on earth, not just their enemies. God’s enemies included the Israelites. The Israelites were not exempt because God called them His own. They had no entitlement. The Israelites’ election by God would not keep them safe from His wrath, as Amos said in chapter three. The people God chose to shine His light to lead other nations to Him broke their covenant with Him continually even after He sent prophets to call them back to Him. Because the Israelites broke their covenant with the LORD, they were His enemies, too. Yahweh would also mete out judgment on them. On the “day of the LORD,” God would defend and establish Himself and His righteousness. Israel was not righteous and God would punish them.

No person can escape from God’s judgment. Wherever a person can run, judgment will still find the person. God’s judgment is evitable and certain. The Apostle Paul said this over seven hundred years later, too. In Romans 3:23, Paul said, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Each person deserves God’s judgment, not just Israel’s or our enemies.

·         What wrong have you done that you believe no one will ever know about so you feel safe? Have you taken money from someone’s wallet, spoke scathingly against a person, or told an untruth?
·         Did you truly think you could get away with that wrong?
·         Have you really escaped the guilt of that wrong? That guilt comes from God? He put it there to lead you to seek Him, confess and repent, and receive newness of life?
·         How does knowing this affect you at this moment?

Accusation of Religious Hypocrisy

Amos explained in chapter four God cares about the heart’s intention, not religious rituals. He ardently addressed the Israelites in the next two verses. Amos said in verses twenty-one and twenty-two,

21 “I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.” [NASB]

God spoke seriously in these two verses. Like Amos did in verse ten when he described the Israelites’ hating and abhorring the righteous in the gate, he doubly described God’s dislike of the Israelites’ religious festivals. Amos said God hated the Israelites’ religious festivals. The word “hate” is the same Hebrew word Amos used earlier in this chapter. It means to hate, detest, and call an enemy. This hate is a mental and heart-felt rejection of the religious rituals the Israelites’ offered in their worship. Remember, the Israelites continued performing the festival rites God established and the ones Jeroboam established for their own gods. When they offered these same rituals to the LORD, He hated them because they did not execute them with singleness of devotion nor bring glory exclusively to Him. The rich Israelites sought glory for themselves because they brought extravagant things to the altar, like leavened instead of unleavened bread. They also gave their offerings and sacrifices more often than God required so they could show off their wealth. It gave them glory instead of God. In Amos 5:21, Amos said God hated their festivals, such as the festivals of Passover and Tabernacles.

Just as Amos said the rich hated and abhorred the righteous in the gate, he used similar terminology for God’s hate of the Israelites’ religious rituals. God hated in His heart how the Israelites worshiped. He rejected their festivals, too. The word “abhor” in verse ten means to despise, detest, and consider abominable. “Reject” comes from the Hebrew word ma’ac and means to despise, refuse, and reject. The Israelites physically turned away from the righteous people in the gate and turned people away who sought justice. God turned His eyes away from Israel’s worship. His turned His face away from them in rejection. The Israelites no longer had God’s blessing and protection.

Isaiah 1:11-16 says God had enough of their burnt offering and took no pleasure in the blood of the lambs they slaughtered. God did not delight in the Israelites’ offerings anymore. The word “delight” from verse twenty-one comes from the Hebrew word reyach and means smell. The Israelites’ sacrifices and offerings no longer gave a pleasing aroma to the LORD. Their actions were just ritual, not worship when they entered the places of worship for sacred and festive meetings. Their hearts were not right with God. God said He detested and rejected their festivals and solemn assemblies. The aromas were not soothing or fragrant to Him. Leviticus 26:31 mentions this. Jeremiah 14:12 says God would not accept the Israelites’ burnt offerings.

With verse twenty-two, Amos explained God’s seriousness. He said though the Israelites offered God the best of their flock and storehouses, whole burnt offerings, grain offerings, and peace offerings as God established in Deuteronomy 12 and Leviticus 2 & 7, the LORD would not accept or even look at them. The sacrifices and offerings were detestable to the LORD because they offered them out of ritualistic obedience to the Law. The Israelites did not from offer genuine love for and thanks to Him. God said their offerings displeased Him and He would disregard them. Even though the people brought these to His altar, because their hearts did not present them, only their hands, it was as if they never came to Him at all. Genuinely meeting with the LORD requires heart, spirit, mind, and physical action. That is why Moses and Jesus taught the people-Jews and Gentiles-to love the LORD with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5 & Luke 10:27). Worshiping God requires devotedly loving Him with your whole being. The Israelites offered worship with their physical bodies only. Their worship was an abomination and idolatrous. The people’s worship of the LORD was ritually incorrect, which came about because of their desire for themselves and not to love Him with their whole being.

·         What do we worship and what do we offer as worship? Money? Family? Flashy cars or big houses? Kneeling? Singing routinely?
·         Whatever occupies most of your physical time and mental thought processes, and causes hunger and craving in your heart are your gods.
·         Will you recognize these false gods and seek a right relationship with God?

A Command for Repentance

In the earlier verses, Amos told the Israelites what they did to cause God’s judgment on themselves. With these next two verses, the LORD through Amos told the people what to do to get right with Him, to worship Him with righteousness. Amos said in verses twenty-three and twenty-four,

23 “Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. 24 But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” [NASB]

Theologians over the years have debated whether verse twenty-three should go with verses twenty-one and twenty-two or with twenty-four. They said verse twenty-three seems to speak more of God’s condemnation of their false worship. It rightly could be so, but verse twenty-four, a verse obviously calling for repentance, begins with the word “but.” Verse twenty-four hinges on what Amos said in the immediately preceding verse. Besides this, verses twenty-three and twenty-four begin with commands while verses twenty-one and twenty-two are proclamations of fact by God. Personally, I believe Amos, with verse twenty-three’s command, gave one more example of the Israelites’ religiosity without heart, soul, and spirit. It operates as a counterpoint to his command to repent and be righteous.

The LORD commanded the Israelites to remove the noise and confusion of the songs from His presence. He rejected the songs because they were a noise rather than a praise of Him. These songs showed the divided hearts of the singers-divided between their gods and rituals to appease Yehovah and the true worship of the LORD. These songs were for show like their offerings and sacrifices. They were just ritual, not true worship. The command, “take away,” created a void where the antithesis should reside. It left an opening for true worship of God. By commanding a negative action, it implied a positive action should replace it. That is where the command of verse twenty-four enters.

With the command of verse twenty-four God told the Israelites to be just and righteous. The LORD rejected their “worship” songs because they were noise and chaos, which does not come from God, but Satan. Their songs lacked true devotion to God, which comes from the heart, mind, and soul and shows through actions. Amos gave vivid imagery in this verse. He told them to let justice roll down like water. Justice is righteousness in action. Justice is taking care of the orphan, widow, and foreigner. It is putting away violence. Notice this justice is flowing down. When water flows downward, it does so rapidly and with power. It moves stones, unhinges rocks and boulders, and displaces dirt. The justice the Israelites were to let roll down comes from the LORD, Amos implied. When it comes down over a person, the flowing water removed hard places and the stain of sins. A newness of life occurs. Amos commanded the Israelites to let it affect them. He said “let justice roll down.” Do not block the channel flowing from God to your heart, He meant, but let it do its good and righteous work so it will cleanse you and make you righteous.

Besides allowing God to cleanse them and allowing that righteousness to influence their lives and actions, Amos commanded them to let righteousness be “like an ever-flowing stream.” The waters of justice that come from the LORD are not stagnant; they keep flowing. We can and often do choose to stop the flow into our lives when we decide we want to do things our way or “live our own lives.” Amos told the Israelites to let the righteousness of God continue to their hearts as an ever-flowing stream. Let that stream continue through them to the people they encounter and represent in the community. Let their thoughts and actions be righteous. An ever-flowing stream smooths stones, makes a deeper stream bed, creates a more permanent path, and allows people a permanent supply of water upon which they can count for planting, growth, and sustenance. Amos told the Israelites to let God’s justice and righteousness flow on and through them. Be made right with the LORD and let it affect their actions and words. Let it affect cause the community and the people to care for and serve each other.

These metaphors of justice and righteousness being like an ever-flowing and powerful down-flow of water is a foreshadowing, too. It reminded the Israelites of the LORD’s plan to send a Messiah whose blood would flow to bring us salvation from our sins and righteousness.  For the Israelites it spoke of God’s judgment, cleansing, and continual provision of cleansing, righteousness, and judgment. For their future, it spoke of His promise of cleansing and a continual provision of life and salvation for all people who believe.

The LORD rejected the Israelites’ worship because it was hypocritical and because of their absence of righteousness and justice. He rejects the worship of people today who are hypocritical and unrighteous. Our worship of God should come from our whole being, not just our body. It should not be mere ritual, but should be real and from our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

·         Do we have the continual flow of God’s righteousness in our lives?
·         Does it show in our actions and words each day?
·         Do you need to unblock the water flow from God and let His justice, righteousness, and mercy flow into your life?

Accusation of Religious Hypocrisy (reprise)

Amos resumed his sermon on the Israelites’ religious hypocrisy. The people of the northern kingdom claimed their election by Yehovah as His holy people, but they did not exclusively choose Yehovah as their God. They worshiped other gods. Because they did that, their worship of the LORD was merely ritual. The Israelites had covenanted to have no other gods except the LORD and not to worship manmade images (Commandments 2 and 3). With verses twenty-five and twenty-six Amos directed the Israelites to their sins of breaking these commandments. He stated in verses twenty-five and twenty-six,

25 “Did you present Me with sacrifices and grain offerings in the wilderness for forty years, O house of Israel? 26 You also carried along Sikkuth, your king, and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves.” [NASB]

In verse twenty-five, the English word “present” comes from the Hebrew word nagash. Nagash means to draw near to God to bring something to Him. Amos asked a question of the Israelites in this verse. Did they draw near to God to bring Him sacrifices? The main part of this question is did they draw near to God. To draw near to God, one must have a repentant heart and genuinely seek Him. God said this to Solomon when He answered his prayer in 2 Chronicles 7:14. The LORD said, “If My people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sins, and will heal their land.” [NASB] To be in His presence, God said people must pray, seek Him, and turn from their wicked ways. In Amos 5:25, Amos asked the people did they draw near to God with sacrifices and grain offerings. If they did, God would accept their offerings and sacrifices. He promised the Israelites if they genuinely sought Him, they would find Him.  

When Amos asked the question in verse twenty-five, he asked if they did it during their forty years wilderness experience. Many times Moses recorded the worship of idols in the wilderness. Moses, too, was the one who gave God’s laws about worship to the Israelites as they wandered. Some people wonder if Amos asked a rhetorical question. Others say it cannot have been rhetorical because the worship regulations were to begin after the Israelites entered the Promised Land according to Numbers 15:1. (Frank Page) What is important about this question by Amos is not so much the timing of the offerings, but their hearts. Did they during their history truly draw near to God? That required a genuine seeking of God with the heart requiring contrition and love for God, not self. Truthful Israelites would mostly have replied in the negative. Since they did not draw near to God, their acts of worship toward God were false and He rejected them.

In verse twenty-six, Amos reminded the Israelites of their idol worship. This harkened back to the Israelites’ worship of golden calves in the wilderness and the gods of Moab when they camped on the eastern side of the Jordan River before entering the Promised Land. It reminded the Israelites of their worshiping false gods during their current time, too. By naming some gods they worshiped during the 750s BC, it showed their unfaithfulness to Yahweh, the God of their ancestors. Amos said they carried along Sikkuth. “Carried along” comes from the Hebrew word nasa’ and means to bear, lift up, and exalt. The Israelites exalted another god. Sikkuth means tent or tabernacle, but it was also a Babylonian deity like Moloch or Saturn, a war god. Amos said the Israelites lifted up and exalted a Babylonian false god, instead of the One God Yahweh. He said they made a star image to represent their god, Kiyyun. Amos was not the only writer to speak of these gods of the Israelites. Acts 7:42-43, written by the apostle Luke, refers to these gods the Israelites worshiped.

The important point Amos made in these two verses is the Israelites did not worship God exclusively. They worshiped other gods and, thus, the ritualistic worship they gave to the LORD was not worship. The people of the northern kingdom did not draw near to the LORD seeking Him with their whole being. Their worship included several gods. For that, Yehovah ‘Elohyim rejected the Israelites’ worship and judged them. They were unrighteous and unjust. The Israelites practiced hypocritical worship. Their election as God’s holy nation would not protect them from the wrath of the One Holy God who is righteous. His righteousness required justice on His enemies. When the Israelites or anyone broke His just laws, judgment would occur.

·         What wrong have you committed that you refuse to admit to yourself? Possibly you keep stuffing it down hoping it will go away. We each have at least one of these wrongs because we are all sinners and are ashamed of our sins.
·         What have you done to try to appease the guilt and make it alright? Did that work?
·         Have you sought God, repented, and found Him and His mercy? He told Solomon about it in the Old Testament and made it a reality for all humankind with the death of His Son, Jesus, in the New Testament.

God’s Certain Judgment (reprise)

Amos prophesied to the Israelites several times up to this point about God’s judgment of them for their sins. In Amos 3:12, 4:2-3, and 5:5, Amos said the people of the northern kingdom of Israel would go into captivity. Lest the Israelites not believe him as they did not believe the other prophets who proclaimed God’s word to them, he said it would certainly come because God swore by His own name (Amos 5:8). With Amos 5:27, Amos again spoke God’s word of judgment on the Israelites. He said in verse twenty-seven,

 27 “‘Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus,’ says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.” [NASB]

With the word “therefore,” God explained something would happen because of Israel’s sins of the preceding verses. His judgment proclaimed they would go into exile beyond Damascus. This told the Israelites which nation would subdue and capture them, the Assyrians. No nation had ever subdued and captured the Israelites. The LORD had fought their battles for them. The Israelites had remained a theocracy, a nation chosen by God and ruled by His laws. Notice this time when an enemy came to the gates of Israel, it would happen because the LORD allowed it. How would the Israelites know this prophecy would occur? Amos stated, “the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts, said it.” Yehovah (the existing One, the I AM), whose name is the ‘Elohiym (the ruler and judge) of hosts said it would happen. ‘Elohiym, the ultimate judge and ruler, would carry out this judgment, not an intermediary. By removing His hand of protection, He willed the Israelites’ conquer and capture. Because there was no justice or righteousness in Israel and they worshiped idols, they would not survive God’s judgment. His judgment would affect all the Israelites of the northern kingdom.

·         When you did something wrong and knew it was wrong, but refused to stop, did you feel God’s censure of your actions and attitudes, of pulling away from Him and what is right? Hardened criminals and addicts show this most easily for discernment.
·         What did you do to stop feeling the guilt God put in your heart and mind because of your wrongdoing? Did that make it go away and you feel better?
·         Is your life now not what you would like because God allowed it since you would not repent and return to a right relationship with Him?

Recap

Amos spent four chapters expanding for the Israelites of the northern kingdom their sins of which God specifically charged them. In Amos 5:18-27, Amos used a chiastic structure to help the Israelites and later readers understand the message of this sermon. God wants all sinners to return to Him, and let His justice and righteousness cleanse them. The Lord wants His righteousness and justice lived out in our lives through our words and actions. God said Israel did not do that. In this section of Amos 5, the Israelites did not worship the LORD with their whole being-heart, soul, mind, and strength-only with empty religious ritual. God said they worshiped false gods and did not worship Him solely. For this, Amos prophesied God’s judgment would certainly happen. If a person ran from a lion, he would meet a bear. If she ran to the safety of her home, a snake would bite her. There was nowhere the Israelites could go where God and His judgment would not find them. It would certainly happen. When the Israelites cried out to the LORD for His day to come upon their enemies, they would realize they, too, were His enemies. The “day of the LORD” would not be the day of celebration they wanted, so they needed to return to a true relationship and worship of God.


Conclusion and Relevance

Though Amos spoke to people who lived in the Middle East over 2800 years ago, we can still apply this lesson to us today. We all sin against other people and God. When we hurt someone, we break one of God’s commandments. Breaking a commandment shows lack of love to God. When we break one of these commandments, which God gave humanity for its orderly and respectful functioning and to lead us to keep our focus on Him, we break all His commandments. James made this point in James 2:1-13. Specifically recall James 2:10,

10 “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” [NASB]

No one can keep the letter of the law perfectly. We are all sinners and keep sinning. Yet God made a way for us to receive cleansing permanently from our sins and guilt. That way came through the death of His Son, Jesus, who took on human form and did not sin in his 33 years of living on earth. Though Jesus faced temptation, He did not sin. Because of God’s love for us, He died a sinner’s death on a cross. Jesus’ crucifixion paid our sin penalty that God’s judgment requires. Romans 6:23 says, 

“The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Death while one remains guilty of sin is permanent, eternal separation from Yehovah, the existing One, I AM. Yehovah is the One who created you and has provided the redemption price for you to live with Him eternally in heaven. He wants to have a relationship with you and so sent His Son to die for you and all people. When you accept Jesus as the Savior of your soul who takes away your sins and believe He is the Son of God, you become a child of God. Paul stated it this way in Galatians 3:26,
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

When we become children of God, we fellowship with Christ. Romans 8:16-17 says this,

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if we indeed suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.” [NASB]

If we live as the Israelites did, we would remain sinful. Our worship of God, if we worshiped Him, would be in vain. Our lives would be fraught with guilt and shame. Our deaths would be permanent. It would be eternal separation from God,
the One who loves you

the One who paid the price for your sin so you could be in a loving relationship with Him

the One who keeps calling to you

Pray
Seek Him
Turn from Your Sin
He will hear You from Heaven
He will forgive Your Sin
He will welcome You to an Eternal Relationship with Him

Let justice flow down like waters
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.