Total Pageviews

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Training and Analyzing

On Hiatus for 2 weeks

Check back on April 14th for a new Bible study. 

During the intervening two weeks, I will be attending a training meeting while also analyzing and study Amos 3-9.

I hope to record and upload a new podcast before I leave for the training.

Pray for me as I am away and as I study the Word.

Thank you.
Gail

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Amos and the Judgment of Israel

Introduction

Amos was a prophet of God from Judah to the northern kingdom of Israel. He spoke the LORD’s charges and judgments against the seven nations surrounding Israel. Amos’ last prophecy was against Israel. Coming from Judah, he saw the sins of Israel better. Being an Israelite, Amos cared about his fellow Israelites. Working as a shepherd, he understood how to love and speak to stubbornness.

Before this judgment of Israel, Amos prophesied against Damascus/Aram, Gaza/Philistia, 
Tyre/Phoenicia, Edom, Ammon, Moab, and Judah. As we learned in the earlier studies of Amos, the people of Aram continually besieged Israel attempting to take their land. We gave them a plaque describing them as “Persecutor”. Philistia raided the Israelites and took land, people, and possessions. The plaque under their name is “Harasser”. Phoenicia broke their covenant of brotherhood with the Israelites established during the reigns of Kings David and Solomon. They kidnapped and sold the people of Israel as slaves. The plaque under their name is “Back-stabber”.

On the eastern side of the Promised Land, Amos prophesied against the Israelites’ other neighbors. He prophesied against Edom, their blood relative through Esau. They harbored and fed their anger against the people of Jacob because Esau did not receive his birthright or blessing from his father, Isaac. The Edomites took any chance they received to attack and not help the Israelites. The plaque under their name on the wall of shame is “Angry”.

Amos then went north in the net he wove around Israel. He prophesied against Ammon, who were blood relatives of Israel through Lot, Abraham’s nephew. The Ammonites were discontent with the land God gave to them. They wanted more and expressed displeasure the Israelites did not give them the land the Amorites had taken from them by force. The Amorites wanted more than the LORD apportioned to them. The plaque under their name on the wall of shame is “Greedy” or “Discontent”.

Moab was the sixth nation against whom Amos prophesied. Lot was their common relative to Israel. The Moabites showed disrespect toward the leaders of God’s people and toward God. Their king burned the bones of a king of Edom. He disrespected God’s anointed leader. King Mesha of the Moabites sacrificed his oldest son to a false god, Chemosh. He did not consider life sacred and did anything to keep his gods appeased. Mesha disrespected people from the line of Abraham and people, in general. The plaque on the wall of shame below the Moabites’ name is “Disrespecter”.

The last nation we studied in Amos’ prophecies was Judah. With Amos’ prophecy against them, he tightened the net on Israel. He brought the rope weaving around Israel inward to finish its final two strokes of the weave. God charged Judah with rejecting Him and His laws and statutes. They allowed the lies of their fathers to lead them astray to follow other gods. The plaque on the wall of shame under Judah’s name is “Rejecter”.

With the first three nations’ prophecies, Amos showed they committed crimes against humanity. With the next three, He showed their sins were crimes against humanity and God. Judah, Amos said, committed crimes against God. They knew Him and His laws, had history with Him, and still worshiped false gods. Because they knew the LORD, their crimes were primarily against the LORD and He judged them more strictly.

With the prophecy against Israel, Amos prophesied God charged them with the seven charges prophesied against the other nations. They persecuted the poor, were greedy and discontent, disrespected other people and rejected God, harassed the judges with corruption and bribes, worshiped false gods, stabbed their own brethren in the back, and persecuted people for whom God told them to protect, the poor. Each of the plaques that hung below the names of the other nations on the wall of shame hung under Israel’s name on that same wall. Let’s consider now who the Israelites of the northern kingdom were, the charge God laid against them, their history, the judgment God proclaimed on them, and the fulfillment of that judgment.

Who was Israel?

The northern kingdom of Israel included people from the ten tribes of Israel who did not want Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, to be their king. They chose not to anoint him their king because he said he would keep their burdens heavy like his father did. In his place, they chose Jeroboam I, Solomon’s servant to be their king (1 Kings 12). This was the fulfillment of God’s judgment spoken by Ahijah against Solomon for erecting altars to foreign gods and idols at the request of his 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:4-13, 29-38).

 Jeroboam I was the king of Israel who established idol worship for his people by having two golden calves made and erected at Dan and Bethel. He did not want his people being influenced by the people of Judah when they went to the temple in Jerusalem to worship. None of the nineteen kings of Israel walked in the ways of God. The writers of the Old Testament recorded all the kings of Israel walked in the ways of Jeroboam. For Ahab, they recorded he did more to provoke the anger of the Lord than all the kings of Israel who went before him. Idol-worshipers and people who forsook the LORD made up most of the people of the northern kingdom of Israel.

The Charge against Israel

You will notice the prophecy against Israel is considerably longer than against any of the first seven nations. The leaders of these children of God did not follow the LORD though He chose them, protected and provided for them, and remained faithful to His covenant with them. God sent four prophets to Israel before Amos. The people momentarily turned to the LORD after they prophesied, but quickly returned to walk in the way established by Jeroboam I and maintained by the succeeding kings.

Amos spoke God’s charge against the Israelites in verses six through eight. He said in these verses,
“Thus says the LORD, ‘For three transgressions of Israel and for four I will not revoke its punishment, because they sell the righteous for money and the needy for a pair of sandals. These who pant after the very dust of the earth on the head of the helpless also turn aside the way of the humble, and a man and his father resort to the same girl in order to profane My holy name. On garments taken as pledges they stretch out beside every altar and in the house of their God they drink wine of those who have been fined.’” [NASB]
Just as he did with the first seven prophecies, Amos started his prophecy against Israel with this phrase, “For three transgressions and for four God would not revoke its punishment.” Israel had amassed sin upon sin and did not stop. Their sins were complete and God, as their loving Father, could not allow anymore without strong punishment.

In this charge are eight indictments against Israel. Verse six includes two. Amos said the Israelites sold the righteous for money and the needy for a pair of sandals. The first charge said Israel bribed its judges to decide in their favor against a person who had a righteous case, whose case would have won on its own merits. God gave a law concerning this in Deuteronomy 16:19. Moses told the Israelites in this verse, “You shall not distort justice, you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous.” [NASB]

The second charge in verse six states the Israelites sold the poor for a pair of sandals. Sandals were nothing like the shoes the rich wore. Back then sandals had soles of wood or bark that fastened to the foot with leather straps. They were basic and poor footwear, not something a rich person would wear. The Israelites took no care whatsoever of the poor and would bribe a judge to rule in their favor if a poor person owed them as little as what a sandal cost. Poverty did not cause them to sink to this desperation, but greed and disrespect for other people. They did not want to take care of the widow, orphan, and foreigner in their land, those who represented the poor, as God instructed them through in Deuteronomy 10:17-19 and 24:19-22. In these passages Moses told them to leave the fallen wheat, olives, and grapes for the poor to glean. He specifically mentioned the alien, widowed, and orphaned. He said God executes justice for the orphan and widow and His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. In Deuteronomy 14:28-29, God told the Israelites every third year to deposit their tithe in their own town to provide for the Levite, alien, orphan, and widow so they can eat and be satisfied. God’s plan was for no one in Israel or of all the Israelites to go without what they needed. He commanded His people show love and justice to all who live in the land, not just the wealthy, but the poor, too.

With verse seven, God indicted the people of Israel of three other sins. Amos said they influenced the humble to stray from God’s laws and statutes regarding taking care of the poor. That the rich would even seek to take the dirt the poor put on their heads in misery and mourning speaks scathingly against them. By influencing others to follow in their ways, they were no better than their kings and the pagan nations around them who followed their own desires. The people of Israel abused the poor and corrupted the judicial system of their nation. They broke God’s laws set up to let them live in peace and contentment. The people of Israel influenced people to stray from God’s laws and statutes and lead them to mistreat the poor.

On top of this, verse seven said the fathers and sons resorted to the same girl. This action speaks to two sins. First, like a son sleeping with his father’s wife of which Moses told them God commanded them not to do in Deuteronomy 22:30. In this passage, Moses said, “A man shall not take his father’s wife so that he will not uncover his father’s skirt.” It was an act of incest and an attempt to usurp his father’s position in the family and community. The second sin to which this passage speaks is worshiping false gods. The girl spoken of in this verse refers to a cultic temple prostitute. Worship of Baal and Asherah involved lying with temple prostitutes. When the men did this, it was an act of worship to those false gods. Verse seven speaks of influencing the humble to be disobedient to God by mistreating the poor, usurping a leader’s/father’s role in the community/family, and worshiping false gods.


With verse eight, God indicted them further about their mistreatment of the poor, worshiping false gods, and reveling with ill-gained goods. The first part of verse eight speaks to the first two charges. In Deuteronomy 24:10-13 & 17, Moses proclaimed God’s law regarding loans. He said in Deuteronomy 24:10-13,
“When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not enter his house to take his pledge. If he is a poor man, you shall not sleep with his pledge. When the sun goes down you shall surely return the pledge to him that he may sleep in his cloak and bless you, and it will be righteousness for you before the LORD your God.” [NASB]
For a person to pledge his or her cloak for a loan meant they had nothing else of value to offer as guarantee of repayment. Taking a person’s cloak was more than taking his coat. It meant taking his blanket that kept him warm at night, too. That person had no other bed linen and would be cold. It would create an unnecessary hardship for the person. God did not want that for His people and the foreigners who lived in Israel. Besides this, using a person’s cloak to lie down beside every altar, not the LORD’s altar, defiled the person’s cloak and showed disregard for it and the person. It showed disregard and disrespect for the LORD who brought them out of slavery and provided every good thing for them. Remember, the people of Israel had two main temples, one in Dan and one in Bethel, and neither of them was a temple of the LORD. They were temple with idols of calves. Besides these, the people of the northern kingdom worshiped the gods of the nations surrounding them – Chemosh, Baal, Asherah, and Molech/Milcom. God charged them with worshiping false gods and not Him.

Added to this, the final part of verse eight says they drank the wine received by illegally fining people in the houses of their gods. The ill-gotten gains became festal food and drink before their false gods. Produce from the grapes God provided the people of Israel to use for their thirst and His offering became the property of unrighteous people through corruption. The sinful Israelite used it to worship his or her own gods. That was a slap in the face of the LORD and the person to whom the wine originally belonged.

The people of the northern kingdom of Israel oppressed and abused the poor. They corrupted the justice system with bribery and intentional misjudgment. These unrighteous people used their ill-gotten gains to worship false gods instead of allowing the people to whom God gave them to praise Him for their provision. The Israelites corruption, greed, abuse and oppression of the poor, back-stabbing, jealousy and discontent, disrespect of people and God, and willful and stubborn rejection of Yahweh, the God of their fathers, harmed the poorest of society and influenced others to walk away from the righteousness of God. It led the northern kingdom to fall into further depravity just as each of their kings influenced them.

We need to consider if similar things occur in our time. Since Amos spoke this to Israel for them to reflect upon themselves and their sins, we as the readers of this book should consider ourselves and our time to see if we sin in like manner. Let’s consider a few possibilities to jog our memories.

·         Do we exact absolute repayment of a loan and seek further retribution if it’s not paid? Or do we offer grace to the person?
·         Do we influence people not to walk moral lives by a small indiscretion? People watch you as you live and often imitate you thinking it must be okay or I won’t be caught because they are doing it and not getting caught.
·         Have you ever bribed someone for a favor whether not to get a speeding ticket, get reprimanded at work, or not to fail a class?
·         Are there leaders of nations who are corrupt and have not gone to trial because of their connections in the country? They influence the morals of the people of their nation and often other nations.
·         Have you ever used something God gave you for your basic needs without giving God praise for it and thanking Him?

We can each relate to these instances and recall others we have seen happen. When we are the recipients of unfair treatment, we rail at the mistreatment. When we are the perpetrators, as Israel often was, how often do we heed to God’s pricking of our conscience. God said in this charge Israel more often than not did not heed Him, repent, and turn away from sin toward Him.

Before we go further in our study, we should realize something is different in this prophecy than in the other seven we studied. The format is different. In this prophecy, the LORD recited His history of what He did for them. He reminded Israel of who He is and had been for them, how they had what they did. In no other prophecy by Amos did God recite his history with the people, not even with Judah.

A History of God for the Israelites (and their Response)

In verses nine through eleven, God reminded the Israelites of what He had done for them and who He made them to be. Amos said in Amos 2:9-11,
“‘Yet, it was I [God] who destroyed the Amorite before them, though his height was like the height of cedars and he was strong as the oaks; I even destroyed his fruit above and his root below. It was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, and I led you in the wilderness forty years that you might take possession of the land of the Amorite. Then I raised up some of your sons to be prophets and some of your young men to be Nazarites. Is this not so, O sons of Israel?’ declares the LORD.” [NASB]
God recalled for the Israelites that He annihilated the Amorites and their kings Sihon and Og (Numbers 21:23-25 and Joshua 10:12). Even though the Amorites held themselves up, prided themselves, as being much greater than the Israelites and stronger than the strongest tree (the oak), the LORD God utterly destroyed them. God thought even to remove its root, its permanence and resolve, and its fruit, its descendants and actions in the future. The LORD had taken care of this big enemy.

Besides this, Yahweh brought them from Egypt. After their four hundred years of captivity and abuse, His greatness, might, and power won their freedom from slavery. The LORD led them out of slavery and led them to the Promised Land providing what they needed on their journey – courage, faith, food, drink, clothes, protection, and guidance. He carried them for forty years even though the spies’ lack of faith caused them to have to wander those extra years; God did not leave them to perish. The LORD led them to the land of the Amorite and gave them the land as their possession, dispossessing the Amorites, and making it an inheritance for the Israelites and their descendants.

Added to this, the LORD provided leaders and messengers to continue to guide them and help them understand His will. He raised up prophets to be spokesmen for Him (Deuteronomy 18:18). The LORD consecrated and devoted men and women to Him and His service as Nazarites (Numbers 6:2-3). These men and women would be like Moses and Aaron were to the Israelites. The prophets would speak as the LORD willed His people to hear from Him. Nazarites would live lives devoted solely to Him as examples and be judges for God to the people of Israel.

The LORD provided everything the Israelites needed including His leaders. He gave them food, drink, and clothing. God fulfilled His promise and gave them a land to call their own - their inheritance. He made them into a nation and called them His children. Yahweh realized temptation would entice the Israelites to follow in the ways of the people in the surrounding nations. He knows the weaknesses of humans and made sure a continual witness about Him, His works and love, and His promise for their descendants remained with the Israelites. Yahweh, I AM, was their past, present, and future.

How did Israel act in spite of these reminders? Amos told us the Israelites’ response to God’s faithfulness and promises to them. In Amos 2:12, he said,
“But you made the Nazirites drink wine, and you commanded the prophets saying, ‘You shall not prophesy!’” [NASB]
The Nazirites, in their vow of consecration and devotion to the LORD, swore off drinking wine and cutting their hair. Their devotion to the LORD by not drinking wine made them obvious among the people who drank wine. Wine was a common drink of the time because the water was not always potable. Everyone drank some wine though most drank it watered down. The Nazirites ingested nothing of the grape at all. The people of Israel knew whatever the Nazirite did and said represented the will of God and led them in the ways of the LORD. By getting the Nazirites drunk, the Israelites caused two things to happen. First, the man or woman of God would lose his or her senses and inhibitions and his or her actions would not always bring glory to the LORD. The Israelites did this to the Nazarites to bring them down to their own sinful level. It caused the Nazarites to become unconsecrated and blemished before God, too. It made them sinners. The Israelites determined if they could not beat the righteousness of another person, they would tempt or trick them to bring them down to their own level of sinfulness.

Of the prophets, Amos said the unrighteous Israelites commanded them not to prophesy. They gave orders from the legal authorities of the land not to speak the words of God or else face physical punishment. These Israelites wanted no one influenced to follow the ways of the LORD and perhaps see their own acts as sinful and requiring a call to repentance and return to God. These people did not want to hear the charge and condemnation by God for the wrong they did. If they could keep the prophet from telling them God’s charge and judgment, then they would be okay, they thought. What they had not heard they could not be accountable for, was their idea. God’s recounting of their history with Him showed that defense would not stand.

The sinful Israelites could not be like ostriches who buried their heads in the sand when faced with an opponent. They knew God and His Law and they intentionally broke it. Whether or not God sent a judge, prophet, or Nazarite to them, they knew His Law and their sin, and knew God would judge and punish them. God did not stop sending prophets to speak His charges and judgments on Israel. God gave them these gifts - His special anointed messengers - but they perverted the messengers.

·         Maybe you say to yourself, I didn’t cause someone to get drunk, or I didn’t drug them to bring them to my level. Yet, if you have done anything to decrease a person’s worth or value at work or in the community, you have done this same thing. You did it so you wouldn’t appear so bad.
·         Have you pointed your finger at someone who drove through a red light making sure your passenger saw them breaking the law? Did it make you remember a time when you were impatient and ran a red light?
·         Have you ever encouraged a person to have just one more drink even though they didn’t want one and knew it would affect their reflexes and rationing ability?
·         Have you ever known someone who dared another person to take a small item from a shop without paying as a dare? Was that right? If you were there, would you have stood with the person who dared or the person who felt small if he or she didn’t act on the dare?

Each of us has done something like what God charged of Israel. We each are sinful and can relate to what God said. Will our courage see us through to live with the consequences from our loving Father?

The History of Israel

As noted above in the section called "Who was Israel", the people of the northern kingdom of Israel followed the ways of King Jeroboam I and their subsequent kings. They worshiped false gods and idols. They lived sinfully like the pagan nations around them participating in cultic prostitution, selling people into slavery, and striving to enrich themselves letting nothing get in their way.

Before Amos and his time of prophesying for the LORD around 752 BC, four other prophets of the LORD spoke to the northern kingdom. These prophets were Ahijah, Elijah, Elisha, and Micaiah. Each prophet spoke God’s charge against them of turning away from Him and His laws and statutes. Each time they told the Israelites God would hear them if they repented and turned from their wicked ways. With Amos’ arrival as God’s prophet around 752 BC, only thirty years remained before their captivity by the Assyrians. At the same time as Amos, God sent Hosea, a man from the northern kingdom, to prophesy to the Israelites. The Israelites refused to repent and return to a right relationship with the LORD.

The kings continued to influence and lead the people of Israel further away from the LORD. God’s charge always comes with a subsequent judgment. The Israelites knew what would happen for their stubborn and stiff-necked refusal to return to a right relationship with God.

We need to consider times when we did not heed the rules and laws and received judgment for it.

·         As a child living at home, did you always obey your parents? What happened when they found you disobeyed? Did they restrict you to your room or the house? Did you lose allowance or have to work around the house to pay for what you broke?
·         As an adult, when you drove faster than the speed limit, did you receive a speeding ticket and have to pay a large fine?
·         Did you ever refuse to follow God’s statutes, gossip and back-stab someone, then feel the negative effects of it when someone called you on it and you lost face in your circle of friends?

Even today we fail to follow morals and laws of the land and we fall away from following the Lord. We are sinners just like Israel. Are we ready to turn around, repent, and return to God? Let’s consider now God’s judgment against Israel for the sins with which He charged them.

The Judgment of God

What would God do with such an evil kingdom? His mercy and grace given to Israel from the reign of Jeroboam I onward did not lead them to see His love and desire and incline them to return that love via obedience. Just as any loving parent must discipline his or her child, God would do that to Israel and any person who sins, too. Though He sent five prophets specifically to Israel and a couple more, like Isaiah, to both kingdoms, and though the Israelites knew God’s judgment through each of those prophets, they did not fear the LORD. They did not consider His great love would bring punishment upon them. Let’s consider God’s judgment as Amos prophesied it.

Amos said in Amos 2:13-16,
“‘Behold, I am weighted down beneath you as a wagon is weighted down when filled with sheaves. Flight will perish from the swift, and the stalwart will not strengthen his power, nor the mighty man save his life. He who grasps the bow will not stand his ground; the swift of foot will not escape, nor will he who rides the horse save his life. Even the bravest among the warriors will flee naked in the day,’ declares the LORD.” [NASB]
The first thing in these verses we need to note is God’s mental picture of His burden because of Israel’s sin. Just as any loving parent carries burden when a child’s decision results in him or her leaving the path on which they taught the child to live, the LORD carried a similar burden for Israel. God said he was weighted down like a wagon when filled with sheaves of wheat. His heart felt crushed by the burden because He loved them so much. God’s heart was heavy because of the Israelites’ sins against Him, their rebellion. They disregarded, disrespected, and discarded Him as their LORD. God was not physically crushed because that is impossible though He was tired and burdened by their sins and loved them still. Jesus illustrated this burden well in the parable of the prodigal son found in Luke 15:11-32. Just as the father trained his son and hoped he would live as he trained him, he did not stop loving him because he walked away from his family and training. The father loved his son and watched for him each day. The father carried a burden for his son who was in the world somewhere, but lost to him. He loved his son so much that he carried a burden of care for his safety and for his lack of relationship with him at that time. The LORD still loved Israel, but carried a burden because they turned their backs on Him. The Israelites did not want a relationship with Him or to live in the way He taught them. God’s judgment on them showed his patience and mercy grew thin because of their stubborn and intentional sins against Him and His laws, but His love never gave up on them. It was from His love that His judgment came.

The LORD through Amos used the analogy of warriors in His judgment of the northern kingdom. He said in three ways in verses fourteen and fifteen that no one would escape His judgment. The swift of foot, those who run quickly, would not find a place to escape away from the judgment. God’s judgment would occur and it would happen swiftly when they were not expecting it. These people would not avoid His judgment.

Neither the stalwart-the strong and mighty-nor the bravest man would defeat God’s plan for judgment with the coming army. God is too powerful for man to defeat. Even the brave man in his bravery would not defeat the oncoming judgment of the LORD. God would stand strong until His accomplished His will.

The archer would not endure-remain standing-against the LORD without Him prevailing.  He battles from far away, but he would not save himself. The swift of foot, like the messenger, would not escape God’s judgment. God would prevail against the one who tried to sneak away quietly and swiftly. The man on a horse such as a cavalryman could not escape His judgment; God would catch him. In these ways, by distance, by stealth and by swiftness, Israel would not escape God’s judgment. He is greater, stronger, swifter, and mightier than any person.

In the end, Amos said, even the bravest would flee. He added to this. In their attempts to run faster, they would discard their armor and clothes reduce the hindrance of any excess weight. Even the bravest would know he could not stand against God and so would try to flee by doing the most he could, discarding the clothes that weighed him down and hindered him in any way.

The latter gives a visual image that is almost humorous, but God was not laughing. The Israelites had rebelled for so long against God and His laws and statutes, God would have to do something dramatic and powerful to get them to see, hear, and obey Him. Did the Israelites’ attention turn to the LORD after Amos’ prophecies? Did they ever recognize their sinfulness or were they too hardened? History tells us the rest of this story.

What about us today?

·         Do we hear God when He tells us not to do something?
·         Do we shrug Him off and do what we want anyway?
·         What repercussions arose because you did not follow God?

The Fulfillment of God’s Judgment against Israel

During King Hoshea’s reign (732-721 BC) as the last king of the northern kingdom, Shalmaneser V of Assyria came against Israel. Second Kings 17:3 notes this. The fulfillment of God’s judgment began happening. Hoshea became Shalmaneser’s vassal and paid him tribute (2 Kings 17:3). After a while Hoshea conspired against Assyria with the king of Egypt and gave no tribute to Assyria. Because of this, Shalmaneser V bound him into prison (2 Kings 17:4).

Shalmaneser V invaded the whole northern kingdom and besieged Samaria for three years. During that time, Shalmaneser V vanished from the history annals and his brother Sargon II came to power. Sargon II finished the siege of Samaria, the capital of Israel, and took Israel into exile in Halah and Habor of Assyria (2 Kings 17:5-6).

Notice in 2 Kings 17:7-18, the writer noted God always reminded His people why His judgment came. In these verses, God said the people of Israel sinned against Him, feared other gods, and walked in the customs of the nations the LORD cast out of Canaan. The Israelites built high places (temple and altars) in their cities. They set up sacred pillars and wooden idols an every high hill and under every green tree. They burned incense to the idols and lived like the nations the LORD had carried away before them. The Israelites served idols. They were stubborn and rejected God’s statutes and covenant. The Israelites left the commandments of the LORD and made molded images and two calves. They sacrificed their children to the gods of the surrounding nations. These provoked the LORD to anger, and He allowed Assyria to carry them away as captives exiled to a foreign land.

By 721 BC, the Israelites of the northern kingdom were in captivity. They remained there until about 537 BC when they Ezra mentioned in Ezra 2:28 and Nehemiah spoke in Nehemiah 12:44-47 about them returning with Judah and Levi.

What is your history with God? If you are like most people, it has been a journey with ups and downs. The ups are times when you were close to the Lord and walked in His ways. There was ease in life even when you walked through difficulties. The downs are the times when you forgot the Lord, went after what you wanted, met difficulties, and wondered why God left you. The question should have been, “Where did I leave God and how can I get back there?” That is what Israel did not ask themselves and they received punishment from the LORD for over 70 years.   
      

Recap

The northern kingdom of Israel occurred as a split in the nation of Israel when the elders of the ten northern tribes rejected Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, as their king. Instead they chose Jeroboam I, Solomon’s servant, to be their king. Jeroboam I instituted idol worship and its priesthood within the northern kingdom. He established places of worship at Dan and Bethel so his people would not venture to Jerusalem and be influenced by them. From Jeroboam’s epitaph at the end of his life through the lives of the other 18 kings of the northern kingdom, we understand each of the kings rebelled against God, caused their people to rebel, and provoked God to anger.

Because of this rebellion and stubbornness of heart, God sent seven prophets to prophesy to and about Israel. He wanted them to recognize their sin and Him as their God. The LORD wanted the people to return to covenant faithfulness with Him. He spent seven prophecies in Amos 1 and 2 describing and charging the surrounding nations with their sins and their judgment because of their sins. God wanted the Israelites to recognize their sinfulness, repent, and return to a right relationship with Him before His judgment befell them.

While issuing His charge and judgment on the northern kingdom of Israel, the LORD reminded the people of who He had been for them, what He had done for them, who He continued to be, and what His promise to them was. He recounted their sins and told them His judgment because of those sins. The LORD explained no one would escape from the judgment and it would come upon them without warning.

Conclusion

As we learned from history, the judgment came upon the people of the northern kingdom just thirty years after Amos’ prophecy. They could not say they did not expect it because they heard the prophecy. The judgment caught the people off-guard because they did not believe God would fulfill it. They had been so long without knowing the LORD as their God that they had limited belief and understanding.

Judgment can seem to come along unexpected and swiftly against us and we wonder why those bad things happened. Yet, if we stay in tune with the LORD, stay in a right relationship with Him and obey Him, then 1) we will know the LORD, 2) we will take Him at His word, and 3) we will not experience surprise. None of these occurred to Israel because they were stubborn and had hardened their hearts against Him.

What should we take from this lesson? We must consider the sins God charged against each of the nations and recognize we could be any of them. Each of us is a sinner and wants to go our own way. It takes daily walking with God to keep us from straying afar and sinning. The more we sin, the more we want to sin. With no growth in our fellowship with the Lord, there will be little awareness of our sin and need to return to Him. As we continue to push the pricks of our consciences away, shrugging them off with a shake of our heads or shoulders, we become more hardened by sin toward God. We become more like Aram, Philistia, Phoenicia, Edom, Ammon, and Moab.

Because we know the Lord now, when we sin repeatedly, we become more like Judah and Israel. We have greater sin because our sins are against our Lord and His laws. If we were not children of the Lord, our sin would not be as great, because we did not have knowledge of Him. This is why God holds pastors and teachers to a greater accountability, because they can influence other people to follow them, either in sin toward or submission to God. James 3:1 says this and the rest of the chapter gives multiple examples. James said in James 3:1, “Let not many of you become teaches, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” God held Israel and Judah to a stricter judgment because they had a covenant with Him. They knew Him and His laws and statutes.

We have a covenant with the Lord if we have faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. God will hold us accountable to a stricter judgment. Just as the Israelites were to be a light to the nations about their LORD God, we should be a light to the nations about the Lord. The question remains –
What are we going to do about it?
Will you continue walking in rebellion to God refusing to follow Him like Israel?
Or, will you choose to get to know God, grow in your relationship with Him, and show your love to Him by your obedience to Him through the power of His Holy Spirit living in you?
It is as simple as that.
If you do not have saving faith in Jesus Christ, but want to know more and receive the power to overcome temptation, here is what you need to do –



1.      Admit to God you are a sinner and repent, turning away from your sin.
a.       Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.”
b.      Romans 6:23 says, “We deserve death as the judgment for our sins, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
2.      Believe Jesus is God’s Son and accept God’s gift of forgiveness from sin.
a.       Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
b.      John 3:16 says, “God loves the world so much that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.”
3.      Confess your faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
a.       Romans 10:9-10 & 13 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” “For whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
It is as simple as that.
You have two choices
Believe and Grow in the Lord or
Fall away from God, sin and receive His judgment.

Now is the time to pray seeking God.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Amos and the Judgment of Judah

Introduction

In the previous seven Bible studies in this series on the book of Amos, we learned about the history of Israel and their surrounding nations at the time Amos prophesied and about the first six prophecies he pronounced against Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab. While studying these passages of the book of Amos we learned the prophet spoke to the Israelites, not the judged nations. God used Amos to speak to Israel about the surrounding nations for a reason-to lead them to see their sin and return to a right relationship with Him before He judged them, too.

As Amos prophesied against the nations around Israel, he created a net that drew closer to Israel trying to draw their attention to their sins. He began with a prophecy of God’s judgment against Damascus and all of Aram. They continually beleaguered Israel with assaults on their land and people. A plaque under Philistia’s name on a wall of shame would say “persecutor”.

Amos then prophesied about Gaza and all Philistia. They persistently raided the Promised Land to take land, people, and possessions. Philistia harassed the Israelites. The plaque under Philistia’s name on the wall of shame would say “harasser”.

Following Gaza, Amos prophesied against Tyre and all Phoenicia. They broke their covenant of brotherhood with Israel. The Phoenicians were two-faced and worked with Philistia to kidnap and sell the people of Israel as slaves with the help of Edom as intermediaries. The plaque under Phoenicia’s name on the wall of shame would say “back-stabber”.

After weaving the net on the northern, western, and southwestern borders of Israel, Amos began weaving the net together on the eastern side of Israel. He prophesied against Edom after Tyre. Edom kept and fed its anger against Jacob and his descendants for over a thousand years. They chose to retell the story of Esau not receiving his birthright and blessing as the firstborn son of Isaac. Edom took every opportunity they got to attack and not help the Israelites. Under Edom’s name on the wall of shame a plaque would say “angry”.

Next Amos wove the net to Ammon. The people of Ammon were blood relatives of Israel through Abraham’s nephew, Lot. The Ammonites were discontent. They were not happy with the land God gave them and their brother nation, Moab. Ammon experienced displeasure with Israel after they defeated King Sihon of the Amorites. Sihon stole their land and the Israelites did not return it to Ammon when they defeated him. They wanted more than God gave them from the basin below the Dead Sea to the Arnon River. The plaque that would go on the wall of shame under Ammon’s name would say “greedy” or “discontent”.

The last prophecy of Amos we studied was against Moab. Moabites came from the line of Lot. Moab was the big brother to Ben-ammi. The people of Moab showed disrespect toward the leaders of God’s people and toward God. King Mesha burned the bones of a king of Edom. He sacrificed his son by fire to his god, Chemosh. Mesha did not consider life sacred and did anything to keep the gods from being angry. He disrespected people from the line of Abraham and people, in general. The plaque on the wall of shame under Moab’s name would say “disrespect”.

So far, we understand Amos prophesied against these nations showing they were persecutors, harassers, back-stabbers, angry, greedy or discontent, and dis-respecters of people and God. Notice the first three nations’ crimes are against humans. The last three crimes are against humans and God. God, too, would judge each nation for worshiping false gods.

With Amos’ prophecy of judgment against Judah, he spoke for the first time about a crime concerning their relationship with the LORD. Through this prophecy, Amos wove his net much closer to his hearers, the people of the northern kingdom of Israel. Surely by this point they would have recognized God’s charges against the other nations were indictments against them for their own sin, too.

Today’s Bible study will help us learn the charge the LORD laid against Judah. We will understand the history behind the charge. We will study the LORD’s judgment against Judah and His fulfilling that judgment. Finally, we will understand what God wanted the Israelites to understand about this prophecy and what He wanted them to do. We then will apply that lesson to our own lives. Join me in this Bible study about Judah, the “rejecters.”

Who was Judah?

Judah originally was the fourth son of Jacob by his first wife, Leah. The name Judah means “praised”. Judah’s tribe was the largest of the Israelites. When this tribe received their share of the Promised Land, they received the largest amount of land in the southern part of Israel. Joshua gave part of Judah’s land portion to Simeon because it was too large for the tribe of Judah to manage on their own (Joshua 19). Judah’s tribal land wholly surrounded the land Simeon’s tribe received. In time, Simeon and Judah’s tribes melded as one. Some of Simeon’s tribe moved to Israel, and some stayed in Judah. To the north of Judah’s tribal land laid Benjamin’s land. These tribal lands made up the southern kingdom of Judah about whom Amos prophesied in this prophecy.

The Charge against Judah

In the six earlier prophecies against the other nations, God charged the nations with crimes against people. The charge against Judah is different. Their sin is against their LORD, the God who rescued them from Egypt, called them His people, made them into a nation, and gave them a land. God did not pronounce a charge against the others nations stating they worshiped other gods and rebelled against Him. With Judah, because they were God’s people, His children, their chief crime was their actions against God and His Law. The other nations did not know the LORD as their God and He did not give them His Law by which to live. Yahweh wanted the Israelites, in their faithfulness to Him, to be the beacon of light that led people of other nations to seek and follow Him. Because the Israelites were God’s people and received His Law, any part of the Law they broke was sin against God.

With this understanding, of what did God charge the people of Judah? In Amos 2:4, Amos prophesied,

“Thus says the LORD, ‘For three transgressions of Judah and for four I will not revoke its punishment because they rejected the law of the LORD and have not kept His statutes; their lies have led them astray, those after which their fathers walked.’” [NASB]

As we have studied in the previous six prophecies by Amos, Judah had measured sin upon sin and their sin was complete. They had a full measure of their sin and God, as loving and righteous Father, had to charge and judge them for it. His punishment was due and right. Amos said God would not revoke it; He would not put it aside. In God’s mercy and grace, He pardoned them repeatedly, but Judah continued to sin. The LORD stated Judah rejected His law and did not keep His statutes. From understanding the Hebrew words, we learn the word “rejected” means to despise and refuse, to cast off as not pertinent to one's self. The Judahites considered God’s law and statutes had no worth for their lives. They disregarded and rejected them as having no purpose in their lives. God’s Law given to the Judahites at Mount Sinai around 1350-1400 BC, to which their ancestors bound themselves in covenant to the LORD, held no worth for them in 760-750 BC. They were irrelevant and rejected. The Judahites rejected Yahweh’s laws and statutes as pertinent and part of their lives. They refused to keep them that is guard, treasure, observe, and obey them. They believed the lies saying the laws and statutes of God had no worth, relevance, or purpose in their lives. The Judahites, like their fathers, allowed other people and their ideas to lead them away from the LORD and their covenant with Him.

Imagine how that must feel. If the Israelites received betrayed by Tyre for breaking their covenant of brotherhood, how would the LORD feel when the Israelites broke their covenant of love with Him? With the other six prophecies, Amos spoke of the nations and drew logistically closer to Israel each time. With each prophecy, he wanted them to understand each sin because the people of the nations became more closely related to them in locality and by bloodline. Tyre had a covenant of brotherhood with them. Edom, Moab, and Ammon had a covenant based on blood relationship with the Israelites. Now with Judah, God showed their agreement, their covenant, was closer than all the others. It was with the God who chose, rescued, protected and provided for, and who fulfilled His covenant of love with them. The covenant between the Israelites and God was a covenant of the heart and soul. It did not just affect the physical being. The Israelites could have added another plaque to their wall of shame with Judah’s picture and a plaque under it saying “rejecters”.

Consider Israel’s perspective on Judah as they heard God’s charge against them. At first they may have pointed their fingers at Judah because their king, Rehoboam, caused the divided kingdom to occur. They may have mocked them for corrupting their worship of the LORD by following the “ways of their fathers”–idolatry-though they acted devout with their holy temple to God. The people of Israel may have snubbed their noses at the people of Judah. God wanted Israel’s attention. Maybe He got it. Maybe some of the people of the northern kingdom understood what God said to them with this prophecy. The people of the northern kingdom had chased after and worshiped other gods as a nation for over 200 years, since Jeroboam I. What God charged of the people of Judah applied to them, too. This explains why Amos prophesied to the people of Israel about Judah.

Why is this important for us to know? Are we supposed to apply it to ourselves today? Let’s consider this closer by thinking about these questions.

·         Do you allow your faith to guide your daily actions, decisions, and words?
·         Do you consider the laws of the Bible are irrelevant in a 21st century world of technology and globalized markets?
·         Do you live as if the ends always justify the means?
·         Have you ever taken something from your place of employment-stationery, food, clothes, etc.?
·         Have you ever lied so you could “save face” or get whatever it was you wanted?
·         Have you intentionally undercut someone so you would look better on the job and get the promotion, award, or recommendation?

Each of these is against the laws and statutes of God. They come from greed, disrespect of other people, and discontent, and lead to the betrayal of people who we call friends and disrespect of God. The charge God laid against Judah is very valid for each of us today. We live in a world of Darwinian exercise; the strong overcome and the weak perish. Let’s look closer at the history of God’s charge against Judah. We will see better why God charged them as He did.

The History of Judah

Remember, as a united nation, the palace of the king of Israel stood in the city of Jerusalem of Judah. The temple of the LORD stood in Jerusalem, too. As a nation, we do not see the people of the southern kingdom of Judah sin against the LORD like the people of the northern kingdom. With King Solomon’s permission to his wives from other nations to worship their own gods, he brought in the wholesale worship of false gods rather than Yahweh. He made it permissible for the people of Judah to worship false gods, too (1 Kings 11:4-7). First Kings 11:4-7 says,

“For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods, and his heart was not wholly devoted to the LORD his God as the heart of David his father had been. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not follow the LORD fully, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech, the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon.” [NASB]
Solomon was the first king of all the Israelites who actively worshiped other gods and his leadership led his people to accept it and worship them, too. That does not mean the Israelites of either kingdom did not worship false gods before the time of Solomon though. Consider these passages from the Old Testament.

1.      Exodus 32 – While the Israelites were in the wilderness and Moses was on Mount Sinai, the people made golden calves and worshiped them.
2.      Numbers 25:1-3 – While the Israelites encamped at Moab before crossing the Jordan River, they offered sacrifices to the god of Moab, Baal of Peor, and slept with their women.
3.      Judges 2:12-13 – The Israelites worshiped idols like the surrounding nations and forsook God.
4.      Judges 2:17-20 – The Israelites again followed other gods to serve and bow down to them. They did not abandon their stubborn ways. The anger of the LORD burned against them.
5.      Judges 6:25-30 – Gideon tore down the altar to Baal and the Asherah pole. This shows the people worshiped false gods.
6.      Judges 10:6 – The Israelites worshiped idols and forsook God.
7.      1 Samuel 7:3-4, 12:10 – Because the Israelites worshiped foreign gods, the LORD allowed the Philistines to take the Ark of the Covenant.

The nations surrounding Israel heavily influenced them to worship their gods and idols. This is why God told them to wipe out all the people and tear down and burn their altars, idols, and places of worship when they took the land of Canaan for themselves.

For Judah, the acceptance by Solomon of other gods brought acceptability of it into the southern kingdom. He opened the door for the people who had the temple of God in their midst to consider other gods, fear them, and offer sacrifices to them. Solomon reigned as king from 970-931 BC. After him, nineteen kings and one queen reigned until Judah’s exile into captivity by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Of these twenty monarchs, God considered twelve of them bad-not following His ways and leading their people away from Him. Consider these instances as examples of the increasing attitude of the Judahites to worship false gods.

1.      1 Kings 14:22-24 – During King Rehoboam’s reign (931-913 BC), Judah built high places and sacred pillars to worship false gods and Asherim. They had male cult prostitutes, too.
2.      1 Kings 15:1-8 – During Abijam’s (Abijah) reign (913-911 BC), he and the Judahites followed other gods as his father, Rehoboam, did.
3.      1 Kings 15:9-15 – During Asa’s reign (911-870 BC), he put away the male cult prostitutes and removed every the idols his fathers made. He removed his mother from being Queen mother because she made images to Asherah. Asa cut down the Asherah images and burned them, but he did not take away the high places for worship of other gods.
4.      2 Kings 11:18 – Queen Athaliah, who reigned 841-835 BC, worshiped Baal and set up altars and images of it.
5.      2 Kings 17:19, 2 Chronicles 28:1-4 – King Ahaz, who reigned 732-716 BC, worshiped other gods, walked in the ways of Canaan and Israel, offered human sacrifices, burned his sons as a sacrifice in a fire to Molech, and practiced divination. He did not listen to God’s prophets, rejected God’s statutes and covenant, and followed vanity.
6.      Hosea 12:2 – Hosea said all the Israelites sacrificed to Baals and burned incense to idols.
7.      Isaiah 1 – Isaiah prophesied during Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah’s reigns (742-687 BC). He spoke God’s prophecy against all Israelites for idol worship.
8.      Micah 5:14 – Micah spoke during the reigns of Kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (740-687 BC). He prophesied God would root out the Asherim from among Judah and Samaria and destroy their cities.
9.      Isaiah 28:15 – During Hezekiah’s reign, Isaiah prophesied Judah made falsehood a refuge and concealed their selves with deception.
10.  2 Kings 21:3 – During the reign of Manasseh (687-642 BC), the king and Judah did evil in the sight of the LORD. They rebuilt the high places his father, Hezekiah, tore down. He erected altars for Baals and made Asherah images and worshiped all the host of heaven.
11.  2 Kings 22:11-20, & 23:4-7, 13-14 – During the reign of King Josiah (640-608 BC), the book of the Law was found. Josiah read the book, tore his clothes in repentance, and God promised he would be gathered to his fathers before His judgment would come upon Judah. Josiah destroyed all the vessels used in the worship of Baal, Asherah, and the hosts of heaven and the high places of Ashtoreth, Chemosh, and Milcom. He broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim.
12.  Jeremiah 6:19, 8:9, 9:14, 16:11-12, 19 – During the reigns of Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiakin, and Zedekiah, who reigned from 608-586 BC, Jeremiah prophesied about Judah. He said they did not listen to the LORD’s words and rejected His Law. They walked after Baals as their fathers taught them and were stubborn of heart. These kings followed, served, and bowed down to other gods. They did more evil than their fathers.
13.  Ezekiel 20:21 – During Zedekiah’s reign, in about 590 BC, Ezekiel noted Zedekiah and the Judahites rebelled against the LORD, did not walk in His statutes, and profaned the Sabbath.

This list seems to show an increasing tendency of Judah toward leaving the LORD and following the ways of their own hearts. We can see that happened though not all the leaders and people of Judah rebelled against God. God sent prophets and other wise men and women to recall for them who Yahweh had been for them, their covenant with Him, and His faithfulness to them. That God-appointed servant then challenged and called them to return to the one true God, not the ways of the world. The people around them worshiped false gods that had no power and only offered fear, not peace.

God wanted Israel to hear this message. That was Amos’ purpose for speaking these prophecies to them. God wanted them to see that He charged each of the nations with sins they committed against Him, too. Judah, the “rejecters,” could be their plaque, too.

Today we see this happens even more. Many people reject God and His laws and statutes. They consider him imaginary and the laws irrelevant. These people feel they can pick what they follow and no moral right or wrong-no moral compass-exists. What would God say to that idea now? What did God say to the people of Judah then? Let’s consider His judgment of Judah, what He would do as punishment to bring them back to a right relationship with Him.
Consider areas we see this happening today –

·         Our tax dollars pay for fencing and piping on public buildings. I need money to pay my bills, so I take some of this metal and sell it for scrap. Is that wrong?
·         People on the road all go over the speed limit. If I don’t go with the flow, I will get hit by another car. Does that mean it’s right to go over the speed limit?
·         Our nation has corrupt leaders. People talk bad about our leaders and lead violent protests in communities that rile up cities and cause unrest. Is it right to cause protests that lead to destruction and bodily harm? Should we rather try an approach God recommends of praying for our leaders earnestly first then seek peaceable ways to remove the corrupt person if he or she does not change his or her ways?

Each of these is a moral dilemma today. Some people feel whatever it takes to get rid of the problem or not differ from everybody else is okay to do. What does God say though? Are His ways relevant for us today? Are the negative things happening to us now part of His judgment on us?

The Judgment of God

Amos did not confuse the Israelites with new terms. He was succinct and went directly to the point. He had their attention. In Amos 2:5, Amos stated God’s judgment of Judah. He said,

“So I will send fire upon Judah and it will consume the citadels of Jerusalem.” [NASB]

We need to note a very important point in this judgment. God included His holy city of Jerusalem in this judgment. He did not exclude them from judgment. Jerusalem was as sinful, if not more, so than the rest of Judah. It was through the kings of Judah who lived in Jerusalem that acceptance of idolatry occurred. Jerusalem fell under God’s judgment. It goes along with the pattern of Amos’ prophecies earlier, too. Amos spoke about individual, but chief cities of each nation intending them to represent the entire nation. Here Jerusalem represents the entire nation of Judah.

In God’s judgment of Judah, He said His fire of anger would come upon them. Remember this fire of God could be a supernatural fire from heaven or by the hands of a nation against which Judah battled. God’s fire would consume-completely destroy-the stronghold, fortresses, and castles of Judah and Jerusalem. What the people of Judah counted on to keep them safe from their enemies was manmade. Things made by man of created materials would not stand up against God, the Creator of all things. His has superior might over manmade things He confronts.
God’s punishment would cause the world of the Judahites to fall. Their hearts would grow faint with fear. Their enemies would oppress the cities and countryside of Judah because God allowed it as their punishment for rejecting Him and His law-for being unfaithful to their covenant with Him.
Do you think the Israelites paid more attention when Amos spoke God’s judgment against Judah? Being closely related by blood and location could have awakened their attention. The Israelites ran after other gods longer and with more insistence than did the people of the southern kingdom. Maybe now they would take notice, repent, and return to a right relationship with God.
Let’s consider our lives for a moment -
·         Should we consider God’s judgment relevant to us today like He wanted the Israelites to do in 760-750 BC?
·         Are there bad things happening in our world now that are God’s punishment of people for their rebellion against Him?
·         Throughout current history people have claimed God’s hand caused certain things as punishment –
o   AIDS
o   Drought and famine
o   Middle East wars and unrest
o   Lack of political peace among nations
o   Global warming
·         What else was God allowing allowed to get His people turning back to Him?

The Fulfillment of God’s Judgment against Judah

Were Amos’ prophecies fulfilled? Did a fire come upon the walls of Judah and consume its citadels? Many people know the temple fell twice and the Israelites rebuilt it twice. Before those dates, other things happened to Judah and Jerusalem.

In 2 Chronicles 28:1-4, the writer tells the readers King Ahaz did not do right in the sight of the LORD as David had done. He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel who were all considered evil by the LORD. The king of Aram assaulted the northern territory of Judah and took many captive. The king of Israel raided Judah, took captives, slew 120,000 people of Judah, and killed sons of Ahaz. Obed, a prophet of God, told the King of Israel God delivered the people of Judah into his hands because He was angry with Judah (vs. 9). After these devastations allowed by God as punishment for worshiping and serving other gods, King Ahaz of Judah sought to ally with Assyria. Because of Aram and Israel’s attacks and because Edom and the Philistines attacked them, Ahaz sought this ally who was an enemy. Assyria agreed, but they exacted a terribly high tribute. The kingdom of Judah was almost destitute because of paying them each year (2 Chronicles 28:16-21). The assault by the nations and the tribute required by Assyria did not stop King Ahaz from worshiping other gods. He made every city in Judah build high places for other gods and made them burn incense to them (vs. 25). This provoked God to anger. Ahaz did not turn from his wicked ways when God punished him by using other nations.

In 701 BC, God allowed the Assyrian army under King Sennacherib to attack and seize all the fortified cities of Judah (1 Kings 18:13). King Hezekiah of Judah pleaded with Sennacherib to withdraw from them and he would give them whatever they imposed on him. Hezekiah took silver and gold from the treasury of the LORD’s house and silver from the ornamentation on the LORD’s house to pay Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:14). Jerusalem did not fall to the Assyrians at that time. Instead the Assyrians fell because the LORD sent a plague upon their army encamped outside the walls of Jerusalem. It killed 185,000 soldiers (2 Kings 19:35). Because Hezekiah humbled himself before the LORD, God spared Jerusalem that time.

Consider other times when God’s judgments visited the people of Judah. In 608 BC, the Egyptian, King Neco, a king put on the throne by Assyria, deposed Jehoahaz, and made Judah a vassal state (2 Chronicles 36:3). In 605 BC, during Judah’s King Jehoiakim’s reign, Babylon defeated Egypt and Judah became a vassal state of Babylon. In 601 BC, Judah, under King Jehoiakim, defeated the Egyptians when the Babylonians suffered defeat. Nebuchadnezzar retaliated in 597 BC. He sought to punish Judah. Nebuchadnezzar deported 10,000 of the people of Judah to the capital of Babylon. These captives were professionals, craftsmen, and the wealthy. The ordinary people stayed in Judah (2 Chronicles 36:6, and 2 Kings 24:1-5). This was the first wave of exiles into captivity. King Zedekiah, the king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon put on the throne over Judah, defected from the Babylonians. Nebuchadnezzar responded in 588 BC. He conquered Jerusalem in 586 BC. Nebuchadnezzar caught Zedekiah, made him watch as he killed his sons, then blinded and deported him Babylon (2 Kings 25, 2 Chronicles 36:13-17, & Jeremiah 52). He deported about 2,000 other people from Jerusalem during this second wave of exile and captivity.

For seventy years, the prophets foretold and history tells the people of Judah remained exiled in Babylon. When King Cyrus of Persia came to power, he sent key people back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and temple. That was around 536 BC. By the time the seventy year exile ended, the Israelites rebuilt the temple and more exiles returned to Judah.

Unfortunately for the northern kingdom of Israel, Assyria captured their kingdom and took them into exile in 722 BC, 140 years before Judah. They could not learn from Judah’s mistake. The people of Israel had no more time. God wanted them to hear his judgment against Judah through Amos and the other prophets and return to Him. They did not.

We should consider what it will take for us today to return to a right relationship with God. What will God allow to happen before we turn to Him?

·         Will it take a severe famine to get a people to turn back to Him?
·         Will it take a plague to get people to return to Him?
·         Will a scorching drought be necessary for people to turn back to Him repenting and renewing their relationship with Him?

These are valid questions. What will it take before you realize you are not a god? When will you come before God recognizing He is the One God, the Provider, Protector, and Savior of you and all who believe in Jesus Christ? He is God and you are not.

Recap

Amos prophesied to Israel for a reason. A writing of his prophecies, as God’s servant, exists for a reason. The reason for both is the same. God issued His charge and judgments against the first six nations because of crimes against other people either neighbors or relatives because of their sins against one another. He issued a charge and judgment against Judah because of their sins against Him. Yes, the first six nations’ sins against people were against God’s laws and they worshiped false gods, but the Israelites were the people who knew and agreed by covenant to obey and live by God’s laws making Him their one and only God. Any sin is a sin against God. The people of a nation who do not know Yahweh as their God would not acknowledge a sin against Him, only a sin against humanity. Judah, as God’s people, would acknowledge His laws and recognize their sin against Him. Israel, too, would recognize it.

Through the recitation of the prophecies on the first seven nations, God sought to help the Israelites recall their covenant with Him. He wanted to prick the consciences of the Israelites hoping to draw them back to seek Him, repent, and return to a right relationship with Him.

Conclusion

As people who still have the Amos prophecies almost 2,800 centuries later, a reason exists even now for its being here and being relevant for us. God covenants today with His people. It’s the new covenant through the blood and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. These prophecies are relevant for non-believers today, too. Moral laws still exist. Governments protect people and their property. Law codes written down explain them. What Aram, Philistia, Phoenicia, Edom, Ammon, and Moab did then is against the law in most nations around the world today. What Judah and Israel did to rebel against God’s laws, God still considers rebellion today. He covenants with His children, believers in Jesus Christ. They are more accountable to God because of the new covenant they have with Him than people who do not know Him, just as Judah and Israel were more accountable for breaking His laws than the other six nations.

Just as before, God gives grace. He continues to give it because of His love for us. God want no person to perish, but to have eternal life, peace, and hope with Him. Peter said this in 2 Peter 3:9 when he wrote,

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.” [NASB]

It may seem God does not see the wrong we do, or He does not care because He does not stop us from doing it again and again, but that is erroneous thinking. God cares. He is waiting on you to turn to Him for the strength to resist the temptation to sin. When we sin, we build a wall between ourselves and God. With each sin the wall gets higher. God can break the wall down, but He gave us free will. We must want to avoid the sin that traps us and builds the wall. Satan wants us to build the wall and not have a relationship with the Lord. Because of His love for us, God does not let us continue in sin. He is righteous and will judge sin. Sometimes He intervenes and stops our sinning by His means, like He did with Judah and Israel. Other times God intervenes by cutting the life of the person short because He knows the person will not change and He does not want more people to get hurt.

How do we flee from the temptation that leads us to sin? How do we gain the power to resist it? Can we get the upper hand on this and not become like the Israelites? James made an excellent point in James 4:7-10. He said,

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 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 weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you.” [NASB]

James made it simple in this passage.

·         Follow God and obey Him that will make you resist the devil and he flee from you.
·         Come near to God in relationship, building it stronger each day with prayer, Bible reading and study, and worshiping with other believers. He will draw near to you.
·         Cleanse your hands and purify your hearts by confessing your sins daily and letting God wash you clean from the stain and guilt of it. This keeps walls from being built in your relationship with Him.
·         Humble yourself before God knowing He is Almighty and you are merely creation of His hands.

Follow-Obey-Build Relationship with God-Repent-Recognize He is Almighty.

What separates you from God today?

Repentance and returning to God bring refreshing and peace.


Don’t be like Judah.