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 Ammonites 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 to 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 led 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,
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 temples 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 while 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 praise God 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.
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? 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?
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.
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 He 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 to 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 as 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.
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 declared 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.
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 head 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 teachers, 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.