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Friday, April 21, 2017

Certainty of God's Judgment part 2

Introduction

In the last Bible study, we studied Amos 3:1-8. In those verses we recognized that Amos called the people of Israel to hear, listen, and obey. That is what the Hebrew word shama’ means. This sermon/proclamation is one of five Amos brought to the Israelites after he prophesied God’s charges and judgment on them.

Within verses three through seven, Amos used four common occurrences the people would understand to help them understand the certainty of God’s judgment falling upon them. He used these causal analogies of everyday life just as Jesus used parables from everyday life to help the people understand. Amos stated just as two men agreed to meet at a particular time, they would definitely meet. Just as a person set a trap and baited it, so a bird would take the bait and get caught in the trap. Surely as a lion tracks and captures its prey, upon doing so he will roar. Just as a trumpet blares, so a people would know their enemy arrives against them. Amos’ final causal relationship was personal; and came from his own experience. He said, just as the LORD speaks, so a prophet can do nothing, but prophesy. Each of these analogies shows a cause and effect relationship that states the inevitability of something occurring because another thing happened first.

Amos used these five analogies to state emphatically to the Israelites, what God says He will do, will happen. God will announce His judgment before He enacts it. The Israelites of the northern kingdom listened to His judgment from at least five prophets and did not return permanently to a right relationship with the LORD. Amos wanted to make sure they understood this very well, so he proclaimed loudly exactly what he meant in verse eight. Amos said this in verse eight,

“A Lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” [NASB]

Just as the people could understand that what God said He meant and would do, Amos stated he recognized the voice of the LORD for certain and could not stand by without prophesying of what God told him. It was a personal cause and effect relationship for Amos.

Hearing God’s charge and judgment and acting upon it in obedience were two different things for the Israelites. They had strayed from the LORD for so long that their hearts were no longer in tune with Him or His ways. They did not recognize God as being almighty, omnipotent, and the One who led them from Egypt and gave them a promised land. The Israelites did not revere Him, so that obedience was natural like Amos’ reaction and obedience to being called by God to speak to the Israelites. The Israelites no longer feared the LORD. God said repeatedly through Amos’ prophecies He judged them and punishment would occur. He wanted the Israelites to understand, repent, and return to a covenant relationship with Him. With the rest of Amos 3, the LORD revealed to them His judgment on them and the reason for it. Let’s begin our study of verses nine through fifteen.


A Call for Witnesses

Just as Moses proclaimed, “Hear O, Israel,” Amos began His proclamations with, “Hear this word the Lord has spoken.” He commanded them to pay attention, listen, and obey. The Lord God is Almighty and worthy to hear and obey, Amos said. After calling for Israel’s attention, God called for eyewitnesses to what He would do to Israel as punishment for their rebellion against and unfaithfulness to Him. Listen to Amos’ words in verses nine and ten.

“Proclaim on the citadels in Ashdod and on the citadels in the land of Egypt and say, ‘Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria and see the great tumults within her and the oppressions in her midst. But they do not know how to do what is right,’ declares the LORD, ‘these who hoard up violence and devastation in their citadels.’” [NASB]

God called Amos, Philistia, and Egypt to hear, listen, and obey-shama’-when He said “proclaim” in verse nine. He wanted Amos to proclaim/summon Ashdod and Egypt to come witness Israel’s iniquities and their punishment from almighty God, the One who brought the Israelites from Egypt and who proclaimed judgment on Philistia.  God called the people who lived in the fortified cities and palaces of these nations to assemble on the mountains around Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom. Samaria was about thirty miles north of Jerusalem in a valley on a small hill surrounded by high hills. God called the rulers of Egypt and Philistia to come sit around Samaria like a judicial or tribal council. Listen to the crimes of Samaria and see its judgment and punishment occur, God said. Come see what God will do to the Israelites for their disobedience because of their rebellion against Him. Samaria, just as Gaza, Damascus, and Tyre, was the capital city of the northern kingdom of Israel. It represented the whole of the northern kingdom. The charge and judgment of Samaria was for the entire nation.

What did Amos prophesy about Samaria’s iniquities? He used four words to describe them. Amos told the witnesses to see the “great tumults,” “oppressions,” “violence,” and “devastation.” What did these words mean to Israel? Are they the same as what God charged of them in chapter two? “Tumults” comes from the Hebrew word mehuwmah, which means turmoil, confusion, destruction, panic, trouble, and discomfort. In their greed and luxurious living, the people of Samaria-the leaders of the nation-caused tumult for the poor and righteous. There was noise from the masses of people in Samaria committing wickedness. They upset poor people who sought daily sustenance and justice with their own greed and corruption. “Oppressions” comes from the Hebrew word ‘ashuwq, which means extortion or prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or exercise of authority. What the people of Samaria did caused harm physically and mentally to those they considered beneath them. Amos gave examples of this oppression in Amos 5:11 when he said the powerful exacted heavy rent from the poor and tributes of grain from them. In Amos 8:6, he said the rich buy the helpless to be servants and enslave the needy because they needed money to buy sandals and could not repay it. Besides this, Amos said the rich reaped all the produce from their fields and left none for the poor to glean for their own hunger.

The first crime in verse nine Amos said the people of Samaria hoarded violence. The rich leaders did not need what they took, kept for themselves, or exacted from the poor. They merely kept it in storage “just in case.” The rich caused undue harm to and did not care enough for the poor to let them glean their fields. The last crime God charged the people of Samaria with in this part of Amos’ prophecy is they hoarded up devastation. He said Samaritans took away the needs of the poor, and destroyed them, their families, and their homes. They wreaked havoc on their lives and brought devastation and ruin to them. The people of Samaria-the rich and rulers-enslaved the poor, widow, orphan, and alien so they had no life to call their own and had no home. They tore apart everything poor people could call their own, even their reputation and pride. The Samaritans took the poor captive because of their greed and sinfulness.

By doing these things-causing great tumults and oppression and hoarding violence and destruction-the Samaritans broke the laws of God as set up and told to the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land.  God wanted the people of Israel to take care of the poor in their towns, villages, and cities. Deuteronomy 14:28-29 told them to keep their tithe in their own cities every third year to feed the Levite and the poor. In Deuteronomy 16:11 & 14, God told the Israelites to rejoice and feast together before the LORD with the poor and the alien. In Deuteronomy 24:19-21 Moses recorded God’s law, which said the farmers were to leave the dropped produce for the poor and alien to glean to provide for their needs.

The LORD summed up at the beginning of verse ten what happened to the Samaritans and Israelites. He said, “They do not know how to do what is right.” In this day when “what is right” is relative to each person, we need to understand God’s character of righteousness defines the rightness of action, word, and thought. He is righteous-without evil and sin, and totally holy. God called each of His children to be righteous, to do what is right. He provided them guidelines to do that, what He expected of them. The first part of verse ten says the Israelites did not know; they did not recognize, were unacquainted with, and did not confess to know the LORD God and His ways. “Doing what is right” means doing what is straight before them, walking in an upright way. The people of Samaria and Israel had lost their way, the way to God and His righteousness, because it had been too long since they cared to listen about and to the LORD. They no longer knew Him or about Him and so lost their moral compass, their true north. Without God in a person’s life, true rightness, which the character of God defines, is no longer visible. One person’s right will not be right according to another person. Their wills and concepts clash, and tumult, oppression, violence, and devastation occur. Amos said in this verse, the Israelites no longer had a “true north.” They did not know or recognize God so did not know and, as a result, obey His laws. The Samaritans lived for themselves and harmed the poor, weak, and alien. They loved only themselves. They lived Darwinian lives before even Darwin proposed the theory of “the survival of the fittest.”

Hedonistic, luxurious living that disregards other people and makes one’s self primary is rebellion against God. With that understanding, we must consider ourselves and our own lives.

·         Do you do everything within your power to get ahead at work, in the community, and/or in school even if that means you overlook or denigrate  the needs or person of someone else in the process?
·         Do you hear about free food and run to the site to push and shove to insure you get your share, even though you have food in your own pantry and other people have none?
·         Do you undercut your competitor’s bids for a job, then give a low quality of work?
·         Do you offer a bribe to an official to make sure you get a job or get your government documents?


Judgment on Samaria and Israel

With verses eleven and twelve, God explained in more detail what His judgment on the northern kingdom would include. Besides what He said in Amos 2:14-16 where Amos said no one would escape God’s judgment, in Amos 3:11-12, God specified what would happen to the Israelites, and especially the rich and the leaders of the kingdom. Amos said in verse eleven,

“Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘An enemy, even one surrounding the land, will pull down your strength from you and your citadels will be looted.’” [NASB]

Amos used two names to speak of the Lord. He called him Adonay, a title given to God in reverence of Him as almighty God. Amos called the Lord, Yehovah, the existing One-I AM. He acknowledged the Lord with reverence recognizing His majesty, and he admitted this Lord is the I AM who spoke to Moses and the Israelites. He is the One who was, is, and is to come-the great almighty Creator of all that is. Amos acknowledged the Lord GOD before the Israelites proclaiming who God is and reminding and teaching the Israelites about Yehovah I AM. The Israelites had forgotten Him; Amos told them about Him.

After this, Amos told the Israelites how God’s judgment would come upon them. He said an enemy would surround them and come from a nation with whom they were acquainted. In Amos 6:14, Amos specified exactly which part of their nation would experience the effects of this enemy. The enemy would attack them from Hamath (on the border of Aram and Israel) to the brook of the Arabah (the southern border of the southern kingdom of Judah). Every Israelite, each of the descendants of Jacob, would feel the effects of this enemy.

The enemy would be strong. It would affect many places in the land of the Israelites. The enemy would be so strong, Amos said, it would “pull down your strength from you and your citadels.” Those defenses built to keep the Israelites safe from their enemies would not stand against the LORD’s judgment that He enacted by their enemies.  The LORD is stronger than anything man, His created being, could make from the earth, which He created. Those things in which they trusted to safeguard them would fall. Their material strength would fall-the walls, palaces, and fortresses- and their physical, social, and political strength would fall. The rich would become like the poor-hungry and with no social or political clout to help them get out of their devastation. Amos said this same thing about Judah in Amos 2:5. Each Israelite would experience the effects of God’s judgment through the hands of their enemies. One final point God added to this first part of the judgment is the booty the rich hoarded for themselves from the oppression, devastation, and violence they exacted against the poor would become booty for their enemy. What they stored they would not get to enjoy.

With Amos 3:12, God declared the extent of the Israelites’ devastation by their enemies. Amos said in verse twelve,

“Thus says the LORD, ‘Just as the shepherd snatches from the lion’s mouth a couple of legs or a piece of an ear, so will the sons of Israel dwelling in Samaria be snatched away–with the corner of a bed and the cover of a couch!’” [NASB]

The Israelites might have understood better with this point. The idea came from an Old Testament law in Exodus 22:13. That law required the shepherd to bring proof a wild animal snatched one of the flock or cattle by bringing the remnants of the animal as evidence. When he did so, the owner of the animal would not require the shepherd to pay for the torn animal. God said in this prophesy the devastation of the enemy’s overthrowing of Israel would be so great only a remnant would remain in the land. God would rescue only a few people from the enemy. By using parts of a bed or couch, Amos showed those most affected by their enemies would be the wealthy. The poorer people did not have a bed to sleep on or a couch upon which to recline. They sat and slept on the ground. The poor, the ones whom the rich and the rulers injured, would be the ones most likely not to experience captivity.  Those who managed to escape the enemy would do so because of God’s goodness and mercy. As the rich devoured the lambs-the poor and righteous-before God’s judgment, so their enemy would devour them. Samaria would be the lamb led to slaughter because of their sins.

When we read and understand this, can you think of an instance where you experienced God’s rescue from the snares of the enemy? Or were you made captive by your enemy because of the wrong you did? Consider these things.

·         Have you ever snubbed someone before and then later, maybe even years later, needed that person’s help and worried the person would not help you because of your snubbing?
·         Have you ever ignored the poor person begging at the traffic light because you wanted to get through the light, then noted a police siren following you to give you a speeding ticket?
·         Did you ever find yourself rescued from an abusive situation and wonder why God helped you?
·         Has there been a situation in your life where you didn’t deserve someone’s care, but they gave it anyway telling you because God loves you, he or she loves you and wants to help you?

Each of these situations is real. They happened to people I have known. These occurrences are not rare, but happen daily. Which of the persons mentioned would you rather be, the one helped, or the one harmed? Would you rather be the one who helps or the one who walks over others? What you do will eventually come back to you. God still sees and judges people for their actions. What He says, He will do.


A Call to Testify

With verse thirteen, Amos called the witnesses of verse nine, Egypt and Philistia, to testify against the “house of Jacob.” Amos said,

“‘Hear and testify against the house of Jacob,’ declares the Lord God, the God of hosts.” [NASB]

The leaders of Egypt and Philistia were to witness and to testify to the iniquities of the house of Jacob, the descendants of Jacob. They were not just to watch them and God’s judgment; they were to testify to God’s righteousness, justice, and power. Israel, whom God meant to be a light leading the nations to Him so others would be in a relationship with God, did not shine for GOD. Instead, they adopted the practices of the surrounding nations and gave in to greed and prejudice. Israel was a light leading just to themselves. They gratified themselves and wanted everyone to see how wealthy and successful they were. Israel made themselves and their own desires their god and left the Lord God.

That leads us to the final part of verse thirteen. Amos said the Lord God, the God of hosts, proclaimed this. As noted earlier, when Amos stated “Lord GOD,” he showed reverence to God, Adonay Yehovah, the existing I AM, of the Israelites and Creator of the world. By adding the “God of hosts,” Amos did something no other writer in the Bible did. He put these four words together to state emphatically who God is. “God” comes from the Hebrew word ‘elohiym, which means ruler, judge, and the “true God”. “Hosts” means host of angels on earth and in heaven. By using these four words for God, Amos expressed God as Adonay Yehovah ‘Elohiym of all beings on earth and in heaven. He is the mighty, existing I AM who is the ruler and judge of every being in heaven and on earth. He is of whom and by whom Amos spoke. Amos wanted to remind the Israelites of the Lord GOD so they would seek to have a right relationship with Him. He wanted the Egyptian and Philistine leaders to witness Samaria’s evil and the power of Adonay Yehovah “Elohiym of hosts. The LORD wanted Samaria’s corruptions known so the witnesses could not deny the justice of Samaria’s punishment from God. Those leaders had a duty to testify to the nations of Samaria’s iniquities and God’s judgment of them.


Judgment of Bethel and Samaria

God wanted the witnesses to see the depth of the depravity of Israel; they worshiped false gods just as the Egyptians and Philistines did. He wanted them to recognize His sovereignty by His power to destroy the idols to which the Israelites swore devotion. To do this, Amos drew their attention to Bethel, the main temple of worship for the northern kingdom of Israel. Amos said in Amos 3:14,

“For on the day that I punish Israel’s transgressions, I will also punish the altars of Bethel; the horns of the altar will be cut off and they will fall to the ground.” [NASB]

The people of the northern kingdom worshiped idols, oppressed the poor and righteous, and lived self-centered lives. God would show them the idols they worshiped and prayed to had no power. The Lord God would cut off the horns of their altar. Remember, the altar of the LORD was where sacrifices for sins occurred to provide atonement for the sinner. A person who killed another person without intention could flee to the altar and grab hold of the horns on God’s altar to seek sanctuary. The people of the northern kingdom had an altar in their temple with cow’s horns upon which they offered the blood of sacrifices to atone for their sins. When God said He would cut off the horns of the altar at Bethel, He meant two things. This action would show He is greater than their manmade altar. His actions meant no atonement of their sins could come from the altar of their false god. The Lord GOD would be the one to judge them. No place of asylum would hide them from His judgment; the Israelites could not escape from Him and His judgment. God’s judgment was certain. Nothing could stop it. He is Adonay Yehovah ‘Elohiym of hosts.

·         Do we worship something other than God–our homes, our jobs, our time, our money?

With Amos 3:15, God definitively singled out the rich and the leaders of Israel to receive His judgment. God said through Amos in verse 15,

“‘I will also smite the winter house together with the summer house; the houses of ivory will also perish and the great houses will come to an end,’ declares the LORD.” [NASB]

Earlier God said all the Israelites, “the house of Jacob”, would experience His judgment.  Next He said His judgment would come upon their places of worship and their priests. Finally, the LORD singled out the wealthy and leaders of Israel. The latter were the ones oppressing the poor, corrupting the judicial system, and leading the people of Israel to worship other gods.

How do we realize God singled out the wealthy? In verse fifteen, He declared His judgment upon the people who have more than one home and/or had homes with grand embellishment, inlaid ivory. The wealthy lived in winter houses during the cold season to stay warmer and closer to necessities. They lived in the cities. This winter house faced the sun toward the south and helped them stay warm. During the warm seasons, the rich stayed in their summer houses. The summer houses normally faced the east or north away from the sun to keep the house cooler. Often they built their second homes in or near a forest. Houses of ivory show grand extravagance. Money did not deter them getting what they wanted. King Ahab had an ivory house (1 Kings 22:39). Psalm 45:8 said kings had ivory palaces. This judgment showed God saw and would punish the rich and the rulers. They oppressed, disrupted, and devastated the lives of the poor and righteous, who could not afford to pay someone to defend them. The rich made the poor cower. They corrupted justice in their nation.

What was God’s judgment on these rulers and the rich people of Israel since we know this? He said He would smite them and their “great houses would come to an end.” They would not escape the enemy God allowed to overtake them. God specifically picked them out for His judgment and it would certainly happen. The enemy would execute God’s judgment on the Israelites who were rich and were leaders. They would hit, beat, and kill them. The luxurious houses would fall, be removed completely and swept away. Nothing would remain but rubble. Again, another lesson teaches not to hoard and hurt, but to help the less fortunate.

What the rich held as great worth, would be worthless.

If the rich were fortunate, they would keep their lives, though we understand from historical record the first round of captivity saw many leaders killed and maimed. Their sons fell by the sword.
Samaria, after a three year siege by Assyria, fell to their might and persistence. God’s punishment began. The king of Assyria relocated many of their leaders to Assyria. A big part of the people of Israel stayed in the land. Sargon, king of Assyria, moved people from throughout his entire kingdom to the land of the Israelites. They intermixed their people, culture, and religions with the Israelites who remained so that the Israelites lost their identity as the people of Israel.

·         Have you lost your identity as a child of God?
·         What do you allow in your life that keeps you from focusing on God?
·         How do you live your life–to help the needy or to help yourself?
·         Do you ever feel God pricking your conscience to help? Do you help or do you deny God and the other person?

Recap

The people of the northern kingdom were part of the descendants of Jacob like the southern kingdom of Judah. From their first king, Jeroboam, until their fall in 721 BC, the northern kingdom did not worship the Lord GOD, but instead worshiped idols-calves, Baal, Molech, Chemosh, and Asherah. The LORD sent several prophets to call the Israelites to repent and return to Him, but they lived for themselves. They rebelled against Him and against other people. In Amos 3, God specifically judged the rich, the leaders, and the idolaters. God said He would smite them and their homes, and their wealth would end. He would allow an enemy to overtake them. Many of the Israelites would go into captivity while those who remained in Canaan would live with people from all over the Assyrian empire and lose their identity as Israelites.

Conclusion

Before we leave this passage in Amos, we need to consider what it means for us. What does this history of the Israelite people have to do with us today? The foremost thing we should consider is Adonay Yehovah ‘Elohiym of hosts is still Creator and LORD of all. Two thousand plus years from then to now does not change God. He is unchangeable. The LORD back then is the LORD still. With that being said, have we changed – as a people. Did our ancestors walk away from God and then, by His absence in their lives, keep us from God? Did we learn about God and choose not to believe and obey Him? If your ancestors did not worship the LORD, that does not mean you cannot or should not worship Him. Each person must decide if he or she wants to be a child of God. Your ancestors cannot make it that decision for you.

God seeks us and wants us to worship Him because He wants a relationship with us. Consider these people:

1.      Adam walked in the garden with God. As we read God looked for him in Genesis 3:8. God cared that Adam not be alone on earth so made woman (Genesis 2:18).
2.      Abraham was special to God. He called him friend (James 2:23; Genesis 18:17). God cared about Him very much and Abraham was devoted to Him. Because of that, God promised his people would be more numerous than the stars and would be His people. They would inherit a promised land from God.  
3.      God called Moses to be close to Him. He trained him to recognize and see Him wherever he went. Consider Moses’ recognition of God in the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-15) or in the pillar of fire or cloud in the wilderness.
4.      Recall Paul who recognized the Lord even though he persecuted Jesus’ followers (Acts 9). The Lord sought Paul for Himself and stayed with Him throughout the rest of His life. He wanted a relationship with him.
5.      Remember the disciples who followed Jesus while He lived on earth. Jesus, the Son of God, sought them out for relationship.
6.      When the Son of God lived in human form, the Father sought regular relationship with His Son. Jesus went to the garden, to the mountain, and to “lonely places” to pray-spend time with His Father.

You must ask yourself a question…

Will you seek a relationship with Yehovah, the existing One, the One Who was, is, and always will be?

God still seeks to have a relationship with you. Even though we are sinful and He is holy, He provided a way for us to be in His presence. God provided a way to atone for our sin, to wash our sins away and make us clean from them and the guilt. 

What did God do because of His love for us so we could have a relationship with Him?

He sent His Son, Jesus, in human form to take our punishment for our sins and die our death that we deserved so He could wash us from our sins and we could be in a relationship with Him forever.

God loves you that much!

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world (you) that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life.”

That’s the Love of God!
You can be like the Israelites who turned away from God and worshiped manmade things, but
why would you? Those things rot, fade, corrode, and pass away.
Instead…
Choose A Relationship with God!
Choose Jesus!