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Friday, May 26, 2017

Justice Like Rolling Water


Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

                                                C  Call for Repentance (vs. 23-24)

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

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

God’s Certain Judgment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accusation of Religious Hypocrisy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Command for Repentance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accusation of Religious Hypocrisy (reprise)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God’s Certain Judgment (reprise)

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

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

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

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

Recap

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


Conclusion and Relevance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the One who keeps calling to you

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

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




Friday, May 12, 2017

Seek the LORD and Live

Introduction

Amos prophesied to the people of Israel about eight nations and their sins. His statements to Israel did not cause them to see themselves, their sin, and their rebellion against God. Because the northern kingdom had an unbroken chain of evil, idol-worshipping kings they did not know who Yehovah is and had no recognition of what He had done in the lives of their ancestors. They no longer knew, ‘yada, the LORD and did not recognize the need to obey the laws by which the southern kingdom’s people lived and worshiped their God.

Amos told the Israelites of the northern kingdom who lived in times of great wealth and prosperity how they lived and treated the poor was iniquity and sin. They oppressed the poor, took their small amounts of food as tribute, and had them jailed for owing as little as the cost of a pair of wood-bark sandals. The rich Israelites paid bribes to have judges rule in their favor, suppressed the righteous, and obstructed the possibility of righteous judgment and living in the land. 

In Amos’ second sermon to the Israelites, found in chapter four, he called for Egypt and Philistia to see, witness, and testify to Israel’s sinful deeds and God’s righteous judgment upon them. He called them to sit like a tribunal council on the hills surrounding Samaria. In this chapter Amos reminded the Israelites of their sins of oppressing the poor, worshiping false gods, and living in hypocrisy. He reminded them of the LORD’s punishment of them in earlier years. Amos taught the Israelites the times of drought which brought famine came from Yehovah. He revealed to them the times one city had rain and the other did not showed God’s great power to release water wherever He wanted. This caused the people to travel seeking water. Amos reminded them of the sirocco winds, mildew, locusts, and mold that affected their plants, food crops, and animals came from the LORD. He told the Israelites these things came from Yehovah as punishment for their sins. The LORD sent a plague like what He sent on Egypt so that men and horses died and a stench rose from their midst. Finally, Amos reminded the Israelites GOD was the One who overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, the great devastation in the south, and He did and would do it to them while keeping a remnant of the people from this conflagration.

If the people of Israel did not understand the LORD’s might and greatness based on their history of His power, then Amos reminded them of who God was from the creation of the world. The LORD forms the mountains, creates the wind, declares His thoughts to humanity, turns night to day and day to night, brings darkness, gloom, and despair, and brings reprieve and relief. GOD is so great He tramples on manmade idols of the land and their temples. This LORD Amos spoke of and for is greater than anything they could imagine. He caused the destructions that came on them and their ancestors.

In this week’s Bible study text, Amos 5:1-17, Amos proclaimed his next sermon to the Israelites. This sermon is a lament for the people of the northern kingdom. It begins by speaking as if God’s judgment already occurred then leads into Amos’ exhortation to seek the LORD. Next Amos reminded the Israelites again of Who God is and of their sin, a striking contrast. Near the end of this sermon, he returned to admonishing the Israelites to seek the LORD. Amos followed his admonition by reiterating it to emphasize its importance. Finally, God through Amos recalls vividly for the Israelites the effect of His judgment upon them.


A Lament

With verses one through three, Amos wrote a lament for the future subjugated nation of Israel. Amos said in verses one through three,

1 “Hear this word which I take up for you as a dirge, O house of Israel. 2She has fallen; she will not rise again-the virgin Israel. She lies neglected on her land; there is none to raise her up. 3For thus says the LORD God, ‘The city which goes forth a thousand strong will have a hundred left, and the one which goes forth a hundred strong will have ten left to the house of Israel.’” [NASB]

In verse one, Amos called for Israel to “hear this word.” Once again, he used a word from the history of the Israelites. “Hear” comes from the Hebrew word shama’ and means to hear, listen to, and obey. Amos told them to attend to this dirge; listen carefully. He said this lament came because of the sins of Israel. Jeremiah and Ezekiel also wrote a lament for Israel in Jeremiah 7:29 and 9:10 & 17, and Ezekiel 19:1.

Amos called the people about whom this lament spoke “the virgin Israel.” What does this mean? Amos likened Israel to a virgin because no nation had ever conquered her. The LORD God had always defended and protected her. With God’s judgment of Israel, He removed His protection from Israel and allowed their enemies to overtake them. Amos added to this image of a fallen virgin by saying she fell and no one helped her. No one would be there to defend her or help her rise again. Israel the virgin “was forsaken”. Not enough people remained within Israel’s borders to bring her back to her glory. Of the thousands who marched in battle or defended her fortresses, only ten percent returned. There remained no one to build and reestablish Israel to her glory and wealth. The virgin nation, the people who were not a nation before God made them into one, who had no gods before Him, but turned to manmade gods, now had no protector. God removed His protection. Their false gods had no power to protect them. Israel was like a virgin left among evil men. She had no defense. With her fall, no one remained to lift her up, Amos said. Jeremiah 14:17 spoke of Israel as the virgin daughter of My (GOD’s) people. He said their enemy crushed her with a mighty blow. Isaiah 51:18 reiterated Amos’ thought. He said there was no one to guide Israel or take her by the hand among all the sons of the nation. The image blazed across the minds of the hearers; a woman lay abused and neglected, forsaken by her people, and unable to get up on her own anymore. Her life changed forever.

·         Have you ever experienced a time when it seemed you had no one to call upon to help you stand up on your own feet after a calamity?
·         How did that feel then? Did you flounder about trying to figure out how to go about life from that point?
·         Did you have faith in God to help you?
·         Women and children who experience abuse often feel this way. They wonder, “Now what; is there no God who will defend me?”
·         If we are in any situation where we are down like the “virgin Israel”, we can look to God, get right with Him, and seek Him as our rescuer.

The Invitation to Life

Through Amos, God reminded the Israelites how to have full life, not just the wealthy life they had, but complete life by allowing Yahweh to be their One God. He made this last point by directing them to remember what their manmade gods allowed to happen because they were not gods. They had no power.

Amos said in Amos 5:4-7,

4 “For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel, ‘Seek me that you may live. 5But do not resort to Bethel, and do not come to Gilgal, nor cross over to Beersheba; for Gilgal will certainly go into captivity, and Bethel will come to trouble. 6Seek the LORD that you may live, lest He break forth like a fire, O house of Joseph, and it consume with none to quench it for Bethel, 7for those who turn justice into wormwood and cast righteousness down to the earth.’” [NASB]

With verses four and six, Amos told the Israelites how to get through God’s judgment and perhaps avoid a harsh judgment for their sins against Him and other people. He proclaimed, “Seek the LORD that you may live.” This exhortation was a reminder of what God told the Israelites through Moses as they exited Egypt headed for the Promised Land as the chosen people of Yahweh. In Deuteronomy 4:29, Moses told the Israelites, “Seek the LORD your God and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and soul.” [NASB] Jeremiah 29:13 repeats this same sentiment. Jeremiah said, “And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Notice these statements are conditional statements. If the Israelites sought the LORD with all their heart and soul, God said they would find Him. They were to seek Him with a right heart, not just to gain something out of the relationship. God called the Israelites to seek Him and promised life. For the Israelites, “life” meant escape from God’s judgement or a reduction in its severity. This means if the Israelites died or became captives, it was their own fault. They did not seek God. God said if they repented and returned to a right relationship with Him, He would forgive them. With this in mind, Amos taught on this idea further in verse five.

After Amos told the Israelites God said they would live if they sought Him with their heart and soul, he reminded them of their ineffectual manmade gods, their idols. The word “resort” in verse five comes from the same Hebrew words as “seek” in verse four. That Hebrew word is darash. Darash means to seek with care in prayer and worship, enquire of, require, and consult.  Amos told the Israelites not to resort to or seek (enquire of, worship, pray to, and consult) their gods in Bethel. Remember, Bethel was the main temple site where King Jeroboam I set up a golden calf to be their god and established worship practices and feasts for this manmade god.  Besides telling the Israelites not to go to Bethel, he said not to go to Gilgal either. Gilgal was the town where the prophets of the northern kingdom lived. It was about four miles from Bethel. Amos told the Israelites not to enquire of their gods through the prophets of those gods. In case they had the idea to go to Beersheba on the southern border of Judah, Amos told them even going there would not save them from God’s judgment. The Israelites could not run away from the LORD. Recall Beersheba had a long history of God’s presence. It was at this site Abraham and Abimelech made a treaty. In very early times, according to Genesis 21:33, 26:23-24, 32-33, & 46:1, Beersheba had a sanctuary to the LORD God.  God meant by mentioning these three cities-Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba-the people of the northern kingdom could not run away from Him and His judgment on them. Their gods had no power to stop God’s judgment.

Besides not being able to stop God’s judgment on them, Amos said Bethel would come to trouble. “Trouble” comes from the Hebrew word ‘aven and means sorrow, naught, iniquity, and trouble. Bethel would come to sorrow. Gilgal would “certainly go into captivity,” Amos said. The priests and prophets of Gilgal were not immune to God’s judgment. They, too, would go into captivity. That makes sense since they led the people of Israel to worship false gods. Neither their false gods, priests, leaders, nor running from the LORD would keep His judgment from falling on the Israelites. God would find the Israelites wherever they were. Bethel’s name would change to Beth-aven, from "house of God" to "house of vanities". Hosea said this of the northern kingdom of Israel in Hosea 4:15, 5:8, and 10:5. Their vanity to worship manmade things would bring their downfall.

 Only by seeking the LORD could they live. Amos reiterated that point in verse six.  Whereas in verse four the proclamation was in first person, in verse six the exhortation to seek the LORD is in third person. Amos used the same Hebrew word darash to exhort the Israelites to seek the LORD so they may live. The word “live” comes from the Hebrew word chayah and means to have life, remain alive, live forever, be restored to live, and be preserved. Amos loved his brethren of the northern kingdom. He did not want to see them harmed, dispersed, or permanently destroyed. Amos’ heart ached for them and he cried out to them to seek the LORD so they would live.

Amos said if they did not return to the LORD, His wrath would break out as a fire. He, for the first time, said God’s flames of wrath would consume Israel. Amos had said it in the prophecies about the other nations, but had now said it for the first time regarding Israel. We know, too, this prophecy is to the northern kingdom because he said, “O house of Joseph.” At that time, the two tribes from Joseph’s line, Ephraim and Manasseh, were the biggest tribes of the northern kingdom. By stating God’s judgment would fall on Joseph’s house, we understand Amos meant this judgment was for the northern kingdom. Notice the extent of the damage God’s fire would do to Israel. It would consume them and none would quench it for Bethel. Remember, the Hebrew word for “consume” meant to devour, burn up, and destroy. It would mean total destruction of the northern kingdom. The gods of the people whose main temple site was Bethel were powerless against the LORD. God’s fire would not spare their government, temple, home, or palace. As Amos said earlier, only a tenth of the people would remain and those would not be the rich, the leaders, or the priests. With verse six. Amos reiterated verse four for emphasis. He emphatically beseeched them to return to the LORD with their whole heart and soul.

Amos made sure the most egregious sinners, the ones who held power and propagated oppression and corruption, knew they were not exempt from God’s judgment. He explained who these people were with visual images. Amos said these people turned justice into wormwood. Wormwood was a small shrub of the area with bitter tasting leaves when brewed for medicine or alcoholic flavoring (vermouth). This contrasted with the sweet flavor of justice. The unrighteous turned the sweet flavor of justice to bitterness in the mouths of those who sought justice. They snatched justice from their grasps by the corruption. Amos spoke of this earlier in Amos 2:3 and will speak of it again in Amos 5:12 and 6:12. He further stated these people cast down righteousness. They trampled it into the earth with neglect and contempt. These corrupt and oppressive rich, rulers, judges, and priests considered rightness and fairness worth nothing compared to getting their hearts’ desires. Though rightness comes from God’s righteousness, they considered it only as dust and rubbish and cast it down to be trampled underfoot. God’s righteousness was nothing more to them than the dirt under their feet. It had no worth to them.
Who were these people who were so conceited to think they could take the law into their own hands and decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong? Who are they now? Often we mirror them. Consider these scenarios-

·         A dark-skinned man walking quickly by wearing a beanie is automatically looked upon as a possible thief when a smash and grab occurs nearby.
·         A poor mother is considered inept and unfit when she has dirty children and poor language skills.
·         A teenager with low-slung pants and chunky necklaces is considered a possible attacker because of His dress and mannerisms.
·         A blonde-haired girl who hangs out with jocks and attends an expensive private school is considered lazy and an airhead.

Each of these is a misconception and prejudice taught to us by people in our culture. We need to look beyond the culture to how God sees people. We are all created in His image and are all equal. No person should deem another person lower than him or herself because of the other person’s lifestyle, school, clothes, home, language, or anything else. Let the love of God and His justice rule our lives and thoughts.


Who is the LORD?

After crying out his lament over Israel, beseeching them to seek the LORD, Amos taught and/or reminded the Israelites who the LORD is in verses eight and nine. In Amos 4:13, he explained the LORD is the One who forms the mountains and creates the winds. Yehovah is the One who declares His thoughts to man. He makes day into night, night into day, gloom into joy, and joy into gloom. The LORD is the One who tramples down the high places of the false gods. He is Adonay Yehovah ‘Elohiym of hosts.

In Amos 5:8-9, Amos said,

8 “He who made the Pleiades and Orion and changes deep darkness into morning, Who also darkens day into night, Who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the LORD is His name. 9It is He who flashes forth with destruction upon the strong so that destruction comes upon the fortress.” [NASB]

He reminded the Israelites the God who proclaimed His judgment and would make it happen is the One who made the constellation with seven of the biggest stars-Pleiades. The LORD is the One who made the small stars of Orion, too. He changes deep darkness into morning. This deep darkness can be literal night turning to day as in Amos 4 or can be metaphorical turning dark and heavy times into days of joy and rejoicing. Yehovah can do the reverse, too. Just because He brings good things does not mean He will not allow bad things to happen. The people of Israel are not untouchable. God will remove His hand of protection from them as His judgment on them.

This powerful God forms mountains, stars, winds, darkness and light, and calls the waters of the earth to pour out on the land. He is so great He can cause the waters to move in unnatural and supernatural ways. He commands the waters of the sea as justice to pour out on the face of the earth like He did during Noah’s time because the people of the earth were evil.

The people of the earth would be witnesses to God’s punishment of Israel. They would be witnesses, just as God called the Egyptians and Philistines in Amos 3 to behold the might, power, and righteousness of the LORD God. Israel left Yehovah behind and considered their own desires most important. By this and other things, they lost reverence for the One who made these things and pronounced judgment on them.

No one of Israel would be immune to God’s judgment and the destruction that came with it. Amos said the LORD would flash forth. God’s judgment would happen, would be unexpected, and would be sudden. No one would escape it. Isaiah 29:5 said it would come in an instant.  God’s judgment would come like a thief in the night. It would be strong and overthrow the strong-people and manmade defenses (fortresses, palaces, and city walls). With this idea of warfare we can see how God intended His judgment to come against Israel. More than anything, God wanted His people, the Israelites, to remember He is mightier than man and manmade things. Neither strong nor weak would escape God’s judgment. It would happen like the sudden sirocco winds and locusts. Amos repeated what he said in Amos 2:14 with these two verses, eight and nine. God’s judgment would catch everyone. Not one Israelite would escape. Amos’ imploring of the Israelites returns to our minds with this renewed understanding of who GOD is and His might.


Sins and God’s Judgment

After lamenting Israel’s demise, reminding of God and His power, and recalling God’s covenantal promise to the Israelites from Deuteronomy, Amos returned to Israel’s reality that brought this sermon to them. In Amos 5:10-13, he said,

10 “They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks with integrity. 11Therefore because you impose heavy rent on the poor and exact a tribute of grain from them, though you have built houses of well-hewn stone, yet you will not live in them. You have planted pleasant vineyards, yet you will not drink their wine. 12For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great, you who distress the righteous and accept bribes and turn aside the poor in the gate. 13Therefore at such a time the prudent person keeps silent, for it is an evil time.” [NASB]

In verses ten and eleven, Amos recalled for the Israelites why God charged and judged them. He said the people of the northern kingdom hated the righteous judge in the gate. Remember, small cases of dispute came before the elders of a village or city at the city’s gates. Amos emphasized and vividly spelled out this hatred by adding they abhorred the one who spoke with integrity. The Israelites were no better than the Moabites who hated Edom in Amos 2. Their hatred expressed itself by burning the king’s bones. The Israelites hated for to people to reprove them. “Reprove” comes from the Hebrew word yakach and means to judge, correct, and chasten. Since the Israelites were sinners, the person who judged and reproved them was righteous. The Israelites hated the righteous person and hated correction. It made them feel guilty and low.

Amos said the Israelites abhorred the person who spoke with integrity. “Abhor” is a stronger word than “hate.” It speaks of more than feeling hatred. Abhor means to avoid or turn aside, to reject the person one hates. The Israelites could not bear the sight of the person who chastised them. Even Jesus said, “No prophet is welcome in his hometown.” The Israelites would not see or listen to a person among them who was pure and righteous. It made them remember their sins. Sin and guilt is much easier to hide from when you avoid daily reminders of it. If the reminder was only mental and not physical, people develop good ways to “stuff” the sin memory back in their memory so it does not bother them.

The Israelites avoided and prohibited righteous judges from speaking, but they could not avoid God and His judgment. In verse eleven, God reminded them through Amos’ sermon they were corrupt and oppressive. The Israelites imposed heavy rents on the poor and exacted a grain tribute from them even though they themselves were wealthy-lived in big houses and had vineyards. We can never get away from God’s conviction of our sin. He will bring it back to our minds until we repent with or without using punishment. Just as Amos said in chapters two through four, the wealthy Israelites oppressed the poor. Amos mentioned two ways they did that in verse eleven. They made the poor pay high rents though they could not afford it and be able to have food for the family. To top it off, the rich required a tribute from the poor, basically an offering for being allowed to live there. The offering they required was part of the bit of food the poor family gleaned from the local fields. The rich took part of the little food the poor had because they were rich and had power. They did not need it for themselves. The rich did not take it because the poor did not pay their rent. They did it to oppress the poor. The poor feared if they did not let the landlord have the grain he would kick them out of the small place they rented.

With this bold, blatant pronouncement of the undeniable sins of the rich, God’s judgment fell upon them. Because they stole food from the poor and exacted too much as rent for their lodgings, the wealthy would not live in the houses they paid a professional builder to make with hewn stones instead of mud and rock. Though the rich had summer and winter houses, the enemy would smash them to pieces (Amos 6:11). God would not allow the rich to live in their houses made by oppressing the poor and depriving them of their God-given rights. He also would not allow them to drink and enjoy the wine from their vineyards. The Israelites would not live in luxury and drink their wine that came from oppressing the poor and thwarting righteous judgments by the men of God. This judgment reminds of God’s promises of blessings and curses in Deuteronomy 28 for the Israelites if they choose to obey or disobey Him. In Deuteronomy 28: 1, Moses stated the LORD’s words, “Now it shall be if you will diligently obey the LORD you God being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.” (NASB) God would protect the Israelites and their enemies would not touch them if they remained faithful to their covenant with God. The flip-side to this promise of blessing is Deuteronomy 28:20 when Moses spoke for the LORD and said, “The LORD will send upon you curses, confusion, and rebuke in all you undertake to do until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken Me.” [NASB] By stating this judgment against Israel, Amos said the LORD invoked His covenantal promise of curses against Israel because of their disobedience to His laws.

The reminder of the Deuteronomic covenant also reminded the Israelites that God sees and knows everything they do. They could not get away from Him. In verse twelve, Amos said God knew of the peoples’ transgressions-their rebellion against Him and His laws. He knew their sins and guilt. The Israelites had missed the mark-sinned. They were unfaithful to their covenant with God. God realized the Israelites harassed and showed hostility to the righteous, accepted bribes to defeat justice, and subverted equality for the poor by refusing to listen to their cases or deciding in favor of the person who paid the highest bribe. Amos recorded examples of this-put poor in jail for the price of sandals, exacted tributes of grain, and required unreasonably high rents for dilapidated places to live. God knew of their transgressions and sins.

With verse thirteen, Amos recognized the insightfulness of “prudent” (spiritually wise) people to keep silent during that evil time. The Israelites would have thrown to the ground and trampled on what the prudent said, too, as they might have done their lives. The spiritually wise people would know to make the most of their time because the days were evil (Ephesians 5:16). But yet, still some wise men spoke up for the poor in the gate, as verse ten notes. With verse thirteen, Amos may have alluded to the time of their captivity when it would be too late to speak up for the poor and oppressed because they would no longer have any courts in which to speak up for justice. Though the spiritually wise and righteous man spoke up for righteousness and for the rights of the poor, the rich discarded his words like they did God’s laws. A time would come when there would be no courts for the poor or the once rich people. There would also be a time when they would seek words from God and would not find them because His judgment had come upon them.
We should consider our lives and times now-

·         Do you know of a person or people whom the courts treated unjustly?
·         Do you know of a person who corrupts the law and gets what he desires even though laws oppose it?
·         Is there someone you know in your community, city, or village who needs a righteous person to stand up for equality and justice for them?
·         Will you stand up for righteousness and justice for the poor and outcast?

The Invitation to Life-reprise

With verses fourteen and fifteen, Amos returned to the invitation God offered in verses four and six. In verse four, the voice was first person. God invited the Israelites to seek Him and receive life. In verse six, the voice was third person, Amos invited the Israelites to seek the LORD and receive life. Now with verse fourteen, Amos urged the Israelites to seek good, not evil and receive life. Three times Amos implored the Israelites to seek life. What exactly did Amos say in verses fourteen and fifteen? He said,

14 “Seek good and not evil, that you may live, and thus may the LORD God of hosts be with you, just as you have said. 15Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate! Perhaps the LORD God of hosts may be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.” [NASB]

As we notice in verses four, six, and fourteen, Amos emphasized the two sides of faith in the LORD God. One is the vertical relationship with God in worshiping and praying to Him. The other is the horizontal relationship with other people in doing ethically good things according to God’s righteousness and His laws. With verses fourteen and fifteen, Amos contrasted evil and good for the Israelites so they understood well what God required of His people. “Good” comes from the Hebrew word tobe and means agreeable and pleasant to the higher nature, ethical and moral goodness that benefits other people and self. “Evil” comes from the Hebrew word ra’ and means disagreeable, malignant, unpleasant morally and ethically, hurtful, unkind, causing misery, injury and distress. Obviously the Israelites’ oppression of the poor and corruption of the judicial system falls into the “evil” category for which Amos prophesied God charged and judged the Israelites. “Good” is those things opposite of what they did. Notice in this verse, like in verses four and six, the statement is conditional. If they seek good and not evil, they may live. If they seek evil, they would not live. It would be their fault if God’s judgment came upon them.

As a broad bold emphasis to verse fourteen, Amos told the Israelites to “hate evil.” Just as they hated and abhorred the person who spoke with integrity in verse ten, Amos told them they should mentally and physically hate evil. The Israelites should turn away and avoid evil. David exhorted this in Psalm 97:10. He said, “Hate evil, you who love the LORD.” A person cannot say they love the LORD then do evil. Those two are mutually exclusive. Jesus said in Matthew 7:16 that by a person’s fruit you will recognize a he or she is a Christian. James said in James 2:18 he would show you his faith by his works. What a person does shows his relationship with God. What you do in your horizontal relationships to and for other people shows your vertical relationship with God.

Besides hating evil, Amos told the Israelites in verse fifteen to love good. “Love” comes from the Hebrew word ‘ahab and means to desire what God desires, love God and His laws. Loving good means to desire what is ethically right according to God. He continued in this verse, “Establish justice in the gate!” Desiring what God desires is one thing; acting on it is another. We must put into action our love for good. We can say something, but unless we act upon it, we are not much better than those who do not love good and do not act on it. Abhorring and hating evil requires physical actions so loving good as God does requires action. Jesus lived this kind of life while He walked on the earth. He did not just tell his disciples to feed the poor, give sight to the blind, heal the sick, and disciple all nations. Jesus did it. He told them what you have seen me do, go and do it. Paul said this same thing in Philippians 4:9. Love good and practice judgment. Make sure it exists. Stand up for righteousness and goodness.

With the rest of verse fifteen, Amos said, “Perhaps the LORD God of hosts may be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.”  “Perhaps” is a word that implies a possibility. Amos did not want the total destruction or captivity of the people of the northern kingdom. He wanted God to save some of them, like the ten percent in verse three. He had hope based on God’s words to him. Amos hoped God would spare some of the Israelites. He pled with the Israelites to repent and return to the LORD God. God said in verse six His fire would consume and destroy them. Amos knew from the past, God is merciful. When Solomon finished building the temple in Jerusalem, God told the people, “If my people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 [NASB]) The Israelites of the northern kingdom were God’s children through His promise to Abraham. He did not want to destroy them utterly. Amos’ plea to them to seek God, do good, and hate evil came from understanding God’s past love and mercy. He gave them hope a remnant of Israel would survive the takeover by an enemy nation.

·         What evil do you do that God hates and abhors?
·         For what godly good that do you make a stand?
·         For what evil do you need to repent to God, seek His forgiveness, and renew a relationship with Him?

A Lament - reprise

With verses sixteen and seventeen, Amos concluded this sermon. Just as he began it with a personal dirge, a lamentation for Israel, he ended it with God foretelling Israel’s lamenting their plight because of His judgment. Amos said in Amos 5:16-17,

16 “Therefore, thus says the LORD God of hosts, the Lord, ‘There is wailing in all the plazas and in all the streets they say, ‘Alas! Alas!’ They also call the farmer to mourning and the professional mourners to lamentation. 17 And in the vineyards there is wailing, because I shall pass through the midst of you,’ says the LORD.” [NASB]

Understand Amos made sure the people of Israel knew who spoke to them. He used the same four names for Him he used before-LORD Yehovah God ‘Elohiym of hosts, the Lord Adonay. This God who spoke to the Israelites and foretold their judgment and their lament is the “existing One,” the I AM, the ruler and judge, the Lord of hosts of heaven and earth. He is the almighty only GOD. This GOD is the One who creates all things, causes dark to change to light and light to gloom. He’s the One who allows enemies to overthrow His people. This GOD is the One who rescued them from Egypt, made them a nation, and called them His people. The One GOD.

This God of Amos, the Israelites, and their ancestors foretold wailing in the plazas and the streets. In open places and closed people would mourn. All people would mourn-farmers, farm workers, and professional mourners. The people who wail from their own grief and those trained to write and cry out poems of lament would wail. In city, farmland, and village wailing would occur. Where songs of joy were sung in the vineyards and fields before, songs of mourning would abound.

Why would there be national lamenting? God’s judgment would affect every person in Israel. In verse seventeen, God said He would “pass through” the midst of the Israelites. Instead of God passing over the Israelites as He did in Egypt when He struck down all the first born in Egypt (Exodus 12), He would “pass through” the land of the Israelites (Amos 7:8, Micah 7:18). Unlike the last time, God’s judgment would fall on the Israelites. Israelites would die. Others would go into captivity.  The enemy would destroy the land and crops. They would smash and crush the buildings, cities, vineyards, city walls, fortresses, and houses until they fell. God foresaw in these two verses the people would not obey; they would continue to live unrighteously. He foresaw their lamenting and proclaimed it occurred because they would not repent and return to Him.

·         Are there things God is telling you are sins, but you continue to ignore Him?
·         Have you listened to God, felt His conviction, and returned to Him, then fallen away again?
·         Did you hear God’s voice, repent of your sin, seek the LORD, and learn to worship and follow Him, then note now you are more blessed than earlier in your life?
·         We each fall into one of these three categories. Honestly between you and God, in which of these do you fall?

Recap

Amos told Israel each of God’s prophecies against the seven nations surrounding them. Next he told them of God’s charge and judgment against their own nation. The LORD charged the Israelites with oppressing the poor, corruption, and idol worship. With two sermons Amos explained the LORD would allow an enemy nation to subdue them, kill some people, take some captive, and leave a remnant in the land mixed with people from other nations. The buildings and strongholds of the Israelites would fall. The enemy would loot and trample their produce and vineyards. Nothing would remain as it was when they worshiped their own gods and their own desires. With chapter five verses one through seventeen, Amos wrote a lament for the people of Israel, his brothers. He noted God’s sadness over the Israelites choosing evil over Him. Amos left them with a hope that a remnant would remain if they repented and sought the LORD with their heart and soul.

Conclusion and Relevance

God knew the likelihood of Israel’s repentance. During their 200+ years as a nation, they had nineteen kings and each of them was evil in the LORD’s sight. These kings followed after the ways of Jeroboam I who instituted idol worship. With each successive king the people of the northern kingdom became more lost, forgot who GOD is, and what His laws were. They strayed from the LORD for so long they had no moral compass, but sought only the desires of their hearts.

Are you walking with the Lord today?
Have you ever heard of Him?

Have you heard about Him, but chose not to accept His mercy, love, forgiveness, and eternal life?
Each of us experiences times in our lives when we a like the Israelites. If you are a Christian, you have probably had seasons of being very close to God, studied the Bible, spent time in prayer, and worshiped Him daily. Most likely, you have also lived periods of your life when you did not seek God’s will for something you wanted to have or do and did or bought it, anyway. Maybe you continued to do things like that and finally realized you had left God. That is when you were like the Israelites.

Possibly you knew about Jesus and thought, “That’s not for me. I don’t need to lean on anything to make it in life.” Or you might have said, “Nah, I have time to think about that later. I have to live my life now.”

God has greater blessings in store for you than you could ever give yourself.
God loves you more than you love yourself.

Does that make you stop and think? God loves you more than you love yourself. He knows what would be good and bad for you. God doesn’t just give good things; He gives what is best for each person. More importantly, God gave the best gift ever-salvation for your sins. You and I need that more than anything.

If you have not heard about God’s great love for you or if you have not taken the time to listen to and understand, let me explain it to you. We each are fallible. We make mistakes throughout our lives. We can’t help it because we are each sinful. Paul said it this way in Romans 3:23. He said, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” God is sin-free; He is holy. We are sinful. He will not be in the presence of sin because He is holy. Because of our sin, we are separated from God, forever. There was no hope for humankind.

But God had a plan from the beginning of the world. What was His plan? He planned to save us, each of us, from our sin because He wants to be with us, to have a relationship with us. He knew we would need a Savior and planned it. In due time, in “the fullness of time” Galatians 4:4 says, God sent His Son to be born into human form, to walk on earth and experience temptation as we do, and to remain sin-free. This Son of God is named Jesus and, yes, He did not sin even though Satan tempted Him. Because He was sin-free, He was a worthy substitute for us, to take the penalty for our sins. You see, if we died with all our sin and we couldn’t be in the presence of God while we are alive, when we die, we would experience separation from God forever.

But God provided the powerful sin-free substitute to take our sin penalty for us so we wouldn’t be separated from God. Jesus willingly let the Jews persecute Him and the Romans beat and crucify Him. He didn’t do it because He loves pain. He did it because He loves you and me! Jesus took your place, he jumped in front of the rolling boulder so you wouldn’t die and experience eternal separation from God. Remember, your sins separated you from God forever. Jesus' death and resurrection provided the gateway, the bridge, for you to cross the chasm between God and humankind so you could be in the presence of God and have a relationship with Him. His resurrection showed He has the power to defeat death. His crucifixion took away the power of sin to separate you from God.
Ok, that seems easy enough to understand, right? “What’s the catch?” you might think. There’s no catch. God isn’t trying to trick you. He is trying to give you the best thing. For now God wants to give you salvation from your sins which brings you into relationship with Him. He also gives you power to overcome the temptations you face daily so you will not sin. Forever and eternally,

God wants you to be in His presence, receive His forgiveness and love, and enjoy an eternal relationship with Him.

You say, “Every other religion says I must do something to receive a possibility to receive salvation and be in God’s presence. What do I have to do to receive this gift from God?”

You don’t have to “do” anything to be saved from your sins.


No true gift has stipulations attached to it. A gift is free. Paul said that about the salvation God offers us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He said in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “Surely I must do something,” you say. Paul told us in Romans 10:9-10 the only thing you have to do to receive God’s free gift. He said,

“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.” [NASB]

When you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, you are saying He is the Messiah, the promised deliverer and Savior from God for our sins. You are saying Jesus is the promised Son of God. He has the power to defeat death and His crucifixion paid the penalty for your sins. You do nothing to be saved. After you are saved the fruits of your words and actions show your salvation to the world.
If you have never heard of God’s free gift given through His Son and now want to become a follower of Jesus, confess your sins to God, repent of them, and accept Jesus as your Lord, the Messiah from God.
If you have heard of God’s free gift of salvation before but put it off, don’t put it off any longer. Just as the Israelites had no idea when God’s judgment would come, delayed, and were surprised when His judgment came on them, you do not know when you will die or when Jesus will return to earth. You do not want to be too late to confess Jesus as your Lord and believe in Him for your salvation.

Have no regrets; accept God’s free gift today.

If you are already a Christian, but realize you stopped following Jesus a while back, now is the time to return to a right relationship with Him. It’s not too late. Repent of your sins to Him. Renew a right relationship with Him. He’s waiting for you to return to Him.

The LORD is GOD of all people, all nations, and all tongues. He created and loves each person. GOD allowed His Son, Jesus, to die a painful death for all of us. Listen to Paul one more time.

“There is no distinction between Jew and Greek,
for the same Lord is Lord of all,
abounding in riches for all who call upon Him;

for whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”      (Romans 10:12-13 [NASB])