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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Choose True Joy...Choose Jesus


“You will make known to me the path of life. In Your presence is fullness of joy. In Your right hand, there are pleasures forever.” -Psalm 16:11 (NASB)

Introduction

What is joy? What is happiness? Are these mutually exclusive? Over time, even Christians separated joy from happiness saying joy comes from God and happiness from circumstances. When we read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, we note God did not intend we have one and not the other. He gives both joy and happiness. Only as people took their lives into their own hands and made themselves their own gods did these two get separated. Read the passage from Psalm 16:11 written above. It says God gives fullness of joy. This phrase means God gives so much joy, gladness, happiness, and mirth that one is fully satisfied and lacking nothing. God’s joy is abundant and overflowing. Let’s consider through this Bible study what the Bible defines as joy and happiness, look at the reactions from them: rejoicing and exulting, understand how we can have joy, and what we do with joy.

What are Joy and Happiness?

Joy is a noun and occurs in one of two ways. It comes as a gift from God to His children or because of something you or someone else did or provided for you. God’s gift of joy is an eternal joy. Nothing can take this gift from you. The second kind of joy, worldly joy, is fleeting. It comes and goes based on circumstances. It cannot affect you for eternity because it comes from people, not eternal God. In the Bible, three Hebrew and Greek words express the English word “joy”. These words are chara, sasown, and chedvah.

The word “happiness” in the Bible is associated with the joy God gives. In the Old Testament, it comes from the word samach, a verb, and ‘osher. a noun. Samach means to cause to rejoice, be glad, make glad, or exult. ‘Osher is a worldly happiness. The word “happiness” comes from the root word “happy”. We must understand these and associated words to understand fully the joy, gladness, and happiness God gives as compared to what the world gives. Let’s study these words in more depth.

Joy

Chara. When someone asks a Christian what joy is, most believers will say it is a spiritual fruit. Christians refer to Paul’s letter to the new believers in Galatia in Galatians 5:22-23. In this passage, for Paul, “joy” was chara. Chara is a noun and means joy or gladness. It comes from being aware of God’s grace and favor. This joy/gladness is because of God’s grace, not works. It grows in us as we continue walking and growing in a right relationship with God. Joy/gladness reflects a quality of life grounded in God. People can experience it even when in very difficult situations. The fullness of joy comes when a deep sense of God’s presence is in one’s life. Joy/gladness reflects through the person’s actions, words, and attitude. It comes from the Holy Spirit as a fruit/gift. Paul contrasted the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 with things people did to provide their own joy or gladness. The acts of the flesh noted in Galatians 5 are immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, and carousing. Doing these things may bring pleasure/joy/gladness for a moment, but they each leave residual feelings that are not joy or gladness. The gladness (happiness) and joy these actions create are fleeting and often are against the law. Instead of these deeds, Paul said the fruit of the Spirit, the gifts given by God to Christians, do not pass away but grow and mature as a believer grows in his or her relationship with God. They never end because God never ends. Joy from God is continual and eternal, just like love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The difference between the gladness (happiness) and joy of God and the gladness (happiness) and joy of the world is its effect on the person. God’s joy, chara, produces continual rejoicing and exulting in God while sharing with others about life with Him. The joy and gladness of the world fades and can bring guilt and remorse depending on how people acquire it.

Paul was not the only believer in the Bible to write about this difference. The writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 11:23-26 spoke of two kinds of joy. He spoke of a joy that comes from the passing pleasures of sin. Note, this earthly joy and gladness/happiness is fleeting. Moses chose the joy and gladness God gives. He preferred to endure ill-treatment along with God’s people than the pleasures of sin with the Egyptians because he looked for the reward from God. He had hope in Yahweh, the God who created, called, provided for, and protected Him and the people of Israel.

Solomon, too, thought he would seek the happiness the world desired. He found the pleasures of the world to be futility and meaningless (Ecclesiastes 2:1-2). Solomon found pleasure accomplished nothing. The joy of the Lord is abundant and never ending, but the joy of the world is hollow. The joy of the world has no basis and evaporates.

Sasown. We must note in the Bible God considers joy, gladness, and happiness as a sum together. They are the same, not considered different from each other. This thought was not new to the new covenant, but Old Testament writers understood and wrote about it, too. The Hebrew word, sasown, means gladness, joy, exultation, and rejoicing. People use these English words interchangeably in the Bible and realize they add explanation and depth to each of the other words. Consider Zechariah 8:19. He said, “The fasts will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah.” Joy, gladness, and rejoicing go hand in hand. In Esther 8:16-17, joy and gladness again describe the lives of the Jews at that point in time. Notice, too, even in the Old Testament, true joy, sasown, comes from God to His children. His children, the Israelites, were the ones with whom He covenanted. When they remained faithful to Him, He blessed them and they received joy, gladness, happiness, and then rejoiced. Consider this in these passages – Jeremiah 16:9, 25:10, 31:13, 33:9 & 11; Isaiah 12:3, 35:10, 51:3 & 11, 61:3; and Psalm 45:7, 105:43, and 119:11. Notice Isaiah 51:3-11 states God is the giver of lasting joy. Isaiah 22:13 says gladness fades when it is manmade. Manmade gladness is a false gladness. Even in the Old Testament, the people of the LORD understood that true and lasting joy, gladness, and happiness come from God. They did not differentiate between joy, gladness, and happiness in those times; they were the same.

Chedvah. One other Hebrew word tells us about joy in the Old Testament and adds depth and meaning to its definition to go with sasown. That word is chedvah. Old Testament writers used chedvah only twice, but these provide an understanding that continues into the New Testament. It, too, means joy and gladness. In 1 Chronicles 16:27, the chronicler recorded his understanding that joy is God’s and comes from Him. True joy-eternal and heavenly joy-are from God.

Nehemiah 8:10 explains this to us, too, and furthers our understanding about joy and gladness. Nehemiah told the returned exiles, “The joy of the LORD is your strength.” Joy comes from the LORD, he said. Besides this, Nehemiah told them and tells us, another kind of joy exists in the world, one not of the LORD. Since it is of the world, it is fleeting. Whereas the LORD brings food, drink, and fulfilled promises, which caused continued, abounding, fully satisfying joy, the joy that comes from the world, Nehemiah said, would dissipate when the person consumed or removed them.

There are two kinds of joy, gladness, and happiness – that from God and that found in the world. Both Old and New Testaments record this understanding and many instances of it. When looking in a dictionary, we read joy is extreme happiness. That is the world’s definition. Because the world considers happiness different from joy, we must look at what the Bible says about the words “happy” and “happiness”. Still, with our current understanding of what the Bible considers joy, we must affirm true joy, gladness, and happiness are the same. It comes from the receipt of grace/favor from God, not from a person’s actions as the world sees it. Joy is not more powerful than happiness. What determines the power of joy, gladness, and happiness is from whom the grace/favor comes-God or another person.


Happy and Happiness

Are joy and happiness truly the same thing in the Bible? Based on the above study of the Old and New Testament words for “joy” and their meanings, happy, glad, and joyous are joint descriptors of a person who receives God’s grace. That person received joy because of God’s grace. Because of God’s grace and the joy it brings, the person is happy or glad. Happiness then is blessedness when you find your purpose and fulfillment in God-in a relationship with Him and in His provisions. Let’s look at some passages about happiness to consider this more.

Makarios. Jesus taught the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 to his followers during His sermon on the mount. In that passage, Jesus said “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” He continued like this for nine verses. The Greek word from which “blessed” comes is makarios. Makarios means happy, blessed, or fortunate. It is an adjective that describes a person upon whom God sends His grace/favor/blessing. Does the world consider people who are mild in spirit, who mourn, who are gentle, who seek righteousness, who are merciful, who are pure in heart, who are peacemakers, and who are persecuted as blessed or happy? Being like those people is contrary to the world’s idea of happiness, but Jesus said these kinds of people are happy and fortunate in God. He held them up as role models. In this understanding through Jesus’ teaching, “happy” is primarily associated with one’s disposition and character rather than one’s emotive response to occurrences and events. No matter what happens, the truly happy person, the believer, will consider him or herself blessed to be a child of God. The believer won’t let the weight of problems take away his or her joy/happiness. The world defines happiness differently than does God. For the world, when good and pleasurable things happen to you or come to you, then you are happy, not when bad things happen, or people overlook or revile you. The world bases happiness on one’s circumstances. Jesus said happiness is not based on circumstances. He based happiness and joy on one’s relationship with the Father. Jesus calls a “happy” person one who is in a relationship with the Father. That believer is growing to become more Christlike and have a disposition and character like Him. A person who centers his or her life in a relationship with God shows a disposition of a righteous life. A relationship with God and resultant righteous disposition allows the person to enjoy happiness no matter what occurs, good or bad. True happiness, joy, and gladness are rooted in the activity of God and His character. God’s character is the lens through which a truly joyful and happy person views his or her world. That person is blessed to be a child of God and nothing can take that away from him or her. God is the blessing and the Christian has true joy and happiness because of the grace and favor of knowing the Lord in that way.

‘Esher. The Bible uses another word that translates as happy. The Old Testament writers used the word ‘esher (noun) to speak about a blessed or happy person. Again, this speaks about the receipt of God’s favor as His child. To be His child is to be in a covenant relationship with Him and receive protection, provision, and promise from Him. In Job, the Hebrew word ‘esher translates as happy are the people who are in a right relationship with Yahweh. In Job 5:17, Job told his friends even when God reproves/corrects a person, that person can be happy because the Lord only corrects the person He loves. That person whom God corrected could be happy knowing God loved him or her enough to reprove him or her. He works to direct each of His children on the right path like a loving parent disciplines his or her child. Even when negative things happen, the Bible says Christians can still have joy and happiness because God loves us and we have hope through Him.

In another biblical instance, in 1 Kings 10:8, Queen Sheba considered the men who heard King Solomon’s wisdom as ‘esher-blessed and happy. Again, “happy” describes a person’s disposition and character rather than his or her emotive response to happenings. Moses, in Deuteronomy 33:28-29, called Israel happy (blessed-‘esher) because God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. David said in Psalms 32:1-2 a righteous person is a happy person because of his or her knowledge that God has forgiven individual sins. At the beginning of his psalms in Psalm 1:1-3, David relayed this happiness and blessedness (‘esher) when he wrote about the wicked and the righteous. He said,
“How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD and in His Law, he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields it fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither, and in whatever he does, he prospers.” (NASB)
David called a person blessed and happy when he walks in God’s ways. Walking in God’s ways makes a person firmly planted and watered so fruit grows. That person does not wither and all he does prospers. Because God is righteous, only good comes from Him. He continues to provide growth and fruit for the person who lives in relationship with Him. Happiness and joy come from being in a growing relationship with the Lord. Dryness and lack of fruit come from walking in the ways of the world seeking immediate pleasure that does not satisfy and comes to an end.

Samach. Surely happiness is a state of being, you may say. Let’s look at the times in the Bible it speaks of happiness. Writers of the Old Testament used two words to convey what we know as happiness, samach and osher.

Samach is a verb used 148 times in the Old Testament, 78 of which are in Deuteronomy, Psalms, and Proverbs. It means to cause to rejoice, be glad, exult, and make glad. The following passages show the samach God gives. Deuteronomy 24:5 recorded God’s rule for a newly married man to stay with his wife for a year before returning to the army so he could give her happiness. A good start in a married life was God’s gift to the newlyweds. In other places in Deuteronomy, people experienced happiness and rejoiced when they ate before the LORD the things with which He blessed them (Deuteronomy 12:7, 12, & 18, Deut. 14:26, etc.). In Psalm 5:11, samach means to be glad and joyful. Again, God paired happiness, gladness, and joy. Psalm 14:7 and 16:9 join rejoicing and being glad with happiness (samach). One interesting chapter recorded David recognizing his true joy and hope came from God even though his enemies rejoiced over his stumbling (Psalm 35). David had happiness even though his enemies rejoiced over his misstep, not because he did something right, but because of Whose he was. He was the chosen king and child of God. David recognized the enemies’ joy was fleeting because God was the source of his own joy. His enemies’ joy came from their luck. Further, in Psalm 58:10, David equated happiness with rejoicing when God brings vengeance on his enemies. Bible writers joined happiness, gladness, and joy. They did not separate them like people have done over the last six or seven centuries in other languages.

‘Osher. In Genesis 30:13, Leah called herself happy because her maid Zilpah bore a second son for Jacob. She had a running race with her sister, Rebecca, to give Jacob more sons. Leah would do anything she could to win that race even if it meant going about it in a way God did not want-Jacob sleeping with more women. ‘Osher means happy in Old Testament Hebrew. Leah named her son Asher, a form of the word ‘osher, saying he brought her happiness. This verse is the only instance of ‘osher being used in the Bible. This form of happiness, we can conjecture from the biblical context, is the worldly form of happiness. The worldly form of happiness is getting one’s own happiness at the expense of others, not waiting for God to give the blessing or favor. In doing what Leah did to give another son to Jacob, she used Zilpah and caused pain to Zilpah and Rebecca.


Culture and “Happy”

The words “happy” and “happiness” change based on culture and time. What God intended to come from perfect contentment and relationship with Him changed with the whims of humanity. To arrive at an easier form of joy and happiness, people constructed a lower, non-true form of joy and happiness. The etymology of the word “happy” takes us back to its Norwegian roots. It came from the word “hap,” which meant lucky. From then people connected luck to a person’s contentment and happiness, not to God’s grace and favor. From that point, each person could then make his or her own luck and find his or her own joy and happiness. The only problem with this is the joy and happiness found that way is never enough and never lasts long. It creates a desire for more with the need to do whatever it takes to be happy. Sometimes doing whatever it takes involves hurting people physically, mentally, financially, or emotionally. One person’s luck then becomes another person’s pain (bad luck). When God gives joy, gladness, and happiness, He does not take away from another person. Instead, He gives from His bottomless, eternal storehouse, from His character. When we understand how joy and happiness have changed from its original intent in the Bible, we can understand how people now connect happiness with circumstances and joy with God instead of realizing both come from God and then seeking to be in a growing relationship with Him. Understanding joy and happiness leads us to a question.  How do we express what we experience when we receive God’s unmerited grace/favor? What words do Bible writers use along with joy, gladness, and happiness that tell how we express them?


The Outcome of True Joy

What reactions naturally come from a person who experiences joy, gladness, and happiness from the Lord? The Bible says these people rejoice and exult. Isaiah 35:10 said God’s people will be happy forever. Gladness and joy will overtake them and sorrowing and sighing will flee.

Rejoicing. In Romans 12:12, Paul urged believers to rejoice in hope. The word “rejoice” comes from the Greek word chairo and means to be exceedingly glad, to rejoice, to be well. It’s a feeling that comes from deep within a person’s being. A joy that bubbles up into action, like a fountain bubbling up and overflowing onto anyone and anything around it.

Exulting. In Romans 5:2-11, Paul added believers can exult in hope of the glory of God, exult in our tribulations, and exult in God. The word “exult” comes from the Greek word kauchaomai and means to glory with or without reason in a person or thing, to take pride in or boast. “Exulting” means to take great joy by acting it out in word and action whether for a specific reason or not. Both rejoicing and exulting are actions that come from the bubbling forth of joy and happiness within a child of God. Happiness is not the emotional outcome of joy, rejoicing and exulting are.


Final Thoughts on the Word Study

From these Bible passages, we can understand God’s true purpose for joy and happiness. Joy and happiness are gifts from God given to people. They are blessings from God to His people, those whom He made righteous. The joy and happiness of the Lord does not dry up, fade away, or cause harm to another person. It can come for no reason and, can also occur because of what God has done in and for a person. True joy and happiness spring up from the heart of a person and bubble continually because its source-God-is unending. It reveals itself to other people through rejoicing and exulting in word and action giving glory to the Giver of the joy and happiness, God.

Understanding the words from the Old and New Testaments show us joy, happiness, and gladness originally came from God and continue if one seeks Him and His ways. These come from God because of a person’s growing relationship with Him. They come as gifts of the Spirit just as Paul spoke of in Galatians 5. God’s love for His children ushers forth in favor and blessing as relationship, provision, protection, and reproof. From the creation of the world God provided: man for woman and woman for man, and food, protection, and relationship with Him. Throughout the rest of humankind’s history, God continued to provide as we read in the Bible. His ultimate blessing to humankind is His greatest testament of love to people: forgiveness and new life through the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus, as the death payment for the sins of humanity. This gift brings one of the greatest joys and sources of happiness, and provides hope. This hope gives believers His joy, which helps them persevere during trials.

God blessed humanity and created joy and happiness for each person. When sin entered the world because people wanted to direct their own lives and be their own gods, they corrupted joy and happiness. People seek joy and happiness through temporary means and often at the expense of others. The joy and happiness people receive through their own striving results in a temporary good feeling or emotion. The resultant emotions and/or responses that come from the joy and happiness people experience show from whom joy, happiness, and gladness came: God or ourselves.
The happiness the world espouses is fleeting and often damaging. It’s often contrary to the Lord’s laws and comes at the expense of other people. Paul said in Galatians 5 fleeting joy and happiness often comes from immorality, lawlessness, impurity, sensuality, and anger. It may temporarily bring happiness, but then fades leaving guilt, remorse, and a desire for more without considering the cost. It can be like an addiction. A question arises from this. Will we seek joy and happiness in circumstances or in God? Will we allow circumstances to define God or His character? The challenge is to allow God's character to be the lens for interpreting circumstances so we can know right from wrong and seek God exclusively.

How Do We Get Joy?

As we consider joy and happiness, questions arise. How do we get joy? From where does it come? Is it fleeting or not and why? The answers to these questions came in the word study above and come as you read other Bible verses about joy, happiness, and gladness. Joy comes as a gift from God; it’s a fruit/gift of the Spirit. He gave joy with His blessings at creation to Adam and Eve. God gave Eve to Adam as a helpmeet. He gave them dominion over creation. These were blessings to bring joy and happiness. God promised to bless Abraham, make his name great, and through him to bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3).

Blessing, joy, and happiness are not just New Testament ideas from the advent of the Messiah. Joy and happiness come from God, were originally a result of blessing from Him. If you’ve read through the book of Deuteronomy, you will remember chapter twenty-eight. In that chapter, Moses recorded the blessings from God to the Israelites if they remained faithful to Him. You realize from your reading of Deuteronomy what God gives is not necessarily the blessing, per se. God is the blessing!

Joy comes from knowing and trusting God!

Yes, joy and happiness come from what God gives and does for a person. More importantly, being in a growing love relationship with God is the true blessing that causes joy and happiness within a person. Because God is the source of joy and happiness and because He is Alpha and Omega-beginning and end, I AM-He and the joy that comes from being in relationship with Him never ends.

Joy from God is not fleeting!

You may still ask: But how do we get joy? I don’t feel joyful. I see other people laughing and singing. How can I have joy when I am covered by dark clouds? These are valid questions and believers of the Bible experienced what you experience. Their lives were like yours. Some days the sun seemed to shine for 20 hours, their eyes lit up like the sun, their fields grew without worm or drought, and their lives flowed gently and exuberantly onward. Other days they saw locusts, experienced the death of children, lost possession of their homes, and had to beg from door to door losing their self-respect. Did they have joy even during those hard times? Can we have joy during those hard times.

Remember what Paul said in Galatians 5:22-23. Love, joy, peace, patience and all those other things are fruits of the Spirit. Paul spoke to pagan-background believers in Galatia in this letter. They had no personal history with Yahweh. The Galatians did not know the stories of I AM calling Abraham and Moses, and creating the world. The Galatians knew about empires like Assyria, Persia, and Rome. They lived under the laws and regimes of their Kings and Caesars. The people of Galatia understood good and evil. The Galatian Christians probably experienced the hardness of life at the hands of people who sought their own joy by making themselves more important than them. These pagan-background believers of Galatia knew about immorality, impurity, sensuality and all the other things Paul listed for them. Before they became believers, they did not know about the alternative the Savior would give to them when they believed in Jesus for salvation. Paul contrasted their old ways of living with the possibilities of the new way. The possibilities of goodness came through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who grew the fruits of righteousness in them, fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, et. al. The Galatians could have joy without hurting other people, a joy that was everlasting. They could have the joy God gives through the Spirit because they believed in Jesus Christ as their Savior. No matter what came against them from selfish people, they could have joy. Joy isn’t dependent upon circumstances, but upon the One faithful and eternal God. We have joy because God gives it through His Spirit to all believers. No matter what the days or weeks threw at the Galatians, they could choose joy, choose to act and react based on God’s character, what He did for them, and who He was to them. We can also choose joy and choose to act and react based on who God is and what He’s done for us.

Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit

When Paul wrote to the Romans in Romans 5:1-11, he could have lamented with them about the trials the new believers experienced. Paul could have told the Roman believers they should have expected retribution from their friends and families when they turned their backs on their pantheon of gods, but he didn’t. He stood with them and taught them from his own background. Paul knew what ostracism and hate felt like from the time he believed in Jesus and turned his back on being a Pharisee, a man who judged and condemned Jesus-followers. He explained in these few verses they could have joy in their tribulations because tribulations bring perseverance, proven character, and hope. That hope, Paul said, would not disappoint them because God poured His love into their hearts through the Holy Spirit given to all who believe in Jesus Christ.

Joy grows through trials because Jesus gives hope.

Jesus explained this to His disciples when He foretold his death and resurrection in John 16. He explained to them in verses sixteen through twenty-four He would die and be resurrected, and they would not see Him. The disciples would weep and lament, and the world would rejoice at His death. Jesus then said, their grief would turn into joy. He told them in that day to ask for anything in His name then they would receive and their joy would be full-would be abounding. The disciples could rejoice knowing whatever they asked in Jesus’ name God would give them. They would abound and overflow with joy. Ask with full faith in Jesus; your joy will abound.

Joy comes from believing and asking in Jesus’ name.

Asking in Jesus name is more than a mantra. Yes, from it you will have joy, but it comes because of your faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who died so your sins will be forgiven and you can be in God’s presence forever. In 1 Peter 1:8-9, Peter told the believers in Asia minor about the “inexpressible joy” they had because even though they had not seen Jesus, they loved him and believed in Him for salvation.

Joy comes by faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.

The writer of Hebrews stated in Hebrews 12:2 Jesus endured the cross knowing the joy that would come from it. He didn’t die a painful crucifixion because He wanted to feel the weight of his body hang upon three nails. Jesus didn’t die so He could know what it felt like to drown from fluid in his lungs. He died knowing the joy each of us would receive when He cleansed us from our sins. Jesus knew the great joy He would give us by cleansing us. He counted His crucifixion a worthy price to pay for our salvation and joy. Jesus called this excruciating death a joy because of what it would do for people who believed in Him and because of His love for all people. Would you pay that price for someone to experience this same joy?

Joy comes from Jesus cleansing and forgiving you.

As we walk with the Lord daily and grow in our faith, Jesus’ words to the seventy sent-out ones call each of us back to humility and the basis of our faith. Jesus told them in Luke 10:19-20,
“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” (NASB)

We each will get to a time in our lives after we’ve been Christians for a few years that it seems as if God is with us and we are empowered to conquer all that comes our way. At that time, remember again your power and strength to overcome, as well as boldness and courage, come from the Lord. Most importantly, don’t rejoice in what you are doing and seeing, but rejoice that God recorded your name as His child in His book in heaven. Stay grounded (humble) and recall Who did in your life everything you have experienced and seen. It wasn’t you; it was God.

Joy comes from remembering you are God’s child.
Nothing can separate you from Him.

David had a remarkable relationship with Yahweh. He learned to be a shepherd and leader of His people. David learned to protect and provide for them because of the LORD’s teaching. He gave us examples of blessing the LORD in dark days, standing firm in troubling times, and remembering his inheritance and hope while in the valleys. More than anything, David’s life and writings teach us being in God’s presence gives fullness of joy. Being in God’s presence completely satisfied him. Hear his heart in Psalm 16:11.

“You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is the fullness of joy. In Your right hand, there are pleasures forever.” (NASB)
Joy is full, abounding, and complete in God’s presence.


What do We do with Joy?

Ø  We worship the Lord. We dance like David danced.
Ø  We stand strong in trials, endure, and keep hope.
Ø  We testify to people around us as we praise God for saving us, walking with us, making a way for us, cleansing and forgiving us, giving us hope, and blessing us with His gifts.
Ø  We praise with great rejoicing and exultation.
Ø  We be still and know He is God; He is the blessing.
Ø  We sing with David and all creation–
1 Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
2 Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
3 Praise Him with trumpet and sound; Praise Him with harp and lyre.
4 Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
5 Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!                                           [Psalm 150 (NASB)]
Experiencing God’s joy and happiness
creates the over-abounding desire to rejoice!

Application Questions

·         Where are you on your joy journey? Have you met and accepted Jesus as your Savior and are overflowing with His joy?
·         Are you facing trials and enduring because of the hope set before you?
·         Are you remembering God’s joy is not fleeting and, thus, are not chasing after the joys of the world?
·         Are you believing and asking in Jesus’ name for joy?
·         Are you remembering to be humble because it’s not about you, but about God?
·         Are you remembering to know and trust God?
·         Are you remembering you are God’s child and nothing can separate you from Him?
·         Are you standing in the Lord’s presence full, abounding, and overflowing with the joy of the Lord?

Don’t settle for the joy and happiness the world gives.

Choose true joy. Choose Jesus.

Receive God’s forgiveness and salvation and Burst forth with His fruit of joy.
Live with unending, overflowing, eternal joy.
Bound forth with rejoicing. Don’t let the world’s definitions and limitations restrict you.

“Proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” [1 Peter 2:9b (NASB)]

Are you allowing God’s joy to bubble forth and overflow in and from your life?
Go ahead, be a fount overflowing.
Let joy for the Lord be your hallmark.




Monday, August 21, 2017

Summer Fruit: Ripe for the Picking


Introduction

Earlier, in Amos 7, Amos received three visions from the LORD. GOD showed him what Israel had become and what judgment would befall them because of His righteousness and their covenant unfaithfulness to Him. With the first two visions-locust swarm and fire, Amos intervened for Israel asking GOD’s pardon for them. With the third vision of chapter seven, that of the plumb line, Amos did not mediate to GOD for the Israelites. He realized the extreme extent of their sins and the rightness of GOD’s charge and judgment on them.

In chapter seven, the chief priest of the northern kingdom, Amaziah, interrupted Amos charging him with wanting to overthrow the government. This priest cried out when Amos deigned to speak GOD’s judgment on the religion of Israel. Amaziah prohibited Amos from prophesying in Israel. He tried to censor him. Amos retorted he was a shepherd not a prophet trained or by birth. GOD called him to the task. With the last exclamation by Amaziah, Amos prophesied GOD’s words against Amaziah and the priesthood. Amaziah and his line would die by the sword. The captors would dishonor them. Amaziah would remain unclean on unclean soil.

With chapter eight of Amos, Amos revealed another vision the LORD gave him. This vision, like the first three, aimed directly at a sub-group of Israel’s population, the merchants. With this vision, GOD’s charge of the people and His judgment resound along with the feared removal of GOD’s protection of them and the resultant gloom and mourning.


Vision of Summer Fruit

In Amos 8:1-3, the LORD gave a vision to Amos of ripe summer fruit, explained the vision to him, and told him how it related to the Israelites. Amos said in verses one through three,
1 “Thus the Lord GOD showed me, and behold, there was a basket of summer fruit. 2 And He said, ‘What do you see, Amos?’ And I said, ‘A basket of summer fruit.’ Then the LORD said to me, ‘The end has come for My people Israel. I will spare them no longer. 3 The songs of the palace will turn to wailing in that day,’ declares the Lord GOD. ‘Many will be the corpses; in every place, they will cast them forth in silence.’” (NASB)
This fourth vision spoke about Israel’s theological trouble. They worshiped false gods, and did not keep Yehovah’s laws. That showed lack of love for the LORD and lack of care for the poor. The gods the Israelites worshiped would not raise them above GOD’s judgment. What GOD says will happen will most surely occur.

At the beginning of this warning/sermon, Amos ensured people knew from whom his vision came. He said the Lord GOD showed him. This Lord GOD is Adonay, the revered mighty God, and Yehovah, the existing One who always was, is, and will be. He is the I AM who spoke to Moses and of whom Moses taught the Israelites. This Lord GOD showed Amos a basket of summer fruit. The vision appears mild until put into perspective with GOD’s judgment of Israel throughout the chapter. The Hebrew word from which “fruit” comes is qayits. The fruit represents harvest time, the ripening of time and produce for plucking, cutting, and reaping. It tells the readers the time of which GOD spoke to Amos was harvest time, the time in which to celebrate the bounty from GOD’s hands. Humans sometimes perceive this time as the harvest festival or fall festival of what we have produced from our land. For GOD and Amos, this basket of summer fruit represented Israel. They were ripe and ready for plucking. Their sins were great/complete (“for three transgressions and for four” as Amos said in Amos 2). They had not turned away from their sins to return to GOD, so this harvest would be a harvest of judgment. GOD would not let them sin anymore before His judgment came upon them. We understand this better with verse two when GOD explains the vision to Amos.

In verse two, GOD told Amos, “The end has come for My people Israel.” The English word “end” comes from the Hebrew word qets. Qets and qayits of verse one sound similar and so are a play on words. This play on words re-enforces GOD’s judgment by saying just as the fruit is ripe at the end of summer and ready for picking, so Israel is ripe for plucking from her land because of her sin and GOD’s judgment on them. Israel’s sin upon sin made her ripe for GOD’s picking, His judgment. Amos was not the only prophet to say the Israelites’ end had come. Ezekiel 7:2 & 6 say the same thing. He recorded GOD said, “The end has come upon the four corners of the Land! I will unleash My anger against you. I will judge you according to your conduct and repay you for all your detestable practices.” (NASB) Besides ensuring the Israelites understood the LORD spoke this judgment against them and that their end was near, Amos made sure they knew GOD still considered them-the people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-as His people. He chose them and they covenanted with Him. GOD judged them because of His love for them and His covenant faithfulness toward them. The LORD said He would not spare them again. His Father’s heart gave them mercy and grace for many sins, but His love for them required no sparing of discipline anymore.

Yehovah explained to Amos the extent of His judgment on Israel. He said the songs of the palace, and the songs of praise for the harvest the Israelites sang in their temples and homes would become dirges. Earlier in Amos 5:23, Amos said GOD would not listen to their music. The Israelites should have sung songs to Yehovah, not to their idols and themselves. The priests should have shouted and sung about the judgments coming upon them-the anguish, death, and destruction. GOD said their songs of the harvest would turn to wailing when His judgment occurred. Why? His judgment on them meant many people would die. In every place, they would cast forth corpses. Remember in Amos 6:8-10 Amos told the Israelites their relatives would come to carry out the bodies and burn them. There would be so many bodies, they had to throw them into a fire together or into a mass grave. It's important to understand, GOD said they would do this in silence. Too many dead people makes a town, city, and nation overwhelmed. The paid mourners and wailers would be too busy finding and casting out the dead to give their professional services for all the dead of Israel. Israel would be silent as they cast forth the corpses. They would be silent recognizing the justice of GOD’s judgment. The people of Israel had no defense for GOD’s charge and kept silent in the face of His judgment. The terror and enormity of what happened would make them silent. GOD’s charges and judgments against Israel were just. The people of Israel would receive His judgment and recognize the justice of it for themselves. GOD’s justice comes from His righteousness. His righteousness is the absolute by which to compare the righteousness of humanity. With this vision and its explanation given to Amos, Amos could do nothing but proclaim it to Israel. He loved them because they were family and because GOD loved them.
·         Are you basking in the summer sun?
·         Are you enjoying the fresh fruit and taking the credit for it?
·         Are you thanking and praising God for His gifts and seeking His word and will for your life?

A Final Warning

GOD’s Charge

With verses four through fourteen, Amos gives a final warning, a sermon, to the Israelites. Like in earlier chapters where he spoke to the rich, the leaders, the priests, the kings, and the judges, in this chapter he relayed GOD’s judgment to a group of Israelites, the merchants. What did GOD charge against the merchants of Israel? Amos told them in verses four through six. Amos said,
“Hear this, you who trample the needy to do away with the humble of the land saying, ‘When will the new moon be over so that we may buy grain, and the Sabbath, that we may open the wheat market to make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger, and to cheat with dishonest scales, so as to buy the helpless for money and the needy for a pair of sandals, and that we may sell the refuse of the wheat.?’” (NASB)
Just as he did in each of his other sermons/proclamations, Amos began with the word shama. Remember, shama means to hear, listen, and obey. He used a word familiar to them from priests and from the past when the Israelites walked with Moses during the exodus. This word would catch their attention. What came next the Israelites would not expect. Amos spoke a reproof. Their priests seldom corrected the Israelites about their way of living. They encouraged greediness as long as the people appeased their gods, paid the priests well, and gave them an important place in society. To whom did Amos speak GOD’s words? He spoke to the people “who trampled the needy” and did away with the “humble of the land.” The Hebrew word from which “trample” comes is sha’aph. It means to crush, tread on, and pant after what another person has so much you would get it by deceit and trickery. David spoke of these people in Psalm 14:4 as evil doers who devoured his people like bread. Proverbs 30:14 said the people had jaws set with knives to devour the poor and needy. These people would do whatever it took to get richer from the people who had the least in their nation. Besides this, GOD said through Amos these people did away with the humble of the land. They destroyed the poor, weak, and needy just because they could since they were wealthy.

Amos explained the minds of these merchants who cared for riches instead of humanity in verse five. He said they “chomped at the bit” for the completion of the religious festivals so they could sell more and make more money. They asked when the new moon festival, the first day of the lunar month, would be over so they could sell grain. Whether these merchants served Yehovah or their idols, they did not want to give a day for worshiping and celebrating. Greed was their influence, not their god. GOD told the Israelites in Numbers 28:11 that the first of every month, the lunar month, they were to offer burnt offerings to Him. In Exodus 21:13-17, GOD set aside the Sabbath as holy and for a day of rest. Whether the new moon celebration and the keeping of the Sabbath came from their history of worship of the LORD or from their own minds in worship of their idols, the merchants of Israel did not want to set aside that time away from their shops. Israel and Judah both received judgment for this. Nehemiah 13:15 records Judah trod winepresses on the Sabbath. The merchants did not want to go through the ritual, much less the intent for the festivals. They did not care about their people or their religious celebrations. They cared about wealth.

These merchants wanted to sell grain, open the wheat market, and make money. GOD said even in doing that, they showed themselves as unrighteous. In the second half of verse five, we read of them shorting the buyers of wheat and shorting the sellers of gold or silver. The merchants made the bushel smaller, possibly by putting a false bottom in it. They then charged the person the price for a full bushel. This action is like what food manufacturers today do when they make a package bigger than the product to make it look like a person is buying more than they are. These merchants of Amos' time did not steal only from their buyers. They stole from people from whom they bought products. A common occurrence among unscrupulous merchants was to have two sets of weights, one small and one large, to put on the balance scale. When a person bought from him, the merchant would put the large weight on the balance to show how much money the person owed him. When the merchant bought products, he would put the token of lighter weight on the balance and owe the seller less. Archeologists have found two sizes of weights in their digs in Samaria that show this was a common practice. GOD forbade this practice in Deuteronomy 25:13-16, and Leviticus 19:35-36. The LORD told Amos He saw these merchants cheating with dishonest scales. They chose to pervert the law and defraud people in the market, including the poor. The poor had no one who would stand up for them in court. The merchant had nothing to fear from them. He would have to be very sneaky to defraud another merchant because the buying merchant might have the funds to bribe a judge. Besides Amos speaking against dishonest merchants, Hosea 12:7 and Micah 6:11 speak against someone who measured with false weights and dishonest scales.

This dishonesty affected the poor most. They had little money by which to live. The needy had to take a loan to pay for new tree bark sandals and then the lender took them to court for the price of those sandals when they did not repay, which was equal to about fifty cents today. Verse six speaks about this as does Amos 2:6. The helpless had no one in power who would stand up for him or her and his or her rights as a child of GOD and a fellow human being. These merchants cared little for the poor. Amos went further and stated they stooped so low as to sell the refuse of the wheat, the chaff that came out of the sieve, to the poor. The merchants knew no one else would buy the chaff, but the poor were so desperate that eating chaff, even if it had no nutrients, was better than nothing. For the cost of the sandals or the price of wheat chaff, the merchants would enslave their fellow Israelites though that person was a child of GOD and a member of their Israelite family. GOD gave a law against it in Leviticus 25:39 that said a countryman should not enslave another countryman. It would bring GOD’s judgment, according to Amos 2:6. GOD forbade slavery in Amos 1:6 & 9, too.

The rich were so greedy they could barely wait one day even if it was a religious festival or a Sabbath to get back to pursuing the humble, poor, and needy, and making more money. The holy day was a hindrance to them and their greed. These merchants loved market days more than Sabbath days. They liked cheating people more than being honest. Though GOD made the Sabbath and festival days to be days of rest and ceasing work, the merchants grudgingly obeyed that. They wanted more money. Money was their god. A dichotomy exists from this occurrence. If they had kept the Sabbath holy, they would not have abused the poor. Keeping the Sabbath was a safeguard against the abuse of the poor because it helped keep a person in a right relationship with the LORD. When in a right relationship with the LORD, a person has a right relationship with people, too. A person does not abuse or exploit people for his or her own gain. It is easier to harm another person when we do not meet with the Lord regularly, which causes our relationship with Him to grow weak.
·         Do you do anything that God would consider trampling the needy or selling the poor for the price of sandals?
·         What would God rather you do when you meet a beggar?
·         What do you do when a person bumps your car or cuts you off in traffic? What is the godly alternative?


GOD’s Oath

GOD could have just spoken His judgment against the Israelites and let it go; however, He had already stated with certainty in chapters four and six that when He says something will happen, it will most assuredly occur. GOD’s oath in verse seven expresses this same thing. Amos said in verse seven,
“The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob, ‘Indeed, I will never forget any of their deeds.’” (NASB)
This verse states, just as Amos said in earlier chapters, the LORD Yehovah, the GOD who was, is, and will be swore an oath. Anyone can swear they will do something, but when a person swears, that person might lie because he or she is sinful. This oath GOD took reminds us of the covenants He made with the Israelite people. GOD sealed and attested to Old Testament covenants with His presence as the tongue of flame that walked between the two halves of the sacrificial animal used to confirm the covenant. GOD’s presence and His being are the statement of certainty that what He says, He will do. It will occur because He is the basis of truth and righteousness. So, when GOD said He swore, He gave an oath of constant faithfulness to what He said He would do. He swore by Himself, by His own name, as Amos said in Amos 6:8, and in Amos 4:2 where He swore on His holiness. God is truthful because of His righteousness. Besides His truthfulness, God said He swore on the pride of Jacob. The “pride of Jacob” of which Amos spoke refers to every descendant of Jacob/Israel, not just the Israelites of the northern kingdom. The northern kingdom tainted the “pride of Jacob” with self-pride that harmed others. The “pride of Jacob” is what Moses spoke about in Deuteronomy 33:26 and 29 when he said there is no one like the GOD of Jeshurun. This pride of Jacob is what David spoke of in Psalm 68:34 when he proclaimed the power of GOD. The pride of I AM is who made a promise to Abraham to give him descendants and make of him a nation, and to give them a promised land. The GOD who made this promise and fulfilled it is “the pride of Jacob.” This oath surely got the Israelites’ attention. What GOD stated next would have made them cower.

GOD stated an oath on himself that He would “never forget any of the Israelites’ deeds”. Each of the animals they sacrificed to their idols did not atone-wipe away-their sins. Their sins covered them with darkness. GOD remembered them, He said. He would never forget them. The sins of the Israelites were serious and GOD would remember them and bring judgment on them. Let’s look closer at these words. The English word “forget” comes from the Hebrew word shakach. It means to forget and cease to care. With Yehovah’s statement in this verse, He said He would never forget or cease to care about the sins of the Israelites and the plight of the poor. He would not let it go unpunished. After speaking of the affliction of the poor and humble, David said in Psalm 10:17-18, “O, LORD, Thou hast heard the desire of the humble; Thou wilt strengthen their heart, Thou wilt incline thine ear to vindicate the orphan and the oppressed, that man who is of the earth may cause terror no more.” (NASB) David knew Yehovah was great and faithful to His people. Hosea 7:2 said evil people did not realize GOD remembered all their evil deeds. He said in Hosea 8:13 the LORD will remember their wickedness and punish their sins. People throughout the Old and New Testaments knew, and we know from our experiences with GOD, that He will defend the weak and oppressed and bring judgment on the persecutors. That GOD swore on Himself in verse seven told the Israelites and tells us today, what GOD said He would do would most surely happen.
·         Have your actions or words ever caused a person to wonder if you are a Christian?
·         Have your words or actions ever caused God grief like Israel’s did?

GOD’s Judgment

In verses eight through fourteen, GOD told the Israelites through Amos what would happen to the northern kingdom because of their sin and His judgment of them. Amos told them six things would occur because of GOD’s judgment-earthquake, unexpected darkness, mourning, famine, LORD’s hiding from them, and the fall of the nation. GOD would directly cause three of these. He states these in verses nine through eleven with “I” statements-unexpected darkness, mourning, and famine.

Amos began this part of the prophecy with two rhetorical questions in verse eight. He asked them “would not the land quake because of the LORD’s judgment”. The second question he asked was “would not the people mourn”. Obviously, the answer to both questions is yes. The Israelites would remember the earthquake that occurred two years after Amos’ ministry began in Israel. They would remember the suddenness of it and not knowing how it would affect and harm them. The earthquake made no place safe. When Amos said GOD would make the land quake, he meant the people of the land would quake, too. Their fear from the earthquake and of GOD would make them tremble. The fear of GOD’s judgment would cause the Israelites to tremble. Isaiah 5:25 speaks of the LORD causing the mountains to shake because of His anger toward His people. As a visual image for the people, Amos said the land would rise up like the Nile River. This provided a sensory reminder for the Israelites of how fearful a natural phenomenon like an earthquake is. On the other hand, they would know the Nile rises slowly over a couple of months, but an earthquake is sudden. People saw the Nile floods as helpful to the land providing rich nutrients for crops, but an earthquake would turn everything over and create chaos and devastation. This was the first devastation GOD said His judgment of them would cause. The Assyrians would overturn the Israelites’ lives in 722 BC. They were like an earthquake. The Assyrians entry to the land came from GOD removing His hand of protection from Israel. This caused chaos and devastation.

GOD as Destroyer

With verse nine, GOD spoke in the first person. He said through Amos that He would make the sun go down at noon and make the earth dark during daylight hours. Before this, GOD said, “In that day.” This day He spoke of was “the day of the LORD” like in Amos 5:18. It would be a day of GOD’s active presence in the midst of the Israelites. The Israelites would not doubt by whose hands these terrible things occurred. The terrible thing is this verse would be darkness instead of light. A solar eclipse is the literal interpretation of this part of GOD’s judgment. Scientists determined a near total eclipse occurred June 15, 763 BC. The people would know about eclipses and the fear they caused because they were unnatural. The figurative meaning is Yehovah would overpower Ra, the sun god. GOD’s power would show the Israelites’ idol had no power.

Another figurative allusion of the darkness in this verse is that the grand lifestyles and luxurious living would fall away and days of gloom and misery would come upon the Israelites. The time of prosperity and sunshine would end and GOD’s calamities would fall on them bringing darkness and distress. The Israelites would have trouble, afflictions, and distress, and experience persecution. That time of darkness would be a period of evil, suffering, and loss for the corrupt and oppressive Israelites. Job 5:14 speaks of a darkness coming during the daytime. Isaiah 13:10 says the rising sun would darken. Jeremiah 15:9 prophesies the sun would set while it was still day. Micah 3:6 explains the sun would set for the prophets of the false gods and the day would go dark for them. Without the sun, literally, and the ways of life the Israelites loved to live, their days would be dark, just as earth would be dark. It would be a time of confusion and GOD would hide His face from them. Isaiah 59:9 says the Israelites looked for light, but all was darkness. Remember, too, Amos 4:13 and 5:8 say GOD turns dawn to darkness, darkens day to night, and turns midnight into dawn. The LORD would show Himself as more powerful than the Israelites’ gods and greater than the wealth they gathered for themselves and about which they boasted.


Verse ten gives another example of GOD speaking in first person of His own hand bringing the judgment upon Israel. He said, “I will turn your festivals into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring sackcloth on everyone’s loins and baldness on every head. And I will make it a time of mourning like for an only son, and the end of it will be like a bitter day.” (NASB) The word “turn” means to overthrow, overturn, or transform. The festivals of which the LORD spoke were the festivals the people celebrated for their false gods and for themselves because of their business acumen and “getting one over” on other people. GOD said He would overthrow those festivals and transform them back to what He intended, times of praise for His provision. They were again to be times to rejoice together-rich and poor, young and old. Job 20:23 says GOD would vent His anger against them. Amos 5:21 says the LORD despised their religious festivals. GOD does not want action without proper intent, nor does He want improper action forgetting from Whom each person receives any blessings. This “day of the LORD” would bring unending mourning and grief as compared to the days of feasts-religious or secular.

The day of the LORD would end with mournful songs-lamentations and dirges-and not songs of joy in which they sang about themselves and their false gods. Besides the “day of the LORD’ bringing mourning and lamentation, it would cause every person to wear sackcloth and baldness. The rich would understand firsthand the mourning the poor and needy experienced. They, with the poor, would wear sackcloth to show their sorrow and humility before GOD. Wearing sackcloth showed through an outward sign the inward condition of a person. Sackcloth, made of dark goat’s hair, was very uncomfortable against the skin. It reminded them of their sorrow. Isaiah 50:3, Revelation 6:12, 1 Kings 21:27, 2 Kings 6:30, Job 16:15, and Isaiah 32:11 each record people wearing sackcloth. Besides mourning and wearing sackcloth, GOD said the people would be bald. The word “bald” comes from the Hebrew word gorchah, which means baldness, plucked-out scalp, and shaved scalp. As a sign of their mourning, the people would pluck out their hair or would shave it. This sign was a custom GOD banned in Deuteronomy 14:1. Jeremiah 48:37 and Ezekiel 27:31 prophesy the people would put on sackcloth and make themselves bald. Making themselves bald was a grieving custom the Israelites learned from other nations and practiced though GOD forbade it.

GOD said the Israelites’ mourning would be intense because of their guilt, affliction, and recognition of the might and majesty of Yehovah when compared to their false gods. This mourning would be like mourning the death of an only son. Remember, men had property rights and were the leaders of the people, tribes, clans, and families. If a man or woman did not have a son to protect and provide for them in their old age or infirmity that man or woman would become one of the powerless needy of the land. That powerless person would become like the ones they themselves oppressed and of whom they took advantage. So, to say the mourning would be like the mourning for an only son meant their mourning would be of the highest intensity. The Israelites’ mourning would be like Yehovah’s who mourned over His children when they turned away from Him to follow their own ways. They would have no hope that GOD’s judgment would not come against them, just as they had no hope for the family when an only son died. Just as there would be no future for the family when their only son died, Israel would have no future because of their sin and GOD’s judgment on them. This grief would have a bitter end. It would be as bitter as the beginning. The grief would not end.

The worst part of GOD’s judgment on Israel this time is that He would be Israel’s destroyer. Along with that, as we will see in verses eleven through fourteen, GOD would abandon them. He would be the one to inflict damage and He would abandon them. The Israelites would have no hope for a reprieve from GOD’s judgment, or from it ending quickly.

GOD’s Abandonment of Israel

GOD explained His abandonment of the Israelites in verse eleven. With the next three verses, He showed how that would affect the people. In Amos 8:11, Amos said,
“‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD.’” (NASB)
The word “behold” introduces something new and surprising, something the Israelites never experienced. The LORD said He would send a famine. A famine that destroyed Israel’s food supply was not new to them. Amos 4:6 speaks about a famine. GOD spoke in this verse about a famine for His word. The people would seek Him and would not find Him. The word “hearing” in this verse is from a very important word in the Old Testament. It comes from the Hebrew word shama’. Shama’ means to hear, listen, and obey. The people of Israel would thirst and hunger to hear the word of the LORD. The prophets of the Old Testament knew humans could not live by bread along, but needed the words of the LORD. Moses stated this in Deuteronomy 8:3. Isaiah 55:1-7 states when people can find GOD. To find GOD, the Israelites had to do something. They had to forsake their wickedness and return to a right relationship with the LORD. First Samuel 28:6 and Psalm 13:1 attest to times when people could not find GOD and He would not speak. These times occurred when sin remained unconfessed and people chose ways other than the LORD’s. Saul did not repent, but David did. In Amos 8, GOD said the Israelites would experience a famine and thirst for His words and they would not find Him because they did not seek Him with repentance in their hearts to follow Him and His ways. They wanted only His power to rescue them. The Israelites did not want to hear and obey GOD’s words when they trampled on the poor so they would receive no comfort or hope when their days of mourning came. To find the LORD, the Israelites needed to seek Him with a genuine and repentant heart. First Samuel 3:1 records a time when the word of the LORD was rare. Second Chronicles 15:3 states Israel was without the true GOD for a long time, without a priest to teach them, and without the law. Ezekiel 7:26 speaks of a prophecy about when the people would search for a prophet with a vision and for priestly instruction in the law and would not find them. Micah said there would be darkness without visions and divination. The sun would set for the prophets and the day would go dark for them. The absence of the LORD was total abandonment. The Israelites would not find His word by any means-prophet or priest. They would be thirsty for GOD, but GOD’s judgment brought a famine of Him and His word on the people.

Verse twelve continues this idea. Amos said in verse twelve,
“People will stagger from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.” (NASB)
In this verse, we understand Amos told the Israelites no matter where they looked to find GOD and His word, they would not find Him. If they looked from sea to sea or from north to east, they would not find Him. Amos did not say if they looked south because south is where the southern kingdom lay and Israel alienated themselves from Judah. The Israelites would rove about like people who stagger from thirst. They would thirst for GOD’s word, but would not find it. Why? Two reasons give the answer. First, GOD removed His hand and presence from them as punishment. Second, their seeking of the LORD came not from a repentant and sincere heart to obey Him. They recognized the power of Yehovah and just wanted the judgment to end. They feared more punishment. Ezekiel 20:3 records the elders sought Ezekiel to inquire of the Lord, but GOD would not let them find him. Ezekiel said in verse thirty-one of this chapter the people could not inquire of the Lord because they continued in sin. He said the same thing in Ezekiel 14:3. The Israelites would die inwardly because they did not have GOD’s word to feed their souls. He would keep His prophets and priests from preaching to the Israelites. This judgment was unlike any Israel had ever before experienced. At one time the merchants thought it was a waste of time to close their shops for Sabbath and sacred times; later they would try to find and hear GOD’s voice. They would seek GOD like a thirsty man seeks water.

GOD’s judgment would affect everyone, even the youth who were the future of Israel. Amos said in verse thirteen,
“In that day, the beautiful virgins and the young men will faint from thirst.” (NASB)
The failure by the adults to lead the nation and their families to seek the LORD with their whole being would cause the young girls and men to continue to walk in the ways of their parents. They would turn away from GOD and sin. This would cause the young men and women to faint from a thirst of not hearing the word of the LORD. Their strength was not enough to combat moral and spiritual crises. The unrepentant adults would lead their children to be unrepentant and, thus, to live under the LORD’s judgment in captivity, oppressed and needy. If the young could not survive this judgment, how much less could the weak and old survive. The LORD’s judgment of Israel was so extensive it would affect generations to come. Israel would learn only that by hearing and obeying (shama’) GOD’s word could a nation be strong and avoid GOD’s judgment. Isaiah 41:7 and Hosea 2:3 say GOD would make Israel’s land like a desert and slay her with thirst.

Lest anyone continue to think worshiping and swearing by their gods would allow them to avoid GOD’s judgment, GOD said through Amos in verse fourteen,
“As for those who swear by the guilt of Samaria, who say, ‘As your god lives, O Dan,’ and, ‘As the way of Beersheba lives,’ they will fall and not rise again.” (NASB)
This verse should take us back to verse seven to compare the oaths taken by the LORD to the oath the people took in verse fourteen. Both use the same word shaba’ meaning to take an oath or swear. In verse fourteen, Amos stated the people swore by the guilt of Samaria, the gods of Dan, and the way of Beersheba. Looking closer at this verse, we realize the word “guilt” comes from the Hebrew word ashmah. It is a play on words for one of the gods, Ashimah, of the people of Hamath of Aram who lived in Samaria and of the Hebrew exiles in Egypt during the fourth and fifth centuries BC. Amos said the people swore by the guilt of Samaria, following and worshiping false gods, and swore by a god in Samaria, Ashimah. Second Kings 17:30 tells us about this god. These people swore their faithfulness by the power of idols and GOD’s judgment would fall on them. The Israelites swore by the god of Dan, the golden calf. This calf had no power. Men made it by their hands. This statue could not save the Israelites from GOD’s judgment. Lest the southern kingdom consider themselves better than the northern, Amos highlights their sin, too. He said even those who swear by the way of Beersheba (at the southern end of Judah where the Negev began), by worshiping her false gods, would fall and not rise again. Amos said in Amos 5:2 “Fallen is virgin Israel, never to rise again, deserted in her own land with no one to lift her up.” (NASB) From the northernmost point of the Promised Land to its southernmost tip, GOD’s judgment would fall on each person who worshiped false gods. Amos’ prophecies were mostly for the northern kingdom, but he included Judah at times. We know  Amos spoke about false gods because he used the Hebrew word Hê that signifies false Gods, not Hâ, which denotes the true GOD. GOD’s judgment of Israel was unstoppable by no one’s god. The Israelites’ trouble was spiritual. They worshiped false gods, gods who would never raise them up from Yehovah’s judgment on them.
·         Have you ever put something you desired over your love and obedience to God? Possibly a promotion, money, or prize?
·         Have you ever been in the same place as Israel, and wondered why life was so hard and where God was?
·         Have you experienced the joy of knowing all your needs are taken care of and recognize God is in control, then praised Him for His love for you? This is where God wants us to be.

Recap

With chapter eight, GOD showed Amos a fourth vision of ripe fruit and relayed to him the time was near, Israel’s sins were complete, and His judgment was imminent. The fruit represented Israel. They were ripe and ready for harvest just as Israel was ripe and ready for GOD’s judgment. GOD explained to Amos who then told Israel GOD’s judgment would most certainly come upon them. He swore on Himself, “the pride of Jacob”. This judgment points to the merchants who cared greatly about making money even if that meant defrauding buyers and sellers, putting the needy into jail or slavery, and wishing the Sabbath and festival days would not happen. The merchants’ intent was to make money, not to care for GOD or His people.

GOD told Amos with this vision, who proclaimed it to the Israelites, His judgment would come soon and would bring gloom and darkness. He said it would be sudden, deadly, and chaotic like an earthquake. GOD’s judgment would take light and joy away. His judgment would cause mourning like for an only son. It would cause everyone to put on sackcloth and remove their hair. Amos explained to the Israelites GOD’s judgment of them including His abandoning them. The Israelites would search for Him after recognizing His supreme might and not be able to find Him because they did not seek Him with their whole being and with repentance. No matter where they went to find the Him, GOD said they would not find Him. Even the young and strong men and women would not find Him, but would lose their strength. Israel would lose their future. Its future, government, and religion would fall and the nation would be no more. Never before had GOD totally abandoned the Israelites. Never had another nation subjugated this theocracy established by Yehovah. The Israelites’ sins were complete. GOD’s judgment was definite.


Conclusion and Relevance

It would be easy to point our fingers at Israel and exclaim how awful they were. They cheated the needy, oppressed the poor, and obstructed justice. The Israelites walked away from Yehovah who called them His people and established them as a nation. Yet, when we take the time to look closely at Israel, we each can and should admit we bear similarities to them. Maybe you call yourself a Christian, a follower of Jesus, but you sometimes do not go to church on the Sabbath. Possibly you “put your thumb on the scale” when you sell products. Perhaps you do not correct someone’s interpretation of another person’s actions and that leads to the other person being disrespected at work and in the community. Perchance you found $100 in front of a store or senior center and pocketed it, not trying to find the person who lost it. Or maybe it was something as simple as the cashier giving you too much change and, when you found out, you did not return it to her. These examples and others happen daily. Each may seem small and of no consequence to you, but they are sins in God’s eyes. They harm and do not help other people. Anything that puts us at an advantage while harming another person is not God’s will. In popular jargon, God’s will brings about a win-win situation where God gets the praise from both sides of the relationship.

God knows us. He knows our hearts, minds, and intentions. The Lord knows we are like sheep easily led away from Him and so He made a way for us to find Him and return to Him. Isaiah said it well in Isaiah 53:6. He said, “All of us like sheep have gone astray (from God and His way), each of us has turned to his own way, but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” (NASB) The old covenant led people to GOD to keep them in a relationship with Him. The new covenant brought about by the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah leads us to GOD and provides everlasting salvation. The Old Testament laws required twice daily sacrifices for the atonement of sin. Even those did not remove the stain of sin from the person.  With Jesus’ death and resurrection as the perfect sacrifice provided by GOD, no other sacrifice need occur ever. Once Jesus cleanses a person from his or her sins by His blood when the person becomes a believer in Him as GOD’s Son and confesses Him as Lord and Savior, nothing can ever separate that person from GOD again. Paul said it well in Romans 10:9-10 when he said,
“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart GOD raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes resulting in righteousness and with the mouth he confesses resulting in salvation.” (NASB)
Does GOD still discipline His people? Of course! If He didn’t, He would not love us. Because of His love for us, He gives us grace and mercy though we do not deserve it. Yet, when a person continues to sin, like a loving parent, God must discipline His child so he or she returns to his or her relationship with Him and grows more like Christ each day. The difference between now and during the time of Israel’s judgment is believers are saved and nothing can separate them from God’s love. With Israel, He abandoned them. For His children of the new covenant, Jesus reiterated what Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 29:13. In Matthew 7, Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. He told the people who followed Him about living as a child of God through the salvation He would give. Jesus taught about the righteous in verses seven and eight,
“Ask, and it shall be given to you. Seek, and you shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.” (NASB)
He said to crave for righteousness, the way of God, and He will give you a gift because He loves you. Seek with your whole being, with heart, mind, body, and soul, and you will discover and understand more about God and His will. Knock at God’s door, requesting entrance to Him, and He will make Himself open to you. God will refuse no one who asks for His righteousness. Each person who seeks for God with his or her whole being will discover, recognize, and come to know Him. God will admit to His presence any person who actively seeks Him. That person will know His will and grace. The Israelites did not ask for knowledge of God or His way. They did not seek Him with all they were while leaving behind their desires for riches. The Israelites did not actively knock asking admittance to the presence of God and His kingdom. They enjoyed their prosperity and left God behind.

Today we each must decide for ourselves if we want only what life on earth can give us or if we want what the One Holy God can give us now and forevermore.

Will you ask for God and His righteousness,
actively seek Him and His will, and

knock intentionally to know Him and to be in His presence forever?