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Friday, September 22, 2017

God-focused: Beginning with Thanks


“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken throughout the whole world.” Romans 1:8

Paul told the Roman Christians he was thankful for them. He spoke about a people he had never met. Paul expressed thanks for the future-theirs, and his with them.

Paul was thankful the world knew of the Romans’ faith. People heard Roman emperors expelled the Jews from Rome. Since the Roman Christians worshiped in Jewish temples at first, they experienced similar persecution without expulsion.

Paul desired to be with the Roman believers. He was thankful in advance he could enjoy their companionship. Paul anticipated giving them further knowledge of the gospel. He wanted western believers to be able to stand firm in their faith.

Still, Paul didn’t expect only they would benefit from his visit. He wanted to be encouraged by/with them. Surely Paul’s faith was greater than that of the Roman Christians. Yet, Paul said together they would be encouraged mutually. For this, Paul was thankful.

Paul’s travels created home bases for him in the east. He’d never been to the west. Paul needed a home base in Rome. Often growth in faith comes from standing with other believers supporting each other. Christianity is a faith in community. We meet to pray, study the Bible, worship, encourage, and grow stronger in knowledge and faith to proclaim the Gospel. Paul understood he needed a home base for encouragement and growth in faith.

Paul began his letter to the Romans with thanks for them-past, present, and future. We must begin our day thanking God for who will enter our lives-Christians for growth and encouragement or unbelievers to hear the Gospel.


Lord, help us recognize the importance of being in a community of believers and seeking unbelievers with whom to share Your Gospel

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Sifting


Introduction

In Amos 8, God gave Amos a fourth vision, that of a basket of ripe summer fruit. Through that vision, He wanted Amos to understand and tell the people of Israel their sins amassed one upon the other and were now ripe. No further delays of their judgment by God would occur. What God told them through other prophets and Amos would happen soon. His mercy for them ended. His great love for them required discipline to lead them to turn back to a right relationship with Him.

The sin God highlighted and of which Amos told the Israelites regarded the corrupt merchants. They considered time away from their stalls and shops to worship and rest as a waste of time when they could make money instead. These merchants used two sets of weights in their business dealings. They stole from the poor by giving them less than a full bushel or half-bushel. The merchants stole from other merchants, too, by not giving them the full measure of silver or gold their purchase required. God included the southern kingdom of Judah in this judgment, too. He said the earth would quake and lamentations and mourning would arise from everyone in the nation. God’s judgment would affect all segments of the Israelite population. The festivals of the Israelites would turn to mourning and gloom. A famine for bread and water was only one area of drought. The people would thirst for the word of the LORD and would not find it; no prophet or priest for the LORD would live among them. The entire socio-political base of Israel would fall.

With Amos 9, God gave a fifth and final vision to Amos. This vision was of Him destroying the temple at Bethel and killing the escapees from that destruction by the sword. God said in verse one, “They will not have a fugitive who will flee, or a refugee who will escape.” (NASB) All people of Israel would experience God’s judgment.

As we have studied this book of the Bible, we realize this prophecy is not mainly about the Israelites. It is, and it isn’t. Yes, the Israelites sinned repeatedly. God gave them their due punishment. We should learn we each deserve punishment and then repent and return to a right relationship with Him. Yet, what we should notice most of all is this book of the Bible, this prophecy, is about God. This book recalls to the Israelites who God has been from creation. It reminds them of His mighty hand to create and then to protect His chosen people. Amos recollects for the Israelites their covenant with Yehovah and their covenant unfaithfulness. It recalls for them the goodness and provision of the LORD. This book reminds them of God’s power and might alongside His love and mercy. With the final chapter, the people of Israel received a reminder they can have hope in I AM, the existing One who was, is, and will be. Throughout the whole of Amos, God’s covenant faithfulness, His righteousness, and His justice are the focus. Each of the prophets and priests who walked with God before Amos, stated these things, too. In the New Testament, Jesus explained this as well. When Lazarus died and Martha questioned Jesus why He waited so long to come to them, He said it was so people would realize God’s glory (John 11:38-44). Making God known is the biggest purpose of Amos and any priest, prophet, or believer. Just as Lazarus’ death was not about Lazarus or his sisters, but about God and His glory, so these prophecies by Amos were to highlight God and bring Him glory while teaching the Israelites and us about ourselves and our relationship with Him.

With that understanding, we can study and look for how Amos made God known. Of what characteristics of God did he reveal or remind the Israelites? What personae of God did Amos relay to them? What imagery did he use to relay God’s message to the Israelites? These are very clear in Amos 9.

This final Bible study from the book of Amos, chapter nine, breaks into four segments with two each in a section. Each of the sections show characteristics of God and His personae and use an image to convey the message. The first seven verses form the first section and break into two segments: verses one through four and verses five through six. Verses eight through fifteen comprise the second section of this chapter. The two segments of this section are verses seven through ten and verses eleven through fifteen. Let’s study these verses to understand what God said through Amos and consider God’s characteristics, personae, and imagery.

God’s Omniscience and Omnipotence

All-Knowing and Powerful Judge

In Amos 9:1, we read of the fifth and final vision God gave to Amos to relay His judgment upon Israel. Earlier God gave Amos visions of locusts, plumb lines, fires, and summer fruit. God used an image of destruction, death, and captivity in the vision in chapter nine. The visual part of this vision shows God stood by the altar. The aural part of the vision is Amos hearing the LORD’s voice in verse 1a. Amos experienced God like Jacob when he met Him at Bethel in Genesis 28:13. This vision is similar to Isaiah’s when he saw God in the Jerusalem temple in Isaiah 6:1 and to Ezekiel’s when he saw Him by the River Chebar in Ezekiel 1:26-28. Amos said in verses one through four,

I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and He said, ‘Smite the capitals so that the thresholds will shake, and break them on the heads of them all! Then I will slay the rest of them with the sword; they will not have a fugitive who will flee, or a refugee who will escape. Though they dig into Sheol, from there shall My hand take them; and though they ascend to heaven, from there will I bring them down. And though they hide on the summit of Carmel, I will search them out and take them from there; and though they conceal themselves from My sight on the floor of the sea, from there I will command the serpent and it will bite them. And though they go into captivity before their enemies, from there I will command the sword that it slay them, and I will set My eyes against them for evil and not for good.’ (NASB)

In the first verse, Amos saw, looked at, perceived, and considered the Lord, Adonay, as He spoke to him. He recognized this Person who revealed Himself and spoke to him. It was Adonay, the awesome and revered Lord of all. When God reveals Himself to humanity that is a theophany. The definition of theophany is the appearing of God to people, generally to bless them. Moses, Amos, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and others in the Bible experienced theophanies. The unusual thing about this theophany is that in most theophanies God proclaims His blessings on people. This one announced His destruction of Israel. We recognize this when God said in verse 4b, He “set His eyes on them for evil and not for good.”

How did God appear to Amos and what did He say to Him? God appeared by the altar. We assume it was the altar in Bethel since Amos received his other visions in Israel and his prophecies were for the northern kingdom of Israel. Remember, too, in Amos 3:14, God said He would punish the altars of Bethe in 9:l. He said, “Smite the capitals so that the thresholds will shake.” Here God said He would strike and destroy the capitals, the tops of the pillars in the temple so the temple would fall. The pillars held the weight of the roof. When pillars crumble and fall, the roof falls cracking, shattering, and destroying everything under it. Zephaniah 2:14 prophesied even animals would lie down in the destroyed temples. God’s destruction would come suddenly with no warming, once again like a thief in the night. This destruction of the temple would break it on "the heads of them all.” The all in this verse were the people inside the temple-the priests and the people inside who worshiped the false gods. God’s presence at that time would be like an earthquake. The Israelites would remember the devastation from the quake around 762 BC. God’s destruction of a place is an oft-used metaphor for an enemy invading and destroying a nation. This vision speaks of a judgment against the people outside the temple, too. God said no refugee would escape Him. He emphasized this by calling them fugitives and refugees. God would surely make His judgment fall on each person in Israel. As Jeremiah 11:11 says, no one would escape this disaster.

With verse two, God gave a conditional statement. If the people should go to Sheol, He would find and take them. He gave five conditional statements: two matched pairs and a single. The first matched pair spoke about cosmic extremes: Sheol and heaven. Though the people dig to the depths of Sheol or go to the heights of heaven, God would reach them. He knows where all people are and He would find them. God is omniscient, all-knowing.

Next, in verse three, God used earthly limits and said, “Though they (the Israelites) hide on the summit of Carmel” or “conceal themselves from My (God’s) sight on the floor of the sea,” He would find and punish them. Mount Carmel was the highest point of Canaan and was in the northeast of the Promised Land on the Mediterranean coast. God said He would command the serpent to bite them. He would find them at the lowest depths of earth, too. God would know where they went and He has command of all things–water, sea, serpent, earthquakes, land, heavens, rains, enemy armies, etc. The serpent spoken of in this verse is the servant of God. David said in Psalm 139:9 that no one can hide in the deepest part of the sea from God. God is all-knowing and all-powerful. His punishment is absolute; it will happen.

The final conditional statement of this part of the vision says, “And though they go into captivity before their enemies, from there I will command the sword that it slay them, and I will set My eyes against them for evil and not for good.” (NASB) The Israelites believed Yehovah God held no power outside the borders of the Promised Land. This implied opposite stated for the Israelites God’s power and knowledge expanded to all parts of the earth, not just within their territory. God is the God of all places, people, and things. Even if the Israelites willingly went into captivity and thought themselves safe from God’s punishment, He would find them and command a sword to slay them. He has charge-power-over manmade things like swords, and those who wield them.

Finally, said with undeniable meaning, God reminded them of what He said in Amos 5:14. He would “set His eyes against them for evil and not for good.” No one would escape His knowledge or evade Him and His judgment. Instead of the LORD bringing good upon them-goodness defined by His character-and keeping evil away, He would remove His goodness from them and allow evil to happen. God made a promise with Abraham in Genesis 44:21. He said He would set His eye upon him. It meant God blessed Abraham. God used this same phrasing in Jeremiah 24:6, 39:12, and 40:4 to mean He blessed the people of Israel. With Amos 9:4, having God’s eyes upon them meant the opposite; it was for evil and not for good, to curse them. God cherished the Israelites and blessed them even when they broke their covenant with Him. Their sins were many and God had given His mercy to them for hundreds of years. Now, He had to be faithful to the unpleasant side of the covenant with the people of Israel. God had to remove His hand of blessing from them and allow evil to occur. He even caused some of the distress, injury, and trouble. Leviticus 17:10, 20:3 & 6, and Deuteronomy 28:15-68 each speak about why God would “turn His face away from Israel” and cause or allow curses to come upon them. The people of Israel understood and agreed to this. They covenanted with Yehovah before they entered the Promised Land. Amos urged the Israelites to seek good and not evil, but they refused so God’s judgment came upon them (Amos 5:14). Their actions were conditional. Whatever they chose to do, it brought a consequence. They chose evil, so curses would come upon them; God’s judgment would come upon them.

With these four verses, we recognize God’s power and omniscience. He knows where each person is who tries to hide from Him. God told them He would find them and His judgment of them would occur. There was nowhere the Israelites could hide from Him because He is all-knowing. God’s personae of omnipotent and omniscient Judge showed in these verses. He used the image of a conquering army-the Israelites’ enemies-to give the Israelites a vivid sense of the devastation that would fall on them because of their stubborn unfaithfulness.

How does this fit with the next two verses? Why do these six verses form a section of this chapter? Let’s look closer at verses five and six to understand better.

All-Powerful Creator - A Doxology

With verses five and six, a third doxology occurs in Amos. Remember, a doxology is a hymn of praise to God giving Him glory and honor. In these two verses, Amos did that, but began with an ominous tone reminding the Israelites of God’s power. He followed that with a standard praise of God about His power in a positive sense. Amos relayed in verses five and six,

The Lord GOD of hosts, the One who touches the land so it melts, and all those who dwell in it mourn, and all of it rises up like the Nile and subsides like the Nile of Egypt, the One who builds His upper chambers in the heavens and has founded His vaulted dome over the earth, He who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the face of the earth, the LORD is His name. (NASB)

Amos wrote doxologies in 4:14 and 5:8. In the first, he praised God as the Creator of the universe. In the second, he began with creation and referred to Yehovah’s control of the rain. With 9:5-6, Yehovah is the One who touches, builds, and calls. In this doxology, He is Creator, too. GOD’s creative power turned into destructive might. Notice, too, each of the verbs describing God’s actions are in present tense. God touches, builds, and calls, and keeps on touching, building, and calling. Because He was, is, and always will be, He continues to create.

The revered Yehovah-the existing, all-powerful GOD of hosts-of all creation touches the land He made. He remakes it by destroying and rebuilding. This same GOD would destroy and rebuild His chosen people and nation. This part of verse five shows GOD has power over all the earth. He didn’t just create, then let it go and become. GOD has control of the earth-one part of creation-just as He does other parts of creation. His touch melted the earth. It caused it to soften, melt, and/or flow like an earthquake or like lava. GOD softened it to remold it for His purpose, just as His judgment on Israel was remaking Israel for His glory and purpose. Psalm 104:32 and 144:5 speak of the Lord touching the mountains and they smoking. Isaiah 64:1 says the mountains quaked at God’s presence. Micah 1:4 says the mountains melt under God. Remember, the earthquake could be a literal earthquake or it could relate to destruction by another means like a subjugating enemy army. Either way, God’s great might that causes the earth to move and change would cause the people who lived there to mourn because of the devastation and loss. His creative hand and His power to create can cause mourning and destruction.

Amos further stated in verse six GOD builds. GOD builds the upper chambers in the heavens. He established and causes to continue the ascent or stories of heaven. GOD made and keeps making and maintaining all in the heavenly realm. Amos explained what those areas in the heavenly realm were in the Hebrew mind. He said, GOD founded-He established and fixed-His vaulted dome over the earth. For the Hebrews, the vaulted dome was the sky (Genesis 1:6-8) and it fit together as an arch that rested on the earth at its extremities (Job 26:11). This arch banded to the earth. The English word, “dome,” comes from the Hebrew word, ‘aguddah, which means banding to earth the heavens. Within the vault, heavenly beings moved and birds flew (Genesis 1:20). Above the arch was the storehouse where GOD kept His rain (Job 38:22 & 37), and above that was where GOD sat on His throne. Psalm 104:3 & 13 says this similarly. David said God laid the beams of His upper chamber in the waters. The earth would shake and the bands that tied God to the earth in human minds would break, Amos implied. God’s presence over their world would seem to end. His power to touch and to build overlap and show how great the devastation would be when He removed His hand and presence from them.

With the second half of verse six, Amos said the LORD is the same GOD who commanded the waters of the sea-the waters He poured out on them when creating. This GOD is Yehovah. The One who touches and builds, calls, too. Amos 5:8 said He calls for the waters of the sea and pours them on the surface of the earth. Baal, one of the gods the Israelites worshiped, supposedly gave them rain. When God caused it to stop pouring on the earth, the Israelites would realize Who calls the water. Yehovah is greater than Baal, an idol. The Israelites recalled this from Elijah’s encounter with the 400 prophets of Baal. Baal’s prophets could not call down any water from it. GOD can bring a blessing at the right time with rain or a curse of too much rain or not enough.

God’s creative hand could keep watering the earth or restrain it and allow drought and famine. Figuratively, He could restrain Himself from giving the bread of life-His words-to the people of Israel so they would seek to and fro for the word of the LORD (Amos 8:12). Having no word from the LORD was the second kind of famine God said would occur to the Israelites. God would withhold His power to create and provide. He would create a desire for Him and His Word among the Israelites.

When God touches, He creates. His creating never ends. He continues to build and calls out for His creation to form. This creation can be for the good of people or a curse upon them. God’s omniscience and omnipotence show Him as Creator and Judge. His judgment can create for good or cause devastation. How Israel related to Him, He said, caused mourning when His re-forming and remaking of the earth and the Israelites included pain and destruction. It did not cause the rejoicing of a doxology for God’s positive creation. The Israelites would know Yehovah is the great GOD from whom they could not hide. Amos made sure the Israelites knew this GOD of whom he spoke is the LORD. He iterated it here and in Amos 4:13.

·         Do we take God for granted? Do we do whatever we want assuming He would always bless us?
·         Have you done something that God detests, didn’t repent, and then felt God’s punishment?
·         Did you realize before that God’s creative hand also remakes and reforms all things to bring Him glory, even you? When you do things against Him, He will remake you.

God’s Justice and Wisdom

Just and Wise Judge

Some theologians believe verses five and six should have been after verse ten or before verse one, not after verse four. However, in understanding that the doxology praises God as the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator, it goes well with the first half of this chapter. Just as well does verses eleven through fifteen, the redemption, fit well with the second half of the judgment about wisdom and justice. The personae spoken of God in these verses is of a judge. The imagery is of a farmer, like the imagery above was of a conquering army. GOD’s judgment could bring renewal, but it also separates the faithful from the unfaithful. Let’s consider each segment of this section together and individually.
Amos began this second section reminding the Israelites Whose they were. He said in verse seven,

‘Are you not the sons of Ethiopia to Me, O sons of Israel?’ declares the LORD. ‘Have I not brought up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?’ (NASB)

On first look, we should recognize these people other than the Israelites of whom God spoke were descendants of Ham, the son Noah cursed for seeing him naked in his drunkenness (Genesis 9:20-25). Ethiopians came from Cush, Ham’s son. The Egyptians and Philistines came from Ham’s son, Egypt. The Arameans/Syrians came through Cush’s son, Nimrod. When God said the Israelites were like the sons of Ethiopia, Egypt, Philistia, and Aram, He meant they were the same as them. God loves all people. He also meant some of the Israelites’ descendants came from these other nations, like Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, and her father, Laban, who came from Aram. Moses called Jacob a “wandering Aramean” in Deuteronomy 26:5. The Israelites came from out of Egypt as their other ancestors came from Aram and Kir. They were no better than these nations. The only difference between Israel and these other nations, any other nations, was God chose them and covenanted with them to be His people. The Israelites took their covenant with God for granted. Since God called them His people, they assumed they could do whatever they wanted and not be hurt. The Israelites did not live by their covenant with Him, but only by the convenient parts. They lived the way they wanted, sinfully. God’s creative, powerful, just, and wise hand would bring the punishment upon the Israelites they deserved. They would be no better than Ham’s cursed family line. The people of Israel would receive judgment and punishment like the Philistines and Arameans in Amos 1. Remember, God gave the Philistines and Arameans land in the Sinai Peninsula just as He did the Israelites. He could take it away, too. The Israelites’ special relationship with God would end. He would treat them like any other nation that deserved punishment. God would not have mercy toward them anymore. He is sovereign over each of these nations and He would judge them all because He loves all people. God wants all people to come into a right relationship with Him. The only difference between Israel and the other nations is the Israelites had a covenant relationship with Him. His mercy kept Him from acting on the judgment part of the covenant because of His love. Yehovah waited to give them one more chance to be faithful to Him. His love and justice determined that time was the right time to enact the punishment, the curses of their covenant recorded in Deuteronomy 28.

With this understanding, Israel was no more special than any other nation. God said in verse eight,

‘Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are on the sinful kingdom and I will destroy it from the face of the earth; nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,’ declares the LORD. (NASB)

This statement begins with “behold” meaning because or since. Since the eyes of the Lord God are on the sinful kingdom, something will happen. The Israelites had a choice. They could follow the LORD or they could go their own way. Because of their covenant with GOD, they realized the results for each, either blessings or curses. What would happen to the Israelites? “How would the LORD know anyway?” they may have thought. GOD explained. He said, “The eyes of the Lord God” see the sinful kingdom. This is like verse four. No one can hide anything from GOD or hide from Him. Just as GOD watched over the Israelites so no enemy could harm them, now His eyes watched over them because they did not do right. Because they chose to do evil, and not good, as Amos spoke of in chapter 5 and Jeremiah spoke of in Jeremiah 44:27, God kept His eye on them. The Israelites were sinful and deserved His judgment.

Remember, Yehovah’s policy was to destroy every sinful kingdom (see Amos 1-2). His judgment on Philistia, Edom, Aram, and Israel notes this. Just as God destroyed the Amorites in Amos 2:9, He would destroy these nations. The Israelites could not get away from their just judgment especially since they agreed to it in their covenant with GOD when He chose them to be His people. Their destruction would remove them from the face of the earth. The sinful Israel, of whom Amos estimated to be ninety percent of the kingdom, God would destroy (annihilate) from the surface of the earth, from their territory, their nation. He said this in 6:10 and 7:17, and would say it again in 9:10.

Amos hoped because he experienced God’s mercy, not all the Israelites would face extermination. He expressed this in Amos 3:12, 4:11, 5:3 & 15, 6:10, 7:17, and 9:10. Amos spoke of the divine judgment with the possibility of future salvation and redemption. Jonah and Joel, also prophets, added this same hope in Jonah 3:9 and Joel 2:14. Amos loved his brother and sister Israelites and had hope God would not destroy every one of them. In Amos 5:15, he said, “It may be that the LORD…will be gracious with the remnant of Joseph.” (NASB) Because of this hope, Amos included in 9:8, “‘Nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,’ declares the LORD.” (NASB). He believed God would leave a remnant. Amos believed and trusted in the wise and just Judge Yehovah had always been.

With verse nine, Amos showed the personae of the wise Yehovah. He said in this verse,

[GOD said] For behold, I am commanding and I will shake the house of Israel among all nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, but not a kernel will fall to the ground. (NASB)

God used the imagery of a farmer in this verse. He carried it over through the rest of the chapter. GOD’s judgment of the Israelites had been merciful for hundreds of years. Now He would apply wisdom even more. Yehovah loved these people, the Israelites, whom He chose as His people from among all the people of the world. He had a covenant relationship with them and did not want their utter destruction. Wisdom was necessary to sift the kernel from the pebble. John the Baptist used a similar metaphor when he spoke of the wheat and chaff in Matthew 3:12. Both metaphors meant the separating of God’s faithful people from unfaithful people. During the time of the divided kingdoms and after, farmers used a sieve with holes small enough to allow kernels of corn and wheat to go through, but not pebbles. The kernels represented the remnant of Israel, God’s faithful few, and the pebbles represented the sinners. God’s judgment, the exile, was the sifting process, the separation of grain from pebbles. Yehovah would destroy the political kingdom of Israel and sift the people. His remnant few would survive. Isaiah used a sifting metaphor in a similar way when he said God shakes the nations in the sieve of destruction in Isaiah 30:28. Luke reminds us Jesus told Simon Peter “Satan demanded to sift him like wheat” in Luke 22:31. Jesus told Simon He would pray Simon’s faith would not fail. 

The sifting metaphor was common for the Israelites and the neighboring nations of the time. Wise farmers knew not to throw out good kernels just because rocks hid among them. They also understood not to accept everything without sifting because when they ate the kernels a tooth could break, a person could choke on the pebble, or it could cause an internal injury of the person who swallowed it. If God left the pebbles in His kernels, it could cause more injury to His people. His wisdom required judgment occur.

With verse ten, Amos completed this segment of section two. God said,

All the sinners of My people will die by the sword, those who say, ‘The calamity will not overtake or confront us.’ (NASB)

Though the people could not hide from Yehovah, they would be brazen enough to think GOD would not cause them harm. They would petulantly and proudly state the distress of which Amos prophesied would not harm them. The arrogance and blind hearts of the Israelites would make them stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the inevitable and, thereby, make them unrepentant. These people would each “fall by the sword.” Amos asked the Israelites in 6:3, “Do you put off the day of calamity, and would you bring near the seat of violence?” (NASB) Nothing the Israelites could do would stop GOD’s imminent and certain judgment from coming upon them. This attitude reminds us of belligerent children who refuse to recognize and obey a parent’s  authority. The Israelites, though knowing about God and hearing His judgment from several prophets by now, refused to acknowledge God’s authority, power, and judgement. They thought they were immune to His judgment because they were the chosen people of Yehovah. By denying His authority, they put themselves equal to God or above Him, though they were not. These Israelites were not exempt from Yehovah’s judgment. God, just like a loving parent, had wisdom not to destroy the faithful Israelites, but had to act justly to correct and punish the belligerent unfaithful who put themselves above Him in their daily lives. God was like the wise farmer who knew how to sift out the good from the bad.

This sifting process showed GOD not only as wise Judge, but as Savior. He would redeem the faithful Israelites from the destruction of the whole nation so that the remnant could re-establish the nation of Yehovah. This would bring glory to GOD again so the nations would see His wisdom and justice as Judge, and also as Savior and Redeemer. Amos expressed the actions of God as Savior and Redeemer in verses eleven through fifteen. In these verses, once again he used the image of a wise farmer who reaps abundant produce, contentment, and love/faithfulness. The saving and redeeming of the remnant showed again God’s creating hand.

Just Savior and Redeemer

This part of section two in Amos 9 gives us a peek of the New Covenant through Jesus Christ that would come in the Israelites’ future. In verses eleven through fifteen, God gave hope that a remnant would survive captivity and/or destruction and He would bless them. He would renew His covenant with the Israelites. Let’s consider the hope that a remnant would return as a nation of God.

In Amos 9:11-12, Amos said,

‘In that day, I will raise up the fallen booth and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name,’ declares the LORD who does this. (NASB)

When Amos said, “in that day,” he referred to “the day of the Lord” when God would come to defeat the Israelites' enemies. Remember in Amos 5, Amos told the Israelites when the “day of the Lord” came everyone would receive God’s judgment, not just their enemies. All His enemies, everyone who sinned against Him, would receive His judgment. Contrary to Amos 5, in Amos 9, “the day of the Lord” would be a positive experience. It would bring restoration of the nation of Israel. Amos said, God would “raise up (quwm) the fallen booth of David.” The Hebrew word quwm means to make rise, to establish, and to fix. “Fallen” comes from the Hebrew word naphal, meaning overthrown and the word “booth” comes from cukkah, meaning shelter, hut, or canopy. The LORD would re-establish the overthrown kingdom of David. Peter used this same terminology in Acts 15:16-18 when he reminded the people the prophets said God would return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Isaiah 16:5 was more explicit than Amos. He spoke of the Messiah who was from the line of David who would establish in love a throne from the house of David. Not only is God the Savior of the fallen nation of Israel, He foreshadowed about the Messiah who would bring a new covenant.

Besides re-establishing the throne of David, the throne from which the Messiah would come, God said He would fix the earthly structures of the nation. In verse 11b, He said He would wall up the breaches. God would close off the gaps in the broken wall around the nation speaking of the wall around Jerusalem and the temple. He said He would raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old. God would rebuild the temple to the specifications He gave David and Solomon. The nation, palace, capital, and temple would be like it was during it grandest days of David’s and Solomon’s reigns. Yehovah specified exactly what lands this would entail. He said in verse twelve, “That they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name.” Does that mean God would take the land He had given to Edom and give it to Israel or any other nation to whom He gave land? No. Most commentators believe this means Israel will repossess its territory and the remnant who believed in Yehovah. No matter which nationality they were, God would call them His children. This strong evidence shows God intended all people who believe in Him would receive salvation, not just the Israelites. It adds weight to Paul’s argument that Jew and Gentile are part of Abraham’s descendants.


Amos next grabbed Israel’s attention with the word “behold.” With this word, he said, wait…see, something more would occur. For what did Amos want their attention? He said, “The days are coming,” that is the day of the LORD, a future time of hope and restoration. Amos then described those days. He said in verses thirteen and fourteen,

‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when the plowman will overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; when the mountains will drip sweet wine and all the hills will be dissolved. Also, I will restore the captivity of My people Israel and they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; they will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardens and eat their fruit.’ (NASB)

The image of the farmer from verses nine and ten returns in these verses. God’s image of the farmer is of the wise Savior, too. He would provide for His people; He does not just restore them. God would renew His covenant with Israel, which means He would continue to bless them. These blessings would be like the blessings Moses spoke of in Leviticus 26:5 and Deuteronomy 28. God would provide enough food for the people of Israel and would make them prosperous. He would keep His covenant with the people. God would show He is greater than all the gods they feared and worshiped before His judgment came upon them, the gods they hoped would provide fertility, prosperity, and protection. Amos said the land would be so fertile that all the fruit-the grapes-would not be harvested before it was time to sow more seed. The treader of grapes would still be at work when the sower and plowman were ready to start the next season of planting. Amos said it would be so prosperous it would look like the mountains dripped sweet wine and the hills dissolved. Joel 3:18 spoke of this when he said God would restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem. This Savior and Messiah showed wisdom and creativity like the farmer of verses seven through ten and the Judge of verses one through four.

Verse fourteen might confuse you unless you look at the original Hebrew text. God did not say He would put Israel back into captivity. The word translated in the NASB as “restore” comes from the Hebrew word shuwb. Shuwb means to repair or turn back. This means God said he would repair or turn back the captivity of the Israelites. He would restore them to their lands. This restoration means two things. The literal interpretation of this passage means God would allow and help the Israelites to rebuild their cities and to live in them. Additionally, because God would not restore an unrepentant Israel, this passage means the hearts and attitudes of the people would change and He would rebuild them as a nation for His own. These interpretations mean God’s wrath returned to mercy. He never stopped loving Israel, but He stopped His mercy toward them because of their sin compounded upon sin.

David spoke of this re-establishment of Israel in Psalm 53:6. He said, “Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores His captive people, let Jacob rejoice; let Israel be glad.” (NASB) Isaiah 60:4 speaks about this restoration and says, “Lift your eyes round about and see; they all gather together. They come to You. Your sons will come from afar and your daughters will be carried in arms.” (NASB) Jeremiah 30:3 speaks of it, too, and says, “’For behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel and Judah.’ The LORD says, ‘I will also bring them back to the land that I gave to their forefathers and they shall possess it.’” (NASB) Jeremiah continued in verse eighteen by saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwelling places; and the city will be rebuilt on its ruin, and the palace will stand on its rightful place.’” (NASB) Amos said in verse fourteen, “they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.” We should note a difference here from earlier. The word “rebuild” here means more than cause to establish. It comes from the Hebrew word banah and means to cause to continue. God would cause the repentant remnant to return and establish Israel. He meant this not to be for a short time, but forever. God’s promise to Israel was for eternity because God is eternal and faithful to His promises.

For the repentant, faithful, remnant people of Israel, God would shine His favor on them. He would be true to His covenant with their ancestors and the renewed covenant with the current Israelites. God would restore their fortunes. Whereas in Amos 5:11b He said the people would not live in their houses of hewn stone, in 9:14 He said they shall rebuild. Joel 2:24-27 says what they lost they would regain because of God’s wrath turning to mercy for the Israelites. God wanted a love relationship with His people. He kept His wrath of judgment from them for hundreds of years. Eventually the LORD had to judge the people of Israel, but He promised for the faithful remnant, He would restore them to His promised land and their covenant with Him. He went further than this in verse fifteen.

With the final verse of Amos 9, the Lord said again, using a farmer image, He would plant them on their land. He stated what His intentions were so no doubt would arise. Amos said in verse fifteen,

‘I will also plant them on their land, and they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them,’ says the LORD your God. (NASB)

The LORD (Yehovah) God (‘Elohiym-ruler and judge) promised to plant the Israelites on their land so they would never be removed again. He used another image of farming, “plant,” which also means to establish, to emphasize God’s promise to the Israelites. He then said they would not be rooted out. “Rooted out” comes from the Hebrew word nathash and means to be pulled up, plucked out, or rooted out. God equates Himself as the Master Gardener and the Savior. These remnant few people of GOD would be planted so no enemy ever could pluck them out again. The LORD renewed His promise to them and alluded to the future promise of the Messiah. Just as the LORD purposed to plant them for all time, the people could rely on His promise and so could trust to sow vineyards and crops. They could plant themselves, their lives and futures, in the land God gave them, unlike when they were slaves in Egypt or captives in Babylon (Judah) and Assyria (Israel). Yehovah had an eternal promise/covenant with the people of Israel. Jeremiah spoke of this, too, in Jeremiah 24:6 and 31:28. The LORD said He would build them up and not tear them down. He said He would watch over them to build and to plant them. The LORD God, Yehovah ‘Elohiym, said their judgment would be complete and the faithful remnant would return to their Promised Land never to be rooted out again.

The change for the captive Israelites would be permanent. God’s blessing would not leave them. God is a God of hope where He was a God of judgment before. The lives of the Israelites displayed absolute rejection of the LORD and required His faithfulness to their covenant through judgment. Still, Amos wanted the Israelites to realize and we to understand, too, in the end, the purposes of God will occur. Just like God’s love, righteousness, goodness, and justice will occur, His promises will occur. Added to this, just as God’s hope to the Israelites brought the promise of the Messiah and a new, better, and lasting covenant with all descendants of Abraham, they and we now can know God’s purposed restoration between Himself and humankind will happen.

·         Do you feel like God’s favor has not been on you for some time? Remember, God is faithful to His promise to you. Turn to Him with your whole heart.
·         Do you feel like God is not listening to you? Don’t give up. He hears you and His promise that you will find Him when you seek Him with all your being is true. He will be found by you.

Recap

With Amos 9, Amos declared God’s final vision to him for the people of Israel to understand His judgment of them for turning their backs on Him and His laws. The Israelites oppressed the poor, subjugated the righteous, and worshiped false gods. They lived lavish lifestyles praising themselves for gaining great wealth or “getting one over” on another person. God would not forever turn a “blind eye” to their sins. The time had come for His judgment of them and their sins. With the final vision of the destruction of the temple at Bethel, the killing of the Israelites, and the captivity of others, God declared emphatically His judgment upon the people of Israel would most definitely happen, and soon. He had to lay aside mercy and, with His love, institute punishment to re-create His people into a holy nation set apart for Himself.

The Creator who formed the mountains and poured out the waters from His storehouses, also re-forms His world by touching and calling to it. He called to Israel to return to Him, and they did not willingly return. This time, in this vision, the LORD said He would touch the capitals of the temple like He touches the mountains and waters. The LORD said the capitals would break on the heads of all who were in the temple. The Israelites would not escape judgment should they go to the depths of Sheol or the heights of heaven. They would not evade God should they go to the heights of Carmel or the depths of the ocean. Should the Israelites think God is only God of their territory, they could know He would reach into their captivity and exact His judgment on them. The Israelites could not get away from God and His certain judgment.

Amos reminded the Israelites of the power of the LORD with a doxology. He reminded them of His power to create and destroy, of His omnipotence. Amos reminded the people of Israel of God’s omniscience who knows where to pour out His waters whether in blessing or judgment. This great LORD God, Yehovah ‘Elohiym, deserved all praise, glory, and honor, Amos said with this doxology.

Next, Amos reminded the Israelites the LORD is not just Judge and Creator, but He is Savior and Messiah, too. As the wise God of all creation and judge of all people, His wisdom shows when He recognizes the faithful people of Israel. To these faithful, the remnant, He promised a return to their land because of their faithfulness to Him and their repentant hearts. The LORD promised to replant them within the land and make them prosperous. All people of the lands who were descendants of Abraham through faith would receive this promise. The LORD alluded to the Messianic promise of a new and better covenant. For the Israelites, it was a promise never to uproot them again. They would forever hold land from the LORD and He would protect them and provide for them.


Relevance and Conclusion

These prophecies and sermons by Amos to the Israelites of the northern kingdom specifically, and sometimes to all Israelites, remind us we humans are sinful. We want to go our own way and turn away from God. For some of us, that means we assume “God’s got our back” even when we choose our own way, go against Him, love ourselves more than other people, and sin. We must realize, as we studied through Amos, we cannot assume God will always bless us. The Israelites of the northern kingdom did and God eventually withdrew His mercy and applied justice and judgment to them. We notice from Amos, God’s judgment did not mean He withdrew His covenant from the people or that He did not love them anymore. Contrary to this, God is love and is faithful to His covenant.

A major point we learn from the book of Amos is no matter how much we read about Amos confronting the sins of Israel and other nations, this book is not primarily about the people of Israel. The Israelites thought it was about the sins of the other nations and patted themselves on the back. Yet, the book of Amos shows us Damascus persecuted them. Gaza harassed the Israelites. Tyre stabbed them in the back. Edom harbored anger against the Israelites. Ammon’s greed and jealousy for the land of the Israelites made them discontent. Moab disrespected the leaders of the nations. Judah rejected the Lord. The prophet Amos told the Israelites their sins were like all these and more. Amos’ prophecies, more importantly, highlighted God-Who He is, His character, and His love. From the beginning of the Bible, God shows Himself as Creator and lover of all He made. As people interact with God, they and we recognize His mercy and justice, His care and provision, His protection and righteousness, and His holiness and calling of others to be holy as He is holy. God reveals Himself in His interactions with humanity and in creation. He revealed Himself in calling a nation to be His holy people and covenanting with them. God revealed Himself with His promise of a Messiah and a new covenant. He then revealed Himself as the keeper of that promise and the lover of our souls.

So What?

Amos’ prophecies take the reader and took Israel through all these facets of God. He strove to remind, reacquaint, and reveal God to the Israelites and to later readers and hearers of this writing. The purpose of Israel in this story is to lead readers and hearers to God. Yehovah is the main point of this writing. Israel was not the main point and we are not most important in the world. God is. Just as the LORD purposed and promised the Messiah’s arrival, so He fulfilled it and brought salvation for all people. Just as God promised Abraham he would be the father of many nations, so the Israelites by birth were not the only ones for whom God promised a nation, protection, and provision. The LORD made all who believe in Jesus as Messiah the descendants of Abraham. He made each believer an inheritor of the promise of the Messiah.

The Messiah is not just a promise now; He is a reality. The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ (Greek for the Hebrew word Messiah) fulfill Yehovah’s promise for a better covenant. Jesus was born a human baby of God’s miraculous conception in a woman, Mary. Jesus lived as a man in a sinful world, but did not succumb to temptation. He was sinless. Jesus died a painful death of criminals though He did not sin. He did this to take the sin-penalty each person deserves for his or her wrongdoing. Jesus died one time for all humankind because of His love for us. He arose from death fully alive to hundreds of people who could testify to His resurrection and life. Jesus later ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us. He left His Spirit within each believer to guide, guard, teach, and correct us, and to empower us while we live on earth physically separate from Him.

Jesus died for each person for all time. He died on the cross a painful death not because He wanted to feel the pain of three nails pounded into His body or to experience suffocation as His lungs filled with fluid. Jesus died because He loves each of us so much He does not want us separated from God for all eternity. You see, our sins separate us from God because since He is holy and will not be in the presence of sin, we cannot be in His presence without the cleansing of sin from us. Jesus’ death gives that cleansing, the atonement, the at-one-ment, with God.

What do we have to do to get this atonement, this pardon from death? Nothing! Paul explained in Romans 10:9-10 how we receive this atonement, this forgiveness of sin. He said,

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that 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)

A person must “do” nothing to receive forgiveness. Receiving salvation and forgiveness requires believing Jesus is the Son of God, who takes away the sins of the world, and confessing Him as your Lord. When you make someone lord of your life, you promise to do what that person says and when you do not, you ask forgiveness. To do these things, you keep in daily contact, relationship, with the person. When you make Jesus Lord of your life, you do the same thing, except it goes deeper. Because you know Jesus died for you since He loves you, you want to love Him back. The relationship you have with Him is a love relationship and you want to work to grow it and be closer to Him. Your relationship with the Lord Jesus is greater than any relationship you might have on earth to anyone or thing who could claim lordship over you-your boss, spouse, hobbies, etc. In addition, with Jesus as Lord, you will have all things you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). You have forgiveness of sins and daily life provisions with a relationship with God through Jesus, the Son, the mediator of the greater covenant.

With your confession of Jesus as your Lord, you show your heart belief. With this comes righteousness and salvation. Righteousness is being made right with God. You never need wonder or worry again if you are good enough or if you have done enough right things to get to heaven. With Jesus as your Lord, God promises eternal life with Him. Sin and death will never separate His children from Him. We will always be in relationship with Him and experience the hope, joy, and love that brings.

“So what.” you might say. So, what will you do? Amos showed us the Israelites and their sins against God and other people. He, more importantly, showed us God in His glory, righteousness, justice, mercy, and love. Whether we admit it or not, we will not be the shining light in our own lives. What we do will reflect God’s glory. We can let His glory show by our love and obedience to Him or it can show through His righteousness that passes right judgments on us for our sinfulness. The Israelites were a nation set apart for God. He called them to be His own people. God wanted them to shine a light that showed His glory and love so all people would come to know Him through them. That did not always happen and the Israelites eventually walked so far away from Him, He had to render justice. In Amos 3:9, God called Egypt and Philistia to be witnesses to His justice, righteousness, and might. The Israelites would not be a light for Yehovah, but God ensured He had witnesses who would return to their countries and spread stories about His might, justice, and righteousness. God received glory even while the Israelites endured justice.

None of us is worthy of honor and glory. No matter what we do, our story will eventually give glory to God. I am sure none of us want it to be as the Israelites experienced in 722 BC when the Assyrians overthrew them, destroyed everything, killed people, carried people into captivity, and dispersed them throughout their empire. Not one of us wants to experience hardship. We each get to decide in what way God receives His glory. I would rather be a child of God who confesses Jesus as Lord and believes He is the saving Son of God. I would rather experience this kind of love that comes with a promise and hope than hardship, judgment, and misery.

Did God cause the deaths and destruction of Israel? He removed His hand of protection from them. The LORD caused famine, drought, plagues of locusts, and passed through them. So, yes, He, in essence, caused it. But truthfully, the Israelites caused it. They covenanted, made a promise, with Yehovah that carried conditional statements. If they were faithful to the covenant, God would bless them. If they were not, He would allow curses to fall on them. It was their choice.

Today we have a choice to make.

Will you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior?

You have read about Him and possibly heard testimony about Him. You know who He is and from Whom He came. You understand why He came and what He offers because of His love. Because you know this, you are accountable to decide. Just like the Israelites, you can choose to keep walking the way you want, not accept Jesus as your Savior, sin, and have no atonement for your sins. This choice by you will lead you to eternal death, separation from God. Alternatively, you can choose to confess Jesus as Lord and believe He is the Son of God receiving forgiveness and remission of sins, which brings with it an eternal relationship with God.

What choice will you make?

You have no excuses now. You know like the Israelites knew.
As for me, I will choose to serve the LORD.

Recall what Joshua said in Joshua 24:15,

If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (NASB)