Category Archives: Amos

Amos 9 – Israel’s Promised Restoration is For The Church

This last chapter of Amos brings more news of the destruction to come, especially on those who refuse to accept God’s judgment and proclaim, “Disaster will not overtake or meet us.” Oh yes it will! But the Lord promises a restoration that will come beyond the judgment. We read this in the last verse:

15 I will plant Israel in their own land,
    never again to be uprooted
    from the land I have given them,”

says the Lord your God.

You wonder how a pious Jew reads these words. The Jews get back into the land before Christ comes, and then go into exile again after Jerusalem is destroyed by Rome in AD 70. Then for almost 1900 years there is no Israel, and finally in 1948 they are back in the land. Is that event to which the promise refers? The Jewish believer might think so, but for the dispensational premillennial that is exactly what it refers to. I’m inclined, however, to see this in the tradition of Augustine as an amillennial, and that “the land” is a metaphor for heaven.

The reason is that I have to continually go back to Jesus in Luke 24 telling us that the whole of the OT is about him. How could these words be about the physical land and the nation-state of Israel if ultimately the whole thing is about Jesus. In other words, the old testament is ultimately redemptive history, not the history of a nation. From the very beginning that nation pointed beyond itself. The Lord told Abram that the promise of making him into a “great nation” would bless “all peoples on earth.”

Again as we’ve seen previously in the prophets, the text has dual meaning, both for physical, temporal Israel, and for the eternal, spiritual Church. So the last five verses that tell us that after God’s judgment will come temporal blessing to Israel, that indeed happens, but that is not the purpose of the prophecy. The purpose of the prophecy is us! Whatever this means ultimately for the nation of Israel, it means blessings for those of us in Christ, both now and forever. Verse 11 is a wonder to read in it’s bigger picture context:

11 “In that day

“I will restore David’s fallen shelter—
    I will repair its broken walls
    and restore its ruins—
    and will rebuild it as it used to be

God has restored, repaired, and rebuilt us, his people, his Church, in Christ!

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Amos 7 & 8 – God’s Promise of Exile is About His Words Not Land

I could break up these chapters, but as we’ve seen, the message is pretty much the same: God’s declaration of judgment because of Israel’s sin, a recitation of that sin, and promise of restoration or salvation, not always in that order. Chapter 7 starts creatively with Amos declaring three times (what else): “This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me,” visions of horrible destruction. Two times Amos pleads with the Lord to spare them because “He is so small!” Which is kind of funny, especially in the cosmic scheme of things. But the Lord’s dealing with little Israel is the center point of all redemptive history. Nothing, nowhere, any nation of any size in all of history compares in importance to the small one, Jacob. The Lord says twice that he will relent, but the third time he vows judgment will come.

Of course human beings don’t like being judged by God, so the rest of the chapter is about a priest named Amaziah, a priest of Bethel (which ironically enough means “House of God”), who warns Amos he better shut up or else. Amaziah warns King Jeroboam II, who “did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin.” But that doesn’t intimidate Amos. He answers Amaziah’s threats with his bone fides as a shepherd turned prophet, and God’s calling to declare the truth to Israel. And he gives it to them again, that Israel “will certainly go into exile.” The Lord tells them that “you yourself will die in exile.” In other words, all those living who are taken into exile will die there.

Chapter 8 is more of the same, but the Lord tells them something is coming that has nothing to do with physical harm, and it is much worse:

11 “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord,
    “when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
    but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.
12 People will stagger from sea to sea
    and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the Lord,
    but they will not find it.

The phrase, “a famine of hearing,” seems to imply the words are still there, but the people cannot hear them. Yet how could the people be searching for it at the same time. Maybe they are searching for what they want to hear, not what the Lord is actually saying. This could also possibly mean the time from the end of the OT to the time of Christ when God’s words to Israel ceased. Even when Jesus, the divine Logos himself came, they could not hear. He says to the Jews in John 12:

“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.”

And Amos ends the chapter with the the Lord’s declaration that, “they will fall, never to rise again.” This is spoken to those in Israel who worshiped false gods because one day the Truth will be revealed and all lies and false gods will be dealt with, forever.

 

 

Amos 6 – Our Security and Confidence is Either in Us or God

I would say this chapter is more of the same, but we know that by now. All the prophets, “major” and “minor,” had one job: declare the truth to Israel from the Lord. We must always remember the context of Israel as a national entity is the covenant God made with them in the desert. That covenant pointed to and was an outgrowth of the “covenant of works,” as it is called in Reformed theology, God made with Adam in the garden. The people told Moses, “We will do everything the LORD has said,” and the Lord tells them what will happen if they disobey. We see the latter scenario played out in the prophets exactly as the Lord predicted to the people in the desert. The confidence of the people before Moses was misplaced to say the least; their confidence was in their ability to “pull it off.” Needless to say they couldn’t, nor can we.

Chapter 6 describes a complacent people in Zion who felt secure, specifically the rich who thought nothing would ever happen to them. They partied (“You drink wine by the bowlful”) as if nothing was wrong, and the Lord says to them, “You will be among the first to go into exile, your feasting and lounging will end.” And indeed it does.

In verse 8 the Lord declares, “I abhor the pride of jacob.” As we know, pride is the essence of Satan’s rebellion against God. Here is a definition of pride:

a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

What Israel did was abandon the true and living God for everything but him. They found their satisfaction, meaning, hope, purpose, you name it, in all their and any human achievement. This doesn’t mean pride rightly place in our achievements is wrong, but that pride which doesn’t include God as the source of all things is wrong. As Paul says, God gives all men life and breath and everything else. The “pride of Jacob” was the attempt by the Israelites to establish an existence apart from the ever present providence of God for all things.

If we are in proper alignment with God, then we can place everything in its proper perspective, the interrelationship of all things understood rightly. Augustine spoke of “rightly ordered love” that perfectly captures this concept:

But living a just and holy life requires one to be capable of an objective and impartial evaluation of things: to love things, that is to say, in the right order, so that you do not love what is not to be loved, or fail to love what is to be loved, or have a greater love for what should be loved less, or an equal love for things that should be loved less or more, or a lesser or greater love for things that should be loved equally.

The “pride of Jacob” completely distorts reality because it puts self at the center of existence, and not the one who rightly belongs there. Clearly the Israelites, and by extensive those who live their lives apart from the gospel, don’t understand what we read in Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Amos 5 – Jesus, Our Righteousness Like a Never-Failing Stream

Chapter 5 starts with a lament for Israel for the destruction she’s about to endure. The Lord yet again implores them to seek him, but of course they don’t. Then we get another litany of their wrongdoing, and more imploring:

14 Seek good, not evil,
    that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,
    just as you say he is.
15 Hate evil, love good;
    maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy
    on the remnant of Joseph.

They don’t and he doesn’t. The day of the Lord makes an appearance again, but it’s a day of judgment not salvation. I guess the Israelites think they can bribe God with their religious feasts and assemblies, but he says he hates, despises, and cannot stand them. Pretty harsh. What exactly is he looking for then?

24 But let justice roll on like a river,
    righteousness like a never-failing stream!

That’s what he’s looking for! It can’t be that hard, but I guess it is because they are addicted to their idolatry. So the Lord promises judgment and exile.

Again I ask for the zillionth time through the prophets, why all this? It makes a broken record appear normal. Over and over and over and over. Again we know it can only point to Jesus because he told us it was ALL about him. Apart from him we are and can do nothing to please God, who requires justice like a rolling river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream! But we fail all the time! That is why we need another’s righteousness. From Paul:

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. 

I wonder which law and prophets Paul means because the law and the prophets tell us we can’t pull it off. It would be hard to infer from the law and the prophets that we’d be given the very righteousness God requires of us as a free gift. But he has! Paul further says:

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Only if Christ himself is our righteousness can it be a “never-failing stream!” And yet again, Paul tells us how this was accomplished:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

God’s justice, the necessity of sin to be punished and its guilt addressed, had to be satisfied, and only in Christ, God himself, could that be accomplished. As Jesus tells us in John’s gospel:

I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.

On the cross, as Jesus said his mission was “finished,” the curtain to the holy of holies was torn asunder, and we were reconciled to God, forever.

The redundancy of the prophets and Israel’s pathetic history tell us what a humongous deal this really was. No matter what we do or don’t do, we can never be more or less righteous before God than we can be in Christ. HE is our righteousness!

Amos 4 – Prepare to Meet Your God

From the passage I quoted in my first post on Amos we learned that this was a period in Israel’s history of relative peace and prosperity. People, as people are wont to do when things are going well, not only take their prosperity for granted, they often use it to indulge the base instincts of human nature. The first verse in this chapter is classic:

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria,
    you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy
    and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”

Amos calls the women cows! The misogynist! The poor and the needy are nothing to these women; they just want to party! File this under the more things change . . . The prophets warned, the people ignored. It’s no different today, except we have the risen Lord and God’s revelation in Scripture and 2000 years of church history. And what do most people do? “Bring us some drinks!” But peace and prosperity won’t last, for Israel, and us.

In the very next verse Amos tells us that the Sovereign Lord has sworn by his own holiness that judgment will come. The people, who refuse to change their ways, still think their religious ceremonies will save them:

“Go to Bethel and sin;
    go to Gilgal and sin yet more.
Bring your sacrifices every morning,
    your tithes every three years.
Burn leavened bread as a thank offering
    and brag about your freewill offerings—
boast about them, you Israelites,
    for this is what you love to do,”
declares the Sovereign Lord.

They even boast about how religious they are because they care more about what other people think, than the Sovereign Lord. Or maybe they think they can bribe him while still doing whatever they want. In his mercy he even brings suffering upon them to prompt them to return to him, but to no avail. Five times he describes what he did to them, and five times says, “yet you have not returned to me.”

It’s interesting that the Lord uses circumstances to try to get people to recognize their need for him. He doesn’t do magic tricks, or reveal his power and glory in great balls of fire to “prove” his reality. The latter is what skeptics demand if they are to believe, but such supernatural manifestations of God’s existence and power are rare in the history of redemption. God doesn’t even reveal himself directly to his own people except through prophets or mediators. Only when his people were freed from slavery in Egypt and in their wondering in the wilderness was there any great supernatural display that would be difficult to deny that it was God doing it. And a lot of good that did.

Our problem is the human heart and our sinful, rebellious, prideful nature (we want to be like God!), not that there isn’t enough evidence to believe and trust God for our existence. Our refusal to acknowledge him as our Lord and maker is a matter of the will. And then we read these two chilling verses to end the chapter:

12 “Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel,
    and because I will do this to you, Israel,
    prepare to meet your God.”

13 He who forms the mountains,
    who creates the wind,
    and who reveals his thoughts to mankind,
who turns dawn to darkness,
    and treads on the heights of the earth—
    the Lord God Almighty is his name.

Prepare to meet your God . . . those are chilling words, for those who refuse to repent, those who refuse to admit that he is God and they are not. Seems easy enough, but God is our enemy; by nature we hate him. As Adam and Eve did when the Lord God came walking in the garden in the cool of the day, we by nature want to hide from God, not seek him. Without him doing supernatural surgery on our soul, changing our heart of stone to a heart of flesh, we would all be like Israel, forever. Praise be to God he hasn’t left us to ourselves!

Amos 1-3 – God’s Sovereign Purposes Revealed in Israel’s Punishment

Another prophet of Israel bearding bad news.  Here is an overview I found of Amos’ life and ministry:

The prophet Amos ministered during the overlapping reigns of Jeroboam II in Israel (793-753) and Uzziah in Judah (792-740). His ministry occurred sometime between 760 and 755 B.C. Amos prophesied at a unique time in the history of the divided kingdom. From approximately 780 to 750, Egypt, Syria, and Assyria did not pose a serious threat to Israel. During this time, Jeroboam II was able to expand the borders of Israel, and his successes created economic prosperity for many and a sense of security as well. During these years, Israel prospered and a powerful and wealthy upper class emerged who exploited the poor and perverted justice. Although a native of Judah, Amos prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel. He preached to an affluent society that was deeply involved in false worship and in the mistreatment of the poor. These wealthy and powerful Israelites were confident and secure. Into the midst of this complacent society comes Amos, declaring that Israel has broken God’s covenant.

In chapter 1, the Lord declares judgment on Israel’s neighbors. Chapter 2 is a familiar litany of Israel’s sin and God’s judgment against the nation. God blessed them, and this is how they repay him. And chapter 3 is more of the same. This verse makes you wonder if Israel wished the Lord had chosen some other people:

“You only have I chosen
    of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you
    for all your sins.”

It takes a lot of endurance to read through the prophets because probably the majority of the verses are about sin and punishment. These three chapters are indicative of much of what we’ve read up to now. What kind of people would make up a story about their history and national identity that is this unrelentingly negative . . . . unless it were true.

Because the whole OT is about Jesus we continually have to ask the question, why this? Why did the Lord include in his communication to man, need to include, such a depressing litany over and over and over again? It can only be one of two things. It is either a message that we better shape up and start living a holy life or it’s curtains for us, as it was for Israel and Judah. Or the message is that you, like Israel and Judah, are hopeless sinners who will inevitably be destroyed unless God himself does something to save you. Because of Isaiah 53 (and much else in that wonderful book), and of course the NT, we know the answer. God himself in Christ is our salvation, as Isaiah tells us.

Maybe it took 1500 years of redemptive history for the Lord to convey the depth of our problem, and that salvation from our sin and God’s wrath and judgment against it, could only come by a unilateral act of God’s mercy and grace. Paul tells us at least one of the reasons why:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

As the Lord says through Isaiah: “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.” As the Westminster Catechism puts it: Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. Only if we acknowledge that our salvation is alone of his sovereign will and almighty power can we truly glorify him.

Something else in the third chapter stands out about God’s sovereign power, and something most people just don’t want to hear:

When a trumpet sounds in a city,
    do not the people tremble?
When disaster comes to a city,
    has not the Lord caused it?

Some might say this refers to the disaster of judgment of the cities and nations the Lord is describing in these chapters. But the indefinite article doesn’t allow that meaning. We see the Lord’s power over disaster in Isaiah as well:

I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.

Because we live in a secular age awash in naturalist/materialist assumptions, we want to believe in such things as “natural” disasters. Nothing is “natural” because God’s sovereign providence controls all things, and praise him for that!