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Posts Tagged ‘Amos’

My Facebook post this morning:

In addition to our current Ladies’ Bible study from Matthew, I’ve also been working on putting together another series for “Hand to the Plow” (recorded at Ark Studio, Inc and currently airing Sunday nights on Comcast channel 241 iHope TV in the Knoxville, TN viewing area). This next series was to be “Running the Race with Faith” taken from Hebrews 11-13…

However, this morning God laid a “hankering” on my heart to teach through the book of Amos… I think that will take around 10-12 episodes. I have money that has been donated for about 6 lessons already. If any of this teaching has helped or encouraged you, please consider making a donation. No amount is too small – it all adds up.

You can send a check to
Betty J. Newman
P. O. Box 6675
Knoxville, TN 37914
or if you want to make a tax deductable donation, make it to
Ark Studio, Inc.
P.O. Box 6095
Knoxville, TN 37914

I promise you that every penny will go to this project. And please, feel free to message me or e-mail for more information or comments.

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As I began reading the scripture for today’s study, Chapter 9, verse 1 “I saw the Lord standing upon the altar: and He said, Smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake: and cut them in the head, all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the sword: he that fleeth of them shall not flee away, and he that escapeth of them shall not be delivered.” I immediately thought of a picture from my childhood (from Children’s Bible Picture Book) from the life of Samson. The context is different and the situation is different, but the image is the same, the building will begin to crumble from the tops of the lintels and fall on those who are inside.

 

The fact that the Israelites are “inside” tells us that it was a cultic or pagan type of worship because worship at the temple of God took place in the courtyard of the temple. Only certain priests were allowed inside the tabernacle or temple. One commentator (Preachers Commentary) said, “Nothing works right when we alter (a-l-t-e-r) the worship of the altar (a-l-t-a-r).”

 

As I’ve listened to R. C. Sproul on the radio and read his books, I’ve often heard him say (or read) that as a new Christian he read through the Bible in a matter of weeks because of his hunger to know what God had to say, but he said that the one thing that kept resonating with him was that this was a God who “played for keeps”. God is a Holy God who says, “You shall have no other gods before Me!” And what happens when you do? You die! And we say, “Isn’t that a little bit harsh? I mean, can’t we find some common ground here?” And the answer is, “No, because God is a Holy God.”

 

And when we alter the worship of the altar, things may look like they are going right, and the church is prospering – but eventually (as we’ve seen in the book of Amos) the walls will come tumbling down – and no one will escape.

 

Verses 2-3 paint a picture of one trying to flee from God. There are two scriptures that this may bring to mind when we read it. A comforting thought may come from Romans 8 where in verse 35 Paul asks the question, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword?” And his reply in verse 38 states that “neither death, nor life, or angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And these words bring us great comfort… if we are in Christ. But if we are not – no amount of quoting promises or scripture will save us.

 

Another scripture that may come to mind, and the one I thought of first is Psalm 139. Our writer will briefly touch on this scripture, but I want us to look at this Psalm a little deeper. Psalm 139 is in my top 10, if not my top 5 of favorite Psalms. It covers everything from our movements to our motivations. It speaks to the past, the present and the future; to us personally and to life in general; and from our birth to our death. Read the whole Psalm, but especially listen to these words from verses 7-12.

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,’ Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.”

This covers heaven and hell, east and west, day and night – there is literally NO place where God is not present.

 

And this is my prayer of Psalm 139

“There is no greater place to be

than in the presence of the Lord.

There is no more fearful place to be

than in the presence of the Lord.

There is no more comforting place to be

than in the presence of the Lord.

And because I know

That God never changes

the difference has to be

In me.

 

O God! What do I bring

when I come into Your presence?”

 

“When we lose accountability to God, we lose a sense of hope.” (Preacher’s Commentary) You may not realize it, but the one major thing that the book of Amos brings to us is hope. We may think that we don’t find hope until we come to the last 5 verses of the book, but really, hope and God’s faithfulness is found through out the book. Amos teaches us that we serve a God who keeps His promises – both promises of judgment and of grace.

 

Don’t you just hate to hear parents continually threaten their children and never carry through? We hear it all the time – Wal-Mart or wherever – “If you don’t come right now, I’m going to leave you here…” (The child probably wishes they would!) One thing I tried very hard to do with our boys was to be “disciplined in my discipline”. In other words I never threatened anything that I was not willing to carry through with (and believe me – that is hard!)

 

But, that’s what God does – consistently. Over and over we read:

Exodus 15:26 “If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord your God and will do what is right in His sight, and will listen to and obey His commandments and keep all His statutes, then I will…”

 

Leviticus 26:3 “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments and do them, then I will…”

 

Deuteronomy 11:13 “And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will…”

 

Deuteronomy 28:1 “And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth…”

 

The Israelites knew these promises, and knew that they came also with a set of “but if you don’t hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD your God…” promises.  Would we still count God as faithful if He did not do all that His word said? In our study of chapters 1-2 we said that God’s judgment always comes with a “because”, but we have to study the whole Word to know that.

 

If you noted the number of times God said “I will” in this chapter, you found that in the last part of verse 4 God says, “And I will set My eyes against them for evil and not for good”. This is almost the opposite of Jeremiah 29:11, which we hear quoted all the time,

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” But the whole context of that promise is found in the verses before and after, beginning in verse 10, “This is what the LORD says: ‘You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me. I will be found by you,’ says the LORD. ‘I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.’”

 

Please, I beg you, when you hear someone teaching or speaking about the promises of God, if they are not teaching the context, PLEASE jot the verses down and read them in their context. Sometimes they don’t say what you might think they are saying, and sometimes they are saying so much more! We’ve got to know the scriptures in context.

 

The Judahites would also go into captivity, but they would return. The Israelites would not, as far as we have a record of in scripture. God’s promise to that in Amos is found in verse 11 as God promised to rebuild the booth or tent of David. There had never been a king from the line of David on the throne in the northern kingdom of Israel.

 

Sometime back, I don’t have a date on it, but I was reading this book of Amos one morning, and as I was reading all this judgment and destruction that we’ve talked about,  when I came to verse 13, ‘“Behold the days are coming’, declares the LORD ‘when the plowman will overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; when the mountains will drip sweet wine and the hills will be dissolved…’ and suddenly, as if right on cue, I heard the birds outside start singing, as if they were praising God for this promise. And I continued to read, ‘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. 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…”

 

God has promised to restore ALL of Israel to Israel. “In that day” the crops will be so productive that they will still be harvesting when it’s time to plow and sow again! All of their cities will be rebuilt and they will not be rooted out ever again! It has not happened yet, but God has kept every other promise He has made, do we dare doubt this one?

 

This is God’s promise – and He will do it. Amen.

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It just keeps getting worse, doesn’t it? There’s an old song that says, “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be…” but we’re not there yet! My friend Sandy has a neighbor that she has kept inviting to come to church and to Bible study. This friend watches all the television preachers and can quote things they say and, Sandy said, seems to know all about the Bible. So she asked Sandy what we were studying in Bible study and when Sandy told her “the book of Amos” she said, “Who’s Amos? I didn’t even know there was a book in the Bible called Amos…” And Sandy said, “Well I don’t know much about it – but God sure is mad at Israel, and Amos is telling them all about it!”

 

As we come to chapters 7 and 8, Amos is still telling them all about it! When I first began to study this, I thought that God was giving a series of private visions to Amos, but the more I studied it the more I am convinced that it is a continued part of the sermon given at Bethel. In chapters 7-8 we find Amos sharing 4 visions that God gave to him. I believe that they are truly “visions” and not actual events. We have 3 of the visions being related then an actual, historical confrontation that Amos has with Amaziah, the chief priest of Israel and then the 4th vision.

 

This part of the scripture is fairly easy to understand. It’s pretty straightforward. In the first two visions, there was going to be a disaster; the disaster started, but Amos prayed and God relented. In the third vision God showed Amos why judgment was certain – Israel was not “plumb” with God’s word. And then came the confrontation – which tells us that Amos’ words were being heard, and that they knew who he was. Notice that Amaziah sent word to the King that “Amos” said such and such, not that “some prophet” said it. He said that “Amos” was part of a conspiracy to overthrow the kingdom, and Jeroboam was going to die, which as we saw, wasn’t what Amos said at all! But this tells us that even the King knew who Amos was.

 

But here’s where we get Amos’ real reason for coming to Israel (verse 15) “The Lord took me” and “The Lord said to me”. This was not only assurance – this was double assurance! The Lord was the source of his authority. When you believe that the Lord is the source of your authority – you can keep going.

 

And then we come to the fourth vision, which is a little more difficult to understand at first because when we think of “summer fruit” we think of the peak of our gardening season. However, due to geographical differences, “summer fruit” in Israel means the last crop of the season. Therefore, as the produce ripens, it must be used quickly for it will soon spoil (you know how quickly those last tomatoes go bad!) As our writer will explain, the Hebrew word for “summer fruit” is very similar to the word for “end” in verse 2, so through a play on the words, God represents “the end” of Israel by the basket of fruit. Just as there would be no more fruit that season, God declared that the end had come upon his people Israel. There would be no more forgiveness and no more second chances. Just as the third vision pronounced that destruction was certain – the fourth vision declared it to be final.

 

In verses 4-10 of chapter 8, Amos again pronounces judgment on those who pervert worship, disregard justice and oppress the poor, just as we’ve seen all along. Then the Lord again swears by Himself (which according to Deuteronomy 33:29 is what the “Excellency of Jacob” is), and we’ve seen Him do that before, too.  Verse 8 says that the “land will tremble” or “will quake” as some translations put it. And while this could mean an earthquake, there was another scripture that came to my mind – Isaiah 6. Verse 1 begins, “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.”

The temple shook at the holiness of God, and so will the land shake at His judgments.

 

And it gets worse and worse until in verse 11 God says, “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it.”

 

God’s prophecy was not that the word of the LORD would disappear, but that the hearing of the word would fade away. Think of it this way. If your power was out this past week, it was not that electricity no longer existed – it was just not available to you. First Peter 1:25 (which is quoting Isaiah 40:8) promises us that “The Lord’s word endures forever.”

 

We live in a country where it is often said that “there is a church on every corner”. My husband will often remark as we’re out driving that with all these churches, why can’t there be a revival in this land? We wonder why such selfishness, greed and immorality exists? We’ve discussed over and over how much the book of Amos describes today. Could it be that the famine has begun?

 

So – what do we do about it? The only hope available against the day of famine is preparation. Whether you’re preparing for a literal famine or a spiritual famine, the only hope is preparation – fill your cupboards, fill your pantries, fill your hearts. Psalm 119:11 says, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee”. The more you read scripture – the more you study scripture – the more you realize if you aren’t getting it from the pulpit. Everyone around you may think the teaching is wonderful – but you’ll know the difference. And it will be in those days of famine that you will have to provide for yourself.

 

But there are two reactions to a coming day of famine – one is to prepare for it – but the other is to pray for it to be averted. Let’s go back to those first two visions.

 

God showed Amos that “He was forming a locust-swarm when the spring crop was began to sprout”. It’s like God is showing Amos a split-screen vision. On one screen is a picture of the spring crop barely breaking through the ground and on the other screen is a picture of baby locusts still in the larvae state – both of these growing and maturing side by side until suddenly just as the spring crop had been harvested and was beginning to take it’s second growth, here came the swarm of locusts. All of it happened so quickly that Amos cried out “Lord God please pardon!” Please forgive! The tense of this phrase is the strongest appeal in the Hebrew language. You can imagine Amos’ heart pounding as he cries out to God.

 

And what did God do? He relented.

 

Then the Lord showed Amos another scene. This time God was sending fire, and while the locusts were only eating the second growth, here the fire began to consume all of the farm land and Amos cried out again in the same Hebrew tense – “Lord God please pardon! Please forgive!” And again, what did God do? He relented. So what does it mean for God to “relent”?

 

I’ve been told that Hebrew is a very difficult language to learn because it is an emotional language. Many of the words don’t have what we’d call real “verbal” sounds – they’re more guttural. The Hebrew word for “relent” is literally a sigh. –Sigh- Those of you who are mothers know that that can have a lot of different meanings.

  • -Sigh- I wish you hadn’t done that.
  • -Sigh- How many times do I have to tell you
  • -Sigh- Well ok then!
  • -Sigh- That’s not news I wanted to hear
  • -Sigh- What a relief!

 

It can mean dread, aggravation, resignation, fear and even relief – a variety of feelings. What does scripture mean when it says, “God relented” or as the KJV puts it “repented”. Does God ever need to repent? The NASB uses the word “regret” or that God was sorry, but God’s “regret” is not like ours. We have regrets over things we’ve done when we can’t see how they will turn out. (I regret eating that bowl of chili so late at night!) But God knows every outcome.

 

  • Genesis 6:6-7 in the story of the flood we read that “God was sorry that He had made man”.
  • 1 Samuel 15:35 God “regretted” that He had made Saul king.

 

Did God not know what the outcome would be? Of course He knew – but these are just two in a multitude of instances where God allows mankind to have free will.

 

Another translation of the word is that “God changed His mind”, and that’s how it’s used here in Amos.

  • In Exodus 32 in the story of the Israelites and the golden calf – God was going to destroy them and give the “chosen” status to Moses and his descendants, but then God, “changed His mind”.
  • In Numbers 14 God “changed His mind” again about destroying the second generation of Israelites when they repented.

 

In each of these cases what is it that causes God to “change His mind”? Someone cried out to Him to please forgive. But the scriptures tell us that God is immutable – Malachi 3:6 says, “I am the Lord and I change not.” Numbers 23:19 says “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

 

So that begs the question – do our prayers really change God’s mind? If God is sovereign, and we know that He is – then how can our prayers change what He has decreed that He will do? In Matthew 6:8 Jesus tells us that the Father knows what you need before you ask Him, so then, how important are our prayers, anyway? In E. M. Bounds’ book “The Possibilities of Prayer” Bounds says that “our prayers move God.” But do our prayers really change God’s mind? And the answer is “No”… and “Yes”.

 

Here’s the thing – this is how it works – WE don’t change God’s mind, but God ALLOWS us to participate in His work. I believe (and this is not my opinion – this is what I believe) I believe that God, through the Holy Spirit, stirs our spirits to pray – and not only to pray – but in what to pray. I believe that every serious prayer we pray (and aren’t they all serious) but every serious petition that we bring before the throne should begin with, “How do You want me to pray?” And wait for an answer! We can’t pray effectively until we are moved by the Father to fulfill His will. How was Amos moved? The very image of the locust devouring the crops and the fire devastating the land moved him to cry out “O Lord God! Please forgive”. Sometimes it will be that graphic but not always.

 

One commentator said, (Small book Yates) “[God] can be moved by man’s appeal because His will for man’s good is unchangeable. Anyone who would bring God’s message – whether [of] judgment or salvation – must enter upon the task with genuine sympathy and compassion, having first interceded in agonizing prayer.” As James 5:16 tells us, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

 

Amos was truly a “burden bearer” – he cared for these people and he prayed – he cried out for God to forgive them. Abraham begged God that if God could only find 10 righteous men in Sodom and Gomorrah would He please spare the city. Moses and Aaron pleaded with God to forgive the Israelites, and Paul said that if it was possible he would give up his own salvation if it would mean that the Jews would believe.

 

But here’s a sobering thought, if we believe that God acts in response to prompting us in prayer – then do we also believe that our not praying keeps God from acting? May God forgive us for not praying…

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Chapters 5-6

 

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but when a famous person dies, it seems that immediately the media has a ready-made obituary for them with all their accomplishments listed – just like it was already written, just waiting for them to die. And in fact, they do! In the case of our study, Israel’s obituary had already been written as well – it was just a matter of time before it would come to fruition unless there was a major change. So – what should they do? Make a change, of course! I’m sure that everyone here has heard of the Nobel Peace Prize – but do you know how it came to be? Alfred Nobel was a wealthy chemist who had invented dynamite. When his brother died, the newspaper mistakenly printed his obituary which said, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people died yesterday…” When he read that – at how he would be remembered – he was determined to make a change.

 

The Israelites weren’t so wise…

 

Chapter 5 continues Amos’ denouncement of Israel with his third proclamation of “Hear this word…”  (It would be good to have your Bibles open because I am going to refer to some of the scriptures without reading the verses.) We don’t know for sure but many commentators believe that the occasion may have been a religious festival taking place at Bethel. With the city full of worshipers, the scene would have had a carnival atmosphere about it. And into this gaiety stepped Amos, likely dressed as a mourner, with sackcloth and ashes pronouncing, in both word and cadence, a “funeral song” or “dirge” as some translations put it, directed against the house of Israel.

 

We’ve talked about it before, but it’s important to remember the national setting into which Amos spoke these words. Although he spoke of Israel as having already fallen to rise no more, the outward appearance of the nation portrayed an entirely different scene.

Israel, under Jeroboam II, was at the height of prosperity. Their future enemy, Assyria, was not a threat as she was currently busy with her own enemies. The Southern Kingdom of Judah was also enjoying peace and prosperity with Uzziah as king. And under Jeroboam II, Israel had extended its own territory both northward as well as down into the Eastern side of the Jordan River – called the “Transjordan”. With peace pervading the land and the economy booming, Amos’ words of death must have been as jarring as Alfred Nobel reading his own obituary.

 

Amos referred to Israel as “Virgin Israel” – which meant that she was a virgin to defeat. There had been battles that they had lost throughout their history, but they had never been defeated as a whole nation. Now they would be left with no one to save them. The predictions of losing ninety percent of their military might as we see in verse 3, wasn’t a hopeful word concerning the remnant. Instead it was a picture of the crushing military defeat. God’s words: “Seek Me that you may live”, provided a much needed hope in this dark hour. The hope would come, not only in proactively seeking God, but in choosing to eliminate the things which were contrary to His worship. “Bethel”, Gilgal, and “Beer-sheba” represented forms of false gods and idol worship in which the people of Israel participated. Sadly, each of these places had once been a place of true worship.

Abraham built an altar at Bethel, which means “house of God” (Genesis 12:8), but in Amos’ day, it had become nothing – the Hebrew word was “Beth-aven” meaning house of nothing. (We’ll see it called this in a later chapter). Gilgal, the place where the reproach of Israel was rolled away in Joshua 5:9, would, in a play on the Hebrew word find themselves being “rolled away” into captivity. And Beer-sheba, located in the Southern Kingdom, was where Abraham called upon the name of the Lord in Genesis 21:33, but the Israelites were calling upon the name of their ancestors, upon their “we’ve always done it this way” to save them instead of God.

 

And then for the second time, Amos called for them to “Seek the Lord that you may live”, but this time the implied message was “or else”.

 

He saw that the whole justice system in Israel had run amuck. Instead of its being hope and help for the weak and helpless, it had become as a poison. But before he continued with the condemnation, in an almost parenthetical thought, Amos reminded Israel who it was that was calling them to judgment; who it was that they should seek. It is the creator; the one who made the constellations, and the cycles of day and night, and of the water and the rain. His name, as he tells us in verse 8, is the LORD.

 

But the Lord did not simply fling the stars into the skies or wind up the cycles of life and let them go as many people believe today, the Lord has His hand in every affair of mankind. But just like our nation today, Israel hated anyone who (as the scripture puts it) “reproves him in the gates…” – anyone who speaks against what is being done. Amos then continued to denounce Israel’s oppression of the poor through the taxing of their grains (which we would call “an income tax”) and not only were they taxing them, they were using them as slave labor. The phrase in verse 11 of “well-hewn stone” indicates that “someone” was hewing them – or shaping them.

 

Amos predicted that they would not live in the houses they had built, nor drink the wine from the vineyards they had planted. These words are an exact opposite to the words of blessing in Joshua 24:13 where God says “I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.”

 

Then, for the third time Amos relates what they must do to live – “Seek good and not evil, that you may live” and if they do that “the Lord God of hosts [will actually] be with you [just like you think He is now].

 

In verses 10-12 he has basically said “don’t do this”

  • don’t hate the one who tries to correct you
  • don’t impose heavy rent on the poor
  • don’t tax the poor
  • don’t treat them like slave labor

 

“Instead” verses 14-15 says “do this!”

  • hate evil
  • love good
  • and establish justice [back] in the courts

 

And if you do – perhaps – just perhaps, the Lord God of hosts may be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. This statement was very disturbing to me… what this seems to indicate (and when I checked several commentaries they agreed) is that the dye had already been cast. Israel was going to be punished – the only thing left to be determined was how – by what method, which is what we’ll read about next week.

 

And with this Amos continues on with his funeral song. There would be wailing in all the plazas, in all the streets, and in all the vineyards. There would be no place to get away from it. Then it says all this wailing will happen because “‘I will pass through your midst’, says the Lord”. Can you remember hearing that phrase somewhere else?  That’s the very same words that God used in Exodus 12:12. The death angel had passed over them in Egypt – but now it would pass through them…

 

Then from chapter 5:18-6:4 we are given a series of “woe” statements. Sometimes the word “woe” only shows up in the KJV.

  • The first one is in 5:18, “Woe to you who are longing for the Day of the Lord”.

This is spoken against those who desired a day of destruction and victory over their enemies, but instead Amos tells them to be careful what they wish for – that instead, it will be a time when things go from bad to worse for them.

  • Then in 6:1, “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria”

This is against those in Judah as well as those in Israel who are living a life of false security. He says – go take a look at these other places that either have been, or will be destroyed, too. Do you think you are any better than they are?

  • And then in 6:4-6, “Woe to those who recline on beds of ivory” and it goes on to speak of, as one writer put it (Yates – Small book on Amos) “excessive indulgence and gross indifference”

This was against laziness, gluttony and drunkenness of the wealthy. Now, let me be quick to note that these things –  the “lying on beds of ivory”, the “eating lambs” or “making music” were not in themselves, sin – but taken as a whole with the attitudes of the people – they became symptoms of a greater sin. The people were so wrapped up in their own pleasures that they didn’t grieve over the coming destruction of their own nation.

 

The rest of chapter 6 continues with more detail of what was going to happen to them. Verses 9-10, which seem a little hard to understand can be explained this way – have you ever heard someone say, “Don’t pray for patience, because God will surely put you in a place where yours will grow?” Or – have you heard anyone (or maybe you’ve said) “Things are so bad that I’m afraid to ask what else could happen?” (One time I was actually praying “When’s it ever going to let up!”) Amos told them that it would be so bad that they would say, “Shhh, don’t mention God’s name and maybe He won’t know were here, and won’t send anything else!” And chapter 6 ends with God saying, “I am going to raise up a nation against you O house of Israel, that will afflict you from Hamath to the valley of the Arabah!” This from the northern most point of the kingdom to the southern most point. It’d be like us saying “From Maine to Texas” or “From sea to shining sea”. It would encompass the whole nation.

 

Next week’s lesson on chapters 7-8 will talk about how the judgment will come – but there’s a couple of things that I want us to take away from this lesson.

 

The first one comes in chapter 5, verse 18, “Woe to you who long for the Day of the Lord.” Amos is the first prophet to use the phrase “The Day of the Lord” as a term of judgment in Israel. Joel had used it in Judah as both judgment and salvation, and Obadiah had used it concerning Edom, and so it is likely Israel was familiar with the phrase as one of judgment – but against other people, of course! Just like the Pharisees would be in Jesus’ time, they were all for that! The second part of verse 18 says, “For what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you?” And that’s our question – What do we think of when we think of “The day of the Lord?” Are you longing for it? I have a friend that signs her e-mails with, “Come quickly Lord Jesus and get us out of this mess!” And that’s how we want to use it – we want the rapture to come and get us out of this mess… but have you ever stopped to think what will be left when Christians leave? And for that matter – we must be very careful because we’re not really sure when the rapture will occur. I believe that it will come before the tribulation – but those who believe in mid-trib or post-trip theology are equally sure of their beliefs and of their Biblical sources to prove it. So – we don’t really know for sure. But even if it does come before the Great Tribulation – and even if we’re sure we will be raptured – still – I’m sure you know and love someone who won’t be… So… are we really longing for the “Day of the Lord” as much as we thought we were?

 

The second thing I want to leave with you is from chapter 5, verse 27 God said, “Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus”. Think about this – What would “captivity” or “exile” mean to you? For them, it was not only taken away from the land, but also taken away from God. We’re not given much detail about the Israelites’ captivity. All we have is found in 2 Kings 17. Verses 23-24 basically tells us that they were scattered and taken into several different places and that captives from other places were brought to Israel. I’ve always called it “fruit basket turnover.” But what is most devastating to me is found in 2 Kings 17, verse 20 “And the LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them out of His sight.” “Out of His sight” doesn’t merely mean they were put somewhere where God couldn’t see them – because of course, God can see everything. This meant they were taken “away from His face”. Remember how Moses longed to see God’s face? It represented God’s presence. One of the greatest blessings God gave Moses to give to the people said, “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance (which is the same Hebrew word as face) the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”  Nothing could be worse than to be taken away from the face or the presence of God.

 

Now, we’ve all had times that we didn’t feel so close to God, but for the Christian – once you have received Christ as your Saviour, and received His Holy Spirit – He will never leave you. You can never be discarded by God, but you still have to confess your sins, because what unconfessed sin does is destroy the fellowship you have with God. And that for the Christian – is worse than captivity because it is a self-imposed exile. But as 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And that restores us once again.

 

 

 

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We have started a new Bible study in our women’s group. We are studying the Book of Amos. In our Monday night and Tuesday morning studies we are using the Disciplers’ Bible studies series (www.disciplersonline.org) On Wednesday nights we are using a shortened version of the study.

We began our study by asking the question “Why study Amos?”  For the first week’s lesson we read through the whole book, and this week, after having read the whole book of Amos, our question may still be “Why Amos…” – especially if you read it in a traditional translation like the KJV or NASB… even the NIV or the NLT can be hard to understand if you don’t know anything about the geography or history of Israel. So why is it important to learn that? First of all because Israel is God’s chosen people, and Zechariah 2:8 tells us that God says that anyone who touches Israel, touches the “apple of His eye”. You’ve heard that phrase – when someone is especially dear to you, you might say, “he or she is the apple of my eye”.

And second, because Romans 11 teaches us that we, as Gentiles, have been “grafted in” to the tree that is Israel. And 1 Corinthians 10:11 tells us that “Now these things happened to [the Israelites] as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come”. (Italics added). Everything in this Bible is there for our instruction… Our pastor last Sunday, in using a football analogy said that the Bible is God’s “playbook”, so we need to know what it is saying – and why.

Last Fall we studied the book of Malachi, and in that study we saw that “Malachi” meant “God’s messenger”. And the book began this way, “The burden of the Word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.” Malachi was the last word from God to Israel in the Old Testament – and God had a burden for His people.

Now we find that Amos, who was the first writing prophet sent specifically to the Northern kingdom of Israel, has a name which means, “The burden” or “burden bearer”. In fact, almost every prophet’s name indicates a connection to God. For instance, Daniel – Dan, which means judge, and El which means God, so Daniel means either a judge of God, or God is my Judge. Ezekiel means strength of God.

If the prophet’s name ended in Ah – as in Jeremiah, or Micah, or Obadiah – the Ah was connected to Yahweh or Jehovah. Obadiah means serving Jah; Micah means “Who is like God” and Jeremiah means “Jah will rise”. But even those whose names did not have God’s name in them, their names still indicated God’s care for His people. Habakkuk means to embrace and Hosea means deliverer.

God is connected to His people and He has a burden for His people – both the Jew and the Gentile. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Although the book of Amos starts out with judgment that God will call down on all these surrounding peoples (because sin requires judgment) still, the bulk of Amos’ message is calling God’s own chosen people to repentance. In this book we see a variety of sinful situations that Amos will address. In our lesson we read a list of these sins and our writer asks that we consider our own lifestyles in comparison to these.

Some of these will clearly speak to us as individuals, such as Amos 2:6 where we might take advantage of someone else, or Amos 6:8 where we might be arrogant, but others, such as Amos 2:7 where justice was being perverted we might say, “I don’t have anything to do with the justice system…” Really? Do we vote for judges, or for those who appoint judges and make laws? Do we pray before we vote, or do we look at our own wants and needs? For the past 30 years or more I have based my presidential vote on the fact that the president is the one who appoints the Supreme Court Justices rather than the state of the economy. So yes… our leaders represent us and we will be held accountable for the actions of our leaders.

One commentary (Parallel Bible Commentary) said that the theme of Amos is “National accountability for national sins…” and we ask, “How can one person, and one vote, and one prayer really make a difference? How can little ole me, out here in East Knox County, really make a difference?”

I think we need to look at Amos, the man, to understand the answer to that. Amos was a “burden-bearer”. He was from the small village of Tekoa. It wasn’t much then, and it isn’t much today either. From what I read, even today the main highway doesn’t go anywhere near Tekoa – in other words, you have to decide to go to Tekoa. It isn’t “on the way” to anywhere. But that’s where Amos was from. Think about where you’re from, and your credentials… As we said last week, in chapter 7, when Amos has a run-in with the well-educated and prominently placed priest, Amos will say, “Look, I’m not a prophet, I’m not the son of a prophet – I didn’t even go to prophet school!”

Amos was not of noble descent like Daniel, or of priestly descent like Ezekiel and Jeremiah, nor, like we said, of a prophetic family like Jonah. Amos was simply a sheepherder, or some translations say “herdsman”. Most commentaries agree that he was, what we would call, a “blue collar” worker and that he (most likely) did not own the sheep that he tended, because we are told that he was also a gatherer (or literally a “nipper”) of sycamore fruit. I told you last week that when I think of sycamore trees, I think of those little sticky balls that grow on our sycamore trees. But the sycamore fruit of the Middle-East was actually a low-quality type of a fig. It was a cross between a fig and a mulberry, and it was eaten for food by only the poorest of people (Parallel Bible Commentary). The fig had to be cut or “nipped” in order to make it ripen, other wise it would rot. It is also likely that Amos was a type of a migrant farm worker because the sycamore grew better in some areas than others (ISBE). He had to be pretty agile, too, because the trees grew some 25-50 feet tall! (Remember the story of Zacchaeus climbing the sycamore tree?

So… what’s your picture of Amos? Poor, dirty, uneducated? A tenant farmer?

A “Grapes of Wrath” type of character? That may not be quite the picture, but at any rate he was not one that we would call “well-connected” So… how can someone without the (so-called) “proper credentials” stride into the nation’s capitol – or rather the nation’s center of religious activity (which is what Bethel was) and call the rich women “You cows of Bashan”? “You idolaters and adulterers.” How did he do it? Here’s the thing… he was a “burden-bearer”… It didn’t matter where he was from, how he looked, or how educated he was or how well he could talk – God had called him and given him a burden for God’s people.

Where did this burden come from? While it could have come “out of the blue” like God’s call to Moses in the burning bush – more likely it came through the teaching of others, maybe his parents or grandparents. As I said last week, we need to “think” as we study. Amos did not live in a vacuum, he lived in the world. He prophesied during the time of King Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel, but he was not born an adult. He had probably heard of Elijah; his parents may have told him about the three year drought and about Ahab and Jezebel, or he may have even heard the prophet Elisha speak. The prophet Hosea followed right after him, so they may have spent time together, and he may have known of Jonah’s trip to Nineveh, which probably played a huge role in Israel’s peace and prosperity of the time.

In many ways Amos could echo Mordecai’s words to Esther – “Who knows but that you have come [here] for such a time as this.” While Amos was quick to disavow his connection with professional prophets – he does, however, quickly embrace his particular call. In verse 15 of chapter 7 he says, “But the LORD called me away from my flock and told me, ‘Go and prophesy to My people in Israel.’” In chapter 3, verse 7 he says, “The Lord has spoken – who can but prophecy?” In other words, “I don’t have a choice. I cannot not preach!” Have you ever had something that you “had” to do?

I believe God calls people for specific responsibilities – sometimes they respond, like Amos did, or they question at first like Jeremiah did, or they go at it begrudgingly like Jonah did – but that doesn’t deter God. God’s will – will be done.

For us, I think this study will do several things – first it will cause us to look deep within ourselves for hidden sin and hidden attitudes. It will also cause us to look at our place in the world. As much as I love living in my secluded little valley out in the country – still I live in the world, and I am responsible for praying for this world. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NLT) says this: “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.”

And another thing that this study will do is ask us the question “Are you a ‘burden-bearer’”?

Are you a burden-bearer? Out of all that you have studied and learned in your life – what is the thing that burdens you? What do you pray for? What do your prayers sound like? I believe that, as women, God would indeed have us pray for our families. But, I don’t think our prayers should stop there.

What has God given you a burden for? If you don’t know, meditate on it and ask Him and He will open your eyes. He may indeed lead you from your Tekoa and give you a burden for Him.

 

Post Script:

This morning as I was praying for my family I began thinking about what burden God had laid on my heart. Where is my passion? What “burden” do I bear?

The more I thought about it the more I came to see that my passion is teaching Bible studies – especially teaching to Christians, or as I call it “that Biblically illiterate person in the pew next to you”. It is sad that most Christians do not engage in serious Bible study. Many are not getting taught from the pulpit, nor in the Sunday School class, or anywhere else. Disciplers Bible Studies are great and there are many other great ones out there – the bottom line is – you need to know God’s Word. That is my burden and my passion.

 

 

Gracious God, thank You for the preservation of Your Word. May we never take it for granted, and always strive to know it, and You better. In the Name of the Word Himself, even Jesus – Amen.

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