October 9, 2015.
Daily Reading: Amos 1-4.
Background: Though the book of Amos is third among the 12 minor prophets, his ministry was likely one of the first of the minor prophets. Amos dates his ministry during the reign of Uzziah in Judah and Jeroboam II in Israel, which places his ministry around 767-753 BC, and then mentions the great earthquake that was even remembered over 200 years later by Zechariah (see Zechariah 14:5) which allows us to date his ministry even more precisely, c. 765-760 BC. Amos is different from the other prophets in several ways. His dating references give us a very precise record of when his ministry was, he did not consider himself a full time prophet, but rather a “herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs” (see Amos 7:14), he did not prophesy to his own people (Judah) but rather against the northern kingdom of Israel, and most of Amos’ oracles are of judgment, punishment and doom, being the first minor prophet to introduce the concept of the day of the Lord. Amos is a contemporary of Isaiah and Hosea and does not have a pleasant message for Israel, who were at the peak of their material success, though their spiritual lives were in a downward spiral. Amos begins his oracle against the surrounding nations of Israel, but quickly turns to the children of Israel to prophesy against them.
Concepts and Connections.
Judgment on Israel’s neighbors: Amos begins his oracle with the Lord’s judgment on the neighbors of Israel, citing specific reasons that the wrath of the Lord is coming upon them for each nation. This oracle uses the poetic literary device of repetition to reinforce the charge that was being brought against the people- for three transgressions, and for four. The Lord roars from Zion, from Jerusalem, against the wicked nations. Damascus is condemned for threshing Gilead, Gaza for carrying off people into exile (see II Chronicles 28:18), Tyre for breaking a covenant with Edom, Edom for warring against their brother Israel (see II Chronicles 28:17) and the Ammonites for invading Gilead. Each received their due punishment from the Lord as His wrath was poured out upon them.
The judgment of the Lord: Continuing where we left off form the last chapter, Moab is judged for burning the king of Edom and the wrath of the Lord is prophesied to be poured out on them. Then Amos turns to the people of God and he will focus on them for the remainder of the book. Further, Amos would focus on the northern tribes of Israel after giving a short judgment against Judah here for rejecting the law of the Lord. Israel’s transgressions are laid out against them first, showing that they have no care for the poor and afflicted and profane the holy name of the Lord. Their pride was swelling, causing them to forget that it was God who had lead them to where they were, blessing them richly. It was God who drove away their enemies, though mighty, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, though they were slaves, who lead them through the wilderness and who raised up prophets and Nazarites (see Numbers 6). But the people had abandoned the Lord, profaning the Nazarites and silencing the prophets. For three transgressions, and for four, they wrath of the Lord was going to be poured out on Israel, and great would be the devastation of that day. Let us take lesson here, and remember the Lord in all that we do, for it is by His hand that we are lead in life.
Israel’s guilt and punishment: Here, the word of the Lord comes again from the mouth of Amos, unveiling the guilt and punishment of Israel. He begins with reminding them that they are His people, and He was the one that brought them out of the land of Egypt. They, apart from every other nation on earth, had been chosen by God to be His people. Now they were going to be punished for their sins and unrepentant hearts. Amos gives several “mini parables” in verses 3-6, detailing how the word of the Lord that had come through the prophets was true and how Israel would not quell the wrath of God until they were in a right relationship with Him once again. These questions were to remind Israel who they were, and who they were dealing with. They were to call Israel’s attention to the prophets of the Lord and to turn their hearts. Then the Lord reveals His message out right, telling His secret to the prophets and roaring amongst His people. Who could but prophesy? The sin and iniquity was exposed before the people as the children of Israel seem to have lost all sense of how to do right. Thus the Lord would bring an adversary against them to plunder them and take them captive (see II Kings 17-18). However, in the end, the Lord would save a remnant of the people.
“Prepare to meet your God, O Israel”: The word of the Lord continues to be poured out on Israel here, those who oppress the poor and crush the needy, to those who live in excess and ease. The Lord would bring a nation against them that would carry them away with hooks and bring them into captivity. Then, almost sarcastically, the Lord bids them to continue their transgressions through their profaned worship. Though they went through the rituals, though they brought their sacrifices and tithes, their hearts were far from God. They gave offerings in the sight of the people for the praise of men. Thus they had their reward, for they were not fooling God. The Lord had sent punishment on them in the form of scarcity, drought (see Jeremiah 3:3), blight and mildew, plagues of locusts (see Joel 1:4), pestilence, sword, and varied destruction- yet none of these things caused the children of Israel to return to the Lord (note that most of these were not widespread devastations, but rather localized events that were meant to turn the hearts of the people to their God). Since they had not come back, there is a chilling statement made at the end of this chapter: “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel.” The Creator, the Almighty, The Lord God of hosts- He was coming against His people because of their iniquity. And who would be able to stand on that day? Israel had been called to return to the Lord, but they would not. Let us not make the same mistake.
Tomorrow’s Reading: John 16-18.
Return to the Lord.