October 16, 2015.
Daily Reading: Amos 5-9.
Background: Amos 1-4.
Concepts and Connections.
1. Seek the Lord and live: Though the Lord is in the middle of rebuke and Amos’ message has been one of destruction, an ever present characteristic of God is found here as He offers reconciliation to His people. Though they are committing evil and have turned away from their God, He tells them to seek Him and live. The people always has the chance to return to God and He would relent of His destructions. This is because our God is a merciful God and His steadfast love endures forever. He implores them seek Him, lest His wrath be poured out on them because of their iniquity. But the people turned justice into wormwood and would not return. Note the power of the Lord that is described here, likely to make the message of His coming destruction set in better. They were not dealing with just anyone- they were casting off the Creator, He who was omnipotent as displayed in His creation. Their iniquity is laid out before them: they hated reproof and the one who spoke truth, they trampled and oppressed the poor for gain. Their transgressions were ever before them, and because of them the wrath of the Lord would be outpoured. Three times in this chapter are the people called to seek the Lord/good that they might live. But it was an evil time, and the day of the Lord was coming upon them.
2. Offering vain offerings: Notice here the misconception of the people. It seems as though they weren’t convinced that they had even forsaken the Lord. Some even apparently desired the day of the Lord! They seem to not have listened well to the prophets so as to ascertain what the day of the Lord would be like for them- a time of wrath and destruction. Amos corrects their thinking here, making it plain that the day of the Lord would be a time of darkness and gloom. But the people continued to hold their feasts and solemn assemblies before the Lord- they continued to offer burnt offerings and praise the Lord through song. The Lord would not accept their gifts or listen to their praise- for He did not hold their hearts. They had strayed far from Him, but seem to not even have noticed. Their worship was divided, and the Lord is a jealous God (see Exodus 20:3-4). Thus, His wrath would be poured out in righteousness when He led them into captivity.
Woe to those who are at ease in Zion: This chapter is one of strong words to those who were very comfortable at the time. Woes are poured out on those who were at ease, those who thought everything was going well, those who lived in a land of excess. The pride of Israel was swelling, and this pride would lead nowhere else but to a fall. As we learned from the last chapter, these people did not think that they had left God. They had gotten so comfortable with their luxuries and ways of doing things that they had missed the fact that their hearts had strayed far from the One who gave them these blessings. Now they were at ease, but it wouldn’t be that way for long, for the wrath of the Lord was coming. Not the excess and luxury that is presented here. The people had begun to trust in themselves, to be sure of their security without trusting in God. Their misconception would soon be brought to light. The Lord was raising up an nation to come against the house of Israel, and great would be their fall. they would be led into captivity and scattered amongst the nations. Their trust in their own might would mean nothing on that day, the day on which the Lord would pour out His wrath on His people (see II Kings 17).
1. Visions: In the first half of this chapter, we are given three interesting visions, the first two of which teach something that could be very valuable. In these first two visions, Amos saw the wrath of the Lord that He was going to bring on Israel in the form of locus and then of judgment by fire. Both times Amos prays to the Lord to forgive and not bring this great distraction on Israel. The Lord answers the prayer of Amos both times and relents of the immediate destruction that He was going to bring. This shows that indeed the fervent prayer of a righteous man has great power (see James 5:16). This is also reminiscent of the account where Moses acted as a liaison for the people, praying that the Lord would not bring the destruction he was about to bring on them (see Exodus 32). It should be noted, however, that Amos prayer didn’t actually turn away the wrath of the Lord from His people ultimately, but rather just delayed it. The wrath was still coming, as is evident by the vision of the plumb line that the Lord was setting in Israel. Israel would not stand before His judgment.
2. Accusations: As is typical when a hard message is preached to a people who are unwilling to listen, Amos is accused by Amaziah the priest before Jeroboam II, king of Israel, as having conspired against him. He said that the land was not able to bear Amos’ words, and he quoted Amos as having said that Jeroboam would die by the sword and Israel would go into exile. Amaziah then told Amos to go home and prophesy there, but never prophesy again in Israel. What was Amos’ answer? His defense was “I am not a prophet. I was a herdsman, a farmer. I have no other reason to be out here except that God called me to prophesy a message to the people.” He had nothing to gain and everything to loose by preaching a hard message to a people who lived in luxury and would be unwilling to hear. There was no reason for him to be lying- and he wasn’t. The Lord had called him to prophesy, and he had followed his calling. It seems that this accusation didn’t phase him, as he goes on to prophesy against Jeroboam right there, saying basically what Amaziah had accused him of saying. His courage and trust in the Lord here should be noted, as it exemplifies the trust and faith we should have in Him.
The wrath of the Lord: In this chapter we find a vision of a basket of summer fruit that the Lord uses to show Amos that Israel’s time of wealth and dominance is quickly coming to an end. In that day their songs of praise would be turned into wailings, and great would be the count of the dead. They would be trampled because of their iniquity and oppression, and the end of their troubles would be no where in sight. Their pride would lead to their downfall, and the Lord would punish them for their wicked deeds. All their comfort would be uprooted, their feast turned to mourning and their songs to lamentation. It is interesting to note that a famine would be sent on the land, not one of food or drink, but one of hearing the words of the Lord. This is perhaps a reference to the years of silence between Malachi and the gospels, where there was no prophetic vision. The people would seek near and far, but they would not find the word of the Lord. They continued to worship other gods, and they would fall because of it.
Destruction and restoration: Here we receive Amos’ final written oracle of destruction against the children of Israel, given by God as He stood by the altar. It seems that this oracle is directed at the leaders of Israel, the heads of the people, whom the Lord would send great disaster on, so that not one of them would escape. They would have nowhere to hide from the Lord, in the mountains, the bottom of the sea or even in captivity. The Lord would find them and make and end of them. Note how the power, the omnipotence, of the Lord is highlighted here, as One who touches earth and it melts, and One who pours out the waters on the face of the earth. It is He who brings up and He who casts down, and He was about to bring destruction on the house of Israel. But even in this, He leaves hope for a remnant. The Lord again would raise up His people and rebuild them. Though the message of restoration is short in Amos when compared to other prophets, it is one of great importance, and one that foretold of the Gentiles inclusion in the restoration of God’s people. This passage is quoted in Acts 15:16-18 as James is noting how the prophets agree that the Gentiles were to be included when the Lord brought forth this restoration. It is important that this prophecy is found in Amos, as he was one of the earliest writing prophets, indicating that it had always been the plan of God to bring the Gentiles into His kingdom. Let us ever praise the name of the Lord for this.
Tomorrow’s Reading: John 19-21.
Do no allow pride to be your downfall.