The Prophet Series: Amos, part 1
Amos, Part 1
Amos in parts
I’m led to writing about this book in parts with more attention given to some of its revealed truths. Hosea and Joel were very much summarized, and perhaps we will return to them. I think God is asking us to slow down a little. In light of the times in which we live, especially with war threatening again in the Middle East, there is much in the words of this prophet that will help us to understand the program of human history as it is controlled by the King of kings.
As Amos was a breeder of large flocks, a rancher, and successful farmer, we easily assume that he was a respected man in Israel. God chooses whom He wills and certainly something more than a person’s social and economic status guides God’s will. The sovereign hand of God bestowed upon Amos his first visions and called him forth as a prophet.
The times in which he lived were times of great economic prosperity in both Israel and Judah. The Southern Kingdom subdued the enemies around them and their king Uzziah reigned for 52 years, revealing a stable government. The Northern Kingdom had no troubles with Syria or Assyria, consistently thorns in their side, during these years. Without war, the Promised Land, anointed of God, was free to respond to God’s husbandry with abundant produce. In both kingdoms, the goods that Israel, Judah, and her neighbors craved, were easily traded, profits were high, and it seemed to God’s people that if their money-bags were full then so was God’s pleasure with them.
God showed Amos His displeasure that loomed on the horizon like a tempest. Indeed the displeasure of God in the form of judgment has been looming on a distant horizon since the fall of man, pronounced with authority upon the serpent, loud, ominous, threatening, and explosive. And, while that judgment held itself on the horizon, the salvation of man was proclaimed as a whisper.
I find it wonderful that the gospel is that still small voice spreading forth through the entire land. God doesn’t thunder His gospel. He augustly spreads it everywhere as it whispers itself to men as the rose garden catches their eyes, the child smiles up at them, the crops come to harvest, they watch the snow fall or the rain quench, and they hear in their own conscience the moral law of God, knowing it is just. All things silent, and many more like them in which the smallest noise is absent, and with which the Spirit of God opens the eyes of a man so that he may understand and believe. “Silence doesn’t mean inactivity any more than noise means power. … A man makes more noise clearing the snow off his front path than the sun makes in melting a million tons of it. God is so wonderfully silent because He is so wonderfully active.” [F.W. Boreham, The Whisper of God]
The year is around 762 B.C. Elisha’s cold body has lain in its tomb for about 50 years, and because the two kingdoms have not been facing war, trade has flourished. You see, Israel and Judah sit upon major trade routes that connect east to west, and without conflict, trade along these routes, unthreatened by ambush, flourished and the cities of both nations became wealthy. An upper class emerged (4:1-3), expensive homes were built (3:15), and the rich enjoyed a lazy and indulgent lifestyle (6:1-6).
Amos is not the only prophet in Israel at the time. We must remember that there are likely many prophets in Israel of whom no names or events are recorded. We saw some of them in our lengthy study of Elijah and Elisha, and who made up the school of the prophets.
Also, of the prophets who we do know, we lack the greatest confidence in the dates in which they ministered, but some are more sure than others. We know that Amos is contemporary with Jonah, and most likely his commission from God overlaps with the ministries of Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah.
I found another helpful timeline: http://calvaryphx.com/media/kings-and-prophets-timeline.pdf
Remember, the Northern Kingdom has only one generation left before they are destroyed by Assyria. Judah only has 2-3 generations left (depending on how long you think a generation is). God inundated them both with warnings and calls to repentance from various prophets, perhaps thousands of them.
Amos is sent to them two years before a sizeable earthquake. The historian Josephus connects the quake with the events of king Uzziah entering the holy place to offer incense, against the stern warning of the high priest, and being smitten with leprosy by the Lord (2CH 26:16-20). Archaeological excavations in the area have uncovered evidence of a violent earthquake in Israel about 760 B.C.
Part 1: Chapters 1-2, The Lion of Judah Roars
Against the Gentile Nations
Yavah roars from Zion in judgment against the nations and against Israel. The judgments upon the Gentile nations (1:3 - 2:3) fall upon them because they are guilty of conquering other nations, conquering other peoples and selling them into slavery, and doing violence to the innocent for the sole purpose of extending their borders; in each case murder is committed and the sacred life of man is violated.
One might erroneously conclude that only Israel is under the law of God or that nations claiming no allegiance to their Creator are free from His law. While it is true that they were not under the Mosaic Law, they are still accountable to the laws of God, as were the patriarchs before God thundered the Law from Sinai. It is most puzzling that man concludes that he is safe from the judgment of his Creator if he rejects His authority. Man imagines that if he doesn’t believe in God then he is absolved from any accountability to Him.
In the case of the six Gentile nations mentioned by Amos, all have violated the covenant made with Noah. After the flood, with only one family remaining to repopulate the earth, God placed all men under the Noahic Covenant. Through Amos, God finds several Gentile nations to be responsible and in violation of God’s trust.
And from every man, from every man's brother I will require the life of man.
"Whoever sheds man's blood,
By man his blood shall be shed,
For in the image of God He made man.
"And as for you, be fruitful and multiply;
Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it."
There are six nations mentioned by Amos, yet we don’t have to possess doctorates in history to know that all nations have violated this covenant. What nation hasn’t been bathed in bloodshed sprayed by brother against brother in the quest for power and wealth? What nation doesn’t have a spotted history of assassinations, coups, revolutions, and backroom deals in which the powerful concoct secret agreements that result in the innocent being robbed, enslaved, or slain? No wicked nation will escape God's judgment. And yet, in every single nation, the whisper of God’s gospel has gone from man to man giving the hope of salvation to each individual and complete deliverance from the wrath to come unto eternal life.
ROM 5:16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.
Against Judah and Israel
The judgment against Judah and Israel falls on them because of their guilt in not keeping the Law and their evil treatment of the poor. It is not violation of the Noahic Covenant that is levied against them from the bar, but the Mosaic.
The judgment against Judah and Israel has to do with their rejection of the Law of God, the Mosaic Covenant. They broke the Law, and this was evidenced by the fact that they would even enslave the poor over a debt in the amount of the price of a sandal. They perverted wealth as a source of pride and happiness and they exploited the poor.
EXO 23:6 You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute.
The nations exploited the weaker people of the earth with slavery and death while Israel did so within their own tribes, a people linked together forever as chosen of God, robbing and enslaving the weaker among them while simultaneously offering sacrifices to the Lord. Israel is also accused of sexual perversion, that a father and a son have the same girl, 2:7. They profaned God’s name and they worshipped other gods, 2:8, by offering wine taken from the poor. God called them to Himself so that they might enjoy salvation as well as a joyful and peaceful life of abundance in a blessed land which would have been a Garden of Eden, blessed and protected by the Spirit of God though surrounded by a fallen world. But they let the fallen world live in their hearts and so it infested their land.
God reminds them through Amos that He brought them out of the land of Egypt and removed the mighty Amorite from the Promised Land so they could occupy it. Yet they failed to show any gratitude and violated His precepts. It only took them one generation after Joshua to forget. Never stop looking at all the good in your life and know that it is from God, and be thankful. It doesn’t matter what events have unfolded that have caused you pain or sorrow, every saint faces the same. There are many more things in the believer’s life that are wonderful gifts from God. Never stop looking at them through that lense.
God reminds Israel that He rose up great men of faith to show them the way, prophets and Nazarites. However, the people, rather than being inspired by such devout men, encouraged the Nazarites to drink wine and thus forsake their vow to the Lord. “Why serve the Lord so devoutly, be like the rest of us without boundary or control and pushed along by lust.” As the saying goes, “misery loves company,” and unbridled lust does as well.
Their violation of the covenant let God to close chapter 2 with judgment upon them. It is frightening enough that its looming reality makes one pause for a few solemn moments, as if at a funeral for someone who died too young. Part of it is currently occuring as the diaspora while its climax awaits the Great Tribulation. Amos will point us to them both.
One of the main words used in this first section, the Lion of Judah Roars, is “transgression.” It is the Hebrew word pesha, and it is no surprise to me that the Bible Project produced a video on this word just this past week. Every video they have published for the last several months have been on topics that I have been currently teaching. Check out their video at https://thebibleproject.com/all-videos/word-studies/
Pesha refers to a violation of trust or the breaking of a covenant. Knowing this helps us to understand that all mankind is guilty and in need of a Savior. Adam made a covenant with God and agreed not to eat. Could he have rejected the covenant and so been released from its obligation? Could he have negotiated the covenant? The sovereign will of God says no.
Can man renegotiate the Noahic or the Mosaic Covenant? No. And he broke all the commandments therein (break one command and you are guilty of the whole law, JAM 2:10; GAL 5:3). Hence man is guilty of transgression. He entered into a covenant with his God and he violated its trust.
Why would man want a renegotiated covenant anyway, when the Lord Jesus Christ is going to give him a New Covenant that he cannot break?
Specifically to Israel, their transgressions included sexual sins, violation of the right of God to receive thanksgiving, worshipping false gods, and selling poor brothers into slavery for the price of a pair of sandals. God made a covenant with them that they would worship Him alone, love their neighbor, and take care of the poor. At Sinai they agreed to it, and when they left the shadow of that holy mountain, they broke it.
The Greek equivalent of pesha is paraptoma. Paul used this word for the trust that Adam broke with God. Due to that “transgression” the entire human race was cast into a dark and cursed world. Man would attempt to discern good and evil on his own, without the guidance of the One who was good. His inability to do so, coupled with his perpetual vigor to try, would end up in death and hurt upon everyone. But Paul knew something that Saul of Tarsus never saw, that the last Adam entered earth from heaven in order to sacrificially give the free gift of the grace of God to all men, who in believing, would be delivered from death.
ROM 5:15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
Jesus had no transgression in Him. He did not betray the trust of anyone, nor did he once fail to observe any part of His covenant with the Father’s will. In great contrast to His beautiful and unchangeable virtue, we betrayed Him, and yet He took all of our betrayal upon Himself.
ISA 53:12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.
By doing so, Jesus opened up a new way for humanity; a way for saved people to be faithful and trustworthy; a people who would not lie, and hence He would remove all vows. He gave the new creatures new life - His life. He gave them power over sin and the darkness of selfish betrayal. The Faithful One gave them the gift of faithfulness.
Jesus was treated by all the worst that man could do. The only true life was treated as an imposter. The only man of true peace was treated as a usurper. The light of the world had to die in darkness. The only man to ever truly fellowship with the Father had to be forsaken by Him.
The judgments that Amos reveals are sure to come upon Israel and the Gentile nations of the world. No matter how loudly the nations boast, complete judgment is a given. However, it will be averted by any individuals who trust in the King of kings for salvation. Out of these will come a true Israel and a true Kingdom of heaven.
God Reaches Out to Every Living Man
At Pentecost, attended by Jews from many lands outside Jerusalem, after the nation of Israel had rejected her Messiah and crucified Him, salvation was offered to every man. The final judgment had been pronounced upon the city by Jesus to whom was handed all judgment. That would not change, but the souls of men could still change, even to those who shouted “Crucify Him” the loudest and most fervently just weeks before. The followers of Jesus, given miraculous speaking power from God the Holy Spirit, stood in the inner court of the Temple, the outer court, and all around the great building and told all who attended that feast that eternal life was alone in Jesus of Nazareth, whom they crucified. Does it not astound you that God never stops loving man?
The destruction was sure to come upon Jerusalem, and it did about forty year later, but anyone hearing the gospel could be saved through faith in a resurrected Jesus of whom more than five-hundred living in that city were eyewitnesses. In Amos, as in all the prophets, along with the pronouncement of coming judgment came the appeal from God to turn to Him and be saved. He reveals His past actions and sets forth His faithfulness and then bids us to consider, who is like Him?
More Amos to come. Until then,
May the peace of Christ be with you,
Pastor Joe Sugrue
Grace and Truth Ministries