The Prophet Series: Amos, part 3
Amos part 3
Amos gave five messages to Israel that are recorded in this book. We pick up at the second and third.
The Second Message: Chapter 4
AMO 4:1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on the mountain of Samaria,
Who oppress the poor, who crush the needy,
Who say to your husbands, "Bring now, that we may drink!"
You’re a cow, no bull
The cows of Bashan refer here to the upper-class women, pampered and insisting that their husbands bring them intoxicating drinks. The Hebrew word for “husband” is adon and it means lord and master. Yet ironically, the “masters” are acting as servants to their wives, whose expensive tastes necessitate crushing the poor into deeper poverty.
God’s chosen nation, filled with His Law, His love, and His redemptive grace was to be different than all other nations. Would that another nation look at Israel and long to live within her borders when they witnessed the treatment of the poor, the sick, the needy, and they actually saw before them the love of God from neighbor to neighbor as well as justice. What a fine evangelical tool that would have been. Yet, if the emissaries from other nations were to come to Samaria, all they would conclude is that, “They are like us, only worse.”
We look to ourselves and demand that within our souls, the treasure of the love of God shines forth so brightly from our earthen vessels that people would behold and say, “A disciple of the Lord.”
The Assyrians were going to break down the walls of Samaria and fasten the people to ropes with hooks and march them single file, far away to the east. Anyone who resisted would be snagged with harpoons (fish hooks, 3:2) and yanked into place. It would be a death-march that only a fraction of them would survive. They will believe the prophecy of Amos after it happens. O, that they would believe it now.
Amos 4:4-5 "Enter Bethel and transgress;
In Gilgal multiply transgression!
Bring your sacrifices every morning,
Your tithes every three days.
"Offer a thank offering also from that which is leavened,
And proclaim freewill offerings, make them known.
For so you love to do, you sons of Israel,"
Declares the Lord God.
This is a parody of a priest’s summons to worshiping pilgrims. Bethel was the center of the golden calf worship instituted by Jeroboam I (Jeroboam II currently sits on the throne).
I have often heard from people that they believe that all gods are the same. People fool themselves into thinking that as long as the worship something in some way, then they are good with God. God sarcastically calls for the people to bring their offerings (things which He blessed them with) to the golden calf at Bethel. The offense is completely hypocritical. God did not bring them into this land to build and idol and then offer God’s own gifts to it.
What more could I have done for My vineyard?
God repeated attempts to open their eyes. In 4:6-11, because the people refuse to, Amos recollects the history of the kingdom, which was interspersed with several occurrences of obvious warnings from God. The red-alerts were loudly broadcast from east to west and the people endured them without a thought to the conspicuously large fingerprint of God laid upon them.
Famine (4:6), drought (vv. 7-8), crop failure (v. 9), plagues (v. 10), military defeat (v. 10), and devastation by fire (v. 11) all happened to Israel over the past decades, and all of it went unheeded. These very occurrences God recorded in His Law in Lev 26 and Deu 28-29 as the scourges that would come upon the people if they incurred the curse of the Law. With each chastisement God anticipated repentance, but it never came. “Yet you have not returned to Me,” (4:6, 8-11).
In 4:7 God sent rain on one city and not another. The people likely said, “Well that’s odd,” and then went on with their ungodly ways. Hello?!? They are pictured staggering, exhausted and dehydrated, to other towns in search of water, and yet not able to get enough to quench their thirst. The nation came close to complete destruction and only barely escaped “like a firebrand snatched from a blaze,” but all of this proved futile. The capacity of the human race to put up with misery in the face of a pleading Creator is simply astounding.
All that happened would seem like a walk in the park compared to what was coming. God ominously says:
AMO 4:12 "Therefore, thus I will do to you, O Israel;
Because I shall do this to you,
Prepare to meet your God, O Israel."
Some understand the word “prepare” as an invitation to repent before this final catastrophe. Since the word, however, was often used for war preparations, it is likely a summons to meet the Lord on the battlefield and face His final judgment. When that cry is made it is time to beg and plead for peace.
The Third Message (5:1-17)
Amos’ third and fourth (5:18-27) messages are structured and juxtaposed to highlight one overall truth: the nation would be judged by its Mighty Sovereign God, but individuals could yet repent and live.
Messages 3 and 4 follow a chiastic structure. There are many passages in the Bible that do this. A chiasmus is a structure in which a theme from one paragraph is repeated in reverse order in a following paragraph. The chiastic structure of the third is:
Theme one (judgment, vv. 1-3)
Theme two (call for individual repentance, vv.4-6)
Theme three (accusation of legal injustice, v. 7)
- Central Theme (the might and sovereignty of God, vv. 8-9)
- Theme three (repeated: accusation of legal justice, vv.10-13)
- Theme three (accusation of legal injustice, v. 7)
- Theme two (repeated: call for individual repentance, vv.14-15)
- Theme two (call for individual repentance, vv.4-6)
- Theme one (repeated: judgment, vv. 16-17)
The middle theme becomes the focus of the whole message. In Amos’ third message the central focus is the might and sovereignty of God. In the fourth message the middle theme is the call for individuals to repent. Together these two messages present the truth that the mighty sovereign God would judge the nation for her injustice and lack of love, but that God would at the same time offer salvation to anyone who repented and believed.
Hear this word which I take up for you as a dirge, O house of Israel.
She has fallen, she will not rise again —
The virgin Israel.
She lies neglected on her land;
There is none to raise her up.
For thus says the Lord God,
"The city which goes forth a thousand strong
Will have a hundred left,
And the one which goes forth a hundred strong
Will have ten left to the house of Israel."
A “dirge” is a lament or a poem of grief that was sung at a funeral. Amos is singing at the funeral of Israel, while currently she was at the height of her prosperity. So certain is her judgment. It is like a living person finding their own obituary in the newspaper, or the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come pointing Scrooge’s gaze to his own gravestone in the churchyard.
Scrooge said to the spirit, “Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point, answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of the things that May be, only?” As we know from Dickens’ tale it was the latter, but in Amos’ prophecy, it is the former.
A righteous man desires justice in his community and he works towards that end. To do what is right and just on behalf of the needy, who are without money or influence, is a part of the goodness of the Lord crowning man with glory and honor. Israel rejected this crown and “turned justice into wormwood.” They came to destruction for it, as will every unjust nation.
Give the king Thy judgments, O God,
And Thy righteousness to the king's son.
May he judge Thy people with righteousness,
And Thine afflicted with justice.
Let the mountains bring peace to the people,
And the hills in righteousness.
May he vindicate the afflicted of the people,
Save the children of the needy,
And crush the oppressor.
The Sovereignty of God (5:8-9)
Since being a child, I have always loved the night sky. Growing up in the city, not many stars were visible, but trips to Ireland with my parents during the summer and the various beach houses they rented over the years would afford me to sit under a sky without the light-pollution of a dense population. Once I sat under a sky at night in the middle of Death Valley and I’ll never forget the feeling of vast power and beauty, as well as divine design. God grabs hold of this image to convey to Israel just how Grand He is.
He who made the Pleiades and Orion
And changes deep darkness into morning,
Who also darkens day into night,
Who calls for the waters of the sea
And pours them out on the surface of the earth,
The Lord is His name.
The rising of the Pleiades before daybreak signaled the return of spring while the rising of Orion after sunset heralded the onset of winter. God controls the days, the seasons, the years. He builds vast suns with a word and places them where He chooses. He called forth the precipitation cycle so that rain would fall where He willed and preserve life that He gave. Who could contend with Him and live, and more importantly is the question, what madness makes them choose to?
The chiastic structure repeats the cycle, returning again to injustice, call for repentance, and finally judgment.
Take some time this summer and on a clear night in a dark place, pop-a-squat and behold the night sky. There are neat apps that you can put on your phone which will point out constellations. God mentions the Big and Little Dippers, Pleiades, and Orion in the Bible, as well as the planet Venus as the Morning Star. Take them in and consider the might and sovereignty of your Father, Elohei Marom (the God of Heights, MIC 6:6).
To Him be all the glory,
Pastor Joe Sugrue
Grace and Truth Ministries.