The Prophet Series: Amos, part 4
The Prophet Series: Amos part 4
Amos gave five messages to Israel that are recorded in this book. We complete them with messages four (AMO 5:18-27) and five (Amo 6).
Israel had been boasting that “the day of the Lord” would for them be a day of great exaltation and rejoicing. They couldn’t have been more wrong. They assumed that because they were the nation Israel, elected by God through Abraham, that God would bless and exalt them no matter what they did. They imagined themselves as the spoiled little rich kid who could do anything and get away with it. Daddy would always give them what they wined for. The Pharisees, priests, and scribes continued this same kind of thinking in the presence of Christ. He said that He could make them free. “We are Abraham’s offspring,” they said to Him, thinking that by this fact alone they were free. They didn’t need Him.
Amos’ fourth message informs Israel that “the day of the Lord” was not a day of exaltation, but a day of exile. So far from rejoicing, Israel would be led away from their land with violence and death.
AMO 5:18 Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord,
For what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you?
It will be darkness and not light;
Israel believed that on the day of the Lord, God would turn His wrath upon the nations (ISA 34:1-3; JER 46:10), Israel’s enemies while Israel was abundantly blessed. It is true that God will judge the nations, but Israel was mistaken about their own standing before the Lord, for though they were called and loved by God, the majority of them were no different than the surrounding nations, and in often cases, they were worse.
AMO 5:19-20 As when a man flees from a lion,
And a bear meets him,
Or goes home, leans his hand against the wall,
And a snake bites him.
Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light,
Even gloom with no brightness in it?
The imagery is of a man escaping a lion only to be eaten by a bear, and if he escapes the bear and arrives home safe, he leans against the wall and a venomous snake bites him. There will be no escape for anyone who does not repent from their ways, which any individual in Israel could do upon hearing these messages from Amos.
The religious hypocrisy of Israel is thick indeed. Is this not the perfect picture of man ignoring the elephant in the room; his sin, evil, self-will, and pride, all against his Creator? Man works hard to ignore his depravity and put a positive spin on his want and ignorance. He will not escape the lion, the bear, or the viper, though he ignores the elephant.
All of us early in life come to see the lion in our path. Maybe it was your first real screw-up that really hurt people. Maybe it was your first failure to survive in the world as an adult and you had to scurry home to mom and dad’s basement. Whatever it was, we all saw that we were sinners and in deep trouble if something wasn’t done. What to do? That is the question that either led us to the Savior, or rather, the Savior to us, or led us to sublimate with some time not-so-proven human solution.
The wiser we are the sooner we will face the lion. When we face him, we will find that he threatens doom - eternal doom. I think that the older we are, the scarier becomes this doom, this lion, and perhaps that is why most people become Christians at a young age.
As David rescued a sheep ripped from his flock by a lion, so the Lord will appear to rescue us from the lion looming in our own path. Some reject the offer of salvation from the only One who can give it, and they instead select a form of a solution, manmade, that has no substance. Some throw themselves into work, or relationships, or recreation, and some into drugs, alcohol, and crime. They believe they have escaped the lion only to be confronted by the bear later on.
“Sin is a revolt from Divine authority. It is the anarchy of the soul. The first recognition of this blighting fact demands an instant and courageous decision.” [F.W. Boreham, The Lion, the Bear, and the Serpent]
Only the Lord can remove the lion, the bear, and the serpent. And He will do so at once when a person comes to Him with faith. Some surveys show that conversions to Christianity decrease rapidly after the age of thirty. I cannot vouch for the validity of the surveys, but it is certainly a good idea not to wait. The longer we wait the more we fear the lion and the less we want to confront it. Today is the day of salvation. Waiting is only going to make him look bigger and scarier.
You will be tempted. It cannot be avoided. Saint Anthony of Egypt was, in his youth, addicted to all kinds of frivolity and pleasure in the great city of Alexandria. When he was converted he thought to escape the fierce temptations of the city by fleeing to the Egyptian deserts. He became a hermit. But he afterwards confessed that the temptations of a cell in the wilderness were more terrible than those of the busy city.
Those who hid in the monasteries all over the world, thinking to avoid temptation by secluding themselves from the population, were only bit by the serpent hiding in the wall. The gospel alone delivers us from the guilt of personal sin. None of us will become sinless, and temptation is not going away while we exist on this side of heaven, and it is the understanding of complete forgiveness in Christ Jesus that enables us to press on in the upward call.
God is patient, desiring all men to come to repentance. Because of this, some think judgment is never going to come. Israel sure didn’t. Judgment comes down like a hammer and the skillful Lord will not miss.
AMO 5:27 "Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus," says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.
For centuries, academics and politicians have been trying to sell a bottle of snake oil that touts that man is fast approaching the day when he will be able to avoid all troubles. Along with hunger and war, they peddle the idea that all physical and social ills will someday be removed. Of course, this is all a lie. Man does not get better. He doesn’t evolve.
JOB 5:7 For man is born for trouble,
As sparks fly upward.
Israel believed that the day of the Lord would remove them from their troubles. We shake our heads at their blindness. We want to shout loud enough that they’ll hear us 3,000 years ago, “Go and read the Law of Moses!!!” Amos, right in front of them, in the flesh, rebukes them soundly, but most of them will not listen.
Man believes he should deal with the troubles of the world while his own head is in the lion’s mouth. Jesus appears in the gospel to every man saying, “Take My hand, believe in Me, and I will slay that beast before your eyes.”
How often is death talked about amongst people except they be currently dying? Most sweep it under the rug for the great majority of their lives. Usually it is around the age of sixty, when the first major health problem occurs, that we face the grim reaper called mortality.
A person once told me that I was about to soon go through my own mid-life crisis. I was in my early forties. I guess that means I’m going to die around 85. I thought it an odd thing for her to say, but then thought, well, she’s probably of the world’s mindset that when death starts to really loom on the horizon that you better start acting young again. Buy a hip car, change the style of your clothes to the latest teenager fashion, get a young girl or guy romance, and then you might push the big dark guy with the scythe farther away. I couldn’t afford the car and wouldn’t fit into the clothes. I did get the young wife, but I wasn’t looking for her, and certainly not for that reason.
We don’t have to wait until forty or eighty to deal with death. We look into our Bibles and confront it immediately. We commit ourselves to our Redeemer in life and in death and be done with it.
1CO 15:54-58 "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
The man who ignores his own mortality, convincing himself that it is morbid to do so, is ignoring the lion. When his conscience harasses him later in life that it must be dealt with, he is ignoring the bear. When his age makes death a near future event and he continues to shelve the issue, his hand will be latched upon by the hideous serpent in the wall. God’s grace will still call to him through the gospel until the venom courses through his veins and finishes its victim.
At the time of Amos, and the other prophets contemporary with him, Israel was ignoring death completely, which makes sense since they were also ignoring their apostasy and the warning in the Mosaic Law.
The fifth and final message
Woe is again uttered, but not heeded.
God instructed them to go to the Gentile cities near them that had been destroyed, Syrian and Philistine cities. The hope was that they would see these cities and then ponder the same fate of their own. But Israel remained confident that the day of judgment predicted by the prophets would never come. We can imagine plenty of false prophets in Israel saying just that, prophets who tickled their ears and were believed.
Rather than heed the message of Amos, the well-to-do in Israel threw themselves into more and deeper hedonism. Their sole concern was only for their own luxurious lifestyle. It was obvious that there was no justice in Israel and the care of the poor was nonexistent. The disparity between rich and poor was large, and morality was small. But the wealthy only looked to their own extensive homes, gardens, and couches, which were provided by exploitation of the poor, and ignored the cries for justice and goodness outside. God told them that they, the rich, would be the first to go into exile.
No one would escape.
AMO 6:9 And it will be, if ten men are left in one house, they will die.
Ten men in a house means that they are hiding. There is no use. They might as well all go outside and face their sentence.
You actually did the unimaginable
AMO 6:12 Do horses run on rocks?
Or does one plow them with oxen?
Yet you have turned justice into poison,
And the fruit of righteousness into wormwood,
Watching a man plow a rocky crag with oxen would be like watching Paul Bunyan chop down a forest. Impossible and Amazing. Israel did the impossible and the unbelievable. They were blessed with every kind of good thing from God, from the land to the Law, and they turned it all into poison. They grabbed the bottle of God’s nectar and they made it into poison.
Every man, every family, every state and nation should heed the warning. Sin and death loom over every man and only the Lord can deliver him.
Pray for your neighbors and your nation. The return of the Lord is imminent, and when it happens, another day of the Lord will soon begin. The Great Tribulation will be the hardest time for mankind in all history. Be bold and courageous in your witness. No, people do not want to talk about death or even heaven. Yes, you will be unpopular with some people if you do. Do so with gentleness and tact but do so with boldness. The gospel is our only hope.
Next time: Amos’ conclusion in visions.
To Him is all glory, Our Savior Jesus Christ.
Pastor Joe Sugrue
Grace and Truth Ministries