The Prophet Series: Amos, part 5
Amos part 5
In chapters 3-6 Amos had documented the reasons for God’s judgment against Israel - legal injustice, economic exploitation, religious hypocrisy, luxurious indulgence, and boastful complacency. Because of these covenant violations “the Lord God Almighty” would crush His rebellious vassal. Individuals who repented might yet be spared, but the nation as a whole was irrevocably doomed.
The final portion of the book is composed of five visions.
Several times the Lord refers to Israel as “My people.” God is sovereign over all nations. Israel might request a meeting with God over the finality of His decision, but even if they were granted to stand before the bench, what would the Judge reveal to them? God is as infinitely just as He is sovereign. All His judgments are fair and righteous. God has absolute freedom of action in His universe. He is at liberty to implement His will against the people who had spurned His grace.
The first vision.
Amos sees in a vision a massive locust swarm devour Israel’s spring crop. Knowing that the nation would not survive, Amos pleads for God’s forgiveness though the people are unrepentant.
"Lord God, please pardon!
How can Jacob stand,
For he is small?"
The Lord changed His mind about this.
"It shall not be," said the Lord.
At this time, under the reign of Jeroboam II, Israel was more prosperous economically than it had ever been. Food and goods were abundant and cheap. The people would have never thought that one sudden event could devour everything so thoroughly that need would become survival and that the desire for luxury would turn to desire for bread. God receives Amos’ prayer and relents.
The second vision.
In the next vision Amos sees God’s judgment by fire which first causes a drought and then consumes the entire land. Amos again prays, but this time, rather than asking for forgiveness, he asks for the Lord to stop. Amos understands that judgment is inevitable, but his love for Israel calls for God to stay His hand from the fierce conflagration. God relents.
The prophet is shown a plumb line, a cord with a lead weight at the end used by builders to ensure that walls were constructed straight. If a wall had settled and tilted, the plumb line would show it instantly.
Israel’s nation had been constructed by God. He gave them His Law at Sinai. He removed the rebellious generation and gave the land to their children under the leadership of Joshua. The nation had been built “true to the plumb line,” but over time they had become crooked, tilted, and warped. The wall needed to be torn down. God had spared them so many times, warning them, punishing them, and then delivering them. He would spare them no longer.
"Behold I am about to put a plumb line
In the midst of My people Israel.
I will spare them no longer.
The high places of Isaac will be desolated
And the sanctuaries of Israel laid waste.
Then shall I rise up against the house of Jeroboam with the sword."
The sanctuaries are the cult worship centers of Bethel and Gilgal. These would be ruined. The fact that Amos went all over Israel speaking these words is evident in the next portion, which is an historical account of the reaction of the leadership against him.
The priest confronts the farmer turned prophet.
The priest of Bethel shows us why the plumb line has been drawn out by God. The priest reveals Amos’ words to king Jeroboam and then commands Amos to leave Israel and go prophecy in Judah.
Amos’ reply is both humble and courageous.
Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, "I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet; for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs. "But the Lord took me from following the flock and the Lord said to me, 'Go prophesy to My people Israel.' "And now hear the word of the Lord: you are saying, 'You shall not prophesy against Israel nor shall you speak against the house of Isaac.' "Therefore, thus says the Lord, 'Your wife will become a harlot in the city, your sons and your daughters will fall by the sword, your land will be parceled up by a measuring line, and you yourself will die upon unclean soil. Moreover, Israel will certainly go from its land into exile.'"
This is somewhat like the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-gatherer in the Temple. The Pharisee says, “Thank you God for not making me like other men, like this tax-collector.” The other says, “God, be merciful to me the sinner,” while not even wanting to raise his eyes to heaven. The herdsman turned prophet listened to voice of the Lord. The so-called great priest of Bethel did not.
At the time, Bethel was the king’s sanctuary and house. Jeroboam I (the current king is his successor) roughly 150 years prior had split from Judah in the south and built this temple as a new shrine and worship center in order to duplicate the Temple in Jerusalem and unite the ten tribes in the north. He put within it two golden calves and attempted to unite those idols with the worship of Yavah under the Law, which is hard to do when you have the first of the Ten Commandments.
Amaziah was evidently Bethel’s chief priest. He would have been very powerful and influential in the Northern Kingdom. Amos is a herdsman and farmer. He is not a prophet or the son of a prophet. The priest obviously looked down upon his social and spiritual standing. In this Amos is Christlike, since the establishment looked down upon Jesus as being from Nazareth and the Son of a humble carpenter.
Amos had not chosen his calling. We can be sure that the priest did work ambitiously to rise to his position. Amos was chosen by God and was faithful to go and speak for God and to speak boldly in the illegitimate worship center of Bethel. Bethel belongs to God and not to Jeroboam and Amaziah. The king and the priest would be taken away in exile and the priest’s wife, a distinguished and wealthy woman in Bethel currently, would have to become a prostitute in order to survive in that same city.
Like so many before and after him, Amaziah chose to align himself with an earthly king and embrace the national mood of pride rather than turn to God and heed His word.
The Lord quietly withdrew the plumb line and put it away. It was concluded that Israel was clearly crooked and she would have to come down.
Amos sees ripe fruit. It is the end of the summer and the fruit, fully ripened has a short edible life. The time was ripe for a terrible and short harvest against Israel.
Then the Lord said to me, "The end has come for My people Israel. I will spare them no longer. "The songs of the palace will turn to wailing in that day," declares the Lord God. "Many will be the corpses; in every place they will cast them forth in silence."
There will be so many corpses that there won’t be enough people to bury them. The merry songs that the people currently sing will be turned to wailing. This is just what happened about forty years later. From the time that Amos delivered his words until the time when Assyria enacted the judgment of God, the people rejected the warning and went on lusting for wealth and power and destroying others’ lives in order to get it.
God said that the sun would go down at noon.
"And it will come about in that day," declares the Lord God,
"That I shall make the sun go down at noon
And make the earth dark in broad daylight.”
The solar eclipse of 763 B.C., occurring so soon after Amos’ vision, would have enabled his hearers to reflect upon his words and turn to God. We have to imagine that some of them did and found salvation in Yavah, but the nation did not.
When the wailing of the people would reach a crescendo and the people would call out to God finally when the Assyrians were butchering them and tying ropes around the necks of those they would take as slaves, God would be silent. In whatever way God’s heart can break, it would have broken here.
"Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord God,
"When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the Lord.”
Israel would fall and not rise again until the Second Coming of Christ. Still the land waits for its King.
The final vision.
Amos sees the Lord standing besides the altar, but not His altar. The first Jeroboam many years ago instituted an autumn festival at his own temple in Bethel to rival the true Feast of Tabernacles in Zion. We imagine the people of the northern kingdom gathered to this very festival in order to worship and offer sacrifices to the two golden calves. They don’t see the Almighty Lord in theophanic form standing beside the altar with His great sword drawn. Amos does, and he knows, the Lord is not there to bless.
I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and He said,
"Smite the capitals so that the thresholds will shake,
And break them on the heads of them all!
Then I will slay the rest of them with the sword;
They will not have a fugitive who will flee,
Or a refugee who will escape.
They will run but they cannot hide. If they could flee to the farthest point of the universe, God says He would go and find them there.
“Though they dig into Sheol,
From there shall My hand take them;
And though they ascend to heaven,
From there will I bring them down.”
If they run and hide on Mt. Carmel, dense with forest and limestone caves, He would go and find them there. If they fled to the lowest part of the sea (Mariana trench is 36,000 feet below sea level) then He would command the serpent (Leviathan) to bite them.
“And though they hide on the summit of Carmel,
I will search them out and take them from there;
And though they conceal themselves from My sight on the floor of the sea,
From there I will command the serpent and it will bite them.”
Though they are Israel, brought by Him out of the land of Egypt, they will be dealt with like any other nation that outright rejected Him. The only difference between the other lands and Israel is that Israel possesses promises that must be kept. This is the final word through Amos, God would restore the nation after judgment (9:11-15).
We leave Amos with this. God ends this incredible prophecy of judgment with hope. So many died in Israel when the prediction came to be and so many more were taken captive from the land never to return. But among them were many who did not throw in with the rest of the nation and believed on the promises of Yavah and His Messiah to come. They, like Abraham before them, were looking to a heavenly country. One day they will see it and praise the King of kings.
"In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David,
And wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins,
And rebuild it as in the days of old;
That they may possess the remnant of Edom
And all the nations who are called by My name,"
Declares the Lord who does this.
"Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord,
"When the plowman will overtake the reaper
And the treader of grapes him who sows seed;
When the mountains will drip sweet wine,
And all the hills will be dissolved.
"Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel,
And they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them,
They will also plant vineyards and drink their wine,
And make gardens and eat their fruit.
"I will also plant them on their land,
And they will not again be rooted out from their land
Which I have given them,"
Says the Lord your God.
To Him be all Glory and Honor,