The suggested title for this lesson was “Hope in God.” After studying Amos 9, I don’t think that adequately expresses the message from Amos. The reason we have hope in God is because we also know of God’s judgement. And we know if we have faith and faith alone in the substitutionary sacrifice of our Lord Jesus, we can have that hope. In other words, I believe judgement comes first, then hope for all believers.
Amos is the latest prophet, sent by God to warn them that their idolatry and their evil invite judgement from God, but all the prophets have been ignored. Why did they ignore the word of the Lord? The parallels to today’s culture are striking. The reasons for ignoring God and the prophets include –
– Complacency. In Amos 6:1, Amos says
“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria.”
Things are going so well, the people have no need of God. The warnings of Amos and the other prophets fell on deaf ears, that the people should be in gratitude for the blessings they have.
– Preoccupation. Amos 8:4-6,
Hear this, you who trample the needy, to do away with the humble of the land, saying,
“When will the new moon be over,
So that we may sell grain,
And the sabbath, that we may open the wheat market,
To make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger,
And to cheat with dishonest scales,
So as to buy the helpless for money
And the needy for a pair of sandals,
And that we may sell the refuse of the wheat?”
The Israelites were so consumed with themselves that repentance would have been troublesome and inconvenient.
– Apathy. They lacked compassion for the poor and the weak. In the last few months in our study of Kings, we read over and over that the people “did not listen but stiffened their neck like their fathers.”
– Entitlement. They no longer admire the Creator, but the Creation. They gave credit to themselves for their economic prosperity and military strength. They took credit for God’s blessings.
And so, ignoring God and taking credit for His work, Israel invited judgement.
The list of five judgments from God against Israel begins in Amos 7. The first four judgements in Amos 7 and 8 are interesting. First there are locusts in Amos 7:1-3, then there is fire in Amos 7:4-6. Amos pleads with God to forgive them and relent in the judgment He has announced. God agrees and changes His mind.” God agrees not to execute the judgment on Judah at this time.
I always find it interesting that God changes His mind in response to a righteous prayer. James 5:16 says
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
God is just and must punish sin, but God is also merciful and gracious and is ready to forgive the sinner who repents and turns from sin.
These judgements are hard on Israel, but their first response is not repentance. No, the first response is to tell the prophet to shut up. There is a priest of Bethel named Amaziah, a so-called man of religion, that doesn’t like being told that his lifestyle is wrong. After Amos has given the third vision of judgement, Amaziah goes to the king Jereboam and says Amos is causing trouble so tell him to be quiet. Bring the full force of the government against the word of the prophet to make him be quiet because his words are hateful and make me uncomfortable.
Dr. Young has been in the news the last couple of weeks after he said, “throw the bums out.” Imagine a liberal pastor being outraged by that and going to the US government and saying, “Dr. Young is causing trouble to tell him to be quiet.” Actually, that’s not hard to imagine anymore.
Amos responded sort of the way Dr. Young responded. Amos 7:15-16a,
“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…”
Instead of being quiet and risk losing his 403c tax exempt status, Amos says, “listen to the word of the Lord.” Amos has his Great Commission, and he will not be quiet, thank you very much.
The judgements listed in Amos 7 are bad and get progressively worse, and God’s response changes the longer Judah remains in sin. God’s response to Amos’ prayers are at first like Amos 7:5-6,
Then I said,
“Lord God, please stop!
How can Jacob stand, for he is small?”
The Lord changed His mind about this.
“This too shall not be,” said the Lord God.
But then two verses later, in Amos 7:8,
I will spare them no longer.
Judgement has come.
II. Judgement on Evil
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.
“Though they dig into Sheol,
From there will My hand take them;
And though they ascend to heaven,
From there will I bring them down.
“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.
“And though they go into captivity before their enemies,
From there I will command the sword that it slay them,
And I will set My eyes against them for evil and not for good.”
Judgement. Destruction. Punishment. God declares judgment on His people as we view the final days of Israel as a nation. God’s patience has ended, the blesses patience that bring mercy. The judgement has arrived that brings devastation and annihilation.
Which altar is the Lord standing beside? Back in 1 Kings 12, Jeroboam was made king and he took some bad advice. Going to Jerusalem was a long way, and worshipping at the house of the Lord my teach the people righteousness. Maybe they wouldn’t even want Jeroboam as king anymore.
So Jeroboam decides to make worship easy. Religion should be a festival. Religion should be easy. Religion shouldn’t be judgement. Andy why should Yahweh be the only way to heaven? Let’s build a golden calf and make a new altar in Bethel, closer to where I live. It was a false altar, one that didn’t worship Yahweh. They can worship the golden calf or the prosperity gospel or Christian Science or fortune telling or mother earth or gay pride. Whatever makes the people happy.
This altar at Bethel with the golden calf, this is the same altar Amos 9 says the Lord is standing beside when He issues His judgement against Israel. Amos sees the Lord standing by the altar, and the counterfeit is replaced by the genuine. At the end of the day, a false altar still belongs to the Lord. False prophets still belong to the Lord. Everything in the world and out of this world belongs to the world. The people are wrapped in their false religions and false gods, but when judgement comes, there is no God but Yahweh.
The Israelites, in their arrogance, trusted that the altar represented God’s favor, presence, and protection. But God had come to the altar, not in peace but in judgment, and His act of destruction tore away the happy cloak of religion that Israel pretended to have. Here in Amos 9, God declares that there is nowhere the people can hide. Five avenues of escape are mentioned, but all five are considered and eliminated.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
God is everywhere and everywhen. There is no place Israel or you or me or anybody can flee to escape the consequences of their guilt.
III. Sifting the Wheat from the Chaff
The Lord, the Lord Almighty—
he touches the earth and it melts,
and all who live in it mourn;
the whole land rises like the Nile,
then sinks like the river of Egypt;
he builds his lofty palace in the heavens
and sets its foundation on the earth;
he calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out over the face of the land—
the Lord is his name.
The Lord is sovereign over all of creation. Over the earth, over the people, over the heavens, the seas, the seasons. God is the creator, holy alone in the authority and responsibility to dispense justice, and God does that to Israel. Israel must finally face the consequence of their guilt. The Assyrian invasion will overwhelm like the Nile river overflows its banks and drowns the countryside. The Lord of heaven and earth is on the march against them.
“Are not you Israelites
the same to me as the Cushites?”
declares the Lord.
“Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt,
the Philistines from Caphtor
and the Arameans from Kir?
“Surely the eyes of the Sovereign Lord
are on the sinful kingdom.
I will destroy it
from the face of the earth.
God’s justice does not show partiality. God does not play favorites. Although the Israelites considered themselves God’s chosen people and His treasured possession, they were not exempt from God’s judgment. Because God had delivered Israel from Egypt and given them the Promised Land, they presumed they would continue to experience God’s blessing and provision. They assumed God was eternally on the side of Israel, despite the unbelief of Israel.
Israel had a covenant relationship with God, but they had forfeited the benefits of the covenant by their unfaithfulness. I think that God’s hand of blessing has been upon America, but we have assume God will continue to bless us, despite our unfaithfulness. But this blessing will surely end. God blesses those who are faithful to Him, and we have turned our face from Him.
Yet I will not totally destroy
the descendants of Jacob,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will give the command,
and I will shake the people of Israel
among all the nations
as grain is shaken in a sieve,
and not a pebble will reach the ground.
All the sinners among my people
will die by the sword,
all those who say,
‘Disaster will not overtake or meet us.’
The time is coming where God will sift all peoples. He will remove those who have rejected Him and save those who are faithful to Him. God’s purpose is not annihilation; after all, He is the Creator. God’s purpose is salvage. God will save those who have been faithful from those who have been evil or complacent or uncaring. All those who build golden calves to worship will be removed from this earth to the benefit of those who believe.
IV. Glorious Hope
“In that day
“I will restore David’s fallen shelter—
I will repair its broken walls
and restore its ruins—
and will rebuild it as it used to be,
so that they may possess the remnant of Edom
and all the nations that bear my name,”
declares the Lord, who will do these things.
After these stern warnings of the coming judgment, Amos gives us hope, promising a new days for God’s blessings. God will restore the throne of the David, fulfilled gloriously in the birth of Jesus 800 years later. Not only Israel, but other nations like Edom will glorify the Lord’s name.
How beautiful will those days be. Amos 9:13-15,
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman
and the planter by the one treading grapes.
New wine will drip from the mountains
and flow from all the hills,
and I will bring my people Israel back from exile.
“They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.
They will plant vineyards and drink their wine;
they will make gardens and eat their fruit.
I will plant Israel in their own land,
never again to be uprooted
from the land I have given them,”
says the Lord your God.
The judgements in Amos 5:11b said,
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.
But in the future hope for believers, those judgements are reversed. A new city, new homes new heavenly host bodies, too.
God has fulfilled this prophecy in my lifetime with the restoration of Israel. While calamity and war and destruction and famine and disease and persecution are at the door, God will change from wrath to mercy. God will bless the land with fertility, and there will be no space between the time of reaping one crop and preparing for the next. God will bless the people as they rebuild and inhabit homes, enjoy the wine they produce, and enjoy the fruit of the gardens they cultivate. It will be a time of peace and prosperity.
Revelation 21:4-5a describes that future day,
and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
The prophets are often pessimistic about the immediate future, but they are certain that God keeps His promises and will not forsake His covenant promises to His people. Contrast that with what the world promises, that the future is uncertain, so your religion should be easy and entertaining now. Golden calves are offered for worship.
But the future is certain, the future is beautiful for those who place their trust in Christ Jesus. The warnings to Israel – that blessings come from obedience, but judgment comes from disobedience and hypocrisy – also apply to us today as individuals, a church, and a nation.
Israel ignored God through their complacency, apathy, preoccupation with self, and a sense of entitlement. Jesus knows the heart of man, that we will squander our blessings on easy entertaining religion, and addressed these same concerns through parables –
– Complacency: The Five Foolish Virgins – Matthew 25:1-13
– Apathy: The Unprofitable Servants – Matthew 25:14-46
– Preoccupation: The Rich Fool – Luke 12:13-21
– Entitlement: The Rich Man and Lazarus – Luke 16:19-31
These are the attitudes we must ban from our church and our individual lives. In the days of Amos, these attitudes invited God’s wrath and judgment. Not just invited, but demanded, for our God is righteous and Holy and He will not be mocked. The words of Jesus remind us that our blessings come from Him and not from ourselves, and we should give honor and glory to the One who is worthy.
All glory to God through Christ alone. Amen.