Amos 7:1 - 9:15 Fall and Restoration March 26, 2018

 

Last week we noted two ways God deals with his chosen people.  First he pours out blessings on them.  That includes wealth and security.  This condition continues as long as they are faithful to God in their worship, walk in paths of righteousness, and deal justly with each other and with the needy in their communities.  However, the wealth entices them away from God.  Worship becomes rote and often turns to other gods.  Righteousness is replaced by greed and self-righteousness, and redefinition of right and wrong.  The poor are neglected and are used only to enrich the rich.  

 

This causes God to use his other way of dealing with the people.   He sends famine, drought, agricultural disaster, pestilence and war.  He destroys the wealth that has turned his people away from him with the hope that they will return to the true source of life and prosperity.

 

God affirms his own credentials as the creator to whom they are accountable.  He is the one who forms the mountains and creates the wind.  He is the one who made Pleiades and Orion.  He is the LORD, the God of hosts.  The people should beware his power and should ‘prepare to meet your God’.  Amos pleads with the people to ‘seek the Lord and live’.  The alternative is total destruction of the land and its people.  But Amos concludes that the people will not listen to God or to him as God’s messenger.  They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth. 

 

This week we complete our study of Amos.

 

Warning Visions

 

Amos now describes four visions.  With the first two he pleads with God to relent.  ‘’How can Jacob stand?  He is so small.”  This happens in the Bible.  God determines to do something, but a man talks him out of it.  The most well known is Moses’ argument with God when God decides to destroy all the Israelites that came out of Egypt because of their sins.  He wanted to start a new nation through Moses.  

 

Exodus 32:7-14 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.  They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them.  They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’”  And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people.  Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

 

 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?  Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’?  Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people.  Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’”  And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

 

Other examples of God’s response to human appeal are found in Gen 18:22-32; Num 14:11-20; Josh 7:6-13; 2 Kgs 22:19-20; Jonah 3:10; Joel 2:13-14.

 

7:1-3 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, he was forming locusts when the latter growth was just beginning to sprout, and behold, it was the latter growth after the king's mowings.  When they had finished eating the grass of the land, I said,

“O Lord GOD, please forgive!

How can Jacob stand?

He is so small!”

 

The LORD relented concerning this:  “It shall not be,” said the LORD.

 

7:4-6 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, the Lord GOD was calling for a judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land.  Then I said,

“O Lord GOD, please cease!

How can Jacob stand?

He is so small!”

 

The LORD relented concerning this: “This also shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.

 

Here we see not only God’s heart, but the heart of Amos as well.  He pleads with God on behalf of the people he has been sent to.  They are not even people of his own country, although they are Israelites and so of the same tribe.  Amos uses the name Jacob for Israel here, suggesting that he sees the northern rebels are of one with Judah.  They both have the same father.

 

The Third Vision

 

7:7-9 This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand.  And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,

 

“Behold, I am setting a plumb line

in the midst of my people Israel;

I will never again pass by them;

the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,

and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,

and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

 

The word for plumb line and the word for moaning are nearly similar in spelling in Hebrew.  This word may mean either.  A plumb line is an accurate measure, and God’s justice is perfect.  The consequence for rejecting God’s justice ends up badly and results in moaning.

 

Also the house of Jehu will come to an end soon.  Jeroboam must still be alive when this is prophesied.  He dies in 753 BC, 30 years before the final fall of the nation.  His son Zachariah assumes the throne, but he is assassinated within 6 months and the royal line of Jehu comes to an end.

 

Amos Accused of Treason

 

7:10-11 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel.  The land is not able to bear all his words.  For thus Amos has said,

“‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword,

and Israel must go into exile

away from his land.’”

 

Bethel was the site of one of the two Golden Calves Jeroboam I placed in the land to keep his people from going to Jerusalem to worship.   The pagan worship of the Calf was therefore the government approved religion.  Amaziah was the chief priest in Bethel and therefore accountable to the king.  Prophets were held in high regard by all people in that day, but Amaziah finally grew tired of Amos’s preaching.  He accuses Amos of treason.

 

7:12-13 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

 

Amaziah tells Amos to go back where he came from and to get out of Israel.

 

7:14-17 Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet's son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs.  But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’  Now therefore hear the word of the LORD.

 

“You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel,

and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’

Therefore thus says the LORD:

“‘Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city,

and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,

and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line;

you yourself shall die in an unclean land,

and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.’”

 

Amos responds.  He was not a professional prophet.  I am sure there were a lot of false prophets profiting from the gullibility of the people in that day, not unlike many televangelists in our country today.  Amos was not one of them.  He got his commission from God quite unexpectedly.  He was pursuing the life of a successful middle class farmer in Judah when God called him.  I am sure the world was turned upside-down for him.  Treason is a serious charge.  However, Amos was not intimidated, but instead he delivered a scathing reply to Amaziah.  I think he expects Amaziah to be alive still when the end comes.  And he affirms the coming of the end.

 

The Fourth Vision

 

8:1-3 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, a basket of summer fruit.  And he said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.”  Then the LORD said to me,

 

“The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass by them.

 

The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,”

declares the Lord GOD.

“So many dead bodies!”

“They are thrown everywhere!”

“Silence!”

 

The Hebrew word for ‘summer fruit’ sounds very similar to the word for ‘end’.  This is a similar play on words to the use of ‘plumb line’.  Amos tells the people that they are playing with fire in their failure to repent and return to YHWH.  Their present course will end in ‘moaning’ and finally termination.

 

The Coming Day of Bitter Mourning

 

8:4-6 Hear this, you who trample on the needy

and bring the poor of the land to an end,

saying, “When will the new moon be over,

that we may sell grain?

And the Sabbath,

that we may offer wheat for sale,

that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great

and deal deceitfully with false balances,

that we may buy the poor for silver

and the needy for a pair of sandals

and sell the chaff of the wheat?”

 

 There is progressive economic disparity in the land.  The monied class is very rich and the poor are exploited, sometimes leading to abject poverty.  This is completely against the teachings of the Torah, where the poor need to be cared for, whether Israelite of foreigner.

 

Exodus 23:9 “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

 

 

Deuteronomy 15:7-10 If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.  Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the LORD against you, and you be guilty of sin.  You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.  For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’

 

Leviticus 19:9-10, 15 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest.  And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God…“You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 

 

8:7-8 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:

“Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

Shall not the land tremble on this account,

and everyone mourn who dwells in it, and all of it rise like the Nile,

and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?”

 

God has a good memory so the warning, prepare to meet you God, is a serious one.  Fortunately he has a good forgetter as well as we see in the Psalms.

 

Psalm 103:8-19 The LORD is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

He will not always chide,

nor will he keep his anger forever.

 

He does not deal with us according to our sins,

nor repay us according to our iniquities.

 

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

as far as the east is from the west,

so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

 

As a father shows compassion to his children,

so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.

For he knows our frame;

he remembers that we are dust.

As for man, his days are like grass,

he flourishes like a flower of the field;

for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,

and its place knows it no more.

 

 But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children,

to those who keep his covenant

and remember to do his commandments.

 

The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,

and his kingdom rules over all.

 

8:8-14 “And on that day,” declares the Lord GOD,

“I will make the sun go down at noon

and darken the earth in broad daylight.

 

I will turn your feasts into mourning

and all your songs into lamentation;

I will bring sackcloth on every waist

and baldness on every head;

I will make it like the mourning for an only son

and the end of it like a bitter day.

 

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD,

“when I will send a famine on the land—

not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,

but of hearing the words of the LORD.

 

They shall wander from sea to sea,

and from north to east;

they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD,

but they shall not find it.

 

“In that day the lovely virgins and the young men

shall faint for thirst.

 

Those who swear by the Guilt of Samaria,

and say, ‘As your god lives, O Dan,’

and, ‘As the Way of Beersheba lives,’

they shall fall, and never rise again.”

 

Do you think such famine for hearing the Word of God will rise again in our country?

 

The Destruction of Israel

 

9:1-4 I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and he said:

“Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake,

and shatter them on the heads of all the people;

and those who are left of them I will kill with the sword;

not one of them shall flee away;

not one of them shall escape.

 

“If they dig into Sheol,

from there shall my hand take them;

if they climb up to heaven,

from there I will bring them down.

 

If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel,

from there I will search them out and take them;

and if they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea,

there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them.

 

And if they go into captivity before their enemies,

there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them;

and I will fix my eyes upon them

for evil and not for good.”

 

There is no place to hide.  See Isaiah 2:19; Luke 23:30-31; Revelation 6:15-17.

 

9:5-6 The Lord GOD of hosts,

he who touches the earth and it melts,

and all who dwell in it mourn,

and all of it rises like the Nile,

and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt;

 

who builds his upper chambers in the heavens

and founds his vault upon the earth;

who calls for the waters of the sea

and pours them out upon the surface of the earth—

the LORD is his name.

 

Once again God restates his credentials.

 

9:7-10 “Are you not like the Cushites to me,

O people of Israel?” declares the LORD.

“Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt,

and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir?

 

Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom,

and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground,

except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,” declares the LORD.

“For behold, I will command,

and shake the house of Israel among all the nations

as one shakes with a sieve,

but no pebble shall fall to the earth.

 

All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword,

who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.’

 

The Restoration of Israel

 

9:11-15 “In that day I will raise up

the booth of David that is fallen

and repair its breaches,

and 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, the days are coming,” declares the LORD,

“when the plowman shall overtake the reaper

and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed;

the mountains shall drip sweet wine,

and all the hills shall flow with it.

 

I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,

and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;

they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,

and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.

 

I will plant them on their land,

and they shall never again be uprooted

out of the land that I have given them,”

says the LORD your God.

As we have said before, God’s tender heart overrules his hatred of sin.  Punishment must be exacted because justice demands it.  He cannot deny his righteousness and justice.  

 

So, how can God resolve this dilemma?  There is only one way.  It will be effective for his chosen people, and it will be effective for all people who yearn for righteousness and justice.  God himself will come down to live among the men who were made in his image, to suffer with them and ultimately to die for them.  He will bear the burden of justice satisfied.  The driving force for this is his infinite love for his creation.  Now we have the assurance that whosoever believes in Him, the Son of God, will be made a new man and he will have everlasting life.  His sins are atoned for.  His sins are separated from him as the East is from the West.  This route is available for the Chosen People of Israel and it is available for all mankind and it is available for us.