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Friday, April 28, 2017

Prepare to Meet Your God

Introduction

God sent Amos to the people of the northern kingdom of Israel to pronounce His charge and judgment against eight nations. He wanted the Israelites to listen to His charges and judgments against the first seven nations so they would recognize their own sin, repent, and return to a right relationship with Him. With God’s judgment of the Israelites of the northern kingdom, He proclaimed their punishment to be the overthrowing of their government and the captivity of their leaders and rich citizens. He judged them for their idolatry, oppression of the poor, and their lack of mercy and grace toward the poor. God gave the Israelites His laws to govern their lives as a nation which included helping the widows, orphans, poor, and aliens, and to stay faithful to their relationship with Him. The Israelites were like the surrounding nations. Because of this, their sin against God was greater. They sinned against other people and against God. They broke their covenant with Him.

Our study of Amos 3 showed us more explicitly the sins of the people of Israel. With Amos 4, we will understand a subset of the population in whom God found sin and covenant unfaithfulness. Amos told the people God’s judgment of them and what they did.  He explained their sins against God. Amos then reminded them of what God did or allowed their enemies to do in the past because of their sin. He told the Israelites how God’s judgment would come upon them. Finally, Amos reminded the people of who God is–His greatness, might, and being. Let’s begin now with Amos’ call to the people to shama’ hear.



Call to Hear

Amos began this second sermon (or proclamation) the same way he did the first. In Amos 4:1, Amos said,

“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!’” [NASB]

Unlike the call to hear of Amos 3 which called each Israelite to listen to and heed God, in chapter four Amos called to a specific group of people in Samaria to hear God’s judgment. Just as Amos prophesied against capital cities in the surrounding nations and used that city to mean God judged the entire nation, so when he spoke God’s judgment on Samaria, he meant the whole of Israel received God’s judgment.  Before we continue with this verse, remember “hear” comes from the Hebrew word shama’. It means to hear, listen to, and obey what the speaker said.

Who were the audience of this sermon? What charge did God bring against them? Amos used a derogatory name for the audience. He called them “cows of Bashan.” Calling a woman a cow is by any standard derogatory. Cows are fat, and good for producing milk and bearing calves. The people of the time recognized the cows of Bashan as being well fed and fat. The fields and pasture lands of Bashan on the northeastern side of the Jordan River were fertile. They provided well for herds and flocks. The animals of that region received recognition as being fat and increasing. David mentioned them in Psalm 22:12 in this way. The women of Samaria were so wealthy they were like the fat cows of Bashan. Amos and Ezekiel both used this term figuratively to speak of the luxurious rich nobles. Ezekiel 39:18 says, “You will eat the flesh of mighty men and drink the blood of the princes of the earth as though they were rams, lambs, goats, and bulls, all of them fatlings of Bashan.” [NASB] Note here, some theologians believe this call to hear spoken to the cows of Bashan referred to the rich women of Samaria. Other theologians believe it referred to the rich people of Samaria, not just the women. Either way, God’s judgment of their actions condemns them for walking away from Him and His laws.

As to the rich people of Samaria’s actions, of what did God charge them? From chapters two and three, we understand they oppressed and did not help the poor as God told them to do in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. In Amos 4:1, God charged them similarly. They oppressed the poor; they defrauded, exploited, and deceitfully enriched themselves by their actions against the poor–the widow, orphan, needy, and alien. Amos emphasized this by adding these rich Israelites crushed the needy. The people who needed help with daily provisions and needed an advocate received nothing from the rich who were their fellow brethren, the sons and daughters of Israel. Family did not help family.

The final charge God made against the rich of Samaria is they cared for nothing other than their own luxurious living. They preferred to revel in their luxuries and become drunk with wine than to open their doors and eyes. These rich did not want to use their wealth to help the poor, but wanted more wine on which to get drunk. Their luxuries were more important than the daily life-sustaining needs of their fellow Israelite. These wealthy people forgot the needy people were their family and fellow heirs of the Promised Land.

·         Do you use hard-earned money to buy things that are unnecessary to life instead of giving back to the community?
·         Do you turn away when someone asks for help with food, or a ride to work or an interview?
·         Have people rebuffed you as the rich Israelites rebuffed the poor? How has that changed how you interact with the poor?
·         What changes will you make to your lifestyle to align yourself with God’s will for the money and provisions He gives you?

God’s Judgment of the Wealthy of Samaria

With two verses, Amos prophesied God’s judgment on the rich of Samaria and on Israel. He said in Amos 4:2-3,

“The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness, ‘Behold the days are coming upon you when they will take you away with meat hooks, and the last of you with fish hooks. You will go out through the breaches in the walls, each one straight before her, and you will be cast to Harmon,’ declares the LORD.” [NASB]

In these two verses, Amos stated three things would happen to the rebellious rich of Israel. Before this, he emphasized who judged them and how serious this judgment of God was. Amos stated, “The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness.” He applied the two names he earlier used to speak about their God. Amos said Adonay, the Lord and Master, and GOD, Yehovah-the existing One, the I AM, the One who is, was, and always will be-swore His judgment against the rich of Israel would occur. The One and Only God, the I Am their ancestors knew and covenanted with, was the One who charged and judged them. The great and holy GOD who swore by His holiness ensured His judgment would happen against the rich of Israel. GOD swore by His holiness-His sacredness, a mark of His character. He could not be unfaithful to Himself. GOD swore by Himself; this bound Him to punish the guilty.

What did GOD say would happen to these rich Israelites who oppressed the poor? He said they (their enemies) would take them away with meat hooks. The enemies GOD would allow to battle and overcome the Israelites would carry the rich Israelites into captivity. Besides that, their enemy would lead them captive by meat hooks. “Meat hooks” comes from the Hebrew word tsinnah, which means piercing hook or barb. Isaiah 37:29 speaks of these meat hooks as does Ezekiel 38:4. These hooks forced an animal or person to go the where the leader wanted  The Assyrians overthrew Samaria after a three year siege of their walls and gates. When Assyria overthrew a city or nation, they put rings in the captives’ noses then chained them together to take them to places throughout their empire. Excavators of the areas of the Assyrian empire have found numerous metal nose rings in their digs. Amos emphasized the rich Israelites’ captivity when he added “the last of you with fish hooks.” “The last of you” comes from the Hebrew word ‘achariyth and means the survivors. The fishing hooks were small briars or thorns like a fisherman would use. Habakkuk 1:15 used this same word in the prophecy against the Judeans. He said the Chaldeans (the Neo-Babylonians) would bring the Judeans up with a hook and gather them in their nets. Few of the rich Israelites would stay in the northern kingdom after their enemies came against them, Amos prophesied.

With verse three Amos said the people would go out through the breaches in the wall in front of them. Many cracks and breaches in the wall would occur because of the effective attack against the Samaritan wall. The enemy would use those breaches to enter and exit the city. The Samaritan walls would protect no one from the enemy. The enemy would have easy access to get to the rich Samaritans and to remove them from their supposed fortified city. The Samaritans would exit the city as captives through the breaches in the wall straight in front of their homes or where they stood. The enemy would cast the rich Samaritans from their luxurious homes and take them to Harmon, a “high fortress.” To emphasize the seriousness of this judgment and ensure the people knew it would occur, Amos said the LORD Yehovah, the I AM, declared it. It would happen. What God says, He will surely do.

·         What would you think if someone said God declared judgment on you for your sins and because of that you would lose your way of life?
·         Would this judgment from God make you seek Him and change your life?
·         Would you sniff and walk away continuing to do what you wanted thinking, “Who is this God that He has any hold on my life?”

The Sins of the Cows of Bashan

In verses four and five, Amos told the rich Samaritans/Israelites of what sins God charged them. He stated in 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.” [NASB]

In these verses, God pointed out to the rich Israelites they did not follow His laws about worshiping Him in the temple. Numbers 28:2-4 and Leviticus 7:13, 22:18-23, & 23:38 record God’s laws on these offerings. God required the sin sacrifices occur each morning and night in the temple (Numbers 28:3-4). The tithes of the Israelites were to occur once a year. The Israelites were to give them to the priests at the temple, except for every third year. In he third year, the community priests received and stored the tithes so they could give them to the poor and Levite of their communities. God meant for the priests to store these tithes and use them to feed the poor of their communities and themselves.

Notice in verses four and five, the rich Samaritans were religious about keeping their sacrifices and tithes. They made sure they gave them, but notice where they offered them and how often. This is why God considered them a sin. The rich Israelites offered their sacrifices and tithes at their temples in Bethel and Gilgal. Bethel was the site of their main temple to their false gods-Baal, Asherah, Molech, and Chemosh. It was not a temple of the LORD.  Gilgal was a home for prophets in northern Israel. It was about four miles from Bethel. These prophets did not serve the LORD, but the false gods of Israel. Besides worshiping at temples for false gods, the rich Israelites used similar offering and tithe schedules and types to worship their gods as GOD required of the Israelites. These rich Israelites mostly kept the letter of the law, but not the intent. They offered religious action, but not faithfulness to the LORD. Inwardly they rebelled and were unfaithful to God. Notice, too, the rich Samaritans gave their tithes to the priests every three days, not every year as God required. They wanted people to know of their religiosity so offered them more often than GOD required from His people.

With verse five, we must remember God required a thank offering of unleavened breads. In Leviticus 7:13, God said the Israelites should offer leavened cakes with peace offerings, and unleavened bread with thank offerings. The rich Israelite did not keep to the letter of the law. They wanted to be seen offerring what was more expensive. Leavened bread not unleavened showed off their wealth. Because it took more time than unleavened bread, this became their supposed best sacrifice to their gods. The rich Israelite wanted recognition for giving to their gods what they and society thought was the best. Amos pointed out this sentiment in the rest of verse five. He said they proclaimed and made known when the rich Samaritan gave their freewill offerings. They made their offerings known. Amos made this sarcastic remark to get the Israelites’ attention. These rich Israelites were hypocrites; they did not offer to God what He required, but offered to their god what they felt was their best to show off their wealth to people around them. With Amos’ last sentence in verse five, we discover God’s final pronouncement about the rich Israelites. He said they love to do this, make known to people around them about their rich offerings. The Lord God, Adonay Yehovah, Lord and existing one, declared this. The rich Samaritan offered sacrifices and tithes according to a plan they knew from Yehovah, but did not make those offerings to the LORD. Their intent was to get recognition for their tithes and offerings. It was not about remaining in a covenant relationship with the LORD.

·         Do you give an offering to church only because the Bible says you should?
·         Do you give in an obvious way so other people can see how much you give?
·         Do you recognize God gave you the good gifts you enjoy?
·         Do you seek to renew and strengthen your relationship with God as offering your tithes was meant to do?
·         Do you thank God through your offerings and tithes as showing gratefulness for His care and as giving back for His service part of what He gave you?

God’s past Judgment of Israel’s Unfaithfulness

In verses six through eleven, Amos reminded the Israelites of God’s earlier actions of discipline on them because of their rebellion against Him and His laws. Five main punishments occur in these six verses as noted in verses 6a, 7, 10, and 11. In these verses, God said He would cause them to have no food in all their cities. He would withhold rain from them. God would send a plague and slay their young men by the sword. Finally, in verse eleven, He said He would overthrow them like Sodom and Gomorrah. Upon these five main punishments, God added upon verse six’s punishment with verses seven, eight, and nine. Without rain, the plants would not grow and cattle would perish. With the scorching wind, mildew, and locusts, plants and animals would not survive. What exactly did Amos say in these verses? Let’s consider them now.

In verse six, Amos told the rich Israelites,

“‘But I also gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities and lack of bread in all your places, yet you have not returned to Me,’ declares the LORD.” [NASB]

“Cleanness of teeth” is an expression meaning they had no food to eat. Their teeth did not get dirty because they had nothing to eat in any of the cities, towns, or villages of Israel. Amos emphasized this punishment by reminding them they lacked bread, a main staple of any nation, in all their places. God said even with this punishment the Israelites did not return to Him. A chronicler recorded a famine occurred in 2 Kings 8:1. It says there was no food to chew, and the teeth were clean. Isaiah 3:1 spoke of the Lord removing their supply and support of bread and water from Jerusalem and Judah. This action was one way God punished and got the Israelites’ attention to bring them back to a faithful relationship with Him.

Amos continued reminding the rich Israelites of God’s previous punishments of their transgressions. He said in verses seven and eight,

“‘Furthermore, I withheld the rain from you while there were still three months until harvest. Then I would send rain on one city and on another city I would not send rain; one part would be rained on while the part not rained on would dry up. So two or three cities would stagger to another city to drink water, but would not be satisfied; yet you have not returned to Me,’ declares the LORD.” [NASB]

In verse six, God reminded the rich Israelites He had power over their food to withhold or give it. With verses seven and eight, His punishment showed He had power over rain, too. Before farmers could reap the crops, God withheld the rain, and no harvest occurred. Lack of rain affected the crops and each person’s thirst. With the lack of food mentioned in verse six, the people could have sought fish and water from the rivers. With no rain, crops would have failed, cattle would have died, and people would have had unquenchable thirst. Besides this, God sent rain to one city and not another. The people of the land would have staggered to other cities seeking this bodily requirement for life. They would have drunk, but remain unsated. There would not have been enough water to satisfy their thirst. God’s raining on one city and not another would have shown He was the one in control of the rain; it would not been just bad luck. Deuteronomy 11:17, 2 Chronicles 7:13, Isaiah 5:6, and Exodus 9:6 each record God is the one who causes rain to fall or not. First Kings 17:1 recorded the drought of which Amos spoke in these two verses. Even after that drought, God said the Israelites did not return to Him.

Again God showed His power over those things that sustained the rich Israelites–their food and drink. With verse nine Amos said,

“‘I smote you with scorching wind and mildew; and the caterpillar (locust) was devouring your many gardens and vineyards, fig trees and olive trees. Yet you have not returned to Me,’ declares the LORD.” [NASB]

In this verse, Amos reminded the rich Samaritans God struck them with His judgment in other ways that affected their bodies, crops, produce, and animals. God reminded them He was in control of the winds, moisture, and insects. Each of these affected their crops. He sent a scorching wind, the sirocco winds that came from the deserts east of Israel. God reminded them of its heat and gusts that sent sand and dust on them, their animals, and crops. It withered their vegetation. This wind was unpredictable, just as the day of the LORD would have been for the rich Israelites. God smote them with mildew that came from humidity or rains that did not pass or dry up well so their crops, especially corn crops, became mildewed and destroyed. God controlled the caterpillar. This word “caterpillar” comes from the Hebrew word gazam, which means locusts. The locusts from the desert are notorious for the amount they can eat. Daily they eat their weight in food. A swarm of locusts can number 40 to 80 million locusts in half a square mile (one square kilometer). This means they can eat about 420 million pounds (192 million kilograms) of plants each day. 
(http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/bugs/locust/) God controlled even these insects so He could affect the food of the nation. The Israelites would remember a plague of locusts. Amos said it devoured their gardens, vineyards, and fig and olive trees, yet the people did not return to the LORD. David spoke of this occurring in Psalm 78:46 and 105:24. Amos said, God punished the people of Israel, it affected the wealthy of the land, yet they did not return to Him. GOD is almighty. He controls rain, wind, sand, dust, plant growth, and bugs/animals. These God-controllable things affected their profits and wealth. God was the One who gave them what they had. They should return to Him.

With verse ten, Amos reminded the rich Israelites GOD controlled their health. He was the One who caused their birth and determined their health. GOD was the One who allowed sickness and brought wellness. He knew and numbered their days and the days of all living things. Amos said in verse ten,

“‘I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt; I slew your young men by the sword along with your captured horses, and I made the stench of your camp rise up in your nostrils. Yet you have not returned to Me,’ declares the LORD.” [NASB]

This plague was like what GOD sent on Egypt when the Pharaoh refused to release the Hebrews from slavery. It was a pestilence, a disease that did not distinguish between old and young, or rich and poor. David spoke about a pestilence coming upon the Israelites in Psalm 78:50. GOD said He slew the young men by the sword along with their captured horses. He reminded the rich Israelites He controlled whom He allowed to come against them in war and who won the battle. GOD determined if their horses survived. Amos recalled for them the stench of death that surrounded them when their young men and horses died by the sword. This vivid stench was memorable to the people. The smell reminded them Who brought the death and stench, Who is greater than them, and Who is in control of everything. The products of their wealth, cattle, horses, vineyards, flocks, orchards, and crops were each in GOD’s hands. He determined their survival and fruitfulness. These determined the wealth of the rich Israelites. GOD gave the rich Israelite wealth, health, and daily needs. Just as easily, God could take it away. He allowed these bad things to happen several times at the hands of the Israelites’ enemies–by the Philistines, Arameans, Egyptians, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and Amorites.

With the final verse recalling GOD’s might and power, Amos reminded the rich Israelites they existed after GOD’s judgments only because of His mercy.  GOD brought them from the blaze of destruction from His earlier judgments. In verse eleven, Amos said,

“‘I overthrew you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze. Yet you have not returned to Me,’ declares the LORD.” [NASB]

God’s judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed every occupant of those cities except for a small few–Lot and his two daughters. Lot was righteous in the eyes of the LORD and God did not intend His judgment destroy him. Continually since GOD brought the Israelites out of Egypt, they sinned against God. Often God punished them, but He spared some people. Consider the ten spies who said they could not take the Promised Land from the Israelites. They and each of the adults of that time died during their forty year sojourn in the desert. Consider when God sent the asps to kill the unfaithful in the desert. Those who looked to God as their salvation survived. God’s mercy spares the righteous when His judgment occurs. Often it spares the one who repents so he or she experiences none of God’s punishment. Sometimes God lessens the punishment of the repentant person from what He originally proclaimed. Amos stated this in verse eleven. God’s mercy snatched some of the Israelites from His fiery judgment. They were a firebrand He snatched from the blaze. Each of the above punishments in verses six through eleven occurred, the rich Israelites did not return to Him the LORD said. GOD controlled everything they had and their lives. His mercy could spare them. Still the rich Samaritans walked the ways they wanted-oppressing the poor and worshiping false gods. God’s judgment would not spare the unrepentant.

·         What has God done to punish you and get you to return to Him?
·         Have you ignored God’s promptings and punishments?
·         Have you forgotten all you have including your continued life come from God’s mercy?

God’s Punishment of the Cows of Bashan

With verse twelve Amos returned to the judgment by GOD he spoke of in verses two and three. Amos prophesied in verse twelve.

“Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel. Because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.” [NASB]

The word “therefore” refers to the most recently stated judgment of God Amos spoke of to the rich of Israel. It refers to verse eleven. Just as God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with His fiery wrath, so He would destroy the rich of Israel and what they considered their own possessions. The unrepentant rich Israelites, the ones who oppressed the needy, worshiped false gods, and wanted other people to consider them religious, would experience the wrath of God like the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah experienced. God would remove His hand of protection and provision from them and allow their enemies to destroy that in which they trusted–their walls and temples, their crops, vineyards, cattle, flock, and herds. When this happened the rich Israelites would know the LORD God was almighty and gave them everything they had. Amos told them in this part of the prophecy, “prepare to meet your God.” This “God” is ‘Elohiym, the ruler and judge. Amos told them to prepare to meet the true Ruler and righteous Judge. The only One who has absolute authority over them. Amos told them they had little time to get right with GOD-repent and return to worshiping Him alone. Just as God had mercy on righteous people, such as Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction, so God in His mercy would pull His righteous people as a firebrand from the blaze to come. A remnant few would survive.

GOD’s judgment would come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. Isaiah said similar things when he prophesied. He told the Israelites to tremble, fear, and put on sackcloth. Isaiah said people would know God’s name through their destruction (Isaiah 32:11, 64:2). Israel did not lead people of other nations to know the LORD, but the LORD, in His justice and punishment, would make His righteousness, justice, and power known.

·         Have you ever experienced God’s punishment?
·         Did His punishment of you remind you of Him and bring you back to a right relationship with Him?
·         Have you seen God punish someone else? Did that cause you to repent and get right with God before He judged you?


Declaration of Who GOD Is

Amos taught and reminded the rich Israelites who this all-powerful and righteous GOD is. His judgment and punishment of them would teach the nations surrounding them, witnesses such as Egypt and Philistia from Amos 3, about His might, righteousness, and justice. Amos wanted to give a final reminder of Who the LORD is to the rich Israelites. Earlier, Amos showed who God had been for the Israelites through His provisions for them and His judgment of them. In verse thirteen, Amos recalled GOD as the Existing One, Yehovah. In verse thirteen, Amos said,

“For behold, He who forms the mountains and creates the wind and declares to man what are His thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness and treads on the high places of the earth, the LORD God of hosts is His name.” [NASB]

Amos reminded the rich Israelites GOD is the One who creates the rocks and earth. He formed the mountains. Amos stated like David and Isaiah that GOD calculated the dust of the earth and weighed the mountains in a balance (Psalm 65:6, Isaiah 40:12).
Yehovah is the God of rock and earth.
Amos reminded the rich Israelites God creates the wind. David and Jeremiah testified He caused the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth and caused the clouds to ascend from the ends of the earth (Psalm 135:7, Jeremiah 10:13).
Yehovah is the God of the weather and the air.
Amos attested the LORD declares to man what are His thoughts. He makes His mysteries and purposes known said Daniel, Paul, and Jesus in Daniel 2:28 & 30, Colossians 1:12, Ephesians 1:9, and Matthew 13:11.
Yehovah is the God who reveals Himself to humanity
and seeks a relationship with them.
Amos recalled for the rich Israelites GOD is the One who makes dawn into darkness. He can cause darkness and gloom to overtake a day with His righteousness, justice, power, and omniscience. God has power over night and day, sun and moon.  Amos used these words in a metaphorical and literal way. Just as God created the day and night, so, too, He could bring darkness and gloom. He can darken day into night when it makes no sense (Jeremiah 13:16, Joel 2:2, and Amos 5:8). He makes gloom come unexpectedly as His justice prevails.
Yehovah is the God who controls light and dark.
Besides these, Amos reminded the rich Israelites, God is the almighty and only God. He harkened the Israelites back to the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” This almighty God treads on high places of the earth. The high places, the altars of false gods-manmade gods-would fall with the tread of the LORD upon them. They had no might against the LORD almighty. Micah 1:3 stated this, too. He said the LORD is coming from His place and will tread on the high places of earth. There is no other God but Him.
Yehovah is God and is greater than idols.
Finally, Amos recited for the rich Israelites who this almighty God is. He said the LORD God of hosts is His name. This God is Yehovah, the existing One, the One Who is, was, and will be. He is ‘Elohiym, the ruler and judge of all that is because He is righteous and just. This God is the God of hosts, the ruler of angels and all creation. Isaiah 47:4 says, "Our redeemer the LORD of hosts is His name, the Holy One of Israel." Jeremiah 10:16 says, He is the Maker of all. The LORD of hosts is His name. Amos said in his doxology in Amos 9:6, the LORD is the Creator, the One who built His upper chambers in heaven, founded the vault above the earth, Who called for the waters of the sea, and poured them out on the face of the earth.
Yehovah is the Creator, the Almighty, and One God.

·         Have you come to recognize God is the Creator and is Almighty, the one and only God?
·         Have you experienced the power and majesty of the LORD God of hosts?
·         What is keeping you from knowing the LORD God in your life–busyness, denial, personal ambition and determination? Each of these is sin; you let these areas of your life be god for you.

Recap

Amos spent chapter four pointedly speaking to the main people to whom God’s judgment related. He did not say only the rich sinned against God. Amos highlighted a particular subgroup of the population in this chapter who caused a greater number of transgressions against God and other people. He called them to listen to and heed the word of the LORD. Amos sought their attention using the familiar word, shama’.



Conclusion and Relevance

By this point in Amos’ prophecy, the people of Israel should have perked up, truly understood God’s judgment, and repented. More pointedly, God wanted the rich Israelites to obey Him because they amassed sin upon sin. Their sins were complete. God wanted their attention and their faithfulness to Him. He proclaimed His charges against them for their sins and His righteous and just judgment of them because of their sins. God loved them so much He let them know before His punishment came upon them. His mercies never ended. God did not want to punish them, but if that was the only way to get their attention and lead them back to Him, to righteous living and a faithful relationship to Him, then He would let it fall upon them.

God still is merciful. Paul taught this to the Ephesians in Ephesians 2:4-5 when he said,

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). [NASB]

Because of God and His mercy for us, because of His love for us, He offers each of us salvation from our sins for which we deserve a death penalty. Yet, He allowed His Son, Jesus Christ, to take our punishment and die on the cross for our sins, so we can be alive through His death and resurrection, having received forgiveness for sin and cleansing our sin and guilt from us. Just as God wanted to save His people in the Old Testament, He wants people to receive salvation from their sins and be in a relationship with Him. God’s greatness knows no ends. His love is overwhelming and surpasses our sins reaching out to save us from death and destruction.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16, [NASB])

What keeps you from accepting God’s mercy and grace? Give it to God and He will give you freedom from sin, temptation, and death. He will give you eternal life with Him and supreme joy.

“Who is a God like You,
Who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance?

You do not stay angry forever, but delight to show mercy.” (Micah 7:18 [NIV])


Friday, April 21, 2017

Certainty of God's Judgment part 2

Introduction

In the last Bible study, we studied Amos 3:1-8. In those verses we recognized that Amos called the people of Israel to hear, listen, and obey. That is what the Hebrew word shama’ means. This sermon/proclamation is one of five Amos brought to the Israelites after he prophesied God’s charges and judgment on them.

Within verses three through seven, Amos used four common occurrences the people would understand to help them understand the certainty of God’s judgment falling upon them. He used these causal analogies of everyday life just as Jesus used parables from everyday life to help the people understand. Amos stated just as two men agreed to meet at a particular time, they would definitely meet. Just as a person set a trap and baited it, so a bird would take the bait and get caught in the trap. Surely as a lion tracks and captures its prey, upon doing so he will roar. Just as a trumpet blares, so a people would know their enemy arrives against them. Amos’ final causal relationship was personal; and came from his own experience. He said, just as the LORD speaks, so a prophet can do nothing, but prophesy. Each of these analogies shows a cause and effect relationship that states the inevitability of something occurring because another thing happened first.

Amos used these five analogies to state emphatically to the Israelites, what God says He will do, will happen. God will announce His judgment before He enacts it. The Israelites of the northern kingdom listened to His judgment from at least five prophets and did not return permanently to a right relationship with the LORD. Amos wanted to make sure they understood this very well, so he proclaimed loudly exactly what he meant in verse eight. Amos said this in verse eight,

“A Lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” [NASB]

Just as the people could understand that what God said He meant and would do, Amos stated he recognized the voice of the LORD for certain and could not stand by without prophesying of what God told him. It was a personal cause and effect relationship for Amos.

Hearing God’s charge and judgment and acting upon it in obedience were two different things for the Israelites. They had strayed from the LORD for so long that their hearts were no longer in tune with Him or His ways. They did not recognize God as being almighty, omnipotent, and the One who led them from Egypt and gave them a promised land. The Israelites did not revere Him, so that obedience was natural like Amos’ reaction and obedience to being called by God to speak to the Israelites. The Israelites no longer feared the LORD. God said repeatedly through Amos’ prophecies He judged them and punishment would occur. He wanted the Israelites to understand, repent, and return to a covenant relationship with Him. With the rest of Amos 3, the LORD revealed to them His judgment on them and the reason for it. Let’s begin our study of verses nine through fifteen.


A Call for Witnesses

Just as Moses proclaimed, “Hear O, Israel,” Amos began His proclamations with, “Hear this word the Lord has spoken.” He commanded them to pay attention, listen, and obey. The Lord God is Almighty and worthy to hear and obey, Amos said. After calling for Israel’s attention, God called for eyewitnesses to what He would do to Israel as punishment for their rebellion against and unfaithfulness to Him. Listen to Amos’ words in verses nine and ten.

“Proclaim on the citadels in Ashdod and on the citadels in the land of Egypt and say, ‘Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria and see the great tumults within her and the oppressions in her midst. But they do not know how to do what is right,’ declares the LORD, ‘these who hoard up violence and devastation in their citadels.’” [NASB]

God called Amos, Philistia, and Egypt to hear, listen, and obey-shama’-when He said “proclaim” in verse nine. He wanted Amos to proclaim/summon Ashdod and Egypt to come witness Israel’s iniquities and their punishment from almighty God, the One who brought the Israelites from Egypt and who proclaimed judgment on Philistia.  God called the people who lived in the fortified cities and palaces of these nations to assemble on the mountains around Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom. Samaria was about thirty miles north of Jerusalem in a valley on a small hill surrounded by high hills. God called the rulers of Egypt and Philistia to come sit around Samaria like a judicial or tribal council. Listen to the crimes of Samaria and see its judgment and punishment occur, God said. Come see what God will do to the Israelites for their disobedience because of their rebellion against Him. Samaria, just as Gaza, Damascus, and Tyre, was the capital city of the northern kingdom of Israel. It represented the whole of the northern kingdom. The charge and judgment of Samaria was for the entire nation.

What did Amos prophesy about Samaria’s iniquities? He used four words to describe them. Amos told the witnesses to see the “great tumults,” “oppressions,” “violence,” and “devastation.” What did these words mean to Israel? Are they the same as what God charged of them in chapter two? “Tumults” comes from the Hebrew word mehuwmah, which means turmoil, confusion, destruction, panic, trouble, and discomfort. In their greed and luxurious living, the people of Samaria-the leaders of the nation-caused tumult for the poor and righteous. There was noise from the masses of people in Samaria committing wickedness. They upset poor people who sought daily sustenance and justice with their own greed and corruption. “Oppressions” comes from the Hebrew word ‘ashuwq, which means extortion or prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or exercise of authority. What the people of Samaria did caused harm physically and mentally to those they considered beneath them. Amos gave examples of this oppression in Amos 5:11 when he said the powerful exacted heavy rent from the poor and tributes of grain from them. In Amos 8:6, he said the rich buy the helpless to be servants and enslave the needy because they needed money to buy sandals and could not repay it. Besides this, Amos said the rich reaped all the produce from their fields and left none for the poor to glean for their own hunger.

The first crime in verse nine Amos said the people of Samaria hoarded violence. The rich leaders did not need what they took, kept for themselves, or exacted from the poor. They merely kept it in storage “just in case.” The rich caused undue harm to and did not care enough for the poor to let them glean their fields. The last crime God charged the people of Samaria with in this part of Amos’ prophecy is they hoarded up devastation. He said Samaritans took away the needs of the poor, and destroyed them, their families, and their homes. They wreaked havoc on their lives and brought devastation and ruin to them. The people of Samaria-the rich and rulers-enslaved the poor, widow, orphan, and alien so they had no life to call their own and had no home. They tore apart everything poor people could call their own, even their reputation and pride. The Samaritans took the poor captive because of their greed and sinfulness.

By doing these things-causing great tumults and oppression and hoarding violence and destruction-the Samaritans broke the laws of God as set up and told to the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land.  God wanted the people of Israel to take care of the poor in their towns, villages, and cities. Deuteronomy 14:28-29 told them to keep their tithe in their own cities every third year to feed the Levite and the poor. In Deuteronomy 16:11 & 14, God told the Israelites to rejoice and feast together before the LORD with the poor and the alien. In Deuteronomy 24:19-21 Moses recorded God’s law, which said the farmers were to leave the dropped produce for the poor and alien to glean to provide for their needs.

The LORD summed up at the beginning of verse ten what happened to the Samaritans and Israelites. He said, “They do not know how to do what is right.” In this day when “what is right” is relative to each person, we need to understand God’s character of righteousness defines the rightness of action, word, and thought. He is righteous-without evil and sin, and totally holy. God called each of His children to be righteous, to do what is right. He provided them guidelines to do that, what He expected of them. The first part of verse ten says the Israelites did not know; they did not recognize, were unacquainted with, and did not confess to know the LORD God and His ways. “Doing what is right” means doing what is straight before them, walking in an upright way. The people of Samaria and Israel had lost their way, the way to God and His righteousness, because it had been too long since they cared to listen about and to the LORD. They no longer knew Him or about Him and so lost their moral compass, their true north. Without God in a person’s life, true rightness, which the character of God defines, is no longer visible. One person’s right will not be right according to another person. Their wills and concepts clash, and tumult, oppression, violence, and devastation occur. Amos said in this verse, the Israelites no longer had a “true north.” They did not know or recognize God so did not know and, as a result, obey His laws. The Samaritans lived for themselves and harmed the poor, weak, and alien. They loved only themselves. They lived Darwinian lives before even Darwin proposed the theory of “the survival of the fittest.”

Hedonistic, luxurious living that disregards other people and makes one’s self primary is rebellion against God. With that understanding, we must consider ourselves and our own lives.

·         Do you do everything within your power to get ahead at work, in the community, and/or in school even if that means you overlook or denigrate  the needs or person of someone else in the process?
·         Do you hear about free food and run to the site to push and shove to insure you get your share, even though you have food in your own pantry and other people have none?
·         Do you undercut your competitor’s bids for a job, then give a low quality of work?
·         Do you offer a bribe to an official to make sure you get a job or get your government documents?


Judgment on Samaria and Israel

With verses eleven and twelve, God explained in more detail what His judgment on the northern kingdom would include. Besides what He said in Amos 2:14-16 where Amos said no one would escape God’s judgment, in Amos 3:11-12, God specified what would happen to the Israelites, and especially the rich and the leaders of the kingdom. Amos said in verse eleven,

“Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘An enemy, even one surrounding the land, will pull down your strength from you and your citadels will be looted.’” [NASB]

Amos used two names to speak of the Lord. He called him Adonay, a title given to God in reverence of Him as almighty God. Amos called the Lord, Yehovah, the existing One-I AM. He acknowledged the Lord with reverence recognizing His majesty, and he admitted this Lord is the I AM who spoke to Moses and the Israelites. He is the One who was, is, and is to come-the great almighty Creator of all that is. Amos acknowledged the Lord GOD before the Israelites proclaiming who God is and reminding and teaching the Israelites about Yehovah I AM. The Israelites had forgotten Him; Amos told them about Him.

After this, Amos told the Israelites how God’s judgment would come upon them. He said an enemy would surround them and come from a nation with whom they were acquainted. In Amos 6:14, Amos specified exactly which part of their nation would experience the effects of this enemy. The enemy would attack them from Hamath (on the border of Aram and Israel) to the brook of the Arabah (the southern border of the southern kingdom of Judah). Every Israelite, each of the descendants of Jacob, would feel the effects of this enemy.

The enemy would be strong. It would affect many places in the land of the Israelites. The enemy would be so strong, Amos said, it would “pull down your strength from you and your citadels.” Those defenses built to keep the Israelites safe from their enemies would not stand against the LORD’s judgment that He enacted by their enemies.  The LORD is stronger than anything man, His created being, could make from the earth, which He created. Those things in which they trusted to safeguard them would fall. Their material strength would fall-the walls, palaces, and fortresses- and their physical, social, and political strength would fall. The rich would become like the poor-hungry and with no social or political clout to help them get out of their devastation. Amos said this same thing about Judah in Amos 2:5. Each Israelite would experience the effects of God’s judgment through the hands of their enemies. One final point God added to this first part of the judgment is the booty the rich hoarded for themselves from the oppression, devastation, and violence they exacted against the poor would become booty for their enemy. What they stored they would not get to enjoy.

With Amos 3:12, God declared the extent of the Israelites’ devastation by their enemies. Amos said in verse twelve,

“Thus says the LORD, ‘Just as the shepherd snatches from the lion’s mouth a couple of legs or a piece of an ear, so will the sons of Israel dwelling in Samaria be snatched away–with the corner of a bed and the cover of a couch!’” [NASB]

The Israelites might have understood better with this point. The idea came from an Old Testament law in Exodus 22:13. That law required the shepherd to bring proof a wild animal snatched one of the flock or cattle by bringing the remnants of the animal as evidence. When he did so, the owner of the animal would not require the shepherd to pay for the torn animal. God said in this prophesy the devastation of the enemy’s overthrowing of Israel would be so great only a remnant would remain in the land. God would rescue only a few people from the enemy. By using parts of a bed or couch, Amos showed those most affected by their enemies would be the wealthy. The poorer people did not have a bed to sleep on or a couch upon which to recline. They sat and slept on the ground. The poor, the ones whom the rich and the rulers injured, would be the ones most likely not to experience captivity.  Those who managed to escape the enemy would do so because of God’s goodness and mercy. As the rich devoured the lambs-the poor and righteous-before God’s judgment, so their enemy would devour them. Samaria would be the lamb led to slaughter because of their sins.

When we read and understand this, can you think of an instance where you experienced God’s rescue from the snares of the enemy? Or were you made captive by your enemy because of the wrong you did? Consider these things.

·         Have you ever snubbed someone before and then later, maybe even years later, needed that person’s help and worried the person would not help you because of your snubbing?
·         Have you ever ignored the poor person begging at the traffic light because you wanted to get through the light, then noted a police siren following you to give you a speeding ticket?
·         Did you ever find yourself rescued from an abusive situation and wonder why God helped you?
·         Has there been a situation in your life where you didn’t deserve someone’s care, but they gave it anyway telling you because God loves you, he or she loves you and wants to help you?

Each of these situations is real. They happened to people I have known. These occurrences are not rare, but happen daily. Which of the persons mentioned would you rather be, the one helped, or the one harmed? Would you rather be the one who helps or the one who walks over others? What you do will eventually come back to you. God still sees and judges people for their actions. What He says, He will do.


A Call to Testify

With verse thirteen, Amos called the witnesses of verse nine, Egypt and Philistia, to testify against the “house of Jacob.” Amos said,

“‘Hear and testify against the house of Jacob,’ declares the Lord God, the God of hosts.” [NASB]

The leaders of Egypt and Philistia were to witness and to testify to the iniquities of the house of Jacob, the descendants of Jacob. They were not just to watch them and God’s judgment; they were to testify to God’s righteousness, justice, and power. Israel, whom God meant to be a light leading the nations to Him so others would be in a relationship with God, did not shine for GOD. Instead, they adopted the practices of the surrounding nations and gave in to greed and prejudice. Israel was a light leading just to themselves. They gratified themselves and wanted everyone to see how wealthy and successful they were. Israel made themselves and their own desires their god and left the Lord God.

That leads us to the final part of verse thirteen. Amos said the Lord God, the God of hosts, proclaimed this. As noted earlier, when Amos stated “Lord GOD,” he showed reverence to God, Adonay Yehovah, the existing I AM, of the Israelites and Creator of the world. By adding the “God of hosts,” Amos did something no other writer in the Bible did. He put these four words together to state emphatically who God is. “God” comes from the Hebrew word ‘elohiym, which means ruler, judge, and the “true God”. “Hosts” means host of angels on earth and in heaven. By using these four words for God, Amos expressed God as Adonay Yehovah ‘Elohiym of all beings on earth and in heaven. He is the mighty, existing I AM who is the ruler and judge of every being in heaven and on earth. He is of whom and by whom Amos spoke. Amos wanted to remind the Israelites of the Lord GOD so they would seek to have a right relationship with Him. He wanted the Egyptian and Philistine leaders to witness Samaria’s evil and the power of Adonay Yehovah “Elohiym of hosts. The LORD wanted Samaria’s corruptions known so the witnesses could not deny the justice of Samaria’s punishment from God. Those leaders had a duty to testify to the nations of Samaria’s iniquities and God’s judgment of them.


Judgment of Bethel and Samaria

God wanted the witnesses to see the depth of the depravity of Israel; they worshiped false gods just as the Egyptians and Philistines did. He wanted them to recognize His sovereignty by His power to destroy the idols to which the Israelites swore devotion. To do this, Amos drew their attention to Bethel, the main temple of worship for the northern kingdom of Israel. Amos said in Amos 3:14,

“For on the day that I punish Israel’s transgressions, I will also punish the altars of Bethel; the horns of the altar will be cut off and they will fall to the ground.” [NASB]

The people of the northern kingdom worshiped idols, oppressed the poor and righteous, and lived self-centered lives. God would show them the idols they worshiped and prayed to had no power. The Lord God would cut off the horns of their altar. Remember, the altar of the LORD was where sacrifices for sins occurred to provide atonement for the sinner. A person who killed another person without intention could flee to the altar and grab hold of the horns on God’s altar to seek sanctuary. The people of the northern kingdom had an altar in their temple with cow’s horns upon which they offered the blood of sacrifices to atone for their sins. When God said He would cut off the horns of the altar at Bethel, He meant two things. This action would show He is greater than their manmade altar. His actions meant no atonement of their sins could come from the altar of their false god. The Lord GOD would be the one to judge them. No place of asylum would hide them from His judgment; the Israelites could not escape from Him and His judgment. God’s judgment was certain. Nothing could stop it. He is Adonay Yehovah ‘Elohiym of hosts.

·         Do we worship something other than God–our homes, our jobs, our time, our money?

With Amos 3:15, God definitively singled out the rich and the leaders of Israel to receive His judgment. God said through Amos in verse 15,

“‘I will also smite the winter house together with the summer house; the houses of ivory will also perish and the great houses will come to an end,’ declares the LORD.” [NASB]

Earlier God said all the Israelites, “the house of Jacob”, would experience His judgment.  Next He said His judgment would come upon their places of worship and their priests. Finally, the LORD singled out the wealthy and leaders of Israel. The latter were the ones oppressing the poor, corrupting the judicial system, and leading the people of Israel to worship other gods.

How do we realize God singled out the wealthy? In verse fifteen, He declared His judgment upon the people who have more than one home and/or had homes with grand embellishment, inlaid ivory. The wealthy lived in winter houses during the cold season to stay warmer and closer to necessities. They lived in the cities. This winter house faced the sun toward the south and helped them stay warm. During the warm seasons, the rich stayed in their summer houses. The summer houses normally faced the east or north away from the sun to keep the house cooler. Often they built their second homes in or near a forest. Houses of ivory show grand extravagance. Money did not deter them getting what they wanted. King Ahab had an ivory house (1 Kings 22:39). Psalm 45:8 said kings had ivory palaces. This judgment showed God saw and would punish the rich and the rulers. They oppressed, disrupted, and devastated the lives of the poor and righteous, who could not afford to pay someone to defend them. The rich made the poor cower. They corrupted justice in their nation.

What was God’s judgment on these rulers and the rich people of Israel since we know this? He said He would smite them and their “great houses would come to an end.” They would not escape the enemy God allowed to overtake them. God specifically picked them out for His judgment and it would certainly happen. The enemy would execute God’s judgment on the Israelites who were rich and were leaders. They would hit, beat, and kill them. The luxurious houses would fall, be removed completely and swept away. Nothing would remain but rubble. Again, another lesson teaches not to hoard and hurt, but to help the less fortunate.

What the rich held as great worth, would be worthless.

If the rich were fortunate, they would keep their lives, though we understand from historical record the first round of captivity saw many leaders killed and maimed. Their sons fell by the sword.
Samaria, after a three year siege by Assyria, fell to their might and persistence. God’s punishment began. The king of Assyria relocated many of their leaders to Assyria. A big part of the people of Israel stayed in the land. Sargon, king of Assyria, moved people from throughout his entire kingdom to the land of the Israelites. They intermixed their people, culture, and religions with the Israelites who remained so that the Israelites lost their identity as the people of Israel.

·         Have you lost your identity as a child of God?
·         What do you allow in your life that keeps you from focusing on God?
·         How do you live your life–to help the needy or to help yourself?
·         Do you ever feel God pricking your conscience to help? Do you help or do you deny God and the other person?

Recap

The people of the northern kingdom were part of the descendants of Jacob like the southern kingdom of Judah. From their first king, Jeroboam, until their fall in 721 BC, the northern kingdom did not worship the Lord GOD, but instead worshiped idols-calves, Baal, Molech, Chemosh, and Asherah. The LORD sent several prophets to call the Israelites to repent and return to Him, but they lived for themselves. They rebelled against Him and against other people. In Amos 3, God specifically judged the rich, the leaders, and the idolaters. God said He would smite them and their homes, and their wealth would end. He would allow an enemy to overtake them. Many of the Israelites would go into captivity while those who remained in Canaan would live with people from all over the Assyrian empire and lose their identity as Israelites.

Conclusion

Before we leave this passage in Amos, we need to consider what it means for us. What does this history of the Israelite people have to do with us today? The foremost thing we should consider is Adonay Yehovah ‘Elohiym of hosts is still Creator and LORD of all. Two thousand plus years from then to now does not change God. He is unchangeable. The LORD back then is the LORD still. With that being said, have we changed – as a people. Did our ancestors walk away from God and then, by His absence in their lives, keep us from God? Did we learn about God and choose not to believe and obey Him? If your ancestors did not worship the LORD, that does not mean you cannot or should not worship Him. Each person must decide if he or she wants to be a child of God. Your ancestors cannot make it that decision for you.

God seeks us and wants us to worship Him because He wants a relationship with us. Consider these people:

1.      Adam walked in the garden with God. As we read God looked for him in Genesis 3:8. God cared that Adam not be alone on earth so made woman (Genesis 2:18).
2.      Abraham was special to God. He called him friend (James 2:23; Genesis 18:17). God cared about Him very much and Abraham was devoted to Him. Because of that, God promised his people would be more numerous than the stars and would be His people. They would inherit a promised land from God.  
3.      God called Moses to be close to Him. He trained him to recognize and see Him wherever he went. Consider Moses’ recognition of God in the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-15) or in the pillar of fire or cloud in the wilderness.
4.      Recall Paul who recognized the Lord even though he persecuted Jesus’ followers (Acts 9). The Lord sought Paul for Himself and stayed with Him throughout the rest of His life. He wanted a relationship with him.
5.      Remember the disciples who followed Jesus while He lived on earth. Jesus, the Son of God, sought them out for relationship.
6.      When the Son of God lived in human form, the Father sought regular relationship with His Son. Jesus went to the garden, to the mountain, and to “lonely places” to pray-spend time with His Father.

You must ask yourself a question…

Will you seek a relationship with Yehovah, the existing One, the One Who was, is, and always will be?

God still seeks to have a relationship with you. Even though we are sinful and He is holy, He provided a way for us to be in His presence. God provided a way to atone for our sin, to wash our sins away and make us clean from them and the guilt. 

What did God do because of His love for us so we could have a relationship with Him?

He sent His Son, Jesus, in human form to take our punishment for our sins and die our death that we deserved so He could wash us from our sins and we could be in a relationship with Him forever.

God loves you that much!

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world (you) that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life.”

That’s the Love of God!
You can be like the Israelites who turned away from God and worshiped manmade things, but
why would you? Those things rot, fade, corrode, and pass away.
Instead…
Choose A Relationship with God!
Choose Jesus!