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Friday, May 12, 2017

Seek the LORD and Live

Introduction

Amos prophesied to the people of Israel about eight nations and their sins. His statements to Israel did not cause them to see themselves, their sin, and their rebellion against God. Because the northern kingdom had an unbroken chain of evil, idol-worshipping kings they did not know who Yehovah is and had no recognition of what He had done in the lives of their ancestors. They no longer knew, ‘yada, the LORD and did not recognize the need to obey the laws by which the southern kingdom’s people lived and worshiped their God.

Amos told the Israelites of the northern kingdom who lived in times of great wealth and prosperity how they lived and treated the poor was iniquity and sin. They oppressed the poor, took their small amounts of food as tribute, and had them jailed for owing as little as the cost of a pair of wood-bark sandals. The rich Israelites paid bribes to have judges rule in their favor, suppressed the righteous, and obstructed the possibility of righteous judgment and living in the land. 

In Amos’ second sermon to the Israelites, found in chapter four, he called for Egypt and Philistia to see, witness, and testify to Israel’s sinful deeds and God’s righteous judgment upon them. He called them to sit like a tribunal council on the hills surrounding Samaria. In this chapter Amos reminded the Israelites of their sins of oppressing the poor, worshiping false gods, and living in hypocrisy. He reminded them of the LORD’s punishment of them in earlier years. Amos taught the Israelites the times of drought which brought famine came from Yehovah. He revealed to them the times one city had rain and the other did not showed God’s great power to release water wherever He wanted. This caused the people to travel seeking water. Amos reminded them of the sirocco winds, mildew, locusts, and mold that affected their plants, food crops, and animals came from the LORD. He told the Israelites these things came from Yehovah as punishment for their sins. The LORD sent a plague like what He sent on Egypt so that men and horses died and a stench rose from their midst. Finally, Amos reminded the Israelites GOD was the One who overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, the great devastation in the south, and He did and would do it to them while keeping a remnant of the people from this conflagration.

If the people of Israel did not understand the LORD’s might and greatness based on their history of His power, then Amos reminded them of who God was from the creation of the world. The LORD forms the mountains, creates the wind, declares His thoughts to humanity, turns night to day and day to night, brings darkness, gloom, and despair, and brings reprieve and relief. GOD is so great He tramples on manmade idols of the land and their temples. This LORD Amos spoke of and for is greater than anything they could imagine. He caused the destructions that came on them and their ancestors.

In this week’s Bible study text, Amos 5:1-17, Amos proclaimed his next sermon to the Israelites. This sermon is a lament for the people of the northern kingdom. It begins by speaking as if God’s judgment already occurred then leads into Amos’ exhortation to seek the LORD. Next Amos reminded the Israelites again of Who God is and of their sin, a striking contrast. Near the end of this sermon, he returned to admonishing the Israelites to seek the LORD. Amos followed his admonition by reiterating it to emphasize its importance. Finally, God through Amos recalls vividly for the Israelites the effect of His judgment upon them.


A Lament

With verses one through three, Amos wrote a lament for the future subjugated nation of Israel. Amos said in verses one through three,

1 “Hear this word which I take up for you as a dirge, O house of Israel. 2She has fallen; she will not rise again-the virgin Israel. She lies neglected on her land; there is none to raise her up. 3For thus says the LORD God, ‘The city which goes forth a thousand strong will have a hundred left, and the one which goes forth a hundred strong will have ten left to the house of Israel.’” [NASB]

In verse one, Amos called for Israel to “hear this word.” Once again, he used a word from the history of the Israelites. “Hear” comes from the Hebrew word shama’ and means to hear, listen to, and obey. Amos told them to attend to this dirge; listen carefully. He said this lament came because of the sins of Israel. Jeremiah and Ezekiel also wrote a lament for Israel in Jeremiah 7:29 and 9:10 & 17, and Ezekiel 19:1.

Amos called the people about whom this lament spoke “the virgin Israel.” What does this mean? Amos likened Israel to a virgin because no nation had ever conquered her. The LORD God had always defended and protected her. With God’s judgment of Israel, He removed His protection from Israel and allowed their enemies to overtake them. Amos added to this image of a fallen virgin by saying she fell and no one helped her. No one would be there to defend her or help her rise again. Israel the virgin “was forsaken”. Not enough people remained within Israel’s borders to bring her back to her glory. Of the thousands who marched in battle or defended her fortresses, only ten percent returned. There remained no one to build and reestablish Israel to her glory and wealth. The virgin nation, the people who were not a nation before God made them into one, who had no gods before Him, but turned to manmade gods, now had no protector. God removed His protection. Their false gods had no power to protect them. Israel was like a virgin left among evil men. She had no defense. With her fall, no one remained to lift her up, Amos said. Jeremiah 14:17 spoke of Israel as the virgin daughter of My (GOD’s) people. He said their enemy crushed her with a mighty blow. Isaiah 51:18 reiterated Amos’ thought. He said there was no one to guide Israel or take her by the hand among all the sons of the nation. The image blazed across the minds of the hearers; a woman lay abused and neglected, forsaken by her people, and unable to get up on her own anymore. Her life changed forever.

·         Have you ever experienced a time when it seemed you had no one to call upon to help you stand up on your own feet after a calamity?
·         How did that feel then? Did you flounder about trying to figure out how to go about life from that point?
·         Did you have faith in God to help you?
·         Women and children who experience abuse often feel this way. They wonder, “Now what; is there no God who will defend me?”
·         If we are in any situation where we are down like the “virgin Israel”, we can look to God, get right with Him, and seek Him as our rescuer.

The Invitation to Life

Through Amos, God reminded the Israelites how to have full life, not just the wealthy life they had, but complete life by allowing Yahweh to be their One God. He made this last point by directing them to remember what their manmade gods allowed to happen because they were not gods. They had no power.

Amos said in Amos 5:4-7,

4 “For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel, ‘Seek me that you may live. 5But do not resort to Bethel, and do not come to Gilgal, nor cross over to Beersheba; for Gilgal will certainly go into captivity, and Bethel will come to trouble. 6Seek the LORD that you may live, lest He break forth like a fire, O house of Joseph, and it consume with none to quench it for Bethel, 7for those who turn justice into wormwood and cast righteousness down to the earth.’” [NASB]

With verses four and six, Amos told the Israelites how to get through God’s judgment and perhaps avoid a harsh judgment for their sins against Him and other people. He proclaimed, “Seek the LORD that you may live.” This exhortation was a reminder of what God told the Israelites through Moses as they exited Egypt headed for the Promised Land as the chosen people of Yahweh. In Deuteronomy 4:29, Moses told the Israelites, “Seek the LORD your God and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and soul.” [NASB] Jeremiah 29:13 repeats this same sentiment. Jeremiah said, “And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Notice these statements are conditional statements. If the Israelites sought the LORD with all their heart and soul, God said they would find Him. They were to seek Him with a right heart, not just to gain something out of the relationship. God called the Israelites to seek Him and promised life. For the Israelites, “life” meant escape from God’s judgement or a reduction in its severity. This means if the Israelites died or became captives, it was their own fault. They did not seek God. God said if they repented and returned to a right relationship with Him, He would forgive them. With this in mind, Amos taught on this idea further in verse five.

After Amos told the Israelites God said they would live if they sought Him with their heart and soul, he reminded them of their ineffectual manmade gods, their idols. The word “resort” in verse five comes from the same Hebrew words as “seek” in verse four. That Hebrew word is darash. Darash means to seek with care in prayer and worship, enquire of, require, and consult.  Amos told the Israelites not to resort to or seek (enquire of, worship, pray to, and consult) their gods in Bethel. Remember, Bethel was the main temple site where King Jeroboam I set up a golden calf to be their god and established worship practices and feasts for this manmade god.  Besides telling the Israelites not to go to Bethel, he said not to go to Gilgal either. Gilgal was the town where the prophets of the northern kingdom lived. It was about four miles from Bethel. Amos told the Israelites not to enquire of their gods through the prophets of those gods. In case they had the idea to go to Beersheba on the southern border of Judah, Amos told them even going there would not save them from God’s judgment. The Israelites could not run away from the LORD. Recall Beersheba had a long history of God’s presence. It was at this site Abraham and Abimelech made a treaty. In very early times, according to Genesis 21:33, 26:23-24, 32-33, & 46:1, Beersheba had a sanctuary to the LORD God.  God meant by mentioning these three cities-Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba-the people of the northern kingdom could not run away from Him and His judgment on them. Their gods had no power to stop God’s judgment.

Besides not being able to stop God’s judgment on them, Amos said Bethel would come to trouble. “Trouble” comes from the Hebrew word ‘aven and means sorrow, naught, iniquity, and trouble. Bethel would come to sorrow. Gilgal would “certainly go into captivity,” Amos said. The priests and prophets of Gilgal were not immune to God’s judgment. They, too, would go into captivity. That makes sense since they led the people of Israel to worship false gods. Neither their false gods, priests, leaders, nor running from the LORD would keep His judgment from falling on the Israelites. God would find the Israelites wherever they were. Bethel’s name would change to Beth-aven, from "house of God" to "house of vanities". Hosea said this of the northern kingdom of Israel in Hosea 4:15, 5:8, and 10:5. Their vanity to worship manmade things would bring their downfall.

 Only by seeking the LORD could they live. Amos reiterated that point in verse six.  Whereas in verse four the proclamation was in first person, in verse six the exhortation to seek the LORD is in third person. Amos used the same Hebrew word darash to exhort the Israelites to seek the LORD so they may live. The word “live” comes from the Hebrew word chayah and means to have life, remain alive, live forever, be restored to live, and be preserved. Amos loved his brethren of the northern kingdom. He did not want to see them harmed, dispersed, or permanently destroyed. Amos’ heart ached for them and he cried out to them to seek the LORD so they would live.

Amos said if they did not return to the LORD, His wrath would break out as a fire. He, for the first time, said God’s flames of wrath would consume Israel. Amos had said it in the prophecies about the other nations, but had now said it for the first time regarding Israel. We know, too, this prophecy is to the northern kingdom because he said, “O house of Joseph.” At that time, the two tribes from Joseph’s line, Ephraim and Manasseh, were the biggest tribes of the northern kingdom. By stating God’s judgment would fall on Joseph’s house, we understand Amos meant this judgment was for the northern kingdom. Notice the extent of the damage God’s fire would do to Israel. It would consume them and none would quench it for Bethel. Remember, the Hebrew word for “consume” meant to devour, burn up, and destroy. It would mean total destruction of the northern kingdom. The gods of the people whose main temple site was Bethel were powerless against the LORD. God’s fire would not spare their government, temple, home, or palace. As Amos said earlier, only a tenth of the people would remain and those would not be the rich, the leaders, or the priests. With verse six. Amos reiterated verse four for emphasis. He emphatically beseeched them to return to the LORD with their whole heart and soul.

Amos made sure the most egregious sinners, the ones who held power and propagated oppression and corruption, knew they were not exempt from God’s judgment. He explained who these people were with visual images. Amos said these people turned justice into wormwood. Wormwood was a small shrub of the area with bitter tasting leaves when brewed for medicine or alcoholic flavoring (vermouth). This contrasted with the sweet flavor of justice. The unrighteous turned the sweet flavor of justice to bitterness in the mouths of those who sought justice. They snatched justice from their grasps by the corruption. Amos spoke of this earlier in Amos 2:3 and will speak of it again in Amos 5:12 and 6:12. He further stated these people cast down righteousness. They trampled it into the earth with neglect and contempt. These corrupt and oppressive rich, rulers, judges, and priests considered rightness and fairness worth nothing compared to getting their hearts’ desires. Though rightness comes from God’s righteousness, they considered it only as dust and rubbish and cast it down to be trampled underfoot. God’s righteousness was nothing more to them than the dirt under their feet. It had no worth to them.
Who were these people who were so conceited to think they could take the law into their own hands and decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong? Who are they now? Often we mirror them. Consider these scenarios-

·         A dark-skinned man walking quickly by wearing a beanie is automatically looked upon as a possible thief when a smash and grab occurs nearby.
·         A poor mother is considered inept and unfit when she has dirty children and poor language skills.
·         A teenager with low-slung pants and chunky necklaces is considered a possible attacker because of His dress and mannerisms.
·         A blonde-haired girl who hangs out with jocks and attends an expensive private school is considered lazy and an airhead.

Each of these is a misconception and prejudice taught to us by people in our culture. We need to look beyond the culture to how God sees people. We are all created in His image and are all equal. No person should deem another person lower than him or herself because of the other person’s lifestyle, school, clothes, home, language, or anything else. Let the love of God and His justice rule our lives and thoughts.


Who is the LORD?

After crying out his lament over Israel, beseeching them to seek the LORD, Amos taught and/or reminded the Israelites who the LORD is in verses eight and nine. In Amos 4:13, he explained the LORD is the One who forms the mountains and creates the winds. Yehovah is the One who declares His thoughts to man. He makes day into night, night into day, gloom into joy, and joy into gloom. The LORD is the One who tramples down the high places of the false gods. He is Adonay Yehovah ‘Elohiym of hosts.

In Amos 5:8-9, Amos said,

8 “He who made the Pleiades and Orion and changes deep darkness into morning, Who also darkens day into night, Who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the LORD is His name. 9It is He who flashes forth with destruction upon the strong so that destruction comes upon the fortress.” [NASB]

He reminded the Israelites the God who proclaimed His judgment and would make it happen is the One who made the constellation with seven of the biggest stars-Pleiades. The LORD is the One who made the small stars of Orion, too. He changes deep darkness into morning. This deep darkness can be literal night turning to day as in Amos 4 or can be metaphorical turning dark and heavy times into days of joy and rejoicing. Yehovah can do the reverse, too. Just because He brings good things does not mean He will not allow bad things to happen. The people of Israel are not untouchable. God will remove His hand of protection from them as His judgment on them.

This powerful God forms mountains, stars, winds, darkness and light, and calls the waters of the earth to pour out on the land. He is so great He can cause the waters to move in unnatural and supernatural ways. He commands the waters of the sea as justice to pour out on the face of the earth like He did during Noah’s time because the people of the earth were evil.

The people of the earth would be witnesses to God’s punishment of Israel. They would be witnesses, just as God called the Egyptians and Philistines in Amos 3 to behold the might, power, and righteousness of the LORD God. Israel left Yehovah behind and considered their own desires most important. By this and other things, they lost reverence for the One who made these things and pronounced judgment on them.

No one of Israel would be immune to God’s judgment and the destruction that came with it. Amos said the LORD would flash forth. God’s judgment would happen, would be unexpected, and would be sudden. No one would escape it. Isaiah 29:5 said it would come in an instant.  God’s judgment would come like a thief in the night. It would be strong and overthrow the strong-people and manmade defenses (fortresses, palaces, and city walls). With this idea of warfare we can see how God intended His judgment to come against Israel. More than anything, God wanted His people, the Israelites, to remember He is mightier than man and manmade things. Neither strong nor weak would escape God’s judgment. It would happen like the sudden sirocco winds and locusts. Amos repeated what he said in Amos 2:14 with these two verses, eight and nine. God’s judgment would catch everyone. Not one Israelite would escape. Amos’ imploring of the Israelites returns to our minds with this renewed understanding of who GOD is and His might.


Sins and God’s Judgment

After lamenting Israel’s demise, reminding of God and His power, and recalling God’s covenantal promise to the Israelites from Deuteronomy, Amos returned to Israel’s reality that brought this sermon to them. In Amos 5:10-13, he said,

10 “They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks with integrity. 11Therefore because you impose heavy rent on the poor and exact a tribute of grain from them, though you have built houses of well-hewn stone, yet you will not live in them. You have planted pleasant vineyards, yet you will not drink their wine. 12For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great, you who distress the righteous and accept bribes and turn aside the poor in the gate. 13Therefore at such a time the prudent person keeps silent, for it is an evil time.” [NASB]

In verses ten and eleven, Amos recalled for the Israelites why God charged and judged them. He said the people of the northern kingdom hated the righteous judge in the gate. Remember, small cases of dispute came before the elders of a village or city at the city’s gates. Amos emphasized and vividly spelled out this hatred by adding they abhorred the one who spoke with integrity. The Israelites were no better than the Moabites who hated Edom in Amos 2. Their hatred expressed itself by burning the king’s bones. The Israelites hated for to people to reprove them. “Reprove” comes from the Hebrew word yakach and means to judge, correct, and chasten. Since the Israelites were sinners, the person who judged and reproved them was righteous. The Israelites hated the righteous person and hated correction. It made them feel guilty and low.

Amos said the Israelites abhorred the person who spoke with integrity. “Abhor” is a stronger word than “hate.” It speaks of more than feeling hatred. Abhor means to avoid or turn aside, to reject the person one hates. The Israelites could not bear the sight of the person who chastised them. Even Jesus said, “No prophet is welcome in his hometown.” The Israelites would not see or listen to a person among them who was pure and righteous. It made them remember their sins. Sin and guilt is much easier to hide from when you avoid daily reminders of it. If the reminder was only mental and not physical, people develop good ways to “stuff” the sin memory back in their memory so it does not bother them.

The Israelites avoided and prohibited righteous judges from speaking, but they could not avoid God and His judgment. In verse eleven, God reminded them through Amos’ sermon they were corrupt and oppressive. The Israelites imposed heavy rents on the poor and exacted a grain tribute from them even though they themselves were wealthy-lived in big houses and had vineyards. We can never get away from God’s conviction of our sin. He will bring it back to our minds until we repent with or without using punishment. Just as Amos said in chapters two through four, the wealthy Israelites oppressed the poor. Amos mentioned two ways they did that in verse eleven. They made the poor pay high rents though they could not afford it and be able to have food for the family. To top it off, the rich required a tribute from the poor, basically an offering for being allowed to live there. The offering they required was part of the bit of food the poor family gleaned from the local fields. The rich took part of the little food the poor had because they were rich and had power. They did not need it for themselves. The rich did not take it because the poor did not pay their rent. They did it to oppress the poor. The poor feared if they did not let the landlord have the grain he would kick them out of the small place they rented.

With this bold, blatant pronouncement of the undeniable sins of the rich, God’s judgment fell upon them. Because they stole food from the poor and exacted too much as rent for their lodgings, the wealthy would not live in the houses they paid a professional builder to make with hewn stones instead of mud and rock. Though the rich had summer and winter houses, the enemy would smash them to pieces (Amos 6:11). God would not allow the rich to live in their houses made by oppressing the poor and depriving them of their God-given rights. He also would not allow them to drink and enjoy the wine from their vineyards. The Israelites would not live in luxury and drink their wine that came from oppressing the poor and thwarting righteous judgments by the men of God. This judgment reminds of God’s promises of blessings and curses in Deuteronomy 28 for the Israelites if they choose to obey or disobey Him. In Deuteronomy 28: 1, Moses stated the LORD’s words, “Now it shall be if you will diligently obey the LORD you God being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.” (NASB) God would protect the Israelites and their enemies would not touch them if they remained faithful to their covenant with God. The flip-side to this promise of blessing is Deuteronomy 28:20 when Moses spoke for the LORD and said, “The LORD will send upon you curses, confusion, and rebuke in all you undertake to do until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken Me.” [NASB] By stating this judgment against Israel, Amos said the LORD invoked His covenantal promise of curses against Israel because of their disobedience to His laws.

The reminder of the Deuteronomic covenant also reminded the Israelites that God sees and knows everything they do. They could not get away from Him. In verse twelve, Amos said God knew of the peoples’ transgressions-their rebellion against Him and His laws. He knew their sins and guilt. The Israelites had missed the mark-sinned. They were unfaithful to their covenant with God. God realized the Israelites harassed and showed hostility to the righteous, accepted bribes to defeat justice, and subverted equality for the poor by refusing to listen to their cases or deciding in favor of the person who paid the highest bribe. Amos recorded examples of this-put poor in jail for the price of sandals, exacted tributes of grain, and required unreasonably high rents for dilapidated places to live. God knew of their transgressions and sins.

With verse thirteen, Amos recognized the insightfulness of “prudent” (spiritually wise) people to keep silent during that evil time. The Israelites would have thrown to the ground and trampled on what the prudent said, too, as they might have done their lives. The spiritually wise people would know to make the most of their time because the days were evil (Ephesians 5:16). But yet, still some wise men spoke up for the poor in the gate, as verse ten notes. With verse thirteen, Amos may have alluded to the time of their captivity when it would be too late to speak up for the poor and oppressed because they would no longer have any courts in which to speak up for justice. Though the spiritually wise and righteous man spoke up for righteousness and for the rights of the poor, the rich discarded his words like they did God’s laws. A time would come when there would be no courts for the poor or the once rich people. There would also be a time when they would seek words from God and would not find them because His judgment had come upon them.
We should consider our lives and times now-

·         Do you know of a person or people whom the courts treated unjustly?
·         Do you know of a person who corrupts the law and gets what he desires even though laws oppose it?
·         Is there someone you know in your community, city, or village who needs a righteous person to stand up for equality and justice for them?
·         Will you stand up for righteousness and justice for the poor and outcast?

The Invitation to Life-reprise

With verses fourteen and fifteen, Amos returned to the invitation God offered in verses four and six. In verse four, the voice was first person. God invited the Israelites to seek Him and receive life. In verse six, the voice was third person, Amos invited the Israelites to seek the LORD and receive life. Now with verse fourteen, Amos urged the Israelites to seek good, not evil and receive life. Three times Amos implored the Israelites to seek life. What exactly did Amos say in verses fourteen and fifteen? He said,

14 “Seek good and not evil, that you may live, and thus may the LORD God of hosts be with you, just as you have said. 15Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate! Perhaps the LORD God of hosts may be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.” [NASB]

As we notice in verses four, six, and fourteen, Amos emphasized the two sides of faith in the LORD God. One is the vertical relationship with God in worshiping and praying to Him. The other is the horizontal relationship with other people in doing ethically good things according to God’s righteousness and His laws. With verses fourteen and fifteen, Amos contrasted evil and good for the Israelites so they understood well what God required of His people. “Good” comes from the Hebrew word tobe and means agreeable and pleasant to the higher nature, ethical and moral goodness that benefits other people and self. “Evil” comes from the Hebrew word ra’ and means disagreeable, malignant, unpleasant morally and ethically, hurtful, unkind, causing misery, injury and distress. Obviously the Israelites’ oppression of the poor and corruption of the judicial system falls into the “evil” category for which Amos prophesied God charged and judged the Israelites. “Good” is those things opposite of what they did. Notice in this verse, like in verses four and six, the statement is conditional. If they seek good and not evil, they may live. If they seek evil, they would not live. It would be their fault if God’s judgment came upon them.

As a broad bold emphasis to verse fourteen, Amos told the Israelites to “hate evil.” Just as they hated and abhorred the person who spoke with integrity in verse ten, Amos told them they should mentally and physically hate evil. The Israelites should turn away and avoid evil. David exhorted this in Psalm 97:10. He said, “Hate evil, you who love the LORD.” A person cannot say they love the LORD then do evil. Those two are mutually exclusive. Jesus said in Matthew 7:16 that by a person’s fruit you will recognize a he or she is a Christian. James said in James 2:18 he would show you his faith by his works. What a person does shows his relationship with God. What you do in your horizontal relationships to and for other people shows your vertical relationship with God.

Besides hating evil, Amos told the Israelites in verse fifteen to love good. “Love” comes from the Hebrew word ‘ahab and means to desire what God desires, love God and His laws. Loving good means to desire what is ethically right according to God. He continued in this verse, “Establish justice in the gate!” Desiring what God desires is one thing; acting on it is another. We must put into action our love for good. We can say something, but unless we act upon it, we are not much better than those who do not love good and do not act on it. Abhorring and hating evil requires physical actions so loving good as God does requires action. Jesus lived this kind of life while He walked on the earth. He did not just tell his disciples to feed the poor, give sight to the blind, heal the sick, and disciple all nations. Jesus did it. He told them what you have seen me do, go and do it. Paul said this same thing in Philippians 4:9. Love good and practice judgment. Make sure it exists. Stand up for righteousness and goodness.

With the rest of verse fifteen, Amos said, “Perhaps the LORD God of hosts may be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.”  “Perhaps” is a word that implies a possibility. Amos did not want the total destruction or captivity of the people of the northern kingdom. He wanted God to save some of them, like the ten percent in verse three. He had hope based on God’s words to him. Amos hoped God would spare some of the Israelites. He pled with the Israelites to repent and return to the LORD God. God said in verse six His fire would consume and destroy them. Amos knew from the past, God is merciful. When Solomon finished building the temple in Jerusalem, God told the people, “If my people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 [NASB]) The Israelites of the northern kingdom were God’s children through His promise to Abraham. He did not want to destroy them utterly. Amos’ plea to them to seek God, do good, and hate evil came from understanding God’s past love and mercy. He gave them hope a remnant of Israel would survive the takeover by an enemy nation.

·         What evil do you do that God hates and abhors?
·         For what godly good that do you make a stand?
·         For what evil do you need to repent to God, seek His forgiveness, and renew a relationship with Him?

A Lament - reprise

With verses sixteen and seventeen, Amos concluded this sermon. Just as he began it with a personal dirge, a lamentation for Israel, he ended it with God foretelling Israel’s lamenting their plight because of His judgment. Amos said in Amos 5:16-17,

16 “Therefore, thus says the LORD God of hosts, the Lord, ‘There is wailing in all the plazas and in all the streets they say, ‘Alas! Alas!’ They also call the farmer to mourning and the professional mourners to lamentation. 17 And in the vineyards there is wailing, because I shall pass through the midst of you,’ says the LORD.” [NASB]

Understand Amos made sure the people of Israel knew who spoke to them. He used the same four names for Him he used before-LORD Yehovah God ‘Elohiym of hosts, the Lord Adonay. This God who spoke to the Israelites and foretold their judgment and their lament is the “existing One,” the I AM, the ruler and judge, the Lord of hosts of heaven and earth. He is the almighty only GOD. This GOD is the One who creates all things, causes dark to change to light and light to gloom. He’s the One who allows enemies to overthrow His people. This GOD is the One who rescued them from Egypt, made them a nation, and called them His people. The One GOD.

This God of Amos, the Israelites, and their ancestors foretold wailing in the plazas and the streets. In open places and closed people would mourn. All people would mourn-farmers, farm workers, and professional mourners. The people who wail from their own grief and those trained to write and cry out poems of lament would wail. In city, farmland, and village wailing would occur. Where songs of joy were sung in the vineyards and fields before, songs of mourning would abound.

Why would there be national lamenting? God’s judgment would affect every person in Israel. In verse seventeen, God said He would “pass through” the midst of the Israelites. Instead of God passing over the Israelites as He did in Egypt when He struck down all the first born in Egypt (Exodus 12), He would “pass through” the land of the Israelites (Amos 7:8, Micah 7:18). Unlike the last time, God’s judgment would fall on the Israelites. Israelites would die. Others would go into captivity.  The enemy would destroy the land and crops. They would smash and crush the buildings, cities, vineyards, city walls, fortresses, and houses until they fell. God foresaw in these two verses the people would not obey; they would continue to live unrighteously. He foresaw their lamenting and proclaimed it occurred because they would not repent and return to Him.

·         Are there things God is telling you are sins, but you continue to ignore Him?
·         Have you listened to God, felt His conviction, and returned to Him, then fallen away again?
·         Did you hear God’s voice, repent of your sin, seek the LORD, and learn to worship and follow Him, then note now you are more blessed than earlier in your life?
·         We each fall into one of these three categories. Honestly between you and God, in which of these do you fall?

Recap

Amos told Israel each of God’s prophecies against the seven nations surrounding them. Next he told them of God’s charge and judgment against their own nation. The LORD charged the Israelites with oppressing the poor, corruption, and idol worship. With two sermons Amos explained the LORD would allow an enemy nation to subdue them, kill some people, take some captive, and leave a remnant in the land mixed with people from other nations. The buildings and strongholds of the Israelites would fall. The enemy would loot and trample their produce and vineyards. Nothing would remain as it was when they worshiped their own gods and their own desires. With chapter five verses one through seventeen, Amos wrote a lament for the people of Israel, his brothers. He noted God’s sadness over the Israelites choosing evil over Him. Amos left them with a hope that a remnant would remain if they repented and sought the LORD with their heart and soul.

Conclusion and Relevance

God knew the likelihood of Israel’s repentance. During their 200+ years as a nation, they had nineteen kings and each of them was evil in the LORD’s sight. These kings followed after the ways of Jeroboam I who instituted idol worship. With each successive king the people of the northern kingdom became more lost, forgot who GOD is, and what His laws were. They strayed from the LORD for so long they had no moral compass, but sought only the desires of their hearts.

Are you walking with the Lord today?
Have you ever heard of Him?

Have you heard about Him, but chose not to accept His mercy, love, forgiveness, and eternal life?
Each of us experiences times in our lives when we a like the Israelites. If you are a Christian, you have probably had seasons of being very close to God, studied the Bible, spent time in prayer, and worshiped Him daily. Most likely, you have also lived periods of your life when you did not seek God’s will for something you wanted to have or do and did or bought it, anyway. Maybe you continued to do things like that and finally realized you had left God. That is when you were like the Israelites.

Possibly you knew about Jesus and thought, “That’s not for me. I don’t need to lean on anything to make it in life.” Or you might have said, “Nah, I have time to think about that later. I have to live my life now.”

God has greater blessings in store for you than you could ever give yourself.
God loves you more than you love yourself.

Does that make you stop and think? God loves you more than you love yourself. He knows what would be good and bad for you. God doesn’t just give good things; He gives what is best for each person. More importantly, God gave the best gift ever-salvation for your sins. You and I need that more than anything.

If you have not heard about God’s great love for you or if you have not taken the time to listen to and understand, let me explain it to you. We each are fallible. We make mistakes throughout our lives. We can’t help it because we are each sinful. Paul said it this way in Romans 3:23. He said, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” God is sin-free; He is holy. We are sinful. He will not be in the presence of sin because He is holy. Because of our sin, we are separated from God, forever. There was no hope for humankind.

But God had a plan from the beginning of the world. What was His plan? He planned to save us, each of us, from our sin because He wants to be with us, to have a relationship with us. He knew we would need a Savior and planned it. In due time, in “the fullness of time” Galatians 4:4 says, God sent His Son to be born into human form, to walk on earth and experience temptation as we do, and to remain sin-free. This Son of God is named Jesus and, yes, He did not sin even though Satan tempted Him. Because He was sin-free, He was a worthy substitute for us, to take the penalty for our sins. You see, if we died with all our sin and we couldn’t be in the presence of God while we are alive, when we die, we would experience separation from God forever.

But God provided the powerful sin-free substitute to take our sin penalty for us so we wouldn’t be separated from God. Jesus willingly let the Jews persecute Him and the Romans beat and crucify Him. He didn’t do it because He loves pain. He did it because He loves you and me! Jesus took your place, he jumped in front of the rolling boulder so you wouldn’t die and experience eternal separation from God. Remember, your sins separated you from God forever. Jesus' death and resurrection provided the gateway, the bridge, for you to cross the chasm between God and humankind so you could be in the presence of God and have a relationship with Him. His resurrection showed He has the power to defeat death. His crucifixion took away the power of sin to separate you from God.
Ok, that seems easy enough to understand, right? “What’s the catch?” you might think. There’s no catch. God isn’t trying to trick you. He is trying to give you the best thing. For now God wants to give you salvation from your sins which brings you into relationship with Him. He also gives you power to overcome the temptations you face daily so you will not sin. Forever and eternally,

God wants you to be in His presence, receive His forgiveness and love, and enjoy an eternal relationship with Him.

You say, “Every other religion says I must do something to receive a possibility to receive salvation and be in God’s presence. What do I have to do to receive this gift from God?”

You don’t have to “do” anything to be saved from your sins.


No true gift has stipulations attached to it. A gift is free. Paul said that about the salvation God offers us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He said in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “Surely I must do something,” you say. Paul told us in Romans 10:9-10 the only thing you have to do to receive God’s free gift. He said,

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” [NASB]

When you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, you are saying He is the Messiah, the promised deliverer and Savior from God for our sins. You are saying Jesus is the promised Son of God. He has the power to defeat death and His crucifixion paid the penalty for your sins. You do nothing to be saved. After you are saved the fruits of your words and actions show your salvation to the world.
If you have never heard of God’s free gift given through His Son and now want to become a follower of Jesus, confess your sins to God, repent of them, and accept Jesus as your Lord, the Messiah from God.
If you have heard of God’s free gift of salvation before but put it off, don’t put it off any longer. Just as the Israelites had no idea when God’s judgment would come, delayed, and were surprised when His judgment came on them, you do not know when you will die or when Jesus will return to earth. You do not want to be too late to confess Jesus as your Lord and believe in Him for your salvation.

Have no regrets; accept God’s free gift today.

If you are already a Christian, but realize you stopped following Jesus a while back, now is the time to return to a right relationship with Him. It’s not too late. Repent of your sins to Him. Renew a right relationship with Him. He’s waiting for you to return to Him.

The LORD is GOD of all people, all nations, and all tongues. He created and loves each person. GOD allowed His Son, Jesus, to die a painful death for all of us. Listen to Paul one more time.

“There is no distinction between Jew and Greek,
for the same Lord is Lord of all,
abounding in riches for all who call upon Him;

for whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”      (Romans 10:12-13 [NASB])