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Amos 9: Unconditional Love

We have talked a lot about judgment while going through Amos, and chapter 9 begins that way as well. However, as the book comes to a conclusion, there is hope for some future day that God will restore Israel.

Amo 9:11  In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:

Amo 9:12  That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this.

Amo 9:13  Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt.

Amo 9:14  And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.

Amo 9:15  And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.

I think that this is interesting. Even after everything that has gone wrong and how so many people have been doing wrong, God has not forgotten those people who are His own. He is not going to abandon Israel.

I think of it almost like a parent. Parents certainly might punish their children for doing something wrong. That is pretty normal, and in the right circumstances with the right motivation, it is a proper part of parenting. However, parents ought not to abandon their children entirely. It is one of those relationships that should have the unconditional love that God has for His children. The relationship is always going to be there even though there certainly can be times where discipline is required.

The Old Testament shows that type of activity pretty clearly. The people of Israel and Judah had a series of peaks and valleys. They were close to God, they fell away from God and then the whole thing started all over again. There was certainly discipline that came along with these times, but God never stopped loving the people. It really is remarkable.

Amos 8: Fair Practices

Amos chapter 8 brings us to the pronouncement of judgment, and the harshest sentences are going to be given to those who were unjust to the poor.

Amo 8:4  Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail,

Amo 8:5  Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?

Amo 8:6  That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?

These are guys who are basically sitting around waiting for the Sabbath to be over so that they can get back to doing business. Now, I know that all of us are involved in some type of business, and the exchange of products for payment is not a sin whatsoever. However, look at what these men were doing. They were ripping people off. They were falsifying the balances.

It wasn’t a problem that they wanted to go to work, but it was a problem that they were actually excited to be unfair. I think that this applies far beyond business and commerce. We should not be anxious to do something wrong. We should not desire to do something that we explicitly understand is wrong.

The irony in this scenario is that these businessmen were also selectively following what they could get away with. They knew that they could not do business on the Sabbath without being frowned upon in the community, but because they knew that they could get away with being slightly unfair in the balance, they were willing to do that.

How easy is that? We put on a good front, but we have legitimate issues behind the scenes that no one ever sees. That’s another problem that we need to confront.

As you read this chapter and recognize that these are the people who are going to be judged most severely, I think it is a cautionary tale for all of us. This is something that we don’t want to get mixed up in.

Amos 7: Who Is the Authority?

First of all, Merry Christmas! I don’t particularly have a Christmas message for you today, but I hope that you have a great day and remember what Christmas is all about.

Today we are in Amos 7, and it reminded me that even though we worry today about the kind of peer pressure that can build up, it is nothing new.

Amo 7:12  Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there:

Amo 7:13  But prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court.

Amo 7:14  Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit:

Amo 7:15  And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.

Amos was obviously not a bearer of good news. Prophets were never really well loved when they showed up because the people needed correction. They were communicating messages from God, but that did not always go over well.

As a result, we have Amaziah pretty much encouraging Amos to go somewhere else because they didn’t want to hear his message. Amos responded really in the only way that he knew how.

He was where he was because God told him to be there. He wasn’t a prophet before that, and I have a feeling that after God was done using him in this why that he probably would have been happy to just go back to doing his everyday job (just my opinion). However, we do know that he was doing what God had told him to do at the time he told him to do it.

He did not back down because he knew that it was more important to do what God told him to do rather than what people around him said. Obviously, that is an important message for all of us. We need to decide who is more important to please.

Amos 6: Too Comfortable for Our Own Good

It is incredibly easy for all of us to get complacent, and as we see with the people of Israel in Amos 6, it is a dangerous thing to fall into.

Amo 6:3  Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near;

Amo 6:4  That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall;

Amo 6:5  That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David;

Amo 6:6  That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.

Amo 6:7  Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed.

These people are not worried about the affliction of Joseph. There is a little bit of dispute as to what that affliction truly is, but I think the implications for all of us are rather clear. These people are more concerned with their comforts and relaxation then they are always the problem generally on around them.

I’m not saying that comfort is a bad thing, but I am saying that there are things that are more important than our earthly comfort.

I think about a modern example. I think about the persecution of the church around the world. There are plenty of places where being a Christian is a legitimate threat to your life. Here in America, our situation is not nearly that difficult.

It would kind of be like us hearing about the affliction that our brothers and sisters have around the world and simply lying back on our comfortable couches and not even caring. We don’t talk want to even acknowledge that there are problems around the world because we are too complacent in our own comfort.

Again, comfort is not a bad thing in and of itself, but we cannot allow it to become so obsessive that we don’t see anything that is going on around us. We don’t want to miss out on the affliction of our family because we are simply too relaxed to look up.

Amos 5: Hate the Sin

If you are in almost any evangelical church, I’m sure that you have heard the phrase “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” I know that this phrase has come under scrutiny, but it came up today in Amos 5, so I thought I would explain a little bit more about it and try to clear up some of the misconceptions that surround it.

First of all, let’s start with Amos. For a little bit of context, this is God speaking to the people of Israel, and they are far away from Him. Particularly, they are oppressing the poor, and God is giving them instructions on how they can begin to return to Him.

Amo 5:14  Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.

Amo 5:15  Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.

Now, I did a little bit of background research into the original language here thanks to Strong’s Numbers, and the evil that is being referred to is a noun in and of itself. It is not an adjective in this context. Therefore, we hate evil as an entity. It is as if this is evil attached to a person for example. Evil is presented here as its own entity. It is not a command to hate all evil people; that would be a contradiction with all of the other Biblical passages that refer to loving other people. We hate evil itself.

At least for me, and I don’t claim to speak for everyone else here who might espouse this position, I love people because they are created in the image of God. We all have this intrinsic value that is the result of our special creation. As a result, I don’t have any problem loving people.

However, it does not mean that I approve of everything people do. I obviously think that there are good and bad choices regarding how we live our lives, and I think that the absolute best way to live that life is to follow the word of God. No one, except for Jesus Christ, can perfectly follow the word of God as shown by the remainder of human history. We all make choices that therefore hold us back from doing what is the absolute best and in fact perfect.

What then is my response to something that makes our relationship with God imperfect? How should I respond to that intrusion that we bring upon ourselves? Should I be happy that there are things that hold us back from having a right relationship with God? Should I settle for less than the absolute best?

That is how I can separate these two things out. When you are pursuing the good and trying to follow God, it is natural to not want anything to get in the way of that progress. Sin by its very nature does just that, so I feel like it makes sense that we ought to hate sin. It seems to be the natural response if it is impeding what ought to be the most important relationship in our lives

PS: I write this with full knowledge that I am just as guilty as anybody else. I don’t mean to write this to point fingers at people any more than I point them at myself. I honestly hate my own sin more than anybody else’s.

Amos 4: Evidence for God

Amos 4 is sad commentary on the way that human nature is. Often times, we have so many things in our lives that point us to God, but we willfully ignore all of those indications and continue doing whatever we want.

Amo 4:11  I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD.

Amo 4:12  Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.

Amo 4:13  For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, is his name.

God is worthy of fear. Certainly, He is a God of love, but He is also more powerful than anything in His creation. He has even allowed cities to fall, but the people don’t recognize that He was involved in that.

I think that we often times think about the intervention of God as only coming through healing miracles or something like that. However, I think back to passages like some in Deuteronomy where God promises blessings for obedience or curses for disobedience. Is it not then evidence of God that He allows things to happen that He promised even if they are not pleasant things?

I think about the prophets who told Israel where they were going wrong. The people often times repented (think Jonah for example), but it was because they recognized that judgment was coming. The fact that it was coming was evidence that God was there.

Obviously, it is a lot more enjoyable to have our prayers answered in the way that we desire, and when that does happen, it certainly does point to God. However, these passages should point to God as well. He is being faithful to His promises. Even with this evidence though, these people refused to recognize that it pointed to God.

Amos 3: Great Responsibility

In Amos 3, we find the people of Israel having their judgment handed down to them. However, it is interesting how this chapter starts out.

Amo 3:1  Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying,

Amo 3:2  You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.

Amo 3:3  Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

Verse two tells about responsibility. The people of Israel have had the things of God, but they continually turned and ran away from Him. They had the 10 Commandments literally written on stone tablets by the hand of God, but they did not follow them. As a result, because they abused the great privilege they had been given, their punishment is coming.

As we move on to the end of the chapter, we learn a little bit more about the nature of what is going to be happening as a result of this lack of responsibility.

Amo 3:11  Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; An adversary there shall be even round about the land; and he shall bring down thy strength from thee, and thy palaces shall be spoiled.

Amo 3:12  Thus saith the LORD; As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear; so shall the children of Israel be taken out that dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus in a couch.

It is brutal imagery, but the people of Israel are going to be devoured from the outside. Not entirely, but they are going to be substantially damaged. They are going to go through these trials because they had disregarded the things that God had given to them.

We don’t want to do what Israel did. Those of us who have the Bible have direction from the God of the universe, but we have to make the decision to follow it. We have to make the choice that might be difficult, but as Christians, following God needs to be our top priority.

Amos 2: The Danger of Oppression

Israel and Judah had problems as well in Amos 2. Even though these people have been brought into the land by God to have as their own, they still were resistant to following what God wanted them to do. Here are the problems that plagued Israel.

Amo 2:6  Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes;

Amo 2:7  That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek: and a man and his father will go in unto the same maid, to profane my holy name:

Amo 2:8  And they lay themselves down upon clothes laid to pledge by every altar, and they drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god.

Obviously, there are four problems there, but I want to focus on the point of oppressing the poor. This is particularly relevant in the world today. Poverty is still a major problem here in America and especially in many Third World countries.

How do we respond to that as Christians? That is certainly a topic for a longer post, but the people of Israel were actively oppressing the poor. They were taking advantage of them to pad their own pockets. That is clearly not what needs to be done. In fact, as you read Deuteronomy 15, you recognize that there were directions about caring for those who are poor. Rather than doing what God had commanded them to do, the people began actually taking advantage of those who they were mandated to take care of. No wonder God was upset.

I know there are varying political views on this issue and how we ought to address poverty, and I am not going into those whatsoever. However, I assume that we all can agree that oppression is something that we need to fight against. It was one of the reasons that the people of Israel were judged, and I don’t think that we want that on our record either.

Amos 1: Perfect Justice

We made it to Amos 1. We are dropped right into the middle of the action where we have a list of people that are going to punish by God for their sins.

Amo 1:3  Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron:

Amo 1:4  But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces of Benhadad.

Amo 1:5  I will break also the bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitant from the plain of Aven, and him that holdeth the sceptre from the house of Eden: and the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto Kir, saith the LORD.

The other locations that are mentioned are Gaza, Tyrus, Edom and Ammon. They all begin with the same prelude regarding three and four transgressions, and God is not turning away the punishment thereof. Obviously, the following verses deviate a little bit regarding what is going to happen or why it’s happening, but the structure is very similar.

This reminds me of the fact that God takes sin very seriously. He has been generous and does not always immediately punish. We can see that from the fact that there were three transgressions already, but the people have reached the boundary where it is time to face the music. Yesterday, I wrote about justice, and I wrote how as humans, we are comforted by the fact that there will be justice.

God, being perfectly just, also executes judgment that we might not be so comfortable with. If you break the law, you pay the price. It is just like our system here in the United States. You do the crime; you do the time. It is perfectly consistent with the just character of God to discipline people for breaking the perfect law.

Some people argue that God should just let everything go. If He was truly loving, He would never punish anyone. However, they forget about this characteristic of God. He certainly is loving, but loving someone does not mean forgetting justice. We confuse our definitions.