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.
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.
Judges chapter 11 brings me back to something I wrote a few months ago. I was writing it around New Year’s Day (okay, it was actually on January 14), and I was talking about making promises to God. You might remember that it was not a good idea to make a promise to God and not follow through.
Today, we can see someone live out a promise tragically.
Jephthah was going into battle against the Ammonites. Naturally, he wanted to win the battle, and he wanted to know that God was truly going to deliver the enemy into his hands.
Jdg 11:30 And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,
Jdg 11:31 Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.
Please know that all of this was unnecessary because God was going to be there with him anyway, but for our purposes, the important part is that he made a promise to God. God certainly did not demand this vow, but Jephthah made it nonetheless.
Naturally, the Israelites won the battle, and Jephthah came home to celebrate.
Jdg 11:34 And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.
Wow. Now comes the major decision. Does he follow through with this promise he made to God?
Understandably, he was incredibly upset. However, I was even more amazed by what his daughter said.
Jdg 11:36 And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon.
It is worth pointing out something here though. Was there ever a literal death that took place? Many people on the Internet have taken this passage out of context to indicate that child sacrifice is somehow okay.
However, if we go back to Deuteronomy, it becomes obvious that child sacrifice is not okay with God.
Deu 12:31 Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.
Consequently, knowing that this was going to happen ahead of time, some contend God would not have allowed Israel to win the battle and ultimately sacrifice a child given that the vow had happened.
People who believe that she was not literally killed generally believe that since she was an only child, her “sacrifice” involved not being able to carry on the family line and essentially becoming a nun.
However, a more literal reading of the text really does not provide room for that interpretation.
Jdg 11:39 And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel,
Some people argue that he did according to his vow, and his vow involved sacrificing the first thing that came out of his house when he came home. However, again going from a literal perspective, God never said that He approved of this sacrifice. Therefore, it is not inconsistent whatsoever with the passage in Deuteronomy. God told the people not to sacrifice children, but as demonstrated by all of human history, people still sin. As a result, this incident would clearly be a sin by Jephthah because of the law in Deuteronomy. People do have the freedom to sin, but that does not mean that God is okay with that. God hates sin.
Whichever view you happen to subscribe to, it is rather obvious that God does not condone child sacrifice.
If you are going to make a promise to God, you need to be willing to fulfill it like I wrote back in January. Jephthah did follow through on his promise, but it caused him a tremendous amount of stress and sorrow whichever one of two possible interpretations is true. Either his family line ended by not having any more generations, or he took the life of his own daughter. Either one is a tragedy.
This entire thing could have been avoided if he did not make that promise. James offers us similar advice in the New Testament.
Jas 5:12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.
If you want more information about the various interpretations of this passage, here are a few that I found on the Internet as I was doing background research.
Well, today is our final day in Deuteronomy which also marks our final day in the Books of the Law.
In chapter 34, Moses finally passes away, and the final verses of the entire book speak to the service that Moses had performed for Israel and God.
Deu 34:10 And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face,
Deu 34:11 In all the signs and the wonders, which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land,
Deu 34:12 And in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel.
There were a lot of prophets who would come down the road in Israel. However, Moses was the only one who literally knew God face-to-face. He led the nation of Israel through what was one of the most difficult times in their history, and he almost always did what God told him to do.
The final verse stood out to me as well. Moses might have been a powerful man on earth, but he still showed God all the respect that He deserved. He was able to keep his perspective and recognize that all of his power came directly from God. He knew that he was blessed, and he knew that he had a subsequent responsibility to follow God’s will.
I just have a few takeaways then as we depart from the first five books of the Bible.
I have been struck by the synergy between these books and the New Testament. Obviously, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ changed everything in terms of the sacrificial system, but at the same time, many of the same attitudes of praising God, living rightly and loving other people have been almost identical to their New Testament counterparts.
I know that it can be easy to fall into the trap of somehow believing that the Old Testament is not important. After all, Jesus is what really matters, and He is in the New Testament.
I would argue however that I have tried to point you to clear references to Jesus from all of these books. By reading the whole Bible, we can have a better understanding of the entire character of God. We still cannot comprehend the entire character of God, but the Old Testament, and particularly these five books, have helped me so far.
Deuteronomy 33 was obviously written far before the birth of Jesus, but I found a passage that felt very much like it could have fit into the New Testament with a few modifications.
Deu 33:29 Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the LORD, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places.
The modification that I was referring to is obviously the fact that we can all be people saved by the Lord now. The gift of salvation is available to Jews and Gentiles.
Because of the similarity, I think that we can see a very important truth. We are people saved by the Lord, so we should be happy. We all try to pursue happiness in a variety of ways, but God is the only one who can provide unlimited and eternal happiness.
Isa 58:11 And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
Now, if we combine my previous thought with this verse from Isaiah, it is possible to conclude that the happiness that we receive from being a child of God is also satisfaction.
I think that this is an important distinction.
In earthly terms, there are always more things that we could want. We might want a new house, a new car or really anything else.
However, when we are saved by God, we have all of God that we will ever have. We will definitely learn to recognize the will of God more strongly, but God is with us all the time. It is not like we can want to have more of Him. That is why God can be satisfying.
So, even though the verse I gave you from Deuteronomy was speaking to the children of Israel, we can think about the same thing today. God brings us happiness, and we should not be trying to find that same feeling anywhere else.
I like how God essentially issues a challenge in the middle of Deuteronomy 32. He obviously knows that He is the only God, but not everyone believed that.
Deu 32:36 For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.
Deu 32:37 And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted,
Deu 32:38 Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection.
Deu 32:39 See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.
This is very much like Elijah and the prophets of Baal. In a similar way, he challenged them to actually have their own gods answer their requests. Needless to say, they did not respond, and when Elijah prayed to God, He did respond.
In verse 39, it is also interesting that God holds life and death. That encompasses the whole of the human experience. We really don’t have any other option. Therefore, it logically follows that there is nowhere we can go and not have God with us.
Now, that can be a comfort for those of us that know and love Him.
Rom 8:38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Rom 8:39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
He is not just one of many gods. He is the only God.
Deuteronomy 31 is the beginning of a transition. Moses is beginning to hand over the leadership of the Israelites to Joshua, but he has a few words to say before he is actually done with his mission.
Deu 31:2 And he said unto them, I am an hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in: also the LORD hath said unto me, Thou shalt not go over this Jordan.
Deu 31:3 The LORD thy God, he will go over before thee, and he will destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt possess them: and Joshua, he shall go over before thee, as the LORD hath said.
I like this passage because it speaks directly to the number one problem plaguing Israel and the reason that they had not already claimed the Promised Land.
They were afraid. Even though God had promised them a long time ago that they would have this inheritance, they continued to doubt and worry about everything.
Moses is saying here that you cannot do that anymore. In verse three, he is saying what God will do. Notice that there is no doubt there. He is not talking about what God might do. He knows that God will do it, and he knows that the people of Israel will have their inheritance.
We also have promises from God, and there are hundreds of them interspersed throughout the Bible. Therefore, we do not need to fear either. God does indeed have a plan for our lives. How do I know that?
He promised it. Given His track record on fulfilling promises, I have no reason to doubt.
Isa 41:10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
I read the Bible through about three years ago, but I have to admit that I did not remember anything special about Deuteronomy 30. I wish I had because I think I just found some of my favorite Bible verses.
Deu 30:10 If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.
Deu 30:11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off.
Deu 30:12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
Deu 30:13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
Deu 30:14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.
Deu 30:15 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;
The reason that I love this passage so much is because it speaks to one of the biggest misconceptions about Christianity.
God tells us everything we need to know to make a decision. We know the truth about Jesus, we know what He came to do and we know what our response needs to be.
We are not operating with incomplete information. Yes, there are certain things that are hard to wrap our heads around. For example, we know that God is an infinite being, but we really cannot comprehend infinity. In our world, everything has a definite beginning and end. It is hard to think about something that is defined as being undefined.
It is even hard to comprehend the concept of the Trinity. We know that there is a Father, Son and Holy Spirit. However, it is a little bit harder to think about how there are three distinct beings who also operate as one.
Our salvation is not predicated on the fact that we understand infinity or comprehend the exact nature of the Trinity though. There are certain things that we will probably not understand, but that is okay. Look back at verse 10. The important part for us is to listen to God, keep His commandments, and follow Him with all of our hearts.
We are not judged on unfair criteria. Everything that we need to know in order to accept the free gift of salvation is in the Bible. That decision will determine our eternal home. If you want to know a little bit more about this particular decision, you can check out my newest page. It is the most important decision you will ever make.
God doesn’t mess around. Particularly, He gets incredibly angry when people begin to follow other gods. This is illustrated pretty clearly in Deuteronomy 29.
Deu 29:24 Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?
Deu 29:25 Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt:
Deu 29:26 For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them:
Deu 29:27 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book:
I wrote a piece a few days ago about how it is important to keep your promise to God, and it really should be a serious and intentional commitment rather than just a flippant phrase.
That is what is happening here. God is saying that if the people of Israel do not follow through on the promise they made to Him, all of the curses listed back in chapter 28 could very well fall on them.
I know what you’re probably thinking. How could a loving God do this? Why would He ever punish anybody?
Part of the answer to that lies in the fact that God is just. He needs to follow through on His word, and it needs to apply to everyone equally. If anybody, even His chosen people of Israel, starts messing up, the consequences are the same.
If He was not just, then it would be impossible for Him to be the Judge of all eternity.
Another part of this answer lies in the fact that it any type of punishment would be the people of Israel’s own fault. There was definitely a way that they could follow God and avoid all of these problems. It isn’t like they had to guess what God wanted. Through the first five books of the Bible, God communicated His law to the people of Israel.
This also shows the justice of God again. The people of Israel really had to decide what they wanted, but they were working with very complete information. They could follow God, or they didn’t have to. They knew the consequences of both.
Deuteronomy 28 is an incredibly long chapter, and if I was an Israelite, I think I would have been pretty terrified.
The first roughly 14 verses explain what will happen if the people follow God and do not wander off. The final 54 verses talk about what will happen to them if they don’t pay attention to God, and it does not sound pretty.
I am going to give you the middle few verses where we transition from the blessings to the curses.
Deu 28:13 And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them:
Deu 28:14 And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.
Deu 28:15 But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:
What is obviously the difference between receiving the good and bad outcomes?
Listening to God makes the difference. We can see this over and over again through many Bible stories. When people listen to God, He blesses them. For example, when Jonah finally decided to listen to God and go preach in Nineveh, his ministry was so blessed that the entire city was saved from destruction.
What happened when Peter listened to Jesus to walk to Him on the water? While he was listening and trusting God, he was able to do it. He then started to fall because he lost his focus, but while he was only paying attention to God, he was blessed.
Now, unfortunately, the other side is just as true for the same two men. When Jonah didn’t listen to God, he was eaten by a giant fish for temporary correctional services. When Peter didn’t listen to Jesus and denied him at Jesus’ trial, he was understandably upset. He would not have had to experience that pain if he would have listened to God.
The Bible is overflowing with people who either listened to God and were blessed or failed to listen and suffered because of it. I think that we all would prefer the list of blessings rather than the list of curses. You know how to make it happen.