God sent the prophet Amos to the nation of Israel saying, time is running out. How does the message of an out of step sheepherder relate to America at this critical moment in history? This study gives needed perspective to the events impacting America today.
[Darris McNeely] Gary was supposed to do the start, the first of what is now going to be a series. We’re going to go through what are called the minor prophets, 12 minor prophets of the Old Testament. Gary was going to start it off with the book of Hosea, and I was to pick up Amos in four weeks from tonight. And so I volunteered to go ahead and do this tonight, and so I’m moving Amos in front of Hosea. So in terms of the way it is in the Bible, we’re out of sync there, but actually, Amos, as a prophet from a time perspective, was actually the first of the minor prophets. He predated Hosea by a few years, and so it’s only fitting, I guess, that we do go ahead and get into the book of Amos.
So we’ll be going through several of these. We may take a break and go off into other topics and come back. And we’ll spread out the 12 prophets over a period of several months. But we’ll, at least, get started here tonight. And we’ve got a tall task, especially Hosea, I think, has 12 chapters and Amos has 9 chapters. And obviously, we’re not going to be able to read every word and go through every detail of it. But hopefully, by the time you get through each of the books, you’ll have a better grasp and an understanding of the essential message of the books.
Let’s look at then the book of Amos. Go ahead and turn to that book. Hosea, Joel, Amos, you remember the way it all works from your song or whatever might have been that helps you to remember these things. Amos is part of what we call the minor prophets, but Amos is anything but minor. Any of the, really, the whole prophets are anything but minor. They’re called “minor” in terms of, perhaps, the length of their books—Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, much longer books, the so-called major prophets—and these books run from just a few verses to 12 chapters in the book of Hosea.
But as we will see, Amos is anything but minor, in his message and his importance to us. In fact, the book of Amos has an extremely important message for us today in the United States of America, the English-speaking peoples, and the world, and for all nations. It is an extremely important book, as we will see. Let’s look first a little bit of background. The dating for Amos is in the mid-eighth century BC. We’ll just put it around the year 750 BC, all right? So that’s the mid-eighth century, when he comes on the scene.
And he spoke primarily to the northern nation of Israel. I’ve got this map here that hopefully you can at least see, gives you a little bit of a depiction. But Amos’s reference was to the northern nation of Israel at a time when what had been the united nation of Israel had, for about 150 or 60 years at this point, been divided into the northern nation of Israel and the southern nation of Judah, all that took place after the death of Solomon, and the tussle that took place between Jeroboam and Rehoboam, two kings there, and Jeroboam broke off with 10 of the tribes and formed this northern nation of Israel.
And so about 150, 60 years have gone by after this event, and a lot of history in both areas, a number of kings. The story of Israel really is one that essentially, immediately after they broke off, they started to slide. The went into idolatry. They actually changed the Holy Days. Remember, Jeroboam changed the Feast of Tabernacles from the seventh month to the eighth month, in order to keep the loyalty of the people from going down to Jerusalem, back to the ancient capital and traditional capital. So he set up altars at Bethel, which is just right here, on the map, a little bit north of Jerusalem, down here. And also up in Dan, way up here in the northern part of Israel, he had set another shrine up there. So he made it convenient for the people. And they had really a whole series of just bad kings and bad situations. Everything from King Ahab and his Queen Jezebel, you remember that story, and Elijah and Elisha came on the scene and contended with the prophets of Baal that had come into the land. It was not a very good history.
And so along comes this man called Amos in about the year 750 [BC]. Amos was not from Israel. He was actually from down here, south of Jerusalem, it’s not on this particular map, but it was in the southern part of Judah, from a place called Tekoa. If you look at chapter 1 of Amos, it says that these are, “The words of Amos,” in verse 1, “who was among the sheep breeders of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.”
So he was a farmer and a sheep herder from down here. He was not a priest. He was not a prophet. In fact, they did have a professional class of prophets during this time that operated in and around the area of the northern nation of Israel. Elijah and Elisha, during that period of time, there are what we call the school of the prophets, bands of prophets that kind of roamed around and did their prophet thing—teaching or admonishing—and it was a unique period, but Amos was not any of that. His pedigree was that of a shepherd.
His work lasted about 10 years. He saw the vision from God, he had this calling from God, and we’re not told exactly how that happened. To turn over to chapter seven 7 of Amos, and I’ll say right now, we are not going to go chronologically or by chapter by chapter through the book. I’ll be jumping through it thematically tonight. And as I said, we’re not going to be able to go through every word of it, but we’ll touch on the themes. But in chapter 7, and verse 14, when he answers a charge made against him by a priest named Amaziah, Amos 7:14 Amos 7:14Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdsman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit:
American King James Version×, “Amos answered, and said, “I was no prophet, nor was I the son of a prophet,”” which tells you that the school of prophets and a class of prophets that existed at the time, in a sense, kind of was passed on. There was a bit of a hereditary sense of a son of a prophet, succeeded his father in that particular role through training, whatever else. It lasted, it went on for a period of time, but Amos was none of that.
He says, “I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit.” So he had groves of trees, he was a farmer and a sheep herder. “When the Lord took me, I followed the flock. And the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.’” And so he did. So he goes from way down here, all the way up here to Samaria. Samaria is the capital of the northern nation of Israel. So he’s an outsider in many ways. He’s not a part of any theological, priestly group, and he’s not even, technically, part of the nation of Israel. They have their distinct nations at that time, but they’re kind of cousins in a sense that they are all of the stock of Abraham.
So he’s an outsider. And he’s an outsider in a real sense because of his message. It is a message that he takes to the nation and operates on for about 10 years. Now, what did he do? We’re not told. Like so many of the prophets, they utter their decrees, they talk to, at times, they talk to the king. Isaiah bumped into the king on the streets sometimes and prophesied. Jeremiah stood outside the temple in one occasion and his people came and went. He blasted them with his message at that time.
What did Amos do? We don’t know. Did he run a hall? Did he find the best marketplace? Did he sit in the gate of the city where all the business transactions took place and gather a crowd around him and start to talk and give his pronouncements? Likely that’s what he did, and he likely he had a following. And he was able to do his work for about 10 years and then it ends.
We don’t know what happens to him. He either goes back to Tekoa, to his home, or possibly he is imprisoned and maybe even killed up here, as we’ll see in a little bit, as a possibility, because of the confrontation that he has. Actually, we’re at that point right now. He is confronted back in verse 10 here of chapter 7 by the priest of Bethel who sent to Jeroboam, the king, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house. The land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword, Israel will be led away captive from their own land.’ So Amaziah said to Amos, ‘Go, you seer! Flee to the land of Judah, eat your bread there and prophesy. And never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary and the royal residence.’” So the king had a house, and there was a sanctuary here. We know that from the Scripture. And so they ran him out. And it is likely that he just went back home, but his work was done.
But as I said, he was an outsider. And as God usually takes someone who’s from outside from the mainstream to deal with the authority of the nation or the people, that’s what He often does. And He had, in this case, the right man for the right job. He had a man of the earth. He was a common, middle class, salt of the earth, yeoman worker who knew how to take care of animals and be out there every morning, every evening, 18 hours a day, 20 hours a day, living with the sheep in the fields, taking care of his fruit. He knew that you had to basically be working around the clock. He didn’t punch a timecard. He didn’t watch the clock. And the only thing he probably watched was the sun rise and go down, to know that because of the type of work. So you’re a very astute, discerning man when that is your occupation. I think we all realize that.
We who work in an office and kind of labor in that way, we’re detached a lot of times from the realities of life, and of course, our modern world does so many other ways for us. But as you will read from the book of Amos, he is able to identify some of the very essence of the times.
Let me comment on this. There are parts of Amos that show evidence that the message that he gave in 750 BC, way back then, was not just for that time, but it is for today, and has direct prophetic application for America, Britain, the English-speaking peoples and other nations in the world today. In Chapter 9, let me give you a few points just to back that up. In Amos 9:11 Amos 9:11In 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:
American King James Version×, there is a prophetic reference here, at the end of the book, where he says, “On that day,” and any time you see that phrase “that day” that puts you into the future, “I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which had fallen down, and repair its damages, and I will raise its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old.”
Now, the tabernacle of David, the house of David, has been divided into two nations since the death of Solomon. And there’s a prophesied coming together. Now, in Acts 17, actually, it’s Acts 15, the apostle James quotes this very verse as he is talking about the fact of the gentiles being brought into the church and no longer needing to be circumcised. And he quotes this very verse, and applies it to that situation of the Gentiles coming in. Because in verse 12 here, it says, “’That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’ says the Lord who does this thing.” And so we know by James being inspired to go back to this verse and pull that into the first century, that the message of Amos has future import.
But we also know, from what we know from the last 2000 years since the time James did that, that that particular verse has not been completely fulfilled and all the Gentiles do not know the name of God yet. We know God’s plan of salvation, by the Holy Days, and we know that there is a future time when all the Gentiles will. And so again, that is a point for us to understand that Amos’s message was not just for Jeroboam, King Jeroboam II, who was the king at this time, he’s the second, we call him two there, but also has application for our time today.
So we’ve gone through these two particular points as well. There is also the aspect that there is a duality of prophecy. This is a principle of understanding Bible prophecy, that students of Bible prophecy know quite well, that the Bible is dual in many aspects. Paul writes about a first Adam and then a second Adam, Christ is the second Adam. We know, in a prophetic application, that there is a duality there. Christ spoke about the abomination of desolation that took place in about 165 BC in Jerusalem, but in Matthew 24:15 Matthew 24:15When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoever reads, let him understand:)
American King James Version×, when Christ talks about the abomination, He’s putting it into a future context. So there is a fulfillment that is called a “type” and then the “anti-type” of fulfillment of many aspects of Bible prophecy.
And when it comes to these large passages out of the prophets, understanding this particular principle of the duality of prophecy is extremely important in understanding the message of the prophets and particularly when it comes to Amos, as we are hearing tonight. This critical key of understanding is also attached to what we call the Abrahamic promises. When you go back to the beginning in Genesis 12, you look at the promises that God began to make to Abraham and does throughout the book of Genesis, repeating and reiterating and expanding on the promises of race and of grace, of physical and spiritual promises that God is going to make with that man and his descendants, and then those promises are passed on to Isaac and then to Jacob. And then Jacob passes it on to his grandsons, Ephraim and Manasseh, in that famous scene from Genesis 49.
We began to see…I think it’s Genesis 48, I’ll make sure I get that correct, that is in Genesis 48 we see this wonderful series of promises that help us to understand that God covenanted with that man and his descendants on matters of national heritage and blessing that were partially fulfilled in the time of Israel and Judah during this period, Abraham’s descendants, but only partially fulfilled. And that the complete fulfillment to fit exactly what the details of those promises show were reserved for a future time, a modern fulfillment among the same descendants in the future and in the modern world. And it’s that particular bit of understanding where we see that fulfilled though the blessings to Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, upon whom Jacob placed his name and his name was Israel.
And he placed his name on those two sons, and that critical bit of understanding helps us to understand a lot about the modern world and especially about Bible prophecy, and to fill in a lot of the missing gaps and details. And it also helps us a lot to understand a lot about even the New Testament. You can’t understand parts of the Romans Chapters 9, 10, and 11. And Paul’s great question there, where he says, “What about Israel?” And he’s worried about his own national people and he says, “I would give up my own life if they could be recipients of the gift of salvation,” he said. And he winds through three chapters there, in one of the little understood passages of the New Testament. And to understand the answer that he comes to, again, you have to have a complete understanding of the promises of Abraham, and how that plays out in the modern world among a nation and a people chosen by God.
And so with that understanding, we can see that what God said through His prophets, to ancient Israel, has a modern application, and that the nations, primarily, the English-speaking nations today have inherited a full material benefit of those promises to Abraham. And so with that, we can look at Amos, Hosea as well and the other prophets, and see how this critical thing is important to us. We can see how the headlines in our nation today and in today’s world are the same headlines, the same issues that Amos dealt with in his particular prophecy as he took his message to Israel and even to the nations. And really, this is what makes Amos come alive today, for an understanding that we need to have about our world and where we are and God’s purpose, in God’s plan, and on that prophetic timeline that the Bible has for us.
It’s not a dry piece of ancient literature, the book of Amos. And it really is a vibrant message of relevance to anyone who wants to understand what’s happening in today’s world and we should. The students at ABC that take my World News and Prophecy class understand how passionate I am about their understanding things about today’s world, as well as the prophecy of Daniel, but to figure out why it all matters, and why what happens in the Middle East is so important to understand, because it’s tied directly to messages like what we have here with Amos. So for those of us that are able to understand and discern the times, it’s a wakeup call to live urgently and with meaning in our life.
So with that let’s plunge into a bit of the book of Amos. We’re going to divide it into several themes here tonight. I’ve got four themes that we’re going to divide it into based on what we see out of here. And let’s look at the first theme that I want to talk about, and that is the message of Amos to modern nations, not just Israel. Because Amos opens by talking to other nations around. Let’s look at what we see here. Look at verse 3 of Chapter 1 of Amos. We’ll go back to that.
He starts out and talks about “the Lord roars from Zion, and utters His voice from Jerusalem,” and in verse 3, he begins several statements about the countries. And the countries and the towns and the places that he’s talking about are places that ring Israel, all right? So understand that, first of all. He says here, verse 3, “For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they have threshed Gilead with implements of iron.” They have threshed Gilead with implements of iron. Now Damascus is way up here, all right? And it’s still way up here today. Damascus is the capital city of the modern nation of Syria, which is the headlines today.
Syria has been going through a civil war for the last five years. Towns like Aleppo are being bombed back to the Stone Age in a very horrible civil war. But he says, “They have threshed Gilead.” Now Gilead is this region, roughly down in here in terms of an ancient region, but notice what he says. We don’t need to focus so much about that, because he doesn’t give us much detail, but I want to focus more toward today. Look at what he says. “They have threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth,” which is the way the NIV puts it. That’s just a grinding away, of threshing of Gilead. And he says, “I will punish Damascus for that.”
If this is the area of modern Syria today, what’s the lesson for today? Well, as I said, Syria is tearing itself apart with civil war. President Bashar Assad has been trying to hang on to his dictatorial rule for more than five years, killing his own people, hundreds of thousands of his own people in a war against rebels that have been trying to overthrow him since about 2011, when the Arab Spring began, this event that took place across that Middle East.
And it had been a great deal of horrific savagery: bombings, cording off of whole cities, people starving. The great refugee problem, the exodus of refugees out of the Middle East that have been going into Europe for the last year and a half, they’ve been coming out of Syria primarily, fleeing civil war there, and they’ve been going up into Europe and creating a lot of problems in Europe. But it is exactly what this verse is saying, a threshing of having iron teeth, of grinding of people, and God is going to bring judgement upon that.
Let’s go on, in verse 9, he says, “For three sins of Tyre, even for four, I will not relent. Because she sold whole communities of captives to Edom, disregarding a treaty of brotherhood.” All right? Now Tyre is right up here. Today, that’s the nation of Lebanon, Lebanon. And he describes a treachery, a condition of treachery where they did not remember a treaty of brotherhood.
Now, again, if you keep in mind the whole history of this region, and particularly what’s taking place today and in the recent years, there’s not a lot of loyalty. In fact, Lebanon has been going through an internal civil strive for decades, between Christians and Muslims and various factions there. Lebanon used to be kind of the Riviera of this part of the world. A lot of money went there, a lot of tourism, and that has just been devastated in recent years, and a great deal of war and treachery right there.
So the attitude that is brought out here is still there. Look at verse 11, “For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not relent. Because he pursued his brother with a sword and slaughtered the women of the land, because his anger raged continually,” or as he says, “he cast off pity.” There’s no pity, “and his fury flamed unchecked.” Anger, no pity, a pitiless approach toward people and slaughtering the women of the land.
Now Edom is this area down here historically, but it’s a part of the Arab world today. And again, if you look and apply this to the broader Arab-Muslim world, as they have been tearing themselves apart for the past 65 years since the end of World War II and especially the last five years with the various civil wars across this region, we have seen horrendous suffering. Syria, Libya down here in northern Africa, a failed state that is without a unified government. You remember the name Benghazi, that’s Libya, and we lost an American ambassador there a few years ago. Forgot the name of the movie that was out earlier this year that tells that story, I highly recommend that movie. But all that we see there is exactly what is described here as Amos goes on about them.
Verse 13, “For three sins of Ammon, even for four, I will not relent. Because he ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to extend its boarders.” Now this Ammon is the area of modern Jordan, but again, in speaking and looking at it in a general application, a merciless approach toward people in this area. There is little regard for the sanctity of life among many of these nations, these Arab and Muslim nations in the region who have a shared ancestry, they have a shared faith, and have a shared language. But as we see so often, because of the refugee crisis, because of civil wars, because of what is epitomized by ISIS and its rise in the last two plus years, where they have set their own people on fire, and just savagely, mercilessly ravaged their own people. What Amos describes about these nations in that region today fits what is going on today, and could be said against them, and they will be brought into judgment is the point. It’s not just Israel.
Now, Amos’s message goes on. But before we go on, let’s just consider the broader world today. If Amos, in that time, went after and had a message from God about those nations of judgment, where might we apply that today in terms of the same attitudes that are brought out of this verses? Obviously, you look at Russia, it has been trying to extend its boarders. It has annexed Crimea, and created problems with Ukraine, pushing at NATO, wants to extend its influence. Russia has been very active down in the Syrian civil war, providing armaments to bomb the Syrian people. And Iran has been in league, doing the same thing in other areas of the Middle East by proxy creating civil unrest and wars and suffering among people.
Going even further afield to look at China, North Korea, Japan and Asia and what is taking place there. North Korea is within just a few months of having the ability to launch a ballistic missile that can reach the United States of America on the west coast. China desperately wants American influence out of Asia, and they have been expanding in their navy, their forces, and in conflict even with certain land disputes with the nation of Japan, creating a great deal of unrest in that area.
The nations of the world today are smoldering. There is a great deal of fire, in a sense, kind of underneath a lot of what we are seeing here that hasn’t reached the point of inflaming the entire world. All it would take would be another spark, or a whiff of oxygen to bring the smoldering fire that’s been going on in all of these areas out into a larger conflagration, which makes Amos’s statements about other nations come down to us with a stunning clarity can help us understand again that Amos’s message applies to the world today.
Now he goes on in Chapter 2, and verses 4 and 5, and he talks about the nation of Judah. Remember, he was from Judah, but he’s primarily going to be focusing on Israel. But verse 4 of Chapter 2, he says, “For three sins of Judah, even for four,” God says, “I will not relent. Because they’ve rejected the law of the Lord and have not kept His decrees, and they have been led astray by false gods.” That could have been said about Israel as well, and multiple more times even than Judah. But you have to imagine, somewhere up here in Israel, as Amos is saying that, and his audience were saying, “Yeah, we give it to them down there in Judah. Let them have it. They’re reprobates.”
But then he goes on, verse 6, he says, “For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not relent. They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals.” Now Amos’s full attention is focused upon Israel, the nation to the north. “They trample on the heads of the poor on the dust of the ground and they deny justice to the oppressed.” This is one of the themes I’ll come back to, showing this theme of social injustice that Amos despises and he talks a great deal about, social inequity that was rampant within the nation at that time. And God took a very dim view of that.
And the reason behind God’s displeasure with Israel and with Judah as well as it’s brought out here and by other prophets in verse 10, because he said, “I brought you out of Egypt and led you 40 years in the wilderness to give you the land of the Amorites. I raised up prophets from among your children and Nazarites from your youths. Is this not true, people of Israel? But you made the Nazarites drink wine and commanded the prophets not to prophesy.”
The Nazarites were a particular class of people under certain vows, and what he’s saying is that the policies of the culturally and even civil policy within Israel just ground into pieces the holy covenants and teaching that God had set up regarding not only His law, but also even down to this class of people called Nazarites, who for times would set themselves apart for holy purposes, devoted purposes. And the whole culture was so against all of that that you even made them drink wine, which they didn’t do. A mockery of God is Amos’s point here. And he says that it is going to be something that will bring judgement.
Down in Chapter 3, and in verse 1 and 2, he also tells them a core reason for this judgment. “Hear the word, people of Israel, the word of the Lord has spoken against you and against the whole family I brought up out of Egypt: ‘You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.’” This is where, through Amos, God gets back to the core message to the people of Israel and Judah, “You, of all the nations of the earth, I chose.” This is the family of Abraham. He did not covenant with the other descendants of Abraham by Hagar. These peoples that we talked about here, of Edom, Ammon, and Damascus, they were not part of that covenant, nor any other nation in the world at that time. Only the descendants of Abraham, and because of that, God says, “You’re under a special judgment. It counts more what you’re doing.” And this is the reason for not only this prophesy, but for all of the others. Israel and Judah was the only people on earth at any time that God had made a special covenant with.
Now, let’s, for a moment, we talked about these nations. Let’s look at and consider just briefly what was the state of the union, for Israel? You know, in America, every year, the President goes before the Congress, gives a state of the union address. What was the state of the union of this nation of Israel in 750 BC under Jeroboam II? Well, actually, it was pretty good, Jeroboam II, to borrow a phrase, had made Israel great again. He really had. He made them great again. They had slumped. They had shrunk their borders. He actually restored the borders. We don’t know if he built any wall and made anybody pay for it, but he restored the borders. They went way back up into the areas where they were under the time of Solomon. The reach of Israel was quite large.
He made all the trade routes safe. The trade routes, at the time, were what we would look at as our interstate highways today. And believe me, while they didn’t have 18-wheelers on them, they had camels, 4-leggers, 8-leggers, 16-leggers, multiple camels. They were moving up and down here, through this region, all the way up into parts of Asia, down into Egypt, and they were carrying goods. Just like our trucks do today for all the Walmart’s of Israel, and Targets. They were full.
He actually had a port way down here, and along here where ships could go all through the Mediterranean and far to the east, through the Red Sea, and often to the Indian sea, no doubt, down into Africa. It was really a global period. We talk about our global world today. We do have one. By comparison, it wasn’t quite as global as ours today, but goods and services were being moved from parts of what we call Europe today, over here, Africa, the Middle East, and way up into Asia. We call it the Ancient World, but, you know, like I always try to say, they didn’t wake up every morning and say, “Wow, it’s so good to be waking up and living here in the Ancient World.” To them it was their world, it was their time, it was the highest level of enjoyment they could have.
And Israel was enjoying it. They had been made great again. Their standard of living was high. But as a result of that, as it happens in any economy, and even today, with great amount of money flowing back and forth, what happens? Is the wealth, is the money equitably distributed or does a disproportionate share of the money get concentrated in the smaller upper 3%, while the large middle to lower class doesn’t get quite that much share?
What have we been hearing in our country for the last year and a half, two years, about social justice, redistribution of wealth? If you’ve listened carefully to the debates, there is a distinct difference of approach. And I’m not saying one is better than the other, but there is, you know, the democratic approach will be to completely socialize the country, redistribute wealth, tax, and create more of a socialist country that what we have today and radically change the country. The promises from the Republican side are untested and unknown and uncertain even as well. But there is obviously, as we know, the promise to make America great again. But we are looking at the tension caused by this disparity of wealth today, and this is what was going on in the time of Amos.
Look at 5:12. I’m sorry, before we go there, go back to Chapter 2, and let’s look at verse 6 and 7. “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four,” he says, “I’ll not turn away its punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals. They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor, and they pervert the way of the humble.” This is a description of problems within the social culture of the time.
Now let’s go over to Chapter 5 and look at verse 12. He says, and he’s speaking directly to Israel, “I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: afflicting the just and taking bribes; diverting the poor from justice at the gate.” Diverting the poor from justice at the gate, that means the courthouse, the city hall, the trustee’s office, which is the modern equivalent of the gate of the Ancient World, where all the business was taken care of, and where you went to court, and the poor were not getting, not even justice, and there was not an equitable distribution. These are matters that Amos talks about repeatedly throughout the book.
In Chapter 4, there’s a humorous reference here. Verse 1 of Chapter 4, he says, “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria.” Now that’s the capital city, Samaria is ringed by mountains, the mountainous region. “You oppress the poor, you crush the needy, you say to your husbands, ‘Bring wine, and let us drink!’” Whoa, he’s calling the women of Samaria cows, fat cows. I don’t know if Amos had, you know, a funny hairdo or not, because he was talking about the women here, but he has a unique way of making his point and showing the total disregard for the upperclass for the poor.
Now, we can fill in the blanks in our modern world as much as we would want today from personal experience, from what we know, or what we read, and what we see so often. But the economy, the state of the economy is one of the top three current concerns of the American electorate today, in this election, and it’s a perennial concern. Unemployment, low performing interest rates, and so many different things that we’ve had in recent years are as a result of this. But social injustice is something that he hits very hard.
The third theme that I want to talk about is false religion that Israel was full of, Chapter 5. Keep in mind, I said at the beginning that Israel itself, as a nation, was founded on heresy. Jeroboam I, not any direct relation to Jeroboam II, he just took that name at that time, but when Jeroboam I split off, away from Rehoboam, as I said, they changed, actually, the Holy Day, from the Tabernacles, from the seventh month to the eighth month, to make it more convenient, perhaps, for a lot of reasons, but it was founded on heresy, founded on heresy. And so false religion comes in. I mentioned also Jezebel, you know the other story of Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, and she brings in her priests of Baal, and Elijah has this confrontation with them.
And you hear in 5:21. God says, “I hate, I despise your feast days.” By going from the seventh to the eight month, that made it Jeroboam’s feast day, not God’s holy covenant day, not His holy day, and all the other occasions that had been brought in. “I don’t savor your sacred assemblies, though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I’ll not accept them.” They kept a form of the old religion, but there was no substance there. Verse 23, “Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I’ll not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Martin Luther King Jr. made that phrase famous out of the book of Amos in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
“Did you offer Me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness 40 years, O house of Israel?” And the answer is no. And so the false religion is a part of it. And he said in verse 27, “’I will send you into captivity beyond Damascus,’ says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.” And so Amos’s message went after that as well. The whole cult of Jezebel had planted the Baal worship in the land and it didn’t go away. There’s historical or archeological evidence that the name Baal, B-A-A-L, for that pagan god was quite commonly used as part of people’s names in the day. It was like we would name somebody Joel, or Jo-el which invokes part of the name of God, and very commonly done in English. Baal was done the same way, indicating again the depth of false religion that was there.
And like people today, they used their traditions and did not question the practice. The common man in the street in Israel didn’t question why they did what they did, just like we do today. It was a form of religion, people paying lip service but little practical belief, no deep belief. They were very, very far from the worship of God. And because of that, the social inequity just continued to grow. And it’s the same in America today. Regardless of what any promises made by a politician, the solutions—and we get into our isms of capitalism, socialism, and all of that, and while there are benefits to capitalism, we also know that it lends itself to greed and some other problems. I’m not anti-capitalist. Socialism has had its mix within our culture today as well. But neither one are completely rooted and founded upon God’s system of economics. Now that’s whole other issue and a whole other topic. Our nation will never get to that.
Israel, here in Amos’s time, was long since removed from a system of the Jubilee and the land rests, that actually did more than just allowed a plot of land to rest every seven years, it was an entire social structure that ensured the integrity of the family, the morals of a community, and the integrity of the society, and the stability of the society. The Jubilee Law that Leviticus 26 enacts is one of the great genius laws of the book of the Pentateuch, the writings of Moses, little studied and little understood. But I personally believe that that will be the basis of the restoration of all things in the world to come, in the Kingdom of God. We will get back to that and it will do away with the wide varieties of recession, depression, and the economic swings that history show every nation, every people has had, the cyclical economic ups and downs, which, you know, we’re going through ours right now.
Even though we are still very prosperous, and keep in mind, Israel was prosperous, just like America today. But there’re some fundamental problems. And that brings me to the fourth point, the fourth theme that I wanted to make, because what Amos was saying to Israel is this, he was saying the time is now. There’s a reason we chose that for our Beyond Today presentations. Amos is saying the time is now. Christ said that in Mark 1. It is a message from God. John the Baptist said it. The time is now, wake up.
Israel was asleep, just like America is asleep. Amos lists periods of what would have been as failed harvests, if you go to Chapter 4 of Amos, beginning in verse 6, he shows that over a period of several years, they had famine. Verse 6, “I gave you cleanness of teeth in all of your cities.” Teeth were clean because there wasn’t any food is what he’s saying there. “But you didn’t return to Me,” He said. Verse 7, “I withheld rain from you,” there were droughts, diminished the crops. “I withheld the rain when there were three months to go to harvest, and I made it rain on one city, while it didn’t rain on another, and you didn’t return to Me.” Verse 9, “I blasted you with blight and mildew. And when your gardens increased, your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees, the locusts devoured them.”
There were periods of drought, of famine, periodic, that came and went. It didn’t completely destroy the economy, the nation went on. The sun came up the next day, which is an important thing for us to remember that in our world today, we don’t need to get too excited because there’s a drought out in West Texas. Or if we go here in Ohio for three months without any significant rain, which we’ve done within the last 10 years probably. Things recover. The type of droughts that some of the ultimate prophesies talk about are much bigger than what we’ve experienced. But the nation had these. And he says, “You didn’t repent, you didn’t return to Me.”
In verse 12, stunning statement, God says, “Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.” That’s a stunning statement, just to come face to face with God in a time of judgment. Verse 13, it says, “Behold, He who forms mountains, and creates the wind, who declares to man what His thought is, and makes the morning darkness, who treads the high places of the earth–the Lord God of host is His name.” This is similar language to Habakkuk, the third chapter, of God, in a sense, moving across the land, looking at the nations, exercising His purpose and His plan and even judgment, and doing things here and there to literally wake up a people at the time.
In America, we’ve had our 9/11. We woke up a little bit, for a period of time, and went right back to sleep. 2008, the financial reset and upset of September 2008 created some concern, but even the word, we haven’t completely moved out of that, as I say, your ATM card and my ATM card still works quite well. And all of these little things shouldn’t cause us to go sell the 40 acres and the mule, and hunker down and wait for the end, but they should be wake up calls. Because that’s how God uses them. That’s how Amos does. We, in the Church, have got to make that clear to ourselves and as we have opportunity, to our audience in the world that we have listening to us, to help to understand exactly what this is all about.
In Chapter 6 of Amos, he goes through a similar matter, verses 1-8. And what he’s doing, he says, “Woe to those of you that are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria, notable persons in the chief nation, to whom the nation of Israel is. Go to Calneh and see.” Verse 3, “Woe to you who put far off the day of doom, who cause the seat of violence to come near; who lie on beds of ivory, stretch down on your couches, eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall.”
Beginning in verse 3, there’s an admonition to the nation, and I think it should be something that we in the Church consider. Because it can fit us as well as any of our neighbors, any of our audience, anybody in the world. We stretch out on our comfortable beds. They have beds of ivory then. They’ve actually found them in the archeological digs of the area, imported from other countries. They had the money to afford that, a bed made out of ivory. They ate their lamb, lamb chops, leg of lamb, aged beef. You can insert here, “your calves from the midst of the stall,” the best, the prime, the quality. Music was all a part of that. Verse 6, “You drink wine from bowls… but you’re not grieved,” from verse 6, “for the affliction of Joseph. Therefore they shall now go captive like the first of the first captives, and those who recline at banquets shall be removed.”
Amos had a problem getting his audience to listen. We have a problem getting our audience to listen today. We go and do a Beyond Today “Time is Now” personal appearance campaign, and we might get anywhere from 25 people to 65 people come out. Hundreds say they’re going to come, they click the little box on the website that say they’ll come, but there’s a football game on that afternoon. And you know, sometimes… Can I speak honestly, everybody? You and I have the same problem in the Church. We sometimes have our failure to discern. And I count myself in that as well. Because you know what? We all have very, very good lives, very good lives.
I just came back from France, folks, the south of France, the Riviera. The Feast of Tabernacles, where did you come from? Where did you go? High point of the year for us, great time, and I’m glad we have the opportunities to do what we can. You know what I had for lunch today? French chocolate. It sure beats Hershey’s. I’ve got my delicacies. What did you bring back? Why do we go to Jungle Jim’s and splurge on from time to time? Look, we’ve got it real well in this country today. And we need to read the book of Amos as much for… just for a wakeup call for us in the Church as we might think we need to get that message to the world in a magazine article or a Beyond Today telecast, or a personal appearance campaign. We all need to have that same urgency about the condition of our world because the reality is, everyone, it’s about over.
And when I say, “It’s about over,” I don’t mean next week or even next year. When Amos got done and he went back home, took another 40 years that Israel went captive. The nation went on and they forgot all about Amos. Now, there were other prophets that came, they forgot all about him. And what he said didn’t happen just then. And human nature says, “Well, that was just a bunch of malarkey.” And we tend to say that in the Church. I run across it all of the time.
We have to get fired up ourselves, we need to wake up, I need to wake up. Those of us news junkies and would be politicians and think… Folks here, look, if you think that any of the candidates or any candidate from four years from now are going to solve the problems that we have, you’re sadly mistaken. We’re pretty close to toast right now.
Now, I’m glad were not, because you know what, when I put my credit card in the gas pump tomorrow, I want it to work, just like you do. You want to get to your ATM machine, you want it to work. You want it to spit out a $100 for you for this weekend. And let’s be glad that it does. But let’s not be lulled to sleep by our society. Let’s understand what the Bible tells us. Let’s understand what the message of God was put through Amos to his day and why it’s relevant for us today. And let’s not think that we’re going to see a savior arise from the streets of America as a politician that’s going to turn this around. It’s just not going to happen.
I really don’t know who’s going to win next week. I do know this… and again I’ve watched it all and thought it through and looked at it, and I know the lesser of two weevils, and they’re both weevils. Maybe there’s one that’s the lesser of them, but it represents the depths of our leadership and the ideals that are in our nation today. And it’s a scary moment. And I’m pretty sure that on next Wednesday morning, if we know who the next president will be, pretty sure the next Wednesday morning, the sun will come up here in Clermont County. Life’s going to go on. Now, it will be interesting. Sometimes, I really worry about the next election cycle, in four years, because whoever wins, there’s going to be a lot of unhappy people on the other side. And if you think there’s anger right now, wait till next Wednesday. One pundit, whom I do highly respect, said last night, when I was watching him, that there’ll be a civil war. Those were his words. And I probably need to stop watching Fox News, but it gets real scary there.
What’s the conclusion from this? I haven’t even had the time to… you know, Amos prayed for mercy upon the nation. Chapter 7:1-6, I’ll just reference that, you can read that later, he actually has intercessory mode. He says, “God, don’t do it.” And I’m a firm believer that we need to have that same approach toward our nation today and beg God’s mercy.
God’s judgment is going to come, and it will happen, but we need also, keep our hand in the country. I hope whenever we get around to Jeremiah, I can give a Bible study about Jeremiah, because, to me, he’s a real hero and a real patriot, because when Jerusalem was surrounded by the Babylonians and about to fall, you know what Jeremiah did? He went out and he bought a piece of property. Prices were real good, but it showed his faith in the future and in God’s promises.
We’ve got neighbors, we’ve got families, we need to pray to and intercede on behalf of people as well, and pray that there will be a repentance and that people would heed a message and listen to it. And frankly, ladies and gentlemen, you here, I, our members, we need to get more proactive about that when it comes to our faith and our confidence. I’m not talking about go door to door and knocking on doors, but we need to be proactive. Amos was proactive, and certainly, at least in our prayers, if nothing more, just start praying, asking God to open the minds of people and bring them to understand repentance, and to turn their lives around, and to bring those to hear a message of hope that we do have.
The message of Amos transcends 2,700 years of time to reach us today. You can read this book and understand today’s top stories that are impacting us, and that frankly, shock and even turn us off and bore us. We all get anesthetized to the evil and to the suffering that surround us, but we can turn to God. We in the Church of all people should be able to process the chaos and confusion of the world and of life today and keep our bearings in the modern world.
And in conclusion, let’s turn to Chapter 6 and verse 6 of Amos, and leave this with a thought for all of us to think about. Amos 6:6 Amos 6:6That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.
American King James Version×, so he talks to those, who are at ease on their “… ivory beds, who drink wine from bowls, and anoint yourselves with the best ointments, but are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.” We should grieve for the affliction of our people, because our people are Joseph. And the words of Amos apply to them. Just because the nation has left the covenant doesn’t mean that the terms of the covenant are not in force.
Let’s pray for that repentance. Let’s intercede for our nation. Let’s heed the message of Amos, and see that application for all of us in the modern world.
Well, that the study for tonight. We will be meeting, next Bible study will be in two weeks. And I think Mr. Myers will be conducting that one and going into the book of Joel. And then after that, probably, Gary Petty will come up for Hosea. Have a good evening, and go Cubs!