Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy New Year!






As I am journeying into a blizzard over the next few days,
I thought it best to declare a time of rest
in our "in-between time" of Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

Looking forward to picking up and completing Amos in the first weeks of 2011!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Amos 5:1-7



"Seek Me that You May Live"
1Hear this word which I take up for you as a dirge, O house of Israel:

2
She has fallen, she will not rise again--The virgin Israel
She lies neglected on her land; There is none to raise her up.

3For thus says the Lord GOD,
"The city which goes forth a thousand strong
Will have a hundred left,
And the one which goes forth a hundred strong
Will have ten left to the house of Israel."

4For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel, "Seek Me that you may live.

5"But do not resort to Bethel And do not come to Gilgal, Nor cross over to Beersheba; For Gilgal will certainly go into captivity And Bethel will come to trouble.

6"Seek the LORD that you may live, or He will break forth like a fire, O house of Joseph, And it will consume with none to quench it for Bethel,

7For those who turn justice into wormwood and cast righteousness down to the earth."


If there was doubt that God was singing, He even characterizes His "song" of Chapter 4 as a 'dirge' here in Chapter 5 (vs. 1). Dirges are funeral songs or songs of mourning. Having outlined in great detail Israel's infractions, God continues to present the punishment coming to the nation, and He is lamenting over it.

No one will come to the nation's rescue. The loss coming to the nation would be severe--God spells out the numbers clearly. But even with the bleak outcome, the nation would not be completely destroyed. There is a thread of grace being woven through this fabric of Israel's story.

"Seek Me that you may live." (vs. 4)


Amid staggering loss and pending captivity, a remnant of Israel will hear the word of the Father and will be spared. 'Seek' is a more powerful verb than we give it credit for, too often. Strong's elaborates beyond the playful "hide-and-seek"--"Properly to tread or frequent; usually to follow (for pursuit or search); by implication to seek or ask; specifically to worship." If nothing else from what we have read in Amos thus far, Israel has fallen far short of seeking God, in the fullest capacity of the word!

Verse 5 echoes earlier chapter's mentions of idol worship in Bethel and Gilgal, at one time sacred places in Israel's history [See Amos 4:1-5 entry]. Beersheba is added in this chapter--yet another place of significance to the Israelites. Beersheba is where Sarah's slave, Hagar, who had fathered Ishmael by Abraham, fled. (Genesis 21) It was here when Hagar heard the voice of God and received the promise God had for Ishmael and his descendants. Abraham also established a treaty at Beersheba, planting a tamarisk tree and calling on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. (Genesis 21:33) But now, the people were clamoring to the land to worship their idols.

"Seek the Lord that you may live...." (vs.6)


Not heeding the word will bring God's wrath as a fire upon the "house of Joseph." The reference, more specifically, ties back to Ephraim and Manasseh, two sons of Joseph and two of the largest tribes in the northern kingdom, a.k.a., Israel. Destruction will come to those "who turn justice into wormwood." (vs 7) Pictured at the top of the page, wormwood is a bitter herb. Strong's points out that the Hebrew word for 'wormwood' comes from an unused root for "curse." Christ's Revelation, regarding the last days of earth, tells of a star named Wormwood that would be cast into the waters, making a third of them undrinkable. There will be punishment for those who curse the ultimate justice and righteousness of God.

But, let us not forget that thread of grace, especially in this season, in this special week as we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Christ came "to save us all from Satan's power when we were gone astray." When we seek Him with all our heart, and all our soul, we will find Him. As wise men traveling from the East, we must search not only with the intention of finding, but with the intention of worship!

Hail the Heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings....

"Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the LORD,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon."
--Isaiah 55:7

Emmanuel has come to thee, O Israel. God was calling to save them. Who would hear?

God continues His plea that a remnant might be saved. How to "live".... 'Til next Wednesday!


Merry Christmas, Friends!


Photo: tftyouth.com


* * *

Next week: Amos 5:8-15

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.


I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Amos 4:11-13




11"I overthrew you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
And you were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze;
Yet you have not returned to Me," declares the LORD.
12"Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
Because I will do this to you,
Prepare to meet your God, O Israel."
13For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind
And declares to man what are His thoughts,
He who makes dawn into darkness
And treads on the high places of the earth,
The LORD God of hosts is His name.


God's "song" of Chapter 4 concludes with a reference to Sodom and Gomorrah. These two cities represented everything that God hated. Not surprisingly, He rained "brimstone and fire" out of Heaven (Genesis 19:24), which is a Day of the Lord kind of punishment. Israel's being "overthrown" is not as severe a sentence as Judgment Day punishment, but God is clearly full of wrath over the nation and its behavior.

He continues, calling Israel a "firebrand." Literally, a firebrand is a piece of burning wood or other material. It can also refer to one who kindles strife or encourages unrest. A troublemaker. [Dictionary.com]. Israel was going down in flames! Yet God stepped in--many times--to save them.

"Yet you have not returned to me...." (vs. 11)


So, God says, "Prepare to meet your God." (vs. 12) Ooh! Not good.

"'Do you not fear Me?' declares the LORD. 'Do you not tremble in My presence?..."
--Jeremiah 5:22a


No, they didn't, and that was the problem. God had to pull out all the stops to get Israel's attention. For the nation, it would be a return to captivity, but going to Assyria would make it one of their hardest journeys away from home. It wasn't just Israel meeting Assyria in a battle, it was Israel coming face to face with God!

Concluding the chapter, God reminds Israel just who He is, choosing to use references of God as Creator, which were recognizable to more people. He forms mountains and creates the wind. He declares to man his thoughts. This is not a king, like Jeroboam. Not an idol to be worshiped. This is THE Creator! The only One who can place into the mind of man his thoughts. The only One who loved Israel enough to rescue the firebrand of a nation from its smoldering fire of iniquity. But, this time, it would take some more extreme measures.

"God of hosts"--What does this name of God mean? It certainly ties in with God's description of Himself and His role in creation.

"A name or title of God frequently used in the OT, always translated 'Jehovah of Hosts'.... The meaning of the title is that all created agencies and forces are under the leadership or dominion of Jehovah, who made and maintains them. It is used to express Jehovah’s great power."
--International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


Even though God's wrath is piqued, He continues to be in full control, especially in orchestrating the circumstances required for disciplining His children. He could have rained fire and brimstone, but, instead, He plucks the singed log from the fire and leaves it to cool in captivity [thankfully, with prophets to continue to speak His Word to them!].

"Seek Me that You May Live." A tone of grace begins to sneak through with Chapter 5.... 'Til next Wednesday!


Photo: pewclimate.org


* * *

Next week: Amos 5:1-7

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.


I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Amos 4:6-10





6"But I gave you also cleanness of teeth in all your cities
And lack of bread in all your places,
Yet you have not returned to Me," declares the LORD.
7"Furthermore, I withheld the rain from you
While there were still three months until harvest
Then I would send rain on one city
And on another city I would not send rain;
One part would be rained on,
While the part not rained on would dry up.
8"So two or three cities would stagger to another city to drink water,
But would not be satisfied;
Yet you have not returned to Me," declares the LORD.
9"I smote you with scorching wind and mildew;
And the caterpillar was devouring
Your many gardens and vineyards, fig trees and olive trees;
Yet you have not returned to Me," declares the LORD.
10"I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt;
I slew your young men by the sword along with your captured horses,
And I made the stench of your camp rise up in your nostrils;
Yet you have not returned to Me," declares the LORD.


With verse 6 comes something of a song by God, which runs through the remainder of Chapter 4. The song comprises several verses in which God explains how He has brought warning signs to Israel leading up to the day of their captivity. It's one of those, "If only you had..., then I would have...." situations. But, the refrain echoes in the nation's ears: "Yet you have not returned to Me," declares the Lord.

Getting back to verse 6, the first phrase completely threw me: "cleanness of teeth." What? Why would God clean their teeth? Ha, well, of course, He wouldn't! The phrase is actually a euphemism for having no food. If you have nothing to eat, your teeth wouldn't be filled with food particles. He didn't even give them particles of food, which then follows suit naturally with "lack of bread in all your places."

"For behold, the Lord GOD of hosts is going to remove from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support, the whole supply of bread and the whole supply of water...."
--Isaiah 1:3


Picking up on the Isaiah passage, God not only reminds Israel that He sent famine, but also drought, and at a time in which the nation's farmers would most need rain--three months before harvest. He created a condition which would draw people far away from their cities in their search for water. We know in looking at events in human history that when people "go without," there tends to come discontent, most mildly, and violence and death at the extreme.

"Yet you have not returned to Me," declares the Lord. (vs. 8)


The Lord has also brought scorching hot desert winds and mildew. Mildew doesn't sound like a problem, but, if you don't take care of it, you open yourself up to disease. Mildew stems from a fungus, and, literally, the word translates to "paleness or jaundice" which described the appearance of the leaves on the dying crops. On top of that, God sends caterpillars, not unlike the locusts in Joel, who destroy what is left of any crops that were successfully grown.

Finally, verse 10, God reminds Israel of their heritage. Remember Egypt? Remember the plagues? There was a time in which God delivered the Israelites from the plagues. In this verse, however, He proclaims that He bestowed one upon them, in the hope that they would return. He took the responsibility for the nation's loss in battles, because He wanted them to cry out to Him for help.

"So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and He gave them continually into the hand of Hazael king of Aram, and into the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael.... For he left to Jehoahaz of the army not more than fifty horsemen and ten chariots and 10,000 footmen, for the king of Aram had destroyed them and made them like the dust at threshing."
--II Kings 13:3 & 7

"Yet you have not returned to Me," declares the Lord. (vs 10)


Israel's sinful nature led them on the road to destruction. Even as God was wreaking havoc upon the nation, their hearts were so inwardly turned that to cry out to Him for help would have meant forsaking themselves.

"O LORD, do not Your eyes look for truth? You have smitten them, but they did not weaken; You have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent."
--Jeremiah 5:3


And they didn't see a problem with that....

God finishes serenading Israel.... 'Til next Wednesday!


Photo: globalgiving.org


* * *

Next week: Amos 4:11-13

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.


I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Amos 4:1-5




"Yet You Have Not Returned to Me"
1Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on the mountain of Samaria,
Who oppress the poor, who crush the needy,
Who say to your husbands, "Bring now, that we may drink!"
2The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness,
"Behold, the days are coming upon you
When they will take you away with meat hooks,
And the last of you with fish hooks.
3"You will go out through breaches in the walls,
Each one straight before her,
And you will be cast to Harmon," declares the LORD.
4"Enter Bethel and transgress;
In Gilgal multiply transgression!
Bring your sacrifices every morning,
Your tithes every three days.
5"Offer a thank offering also from that which is leavened,
And proclaim freewill offerings, make them known
For so you love to do, you sons of Israel,"
Declares the Lord GOD.


It may be a first on this blog that I have posted one of my own pictures. These are two of my cows. A decade or so ago, someone decided to put "Cows on Parade" and had artists create stylized cows for an outdoor display. Then, someone created mini-versions! "Cali-cow" is on the left and "Georgia O'Cowffe" is on the right.

Unfortunately, when Amos references cows in Chapter 4, he is not doing so as a cool tribute. "Cows of Bashan" actually speaks of Israel! The focus on luxurious living, made possible under King Jeroboam's rule, took Israel's focus off their God. "Who say to your husbands, 'Bring now, that we may drink!'" Can you imagine treating God in that way? That's really what the passage is getting at, bottom line. Yet, I know we can all fall in this way--often, at times when our circumstances are strong and our faith is weak. (To borrow the phrase our pastors used in a recent sermon series, we turn our God into a "Genie God." "I need this, God. Yes, master....")

I refused to pull a picture to illustrate God's response in verse 2, as Amos' words are picture-perfect: "When they will take you away with meat hooks." Cows, meat hooks--Wow! And, not just meat hooks but "fish hooks." The King James Version reads as follows: "...He will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks." The offense to the Lord is obviously great and with long-term consequences.

The next passage mentions 'Harmon,' as the place where the offenders will be cast, but there are no cross-references for 'Harmon' nor any information from my study Bible. Again, the King James has a different wording: "And ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is before her; and ye shall cast them into the palace, saith the LORD." Welcome your thoughts on this. Perhaps Amos is being sarcastic, which is what my study Bible says is occurring with the next verses.

"With poignant sarcasm....," says my S.B., Amos then begins an attack of Israel's love for idols and the meaningless ritualistic worship the nation had been practicing. Bethel and Gilgal were both sacred places to the nation of Israel. If you'll remember last week, Bethel, meaning "house of God," was the place in which Jacob's name was changed to Israel. Gilgal is the site at which Joshua circumcised Israel following their God-led entry across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land.

"Then the LORD said to Joshua, "Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." So the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day."
--Joshua 5:9


But Amos is being sarcastic in describing Israel's sacrifices, tithes and offerings. Follow the laws the Father gave you, but do so unto idols and false gods instead, then return to your luxurious lifestyle and accommodations in which you live for yourself, forsaking your neighbor and your God.

"...then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered!'--that you may do all these abominations?"
--Jeremiah 7:10


Definitely explains why God is not happy.

The beginning of God's chorus: "Yet you have not returned to Me".... 'Til next Wednesday!



* * *


Next week: Amos 4:6-10

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.


I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Amos 3:9-15





9Proclaim on the citadels in Ashdod and on the citadels
in the land of Egypt and say, "Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria
and see the great tumults within her and the oppressions in her midst.

10"But they do not know how to do what is right," declares the LORD, "these who hoard up violence and devastation in their citadels.

11Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD,
"An enemy, even one surrounding the land,
Will pull down your strength from you
And your citadels will be looted."

12Thus says the LORD,
"Just as the shepherd snatches from the lion's mouth a couple of legs or a piece of an ear,
So will the sons of Israel dwelling in Samaria be snatched away--
With the corner of a bed and the cover of a couch!
13"Hear and testify against the house of Jacob,"
Declares the Lord GOD, the God of hosts.
14"For on the day that I punish Israel's transgressions,
I will also punish the altars of Bethel;
The horns of the altar will be cut off
And they will fall to the ground.
15"I will also smite the winter house together with the summer house;
The houses of ivory will also perish
And the great houses will come to an end,"
Declares the LORD.


God's word continues to resound with the indictment of Israel, as Chapter 3 comes to a close. As we begin verse 9, we need to look at the map, once again.





Ashdod is situated in the Philistines. Egypt is below that and to the left. Samaria is starred, just above Israel. We talked about Ashdod back in Chapter 1, as Israel's enemies were judged. As if calling the enemies together to hear the judgment pronounced upon Israel and to include their testimony, God says, surely the nations already condemn you, Israel. "But they do not know how to do what is right...." (vs. 10) Israel is standing condemned before the righteous God of the universe, not merely their enemies! To echo last week's lesson, vs. 8, "A lion has roared! Who will not fear?"

So God presents Israel's punishment--the presence of "an enemy, even one surrounding your land." (vs. 11) This would be Assyria, which would take the Israelites into exile in 722 B.C. God describes those who would be taken as "a couple of legs or a piece of an ear [from a sheep]" rescued from the mouth of a lion.

"But David said to Saul, 'Your servant was tending his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him.

'Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.' And David said, 'The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.' And Saul said to David, 'Go, and may the LORD be with you.'"

--I Samuel 17:34-37


Never tire of seeing the consistency and symmetry in God's Word! Shepherd boy David up against Goliath--a Philistine--is rescuing his people by God's blessing. Israel, in Amos, is under judgment, for sure, but God continues to uphold His long-held promise in saving a remnant by His protection. I found an interesting difference in translation that is worth noting:

"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."
--Verse 12, King James Version


Some translations, like the NASB, refer to "cover of a couch" literally as "damask," which is a type of fine fabric. Damascus, the city, is where such fabric first originated. (Note its location at the star in Aram, which is Syria.) God will go the distance to gather each of His own.

Going beyond the scope of the passage, again, showing the continuity of the Word, the Great Shepherd will also come in a day of judgment to return for the sons of Israel.

"Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads.... And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth.

These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless."
--Revelation 14: 1, 3-5


After the passing moment of grace in verse 12, God returns to His punishment of Israel, which includes destruction upon Bethel. Meaning "house of God," we read of Bethel throughout the Bible with a notable story in Genesis about "Israel" who was then known as Jacob. After securing his brother's birthright, Jacob flees from Esau and comes to rest. Jacob has a dream in which God promises him that divine birthright which comes down from Isaac and Abraham to him. When Jacob awakes, in complete awe, he annoints and names the place where he rested "Bethel." Jacob would later return to Bethel, where he "wrestled" with God and received his new name, "Israel."

But Bethel was no longer a house of God under King Jeroboam.

"Furthermore, the altar that was at Bethel and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, even that altar and the high place he [King Josiah] broke down. Then he demolished its stones, ground them to dust, and burned the Asherah [idol]."
--II Kings 23:15 (with my additions for clarification.
King Josiah of Judah would come to rule around 640 B.C.,
more than 60 years after Assyria's conquest of Israel)
So every form of idol worship and extravagance in living in Israel would be destroyed in this judgment, as God is seeking, yet again, to reform what is left of His people.

More description of this life of luxury as God continues to condemn the practices of Israel in Chapter 4.... 'Til next Wednesday!


And, Happy Thanksgiving! Praise God, to Whom all blessings flow!



Photo:
jonathanscorner.com; newworldencyclopedia.org

* * *


Next week: Amos 4:1-5

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.


I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Amos 3:1-8



All the Tribes Are Guilty
1Hear this word which the LORD has spoken against you, sons of Israel, against the entire family which He brought up from the land of Egypt:
2"You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth;
Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities."
3Do two men walk together unless they have made an appointment?
4Does a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey?
Does a young lion growl from his den unless he has captured something?
5Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground when there is no bait in it?
Does a trap spring up from the earth when it captures nothing at all?
6If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble?
If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it?
7Surely the Lord GOD does nothing
Unless He reveals His secret counsel
To His servants the prophets.
8A lion has roared! Who will not fear?
The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?


The chapter heading in my study Bible for Chapter 3 says, "All the tribes are guilty," though God's words are most pointedly directed toward Israel. From the beginning, you can hear in the tone and see in the examples the difference in relationship between God and His people as compared with God and His enemies. Note the use of 'sons of Israel' and 'family'.

"'For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,' declares the LORD, 'that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory; but they did not listen.'"
--Jeremiah 13:11

But, just because you're family doesn't mean you are excluded from punishment. Does God the Father, who loves His children, Israel, beyond all scope of imagination let them sit in their sinful state? Of course not! Once again, His great mercy and love--as we saw with Jonah and the Ninevites and throughout the history of the Israelites--will present itself in a "growth opportunity."

"And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
'MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD,
NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM;
FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES,
AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.'

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?"

--Hebrews 12:5-7


Beginning with verse 3, God poses a series of what should be rhetorical questions to Israel. His intention is to make them realize that absolutely nothing occurs apart from His sovereign decision. Some clarification on verse 3, the King James' verbiage is a bit more clear: "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" If Israel is going to continue in a loving relationship with their Lord, they need to be walking together--meaning, they need to walk in accordance with God's Word. Their characteristic stiff-neckedness and idol worship cannot continue.


"Thus says the LORD to this people, "Even so they have loved to wander; they have not kept their feet in check. Therefore the LORD does not accept them; now He will remember their iniquity and call their sins to account."
--Jeremiah 14:10


God is bringing forward the judgment that the nation deserves for its inability to keep its "feet in check." [I'm fond of that phrasing!] We have visited this point several times: an unholy God cannot be in relationship with that which is unholy. He has no difficulty whatsoever recounting the sins of the Israelites before them. Although the impending judgment of their captivity into Assyria is sure, God will receive them once again, in His time, as His own.

"They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
--Jeremiah 31:34 [emphasis mine, note the parallelism in the phrasing]


It would be difficult to read verse 6 and not dwell on it for a bit. Reading it out of the King James is even more thought-provoking: "Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?" You and I and the Israelites may have heard the prior questions and nodded "yes,"' "yes," "of course," until this one. It is sometimes hard to see God as being one who brings calamity much less evil!

"The One forming light and creating darkness,
Causing well-being and creating calamity;
I am the LORD who does all these."

--Isaiah 45:7


What this Isaiah passage says, and the Amos passage affirms, is God's power, yes, but also His providence. Satan is surely the evil one, but even Satan is under God's complete control and will be brought to ultimate judgment in God's timing. God allows evil to exist but in a way that is sovereignly controlled for His purposes.

"The doctrine of divine providence, therefore, has reference to that preservation care and government which God exercises over all things that He has created in order they may accomplish the ends for which they were created." [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia]


[Big swallow and feel free to continue mulling over this tough idea.... If God's end is to perfect you for being in Heaven with Him, then there needs to come some intervention at His loving hand, which means discipline through specially designed and controlled means.]

Back to the text, not only does God do everything with His purposes in mind, but He makes a way for the Israelites and you and me to know what He's thinking, at least a little bit. God reveals His Word to prophets (vs 7) and they tell forth the Word, preparing and equipping the people to serve Him. He has done this since the beginning. Look at Noah (Genesis 6), Abraham (Genesis 18:17), Daniel (9:22), and, yes, Jesus--and, by association, us!


"No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

--John 15:15


God made a way for us to know Him, if we open the door to accepting that fact. The Israelites were given many prophets, revealing God's Word, showing them the way to live. But, remember what we read in 2:12: "And you commanded the prophets saying, 'You shall not prophesy!'" They rejected God in rejecting His prophets! Now He is roaring mad (Amos 1:2).

Amos could not hold back the words that he was called by God to utter. That didn't mean that the receivers would receive him. Even though Peter and John could not "stop speaking about what we have seen and heard," (Acts 4:20), they also were not well-received by all. Oh, prophets!


"And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, 'O Lord, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM, who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said,
'WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE,
AND THE PEOPLES DEVISE FUTILE THINGS?
'THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND,
AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER
AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.'

For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur."

--Acts 4:24-28 (quoting from David's words in Psalm 2)


There will be no option for grace at this time, as God tells the Israelites how their judgment is going down.... 'Til next Wednesday!




Photo:
bergoiata.org

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Next week: Amos 3:9-15

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.


I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Amos 2:9-16





9"Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them,
Though his height was like the height of cedars
And he was strong as the oaks;
I even destroyed his fruit above and his root below.
10"It was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt,
And I led you in the wilderness forty years
That you might take possession of the land of the Amorite.
11"Then I raised up some of your sons to be prophets
And some of your young men to be Nazirites.
Is this not so, O sons of Israel?" declares the LORD.
12"But you made the Nazirites drink wine,
And you commanded the prophets saying, 'You shall not prophesy!'
13"Behold, I am weighted down beneath you
As a wagon is weighted down when filled with sheaves.
14"Flight will perish from the swift,
And the stalwart will not strengthen his power,
Nor the mighty man save his life.
15"He who grasps the bow will not stand his ground,
The swift of foot will not escape,
Nor will he who rides the horse save his life.
16"Even the bravest among the warriors
will flee naked in that day," declares the LORD.


With the ninth verse of Chapter 2 comes a departure from the "standard" recitation of judgment delivered through Amos. It is becoming increasing clear that God is going to spend more time addressing Israel. The Lord begins a monologue recounting His leadership and providence over His chosen people, and the wayward directions His people have chosen to take in response.

"Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite...." The Amorites lived in Canaan, a.k.a., the Promised Land. The Book of Numbers contains the story of the spying Israelites, who--after their 40-year exodus and wilderness experience--stood poised on the new land, determining if it was right to bring the people forward. Most of the spies would report back to Moses that it was filled with "giants." Brave Joshua not only challenged the spies' report but would eventually be God's chosen commander to lead the Israelites into successful battle with these "giant" Amorites, taking over their land.

"Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,

"O sun, stand still at Gibeon,
And O moon in the valley of Aijalon."
So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
Until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies
Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day.

There was no day like that before it or after it, when the LORD listened to the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel."

--Joshua 10:12-14 (emphasis mine)


God then recounts His raising up of prophets through whom to speak His holy word to the people. But His people rejected the prophets and the word. Specially anointed followers--Nazirites ("[who] consecrated himself or herself, and took a vow of separation and self-imposed discipline for the purpose of some special service, and the fact of the vow was indicated by special signs of abstinence"--International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)--were made to drink wine, one of those self-imposed disciplines.

"Behold, I am weighted down beneath you...," says the Lord. (vs 13) This is an interesting metaphor, as it's impossible to keep a holy God down! The Hebrew word means "packed, pressed or tottered." [Strong's] 'Totter' means "to walk or go with faltering steps, as if from extreme weakness. To swing, waver, quiver." [Dictionary.com]

We have spoken here of God seemingly being able to "change His mind"--the pleas of Jonah for one more show of mercy, for instance. God has certainly been oppressed by His people. When I read 'totter', I think it represents God's patience having been pushed to the brink. Weakened in His desire to show mercy, not in His capability. "O you who choose to try My patience. You burden Me with your idols, your unholiness, your lack of faith, your lack of obedience, your constantly thinking you know what's best for you, etc., etc." When we make our own bountiful yet thoroughly tainted harvest and pile it upon the graciousness of the One who allows its bounty yet desires to give us greater yields, what should we expect?

The chapter concludes with the assurance of God's judgment and discipline in the matter. There will be nowhere to flee. No one will be strengthened to fight the fight. No one will have the wherewithal to escape. Even the strongest and bravest will be naked before God. And, in 722 B.C., God raised up the Assyrians to defeat the Israelites, carrying them off into captivity (II Kings 17).

"Now this came about because the sons of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and they had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD had driven out before the sons of Israel, and in the customs of the kings of Israel which they had introduced."

--II Kings 17: 7 & 8


Not that captivity was the end of God's grace to Israel. But, for the time, the nation needed to be cast from His sight. Cast out, not destroyed.


God continues His judgment of Israel next week in Chapter 3, posing a series of questions to the nation.... 'Til next Wednesday!




Photo:
littlefieldfarmblog.blogspot.com

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Next week: Amos 3:1-8

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.


I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Amos 2: 6-8




6Thus says the LORD,
"For three transgressions of Israel and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because they sell the righteous for money
And the needy for a pair of sandals.
7"These who pant after the very dust of the earth
on the head of the helpless
Also turn aside the way of the humble;
And a man and his father resort to the same girl
In order to profane My holy name.
8"On garments taken as pledges
they stretch out beside every altar,
And in the house of their God
they drink the wine of those who have been fined.


Amos makes no special introduction. He plows right into God's judgments against Israel as if it were just another enemy nation. In two verses, the nation faces charges against God for its treatment of the righteous and the humble; its inappropriate sexual conduct (vs. 7b); and, its abuse of the "temple" of God. No small charges, and He's just begun!

Selling people into slavery or using the abuse of people as a means to resolve serious problems, like dealing with debt, was common practice in Israel. Recall Jesus' story of the king who released a debt from one of his slaves who could not pay. That man, who had saved his wife and family through his desperate pleas, would then turn around and torture a man who owed him money. And we know the selling [out] of the righteous cost Judas Iscariot more than 30 shekels of silver. The stiff-necked, impatient Israelites would stop at nothing to get what they felt was rightfully theirs.

Verse 7 is a very profound image of just how low the Israelites chose to stoop. "These who pant after the very dust of the earth on the head of the helpless...." The Hebrew for 'pant' means "to inhale eagerly; figuratively, to covet; by implication, to be angry; also, to hasten." [Strong's] Can you imagine the poor, the blind, the beggars, the crippled, sitting in the streets, as they did, only to have the Israelites inhale the very dirt upon which they sat? Coveting to the point of taking what little these people had--the sand under their feet!

"He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker,
But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him."
--Proverbs 14:31


Verse 8 may give you pause, as well. "On garments taken as pledges...." Consider 'loan' as another word for pledge. There was a practice, particularly amongst the poor, to lay down their outer garments as a means of covering a debt. This was an outward sign that there was understanding of a debt to be paid by the one making the pledge. But, this also came with the understanding that if the one owed took the outer garment, he would have to give it back to him who owed by the end of the day.

"If you ever take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in?...."
--Exodus 22:26-27a

Jesus took off His outer garment at the time of His last supper with His disciples when He washed their feet, illustrating His humility. I hadn't thought about the laying down of the garment as a metaphor for covering a debt, but I can see that now. Perhaps it's even more telling of the judgment rendered the Israelites in looking at the actions of the Roman soldiers at the Crucifixion.

"Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be"; this was to fulfill the Scripture: "THEY DIVIDED MY OUTER GARMENTS AMONG THEM, AND FOR MY CLOTHING THEY CAST LOTS."
--John 19: 23&24


What Amos is saying here is that the Israelites took these garments and laid on them at the altar of the Lord, as well as helped themselves to the temple wine of the guilty. Figuratively, the Israelites took practices of humility and statements of mercy, and tainted the very nature of the work of God by their disregard for His holiness. No, God is not pleased.

God explains from where His wrath comes, and He goes back to the Exodus.... 'Til next Wednesday!



Photo:
http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4083/5012223678_a0901403eb.jpg

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Next week: Amos 2:9-16

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.


I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Amos 2:1-5





1Thus says the LORD,
"For three transgressions of Moab and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because he burned the bones of the king of Edom to lime.
2"So I will send fire upon Moab
And it will consume the citadels of Kerioth;
And Moab will die amid tumult,
With war cries and the sound of a trumpet.
3"I will also cut off the judge from her midst
And slay all her princes with him," says the LORD.
4Thus says the LORD,
"For three transgressions of Judah and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because they rejected the law of the LORD
And have not kept His statutes;
Their lies also have led them astray,
Those after which their fathers walked.
5"So I will send fire upon Judah
And it will consume the citadels of Jerusalem."


The last two enemies of Israel receiving judgment at this time through Amos are Moab and Judah.

We touched on Moab briefly last week, recalling that the nation formed as a result of the union between Lot and his oldest daughter. Moab is south of Israel, east of Judah and north of Edom, making the possibility for war amongst these nations a strong likelihood. II Kings 3 records an instance in which Moab--after years of paying tribute to the king of Israel--rebelled against the Northern Kingdom and its new king, Jehoram.

Jehoram decides to fight back, asking the king of Judah to join him. Because they chose to invade Moab via the southern route, the king of Edom was brought into the picture. It was the Lord's plan at that time that Moab suffer the loss at the hands of these armies, led by Israel. But Moab's attempt at "divine" intervention--with their king sacrificing his heir-to-the-throne son as a burnt offering to Moab's god Chemosh--did not succeed. The wrath of the nation against Israel burned and burned, bringing God's judgment upon them.

Kerioth, according to my study Bible, is either a capital city or a center of worship. As the Lord continues with His judgment, He will also subdue any figure of authority in Moab.

Amos then directs words to Judah. Unlike the nations mentioned thus far, Judah is not being condemned for its actions against other peoples.

"Because they rejected the law of the Lord and have not kept His statutes." (vs. 4)

Lest we think the aforementioned sins of the nations are somehow worse and more deserving of punishment, Judah's judgment reminds us that rejecting the law and statutes of the Lord is as rejecting the Lord Himself.

"The wise men are put to shame,
They are dismayed and caught;
Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD,
And what kind of wisdom do they have?"
--Jeremiah 8:9

Back in the day, by His grace, God appointed kings and judges to serve as earthly authority figures. In His heart of hearts, He truly wants all to see Him as the one and only authority. He gave us the law and commandments to follow because of our great human tendency for waywardness. But, these measures were time and again rejected, reworked for the peoples' pleasure or forgotten. His people turned to other gods, sought help from other misguided nations and, otherwise, forgot their first love.

"Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the customs which Israel had introduced."
--II Kings 17:19

As Jeremiah asks, indeed, "what kind of wisdom do they have"? Given God's longterm promise of preserving a remnant of His people for Himself in Heaven, He could not stand by, letting His Name be disrespected. He sent fire upon Judah through His chosen executer of judgment, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon--some 175 years after Amos' words.

"'For I have set My face against this city for harm and not for good,' declares the LORD. 'It will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon and he will burn it with fire."'
--Jeremiah 21:10 (with the full story found in II Kings, chapters 24 and 25)

There is a lesson for us today, as well. Stiff-necked and prone to wandering, where do we stand in relationship to His law and statutes? Even though Jesus came to fulfill all the law and the prophets, are we bound to the Word of God? From where do we know wisdom?


"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. ...For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding."
--Proverbs 1:7 & 2:6


Amos gets to his true calling. The judgment against Israel begins....'Til next Wednesday!



Photo:
newworldencyclopedia.org

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Next week: Amos 2:6-8

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.


I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Amos 1: 11-15





11Thus says the LORD,
"For three transgressions of Edom and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because he pursued his brother with the sword,
while he stifled his compassion;
His anger also tore continually,
and he maintained his fury forever.
12"So I will send fire upon Teman
and it will consume the citadels of Bozrah."
13Thus says the LORD,
"For three transgressions of the sons of Ammon
and for four I will not revoke its punishment,
Because they ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead
In order to enlarge their borders.
14"So I will kindle a fire on the wall of Rabbah
and it will consume her citadels
Amid war cries on the day of battle,
and a storm on the day of tempest.
15"Their king will go into exile,
he and his princes together," says the LORD.


Continuing this week with the judgments against the nations surrounding Israel, Amos brings messages for Edom and Ammon.


If you were with me for my study of Obadiah at the beginning of the year, you know that the prophet's words in his book were delivered to the nation of Edom. Quickly reviewing, Edom is another name for Esau, Jacob's twin brother. Esau was duped into giving up his birthright for red stew while Jacob escaped with the birthright and God's ultimate protection. (Jacob's nation would be named Israel.) Rejecting God, Esau retreated to the protective rocky mountains of this southern area then named after him, Edom.

Though the nation could have lived in quiet exile, it took advantage of its stature and continued to bring harm upon the Israelites.

"Because of violence to your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame,
And you will be cut off forever.
On the day that you stood aloof,
On the day that strangers carried off his wealth,
and foreigners entered his gate and cast lots for Jerusalem--
You too were as one of them."
--Obadiah 1: 10 & 11


Amos echoes what God has already told Edom through Obadiah. His anger with their constant pursuing of Israel (vs 11) and their lack of brotherly compassion (more literally translated as corrupted compassion) led God to announce His vengeance. And this vengeance wiped out the Edomites and, ultimately, will wipe out all nations that oppose His people.




"For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah,
And a great slaughter in the land of Edom....
For it is the day of the LORD's vengeance,
The year of recompense for the cause of Zion."
--Isaiah 34:6 (portion) & 8

Ammon refers to the "sons of Ammon" (vs 13) who were descendants of Ben-ammi, the son of the corrupted union between Lot and his younger daughter. (Lot's son by his older daughter was named Moab, and that nation is on God's judgment platter in next week's study.) The horrendously violent act mentioned in verse 13 was not uncommon during wartime, according to my study Bible. You can see the close proximity of Ammon--and its capital city of Rabbah--to Gilead in the map above.

God's authority would bring down the rulers of the nation and, ultimately, reduce it to a pile of ashes. The reference to 'king' in verse 15 may mean, literally, "their king." But, my study Bible suggests that this might also have been translated to mean "Malcam," the god worshiped by the Ammonites. Regardless, God pronounced permanent exile for this "ruling" line.




"...Cry out, O daughters of Rabbah,
Gird yourselves with sackcloth and lament,
And rush back and forth inside the walls;
For Malcam will go into exile
Together with his priests and his princes."
--Jeremiah 49:3


The last judgments are made upon Israel's enemies....'Til next Wednesday!



Photo:
newworldencyclopedia.org; http://www.bibleplaces.com/images/Bozrah_from_northwest,_tb061404284.jpg; http://chestofbooks.com/reference/American-Cyclopaedia-1/images/Ruins-of-Bozrah.jpg; http://www.bibleplaces.com/images/Rabbah_Moab_Roman_temple,_tb061404099.jpg

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Next week: Amos 2:1-5

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.


I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Amos 1: 6-10





6Thus says the LORD,
"For three transgressions of Gaza and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because they deported an entire population
To deliver it up to Edom.
7"So I will send fire upon the wall of Gaza
And it will consume her citadels.
8"I will also cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod,
And him who holds the scepter, from Ashkelon;
I will even unleash My power upon Ekron,
And the remnant of the Philistines will perish," says the Lord GOD.
9Thus says the LORD,
"For three transgressions of Tyre and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because they delivered up an entire population to Edom
And did not remember the covenant of brotherhood.
10"So I will send fire upon the wall of Tyre
And it will consume her citadels."


This week, we move on to the next two cities on Amos' list of those receiving God's judgment for actions against Israel. The first is Gaza, which, represents the entire region of Philistia and, specifically, four additional major cities (see map above). Nestled between Egypt and Israel, with the Mediterranean Sea a western border, Gaza was a big center of trade in the day.

Today, the Gaza Strip is a Palestinian territory and a place of continued violence with Israel.




The cities mentioned in verse 8--Ashdod, Ashkelon and Ekron--were other prominent cities in Philistia. Gath would also be included on that Top 5 list. My study Bible explains that it is not in Amos' message because the city had already been destroyed by King Uzziah of Judah (II Chronicles 26:6).

The major sin of note is the deportation of Israelites to Edom. (And if you remember Edom from our study of Obadiah, you'll remember there's nothing good about Edom. More on the region next week!)

The word of the LORD is against you,
O Canaan, land of the Philistines
And I will destroy you
So that there will be no inhabitant.
So the seacoast will be pastures,
With caves for shepherds and folds for flocks.
And the coast will be
For the remnant of the house of Judah,
They will pasture on it
In the houses of Ashkelon they will lie down at evening;
For the LORD their God will care for them
And restore their fortune.

--Zephaniah 2: 5 (portion)-7



Tyre comes next, and this was a wealthy, fortified city with an active seaport in the region of Phoenicia, north of Israel and west of Syria.



The punishment in Amos' message to the city is similar to Gaza's: "delivered up an entire population to Edom." (vs. 9) But, there was something unique to Tyre's message in that there is mention of a special covenant--"the covenant of brotherhood."

Some 200 years before, in the days of David and Solomon, Israel had a covenant relationship with Phoenicia. There was to be no war between Israel and Phoenicia, especially the cities of Tyre and Sidon. Apparently, Tyre was guilty of breaking this special relationship, thus leading God to bring forth punishment. Although Amos' prophecy is matter-of-fact, note how God's intimate knowledge of Tyre comes through in this cross-reference from Ezekiel:

"Son of man, because Tyre has said concerning Jerusalem, 'Aha, the gateway of the peoples is broken; it has opened to me. I shall be filled, now that she is laid waste,' therefore thus says the Lord GOD, 'Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves. 'They will destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; and I will scrape her debris from her and make her a bare rock."

--Ezekiel 26: 2-4


Jesus would refer to Tyre and Sidon in his chastising of the nations which had seen His miracles yet had not repented of their sins as a result of being in the Messiah's presence.

"For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you."
--Matthew 11:21-22

Tyre was destroyed in a conquest by Alexander the Great more than 400 years after Amos' prophetic words and 330 years before Jesus came. Yet, Jesus brings these cities and their judgment to light for those in His midst and for all to read in the New Testament. That is a long time to consider repentance, yet they did not. And what of us on the day of judgment?....

Closing with a review verse from Joel:

"Moreover, what are you to Me, O Tyre, Sidon and all the regions of Philistia? Are you rendering Me a recompense? But if you do recompense Me, swiftly and speedily I will return your recompense on your head."
--Joel 3:4


Edom and Ammon follow in Gaza and Tyre's shoes....'Til next Wednesday!



Photo:
newworldencyclopedia.org; bikyamasr.com; topnews.in; karenswhimsy.com

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Next week: Amos 1: 11-15

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.


I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Amos 1: 1-5



Judgment on Neighbor Nations
1The words of Amos, who was among the sheepherders from Tekoa,
which he envisioned in visions concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah,
and in the days of Jeroboam son of Joash, king of Israel,
two years before the earthquake.
2He said, "The LORD roars from Zion
And from Jerusalem He utters His voice;
And the shepherds' pasture grounds mourn,
And the summit of Carmel dries up."
3Thus says the LORD,
"For three transgressions of Damascus and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because they threshed Gilead with implements of sharp iron.
4"So I will send fire upon the house of Hazael
And it will consume the citadels of Ben-hadad.
5"I will also break the gate bar of Damascus,
And cut off the inhabitant from the valley of Aven,
And him who holds the scepter, from Beth-eden;
So the people of Aram will go exiled to Kir,"
Says the LORD.



Amos wastes no time in establishing his position in coming to the writing of this book. He is a sheepherder who has received a series of visions during the time of the reigns of two kings--Uzziah of Judah (Southern Kingdom) and Jeroboam of Israel (Northern Kingdom). Amos even records that his writings covered the days before a major earthquake in the area, which historians have said occurred around 755 B.C.

As mentioned in the Introduction last week, God is not happy with Israel. Prosperous with earthly treasures and idol worship, God calls Amos from his home in Tekoa, part of Judah, to deliver a discouraging message to Israel. He paves the way for Amos by providing him with judgments brought against Israel's neighbors. ("Somebody else is getting punished? OK, I'll listen," said Israel.)

Verse 2 establishes God's voice in the writing, as He is "roaring" from Zion and, through Amos, from Jerusalem. Sounding similar to Joel in the pronouncement of a famine, Amos warns that the pastures will cry (God's flock will mourn) and Carmel (see above), a lush, bountiful mountain range in northern Israel, will dry up.

With verse 3, Amos begins using literary phrasing that will repeat itself throughout these eight messages of judgment:

"For three transgressions of _______ and for four, I will not revoke its punishment, because _________."


My study Bible explains the phrasing as being a rhetorical device which features a mathematical equation of a sort. I'm reminded of Jesus' example of forgiveness: 70 times seven, meaning always! The idea is similar in Amos, except he is referring to countless incidences of sin with no revocation of punishment. In the verses we're looking at this week, God's judgment is falling on Damascus, the capital city of Syria.





And with that mention, it's time for a map! Because the text becomes more challenging in the basic reading without an understanding of where, and who or what is where.

Syria [Aram] is in the dark peach on the map, with Damascus at the top. Why is God punishing Syria? Because they brutally attacked Gilead, part of Israel which borders Syria.

"Therefore, her young men will fall in her streets,
And all the men of war will be silenced in that day," declares the LORD of hosts.
"I will set fire to the wall of Damascus,
And it will devour the fortified towers of Ben-hadad."
--Jeremiah 49: 26-27


It wasn't always the case that Israel was protected. A few kings prior, God was turning Israel over to Hazael and Ben-hadad--father and son kings of Syria, respectively (II Kings 13). Yet, here, we read that God turns the tables on Syria in judgment (vs. 4). He will break down the bars of the city gate and remove the people from their sinful environment. The valley of Aven is translated "valley of wickedness." My study Bible says this may refer to Baalbek, which was the center of sun worship in an area north of Damascus. Beth-eden means "House of pleasure" and was located in eastern Syria across from the Euphrates River, putting it closer to Iraq.

The bottom line, end of verse 5, "So the people of Aram [Syria] will go exiled to Kir."

"So the king of Assyria listened to him [Ahaz, king of Judah]; and the king of Assyria went up against Damascus and captured it, and carried the people of it away into exile to Kir, and put Rezin [king of Syria at the time] to death."

--II Kings 16:9 [not that God was happy with Judah at this moment, but a prophecy spoken forth by God's called is one to be fulfilled--method of which is God's choosing!]


What strikes me is how quickly God's prophecy through Amos was fulfilled--just two or three kings down the road from when he delivered it! I'm also struck with the fact that I need to do more studying in Kings and Chronicles one day, because I'm constantly referring back to the annals of Biblical history in reading Amos. Great to make these connections, but I'm treading water in a sea of facts (and similar sounding names!). It's all good!!

Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon are next on the chopping block....'Til next Wednesday!



Photo:
xasauantoday.com; newworldencyclopedia.org

* * *


Next week: Amos 1: 6-10

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.


I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).