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!


* * *

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!


* * *

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!


* * *

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!


* * *

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).