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:

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!


* * *

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. []. 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!


* * *

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!


* * *

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).