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,

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,

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!


* * *

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).