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!


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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).