Monday, January 31, 2011

Amos 6:8-14

8The Lord GOD has sworn by Himself, the LORD God of hosts has declared:
"I loathe the arrogance of Jacob, And detest his citadels;
Therefore I will
deliver up the city and all it contains."

9And it will be, if ten men are left in one house, they will die.

10Then one's uncle, or his undertaker, will lift him up to carry out his bones from the house, and he will say to the one who is in the innermost part of the house, "Is anyone else with you?" And that one will say, "No one." Then he will answer, "Keep quiet. For the name of the LORD is not to be mentioned."

11For behold, the LORD is going to command that the great house be smashed to pieces and the small house to fragments.
12Do horses run on rocks?
Or does one plow them with oxen?
Yet you have turned justice into poison
And the fruit of righteousness into wormwood,
13You who rejoice in Lodebar,
And say, "Have we not by our own strength taken Karnaim for ourselves?"
14"For behold, I am going to raise up a nation against you,
O house of Israel," declares the LORD God of hosts,
"And they will afflict you from the entrance of Hamath
To the brook of the Arabah."

God continues to elaborate on the punishment coming Israel's way. Their attitude is ungodly and their greed is overwhelming. He will "deliver up the city" (vs 8) and "raise up a nation against you." (vs 14)

In verse 12, God uses rhetorical questions to make His point: Do horses run on rocks? An alternate translation of the 2nd question is, Does one plow the sea with oxen? As surely as these answers are "no" does God then infer, "Do you turn My justice into poison?" Yet, this is exactly what Israel has done.

"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, for those who turn justice into wormwood and cast righteousness down to the earth."
--Amos 5:6-7

Remember, wormwood means bitterness, the Hebrew coming from a word for curse.

Israel's pride in conquering other nations also displeased God, even though God had allowed for this conquering to occur as a measure of His grace.

"He (King Jeroboam II) restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which He spoke through His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gath-hepher."
--II Kings 14:25

Prior to Amos' prophecy, Israel was not a healthy, prosperous, spiritually sound nation. God saw their weakened condition and, as shared through Jonah's message, made it possible for Jeroboam II to restore the boundaries of Israel. However, as we know from reading Amos, Israel did not change, except to become richer, greedier and more self-indulgent. How often we see in Scripture that those God tries to save turn away the gift of grace, resorting to their own strength and power. This was Israel:

"Have we not by our own strength taken Karnaim for ourselves?" (vs. 13)

Lodebar (which means "a thing of nothing") and Karnaim (which means "horns" as horns of strength) were two of the places conquered by Jeroboam II. Yet, look at what this is saying. Those who rejoice in "a thing of nothing" and have taken land by their own "horns"' of strength.... Justification for God's wrath.

And punishment!, which God outlines in verses 9 through 11. After the Lord comes (breaking forth like a fire, Amos 5:6), "then one's uncle (or beloved) or his undertaker (literally, one who burns him--as in cremation), will lift him up to carry out his bones from the house...." "And they will afflict you from the entrance of Hamath to the brook of the Arabah"--exactly what Jeroboam II had conquered per God's provision.

"For 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.'"
--Amos 5:3

"And it will be, if ten men are left in one house, they will die."
--Amos 6:9

God will take great measures to restore His people, even as they are lost under the rule of a greedy, idol-worshiping king. Many will die in the assault that Assyria will deliver in 722 B.C. The saved remnant will face hard times in their Assyrian exile. Grace doesn't always look like roses at first. But God's ultimate goal of re-establishing a relationship with His chosen people is, to Him, worth the cost of extreme discipline.

"As for you, O house of Israel," thus says the Lord GOD, "Go, serve everyone his idols; but later you will surely listen to Me, and My holy name you will profane no longer with your gifts and with your idols."
--Ezekiel 20:39

"How dreadful, how miserable, is the case of those whose eternal ruin the Lord himself has sworn; for he can execute his purpose, and none can alter it! Those hearts are wretchedly hardened that will not be brought to mention God's name, and to worship him, when the hand of God is gone out against them, when sickness and death are in their families."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Amos receives visions in Chapter 7.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Amos 7:1-9

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, January 26, 2011

Amos 6:1-7

"Those at Ease in Zion"

1Woe to those who are at ease in Zion
And to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria,
The distinguished men of the foremost of nations,
To whom the house of Israel comes.
2Go over to Calneh and look,
And go from there to Hamath the great,
Then go down to Gath of the Philistines.
Are they better than these kingdoms,
Or is their territory greater than yours?
3Do you put off the day of calamity,
And would you bring near the seat of violence?
4Those who recline on beds of ivory
And sprawl on their couches,
And eat lambs from the flock
And calves from the midst of the stall,
5Who improvise to the sound of the harp,
And like David have composed songs for themselves,
6Who drink wine from sacrificial bowls
While they anoint themselves with the finest of oils,
Yet they have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.
7Therefore, they will now go into exile at the head of the exiles,
And the sprawlers' banqueting will pass away.

We have many names to contend with in this week's passage, as we begin Chapter 6 of Amos. Zion and Samaria are the capitals of Judah and Israel, respectively. So we know that Amos is addressing both the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom at the same time.

This is not the first time Amos has brought up the issue of living in material luxury. We read about this Chapter 4 ("you cows of Bashan") amongst other places. God's making the statement that living in ease and security does not grant you special privileges and exemptions. The special relationship that God's chosen people had with the Lord was not considered part of their living. Big problem!

God says, look around at the nations surrounding you and see if they have things better. Calneh was part of the land of Shinar, which we also know as Babylon. It was founded by Nimrod, who you will also remember as the founder of Ninevah, capital of Assyria. The region included Babel, the home of the tower of Babel, the place at which the Lord "confused the language of the whole earth" (Gen. 11: 9). Babylon captured Judah in 605 B.C., forcing them into exile (and launching the work of Daniel, the prophet). A new "Babylon" will also play a role in the end-times. So, there's not much good to say about Calneh. Hamath relates to Syria and Gath is tied to Philistia, home of the Philistines. Again, not the lands of God's favor.

"Do you put off the day of calamity...?" (vs. 3) God's chosen were living as if they had all of salvation locked up just by claiming God's Word. But without works to support their so-called faith [Remember, "faith without works is dead" (James 2:26)], God called their so-called salvation on the carpet. Remember what God said in Amos 5:18: "For what purpose will the day of the LORD be to you?" He repeats here again in 6:3 that the Day will come, but only the truly faithful will be saved. Judah and Israel will not be any better off than the nations surrounding them, unless they change their hearts.

Verses 4 through 6 provide details of the extent of their luxurious lifestyle. The reference to David should have brought a pang of guilt to the ways of these nations. David, who brought music and psalms together to worship His God and to express his deepest thoughts and sins of his heart, would be mocked, really, by Judah and Israel in their creation of music to merely please themselves.

"Their banquets are accompanied by lyre and harp, by tambourine and flute, and by wine; but they do not pay attention to the deeds of the LORD, nor do they consider the work of His hands."
--Isaiah 5:12

"Yet they have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph." God's chosen do not recognize their own waywardness in the midst of that materialism and self-focus, their idol-worship and their blatant disregard and disrespect for the ways of God. Verse 7 contains their punishment: exile. The last line, a stinging barb: "And the sprawlers' banqueting will pass away." God renews discipline upon His people, that His love for them would be recognized once more and that the honor due Him would be demonstrated in their true faith.

Chapter 6 concludes [short one!].... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Amos 6:8-14

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, January 19, 2011

Amos 5:21-27

21"I hate, I reject your festivals,
Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.
22"Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.
23"Take away from Me the noise of your songs;
I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.
24"But let justice roll down like waters
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

25"Did you present Me with sacrifices and grain offerings in the wilderness for forty years, O house of Israel?

26"You also carried along Sikkuth your king and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves.

27"Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus," says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.

God's going out of Chapter 5 with a loud voice! And He's definitely not listening to or receiving Israel's pleas and offerings.

The running theme of Amos has been Israel's disobedience and dishonoring of God. The Father now has had the stage, explaining the nation's wrongs. Here, He makes it plain. The Israelites are not fully worshiping God, and when they do worship God, they are conflicted in their hearts and in their manner of worship. When God uses 'hate', you know it's serious. 'Hate', 'reject', 'do not delight', 'will not accept', 'will not even look at', 'will not even listen to'....

"So when you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Yes, even though you multiply prayers,
I will not listen
Your hands are covered with blood.
Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight
Cease to do evil...."
--Isaiah 1: 15-16

Verse 25, God questions Israel's faithfulness, going back to the 40 years in the wilderness. Were God's people faithful then? No, they weren't! Golden calf while waiting for Moses and the 10 Commandments?!

"Even when they made for themselves
A calf of molten metal
And said, 'This is your God
Who brought you up from Egypt,'
And committed great blasphemies,
You, in Your great compassion,
Did not forsake them in the wilderness;
--Nehemiah 9: 18 & 19

God had amazing compassion on His people then. He still has compassion for Israel. (Remember His words in Amos to "Seek good...." and His saving of a remnant). But His plan has already been stated in this book and is spoken of again here: "I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus." (vs 27) The Assyrians conquered Damascus 10 years before the exile in 732 B.C.

Not to skip over those names in verse 26. Sikkuth means tabernacle and the king in reference is Molech. Kiyyun is a star god also referred to as Rompha. My study Bible says this of the worship of Molech: "Molech worship included the astrological worship of Saturn and the host of heaven and the actual sacrificing of children." Israel pursued this, even under King Solomon and his descendants. (From I Kings 11:7--"Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable idol of Moab, on the mountain which is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestable idol of the sons of Ammon.") In Acts, chapter 7, Stephen recounts Amos 5:26 when confronting the Sanhedrin over the sins of Israel in his blasphemy "trial".

Of special note in an otherwise discouraging series of verses this week:

"But let justice roll down like waters
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." (vs. 24)

I was reading an article in Sunday's Washington Post about a new memorial statue of Dr. Martin Luther King being created on the Washington Mall. There in the midst of the article was the quote, credited to Dr. King's "March on Washington" speech. Dr. King had actually quoted Amos.

The cry for justice has sounded for thousands of years. For Dr. King, it was a life's work in seeking justice and equality among people. For God, it is justice in the wake disobedience with the promise of righteousness to forever flow for those who would honor Him above all!

Chapter 6, "Those at ease in Zion".... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Amos 6:1-7

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, January 12, 2011

Amos 5:16-20

16Therefore thus says the LORD God of hosts, the Lord,
"There is wailing in all the plazas,
And in all the streets they say, 'Alas! Alas!'
They also call the farmer to mourning
And professional mourners to lamentation.
17"And in all the vineyards there is wailing,
Because I will pass through the midst of you," says the LORD.
18Alas, you who are longing for the day of the LORD,
For what purpose will the day of the LORD be to you?
It will be darkness and not light;
19As when a man flees from a lion
And a bear meets him,
Or goes home, leans his hand against the wall
And a snake bites him.
20Will not the day of the LORD be darkness instead of light,
Even gloom with no brightness in it?

The tone of grace, mercy and opportunity that we read in last week's passage is gone this week. "Therefore, thus..." begins verse 16, reflecting a change of tone, yet again; a return to the fact that Israel is under judgment.

Amos describes what the scene would look like when the Lord shall "pass through the midst of you." (vs. 17) Wailing, mourning, lamentation--from everywhere and everybody, whether farmer or professional wailer. Back in the day, it was not unusual to hire people who would wail for funerals and other solemn occasions (Jeremiah 9:17).

A cross-reference verse for verse 16, regarding the farmers, is Joel 1:11--

"Be ashamed, O farmers,
Wail, O vinedressers,
For the wheat and the barley;
Because the harvest of the field is destroyed."

Joel addressed people experiencing a famine due to a locust invasion that destroyed all crops. Joel used the famine as a metaphor for what would occur in the Day of the Lord--that final day in the end-times in which the earth will be destroyed, God's harvest of the saved completed and the remaining "stubble" forever burned. The Day of the Lord was not an unfamiliar concept to the Israelite, but God was making it perfectly plain that even if Israel of Amos' time lived to see the Day, it would not bring salvation for all.

"Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord, for what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you?" (vs. 18)

Oh, for the Israelites to heed God's merciful call in verse 14 to "seek good and not evil, that you may live"! For Israel to continue forward in its worship of false gods and self-righteous ways was to commit the nation to eternal death. The Day of the Lord comes "with darkness instead of light" (vs. 20) for those who do not believe.

Amos has a metaphor of his own in verse 19--pictorially featured above--illustrating the danger. Flee from the lion, but you'll meet the bear. Rather than 'or go home', other translations use 'then go home' and have the snake bite when you're just leaning on a wall. Israel had a choice. Israel had God's mercy, or, at least a "remnant" of Israel (vs. 15) would have God's mercy. Both would know discipline. Some would know salvation.

"Those who will seek and love that which is good, may help to save the land from ruin. It behooves us to plead God's spiritual promises,to beseech him to create in us a clean heart, and to renew a right spirit within us. The Lord is ever ready to be gracious to the souls that seek him; and then piety and every duty will be attended to. But as for sinful Israel, God's judgments had often passed by them, now they shall pass through them."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Chapter 5 concludes with God rejecting Israel's offerings of worship.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Amos 5:21-27

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, January 5, 2011

Amos 5: 8-15

8He who made the Pleiades and Orion
And changes deep darkness into morning,
Who also darkens day into night,
Who calls for the waters of the sea
And pours them out on the surface of the earth,
The LORD is His name.
9It is He who flashes forth with destruction upon the strong,
So that destruction comes upon the fortress.
10They hate him who reproves in the gate,
And they abhor him who speaks with integrity.
11Therefore because you impose heavy rent on the poor
And exact a tribute of grain from them,
Though you have built houses of well-hewn stone,
Yet you will not live in them;
You have planted pleasant vineyards, yet you will not drink their wine.
12For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great,
You who distress the righteous and accept bribes
And turn aside the poor in the gate.
13Therefore at such a time the prudent person keeps silent, for it is an evil time.
14Seek good and not evil, that you may live;
And thus may the LORD God of hosts be with you,
Just as you have said!
15Hate evil, love good,
And establish justice in the gate!
Perhaps the LORD God of hosts
May be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Happy New Year! Welcome back to Amos, Chapter 5, in which God is offering an extension of His grace to a disobedient Israel by showing them a path to righteousness. We pick up with verse 8, which presents a picture of God as Creator, an image the Israelites would understand well, as this is how they first came to know and believe in God.

The Pleiades is a part of the constellation Taurus. Taurus has a thousand and more stars, but the Pleiades is a small part of the constellation--seven stars, although only six are visible. Orion is another constellation, identified as "the hunter" by its appearance (see picture above). In mythology, Orion pursued the Pleiades (the seven daughters of Atlas), but they were saved when they were placed and hidden among the stars. The Hebrew word for Orion is 'Kesil' which means "the fool." Interestingly, according to tradition, Orion--the giant hunter--was said to be Nimrod, who was the great grandson of Noah, noted for being a great hunter and the founder of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. [Remember Jonah? I so love when this study makes a circle upon itself!]

"Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, or loose the cords of Orion?"
--Job 38:31

Only God can make such massive changes in the structure of the universe, and, so also, the structure of the nations. Assyria would soon be on the verge of taking down the Israelites, and God was the One who held the cords of the hunter!

Verse 10 brings God back to talking about Israel's woes due to lack of justice. It was another time in the nation's history in which there was no proper Godly justice. "They hate him who reproves in the gate," meaning where court was held. The problems of Israel "are many" and "great" (vs. 12). No compassion for the poor (vs 11), disregard for proper conduct, bribery.... There was no respect among kings and prophets, either.

"The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, 'There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.'"
--I Kings 22:8 (emphasis mine)

And even amid this distressing report of Israel's wrongdoing, God gives a ray of hope that some will pull through:

"Seek good and not evil, that you may live...Perhaps the Lord God of hosts may be gracious to the remnant of Joseph."
--vss. 14 and 15

Seek. Seek good.... The King James Version of today's passage opens with 'seek'. ("Seek Him that maketh the seven stars and Orion....") Just verses before, God said "Seek Me that you may live" (5:4), with the idea that seeking is not just looking but frequenting, following or worshiping. [Strong's]

"Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good."
--Romans 12:9

How should the Israelites go after good? With deep longing and serious pursuit. Truly, that doesn't mean only a following after good things but a following of the One who is Good! The One who created everything in perfect order. Israel had gotten caught up in pursuit of life's pleasures, yet forgot about the One from whom all blessings flow. A change in their ways would mean a step away from hypocrisy and a step toward true repentance and a renewed relationship with the Father. "The Lord is His name." (vs. 8)

"Who knows whether He will not turn and relent and leave a blessing behind Him, even a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God?"
--Joel 2:14

And, speaking of Joel, a reminder about the Day of the Lord comes next from Amos.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Amos 5:16-20

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).