Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Amos 9:11-15

The Restoration of Israel
11"In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David,
And wall up its breaches;
I will also raise up its ruins
And rebuild it as in the days of old;
12That they may possess the remnant of Edom
And all the nations who are called by My name,"
Declares the LORD who does this.
13"Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD,
"When the plowman will overtake the reaper
And the treader of grapes him who sows seed;
When the mountains will drip sweet wine
And all the hills will be dissolved.
14"Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel,
And they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them;
They will also plant vineyards and drink their wine,
And make gardens and eat their fruit.
15"I will also plant them on their land,
And they will not again be rooted out from their land
Which I have given them,"
Says the LORD your God.

For a book that is so full of judgment--both present and foreshadowing the future--the Book of Amos comes to a happy ending! Amos, whose name means "burden" or "burden-bearing", will now share God's Word that a remnant will be saved--a burden released!

"I will raise up the fallen booth of David...." (vs 11) I needed a little bit of help with that language. The King James' uses 'tabernacle', which is a "hut or lair" [Strong's]. During the time of Israel's wandering in the exodus, they lived in temporary shelters, tents or booths. Let us not forget the Tent of Meeting in which Moses spoke with God in that time. The Feast of Booths (or Feast of the Tabernacles) was the Thanksgiving feast celebrated by Israel and required a trip to Jerusalem for worship and sacrifices. It recognizes God's provision during the time of the exodus and His yearly provision in the form of the harvest. [http://www.bible-truth.org/Feasts-Tabernacles.html]

Here in Amos, God is referring to a time in which there will be One to come and sit on David's throne, ruling a new kingdom, a millennial kingdom. God will see the creation of a new tabernacle for His Son in Jesus's earthly reign. And His people, Israel, the remaining chosen, will regain their home and land lost to others who would not be saved ("possess the remnant of Edom" vs 12. Remember Obadiah's prophecy.). Truly, a time of ultimate Thanksgiving!

"A throne will even be established in lovingkindness,
And a judge will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David;
Moreover, he will seek justice
And be prompt in righteousness."
--Isaiah 16:5

"And all the nations who are called by My name...." (vs 12) Amos not only refers to Israel's saving, but he also speaks of the Gentiles who will also know this time of Thanksgiving through their salvation in Jesus. I love the affirmation of New Testament quoting Old, and the Apostle James is the one who quotes Amos in Acts 15. He--along with Peter, Paul and Barnabas--appeared before the Jerusalem Council, demonstrating through Word and testimony that God planned to save Gentiles as well as Jews.

In a beautifully poetic picture, God describes a coming period of fruitfulness. The plowman overtaking the reaper and the grape treader overtaking the seed sower (vs 13) does not mean that one will destroy another. "Fruitfulness is so enormous that planting and reaping seasons overlap," says my study Bible. Where that basket of summer fruit in Chapter 8 was beyond its ripeness, rotting, this growth and abundance under Christ will be beyond plentiful.

"'Indeed, your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time. You will thus eat your food to the full and live securely in your land.'"
--Leviticus 26:5

God will restore everything that was taken away from Israel. His people will be finally restored to their earthly home. And what a lovely close, continuing with the blessing of fruitfulness analogy: "'I will also plant them on their land, and they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them,' says the Lord your God." The ancient promise of Abraham will finally be fulfilled.

Matthew Henry's words on the end of the Book of Amos speak volumes of the time to come and the promise of fulfillment today through Christ in the Church:

"Verses #(13 to 15) may refer to the early times of Christianity, but will receive a more glorious fulfilment in the events which all the prophets more or less foretold, and may be understood of the happy state when the fulness both of the Jews and the Gentiles come into the church. Let us continue earnest in prayer for the fulfilment of these prophecies, in the peace, purity, and the beauty of the church. God marvellously preserves his elect amidst the most fearful confusions and miseries. When all seems desperate, he wonderfully revives his church, and blesses her with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. And great shall be the glory of that period, in which not one good thing promised shall remain unfulfilled."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

An Introduction to Hosea.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Introduction to Hosea

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, March 23, 2011

Amos 9:5-10

5The Lord GOD of hosts,
The One who touches the land so that it melts,
And all those who dwell in it mourn,
And all of it rises up like the Nile
And subsides like the Nile of Egypt;
6The One who builds His upper chambers in the heavens
And has founded His vaulted dome over the earth,
He who calls for the waters of the sea
And pours them out on the face of the earth,
The LORD is His name.
7"Are you not as the sons of Ethiopia to Me,
O sons of Israel?" declares the LORD
"Have I not brought up Israel from the land of Egypt,
And the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?
8"Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom,
And I will destroy it from the face of the earth;
Nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,"
Declares the LORD.
9"For behold, I am commanding,
And I will shake the house of Israel among all nations
As grain is shaken in a sieve,
But not a kernel will fall to the ground.
10"All the sinners of My people will die by the sword,
Those who say, 'The calamity will not overtake or confront us.'

Amos speaks in the opening of our passage today, reminding Israel of who God is by drawing on one of His "flashcard" characteristics--Creator. He is to touch the land in judgment, creating tumult, such as one navigating the raging Nile River (vs 5).

"He looks at the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they smoke."
--Psalm 104:32

Verse 6 is not unlike reading part of the Ten Commandments. Recall Moses speaking to the Israelites prior to their receiving the commandments: "The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.)...." (Deuteronomy 5: 4 & 5) How different the focus in Amos, as God judged the Israelites because of their lack of fear in facing the Fire and in their building (of idols) on the mountain.

"For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them...."
--Exodus 20:11

In verse 7, God, speaking, declares that His people are like the "sons of Ethiopia" or Cushites. The Cushites are not generally well spoken of in the Bible. Cush is a grandson of Noah and the father of Nimrod, who--if you'll remember from Jonah--founded Nineveh and Babel, amongst other cities. The reputation of this nation is one of domination, and not one of submission to the Lord, hence the tag on the Israelites in Amos' time. Had they only remembered King Asa's words in his dealings with the Ethiopians:

"Now Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and 300 chariots, and he came to Mareshah. So Asa went out to meet him, and they drew up in battle formation in the valley of Zephathah at Mareshah.

Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, 'LORD, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.' [What a marvelous prayer this is!]

"So the LORD routed the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled. Asa and the people who were with him pursued them as far as Gerar; and so many Ethiopians fell that they could not recover, for they were shattered before the LORD and before His army. And they carried away very much plunder."

--II Chronicles 14: 9-13

The Lord also states His powerful control of Israel is not unlike other nations through which He has worked, sending the Philistines from their original home in Caphtor (possibly Crete) across the Mediterranean, and the Arameans--the people of Aram (Syria)--from Kir. (See map above) Although scholars do not actually know where Kir was located, it is interesting to note Amos 1:5, in which Kir was a place of exile for the Arameans. Proof that God can definitely move people around to His liking.

God closes out His message of judgment in the closing verses of our passage. "...The eyes of the Lord God are on the sinful kingdom." That is pretty much the summation of this book. God's plans, now, are for evil and not for good (9:4). But, it's not all evil, as we are reminded again that He intends to save a remnant of His people to receive blessing and restoration (next week's post).

"I will shake the house of Israel among all nations...." (vs. 9) Some translations, like the King James Version, use 'sift'. God has created another metaphor that Israel would know well--that of farming and the processing of grain. At a point in the process, harvested corn was run through a sieve or strainer. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia describes it as such: "When the chaff is gone then the grain is tossed in a wooden tray to separate from it the stones and lumps of soil which clung to the roots when the grain was reaped."

God's people were to experience a shaking up in the form of His judgment upon them. "All the sinners of My people will die by the sword...." (vs. 10) And a remnant would find protection under His providence.

"The Lord would scatter the Jews, and visit them with calamities, as the corn is shaken in a sieve; but he would save some from among them. The astonishing preservation of the Jews as a distinct people, seems here foretold."

--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

"The Restoration of Israel" marking the end of Amos' prophecy.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Amos 9:11-15

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).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Amos 9:1-4

Amos 9

God's Judgment Unavoidable
1I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and He said,
"Smite the capitals so that the thresholds will shake,
And break them on the heads of them all!
Then I will slay the rest of them with the sword;
They will not have a fugitive who will flee,
Or a refugee who will escape.
2"Though they dig into Sheol,
From there will My hand take them;
And though they ascend to heaven,
From there will I bring them down.
3"Though they hide on the summit of Carmel,
I will search them out and take them from there;
And though they conceal themselves from My sight on the floor of the sea,
From there I will command the serpent and it will bite them.
4"And though they go into captivity before their enemies,
From there I will command the sword that it slay them,
And I will set My eyes against them for evil and not for good."

The final chapter of Amos opens with the prophet's 5th vision. God's warnings to Israel of His upcoming judgment came through Amos' visions first in Chapter 7. This week and next focus on this "unavoidable" judgment.

Amos sees the Lord beside an altar, which my study Bible indicates is the altar at Bethel, which has been referenced often in Amos:

"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."
--Amos 3:14

"Smite the capitals"--'Capitals' refers to the architecture of the columns of the temple. In the King James Version, the text reads, "Smite the lintel of the door." A lintel (see above) refers to the upper framework of a door [Smith's Bible Dictionary], which was often elaborately decorated. The idea is that God would use pieces of the temple itself to fall upon those worshiping in there. (Remember, these are the temples Jeroboam established for the worship of idols.) Those not killed in that act would be killed by the sword. The point being that those who were guilty would not go unpunished, and the rest of the verses in our passage today go into depth on this point.

"Though they dig into Sheol" (vs 2) or "Though they hide on the summit of Carmel" (vs 3) or "Conceal themselves from My sight on the floor of the sea" (vs 3), God is omnipresent and will find the perpetrators of this so-called worship. Carmel--which we read about way back in Chapter 1, was noted for being a lush growing area [which would be dried up!]--was known for its caves and forests, and great height. Even if they could hide themselves under the sea, God commands all living things, and He "will command the serpent" to do His will.

Reading through these verses has given me a new perspective on beloved Psalm 139:

"Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me."
--Psalm 139: 7-10

David wrote these words in full acknowledgment that He understood who God was, and he took respite in these thoughts. David had great comfort in knowing that the God who made him was there in his every place, at his every time, and He would lead him and care for him. These passages in Amos do not refute David's understanding. But for those who would choose to hide the ways of God in a cave on Carmel, The right hand of judgment would lead them to death.

"And I will set My eyes against them for evil and not for good."

He brings calamity upon the "sinners of My people." Chapter 9 continues.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Amos 9:5-10

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).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Amos 8:11-14

11"Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord GOD,
"When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.
12"People will stagger from sea to sea
And from the north even to the east;
They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD,
But they will not find it.
13"In that day the beautiful virgins
And the young men will faint from thirst.
14"As for those who swear by the guilt of Samaria,
Who say, 'As your god lives, O Dan,'
And, 'As the way of Beersheba lives,'
They will fall and not rise again."

God opens our passage today with the announcement that He is bringing a famine upon Israel. But, not a famine that might have typically struck the nation (food or water), but a famine "for hearing the words of the Lord." (vs 11) Begs us to look at the word famine.

'Famine' is a two-fold word. It means a scarcity of something, often food, but it can be other things. Along with the scarcity comes great hunger on the part of those who are lacking. Famines could last for short periods, like weeks, or longer periods, like years. Sometimes, famines came from natural circumstances, such as locusts eating the food supply, and sometimes they came as punishment directly from the hand of God. That Israel will receive a loss-of-God's word famine should come as no surprise.

Can there be a much more terrible situation than that? Israel would come to know captivity in a nation that did not honor the Father. The tremendous hunger for God that would follow as a result of being without His word would probably feel something like being in Hell. And perhaps this was on God's mind as He worked the discipline plan of saving His people.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.... Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
--Matthew 5:6 & 8 (emphasis mine)

Verse 14 sent me digging, mostly because of the place names, even though we have seen these names before in Amos.

"They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy god, O Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall, and never rise up again."
--vs. 14, King James Version

Instead of 'guilt' or 'sin', some translations use "Ashimah of Samaria." The Hamathites, people of Hamath in Samaria, created the god Ashimah to worship. After Israel is exiled to Assyria, the king of Assyria sends Ashimah-worshiping Hamathites and other foreigners to take over Israel's land, worshiping their own gods. [God does not let that situation continue for long. See II Kings 17:30]

Dan is a city at the northern limit of Israel. To understand why Dan is mentioned here, we need to look back at the evil King Jeroboam and his move to squelch God from Israel:

"Jeroboam said in his heart, 'Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.' So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, 'It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.' He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan."

--I Kings 12:26-29

Out of pity for the long-distance traveling worshipers to Jerusalem (!?!), Jeroboam I creates golden idols for their worship, thus sparing himself from the presumed attack on his life as a result of their serving God. "Thy god, O Dan, liveth." Sadly, Israel had taken the bait. But God would not let them forget their dishonoring of Him.

Beersheba is the southern most part of Judah. It was often said, "From Dan to Beersheba" in referencing both the northern and southern kingdoms. Genesis 21 and 26 recount the stories of Abraham's and Isaac's stop at this spot, with Abraham actually naming the place Beersheba.

Abraham met up with Abimelech, Philistine king of Gerar (part of modern-day Palestine). Abimelech was concerned that Abraham would harm him, since he recognized that God walked with Abraham. Abraham was upset because Abimelech's men took over a well that Abraham and his men had dug and were using. The two men swore an oath of respect, and Abraham planted a tamarisk tree, "and called there on the name of Jehovah, the Everlasting God." (Genesis 21:33)

Years later, Isaac would also meet up with Abimelech (likely Jr.) at Beersheba. Isaac and his men were redigging the wells of Abraham that had been stopped up by Abimelech's men. [That covenant didn't get passed down the line, apparently.] Isaac's men found water, which Abimelech's men claimed for themselves. Eventually, Abimelech confronted Isaac. Because it was clear to Abimelech that God walked with Isaac, he wanted Isaac's reassurance that nothing would come of him. A second oath was made by the sons in the same place.

It is no wonder that Beersheba would be considered a shrine by Israel. But, in their waywardness, they no longer respected the work of their forefathers. How interesting that God calls out the place in which He gave His people water to drink--twice!--knowing that they would be in deep thirst, no longer having His word. Beersheba was witness to two generations of Philistine kings recognizing the power of the Almighty, only now it was not recognized by its own.

"The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none,
And their tongue is parched with thirst;
I, the LORD, will answer them Myself,
As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.
--Isaiah 41:17

Not forsake, but not withhold judgment either. Chapter 9, last chapter of the book, begins.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Amos 9:1-4

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).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Amos 8:7-10

7The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob,
"Indeed, I will never forget any of their deeds.
8"Because of this will not the land quake
And everyone who dwells in it mourn?
Indeed, all of it will rise up like the Nile,
And it will be tossed about
And subside like the Nile of Egypt.
9"It will come about in that day," declares the Lord GOD,
"That I will make the sun go down at noon
And make the earth dark in broad daylight.
10"Then I will turn your festivals into mourning
And all your songs into lamentation;
And I will bring sackcloth on everyone's loins
And baldness on every head
And I will make it like a time of mourning for an only son,
And the end of it will be like a bitter day.

It is not unusual in the prophets to see repetition of themes, if not actual lines, from other portions of the prophet's book. When I have more time to give to reading resources outside of the Bible, I would like to explore what theologians and commentators say as to why this is. Does it relate to the prophet speaking to different people of the same message in the same way politicians travel and speak to different people around the country? The repetition certainly speaks to God's consistent message as well as His grace in continuing to provide the same message to folks who do not hear it the first time, like Israel.

With the message of judgment consistent in this next section of Chapter 8, let's look at some unique phrasings this week.

"Indeed, all of it will rise up like the Nile,
And it will be tossed about
And subside like the Nile of Egypt."
--vs. 8

I have not been to Egypt to see the Nile, and what I have seen of it depicted in movies is clearly not accurate. I am visualizing The Ten Commandments with baby Moses' basket in the quiet, reedy river. No, apparently the Nile is a wonderful place for whitewater rafting! It is a tumultuous river, not unlike what is expressed in the passage above.

My study Bible notes that the Nile regularly overflowed its banks. While this would seem a scary outcome, the water coming out onto the land provided not only water for the farmers along the river but rich soil deposits to enrich their planting dirt. But God is not referring to a blessing of crops in verse. 8. He uses the metaphor of the river for the calamity to befall Israel in the form of His judgment. Remember, the Israelites will soon be swept away like a mighty river into the hands of the Assyrians.

Verse 9 refers to God's power to alter his creation, making "the sun go down at noon." There was a total eclipse of the sun in 763 B.C., a few decades before the nation's capture by Assyria. [Talk about a sign!] Amos has already spoken of God's command over the universe, trying to appeal to Israel's most basic understanding of the Lord:

"He 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."
--Amos 5:8

Verse 10 of Chapter 8 refers to 'sackcloth', which we might consider the daily wear of the prophets and probably a big reason why they were not respected--then or now. From Smith's Bible Dictionary, sackcloth is "a coarse stuff, of a dark color, often made of goats' hair, and the coarse, black hair of the camel. In great calamities -- in penitence, in trouble -- the Jews wore sackcloth about their bodies; The robe resembled a sack, and was confined by a girdle of the same material. In times of joy those who were clad in sackcloth took it off, and put on their usual clothing."

The Israelites were celebrating good times [c'mon!], no doubt in their great finery. But, God was to bring sackcloth "on everyone's loins." The Jews should have understood that a time of penitence was due. Had they put the sackcloth on of their own volition, perhaps God would have saved a larger remnant!

Closing out with the end of verse 10: "And I will make it like a time of mourning for an only son...." Family was of tremendous significance to the Jews. There was shame associated with not having children. To have had one child, and then to lose that child.... Again, the message is a strong one for Israel. The message is also one of prophecy yet to be fulfilled, even in this day:

"I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn."
--Zechariah 12:10

That the Israelites will lose their livelihood, their country, if not their lives, is a "bitter day," indeed. But God is hinting at an even larger issue that plagues His people yet today. The Son of God will be killed in their sight, yet they did not know Him or acknowledge Him as the Messiah for whom they were longing. But, in a Day still to come, the Jews will know Jesus, and there will once again be a deep mourning.

What a picture!

"Blessed are you, O Israel;
Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD,
Who is the shield of your help
And the sword of your majesty!
So your enemies will cringe before you,
And you will tread upon their high places."
--Deuteronomy 33:29

Just not yet....

Finishing Chapter 8 .... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Amos 8:11-14

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).