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!


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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).