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!


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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).