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!


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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).