The Judgment is Coming
Sometimes, we forget about the importance of studying the Old Testament because of the New Testament (cf. Heb. 10:9). However, Paul penned, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Furthermore, the New Testament is the development and outgrowth of the Old Testament. Therefore, a study of the Old Testament, such as the book of Amos, can be very enlightening.
The book of Amos will not only have to do with Judah and with Israel (cf. 2:4-6), but it will also have to do with several Gentile nations. While Judah and Israel were religious people, their religions had not molded or changed their lives to have the right attitude towards other people. Therefore, when we compare Judah and Israel with these pagan nations, their religions did not influence them to maintain godly qualities either!
Is it not strange that God would inspire an Israelite to prophesy to pagan nations? Why would Amos prophesy against these pagan nations, just as Jonah would prophesy against Assyria? We understand the reason for this when we understand the sovereignty of God (Psa. 22:27-28, 67:4, 98:9). Therefore, it is interesting that we do not find the phrase “God of Israel” one time in this book. This indicates that Amos is not simply writing to Israel or Judah, but to all the nations around them. In other words, God is not only the God of Israel and Judah, but He is the God of all the nations, just as we see in Amos 1-2: Syria (Damascus), Philistia (Gaza), Phoenicia (Tyre), Edom, Ammon and Moab. These nations are not only quarreling with one another, but they had the opportunity to know that Judah and Israel were not ordinary nations. We would think that Judah and Israel would influence these nations through godly living, but sadly, they do not (cf. Psa. 83).
Of course, Amos indicates the time of this prophecy—he prophesied during the reign of Uzziah in Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel, during the time that Israel reached its heights of prosperity (1:1; cf. 2 Kings 14:23-29). In Amos 1:1-2:3, we have judgments from God among Gentile nations, and in Amos 2:4-16, we have an introduction to judgments upon the people of God—Judah and Israel, with Israel being the most prominent in the book. Therefore, when we get to Amos 3, Amos will begin a series of three addresses against Israel, establishing their guilt and pronouncing judgment against them—“Hear this word” (3:1, 4:1, 5:1). This language from God ought to wake anyone up to stop and listen to what God has to say! As Amos cries for the judgment to come upon Israel, let us glean some rich lessons from Amos 3.
First, note the remembrances to validate the judgment (3:1-2). Amos takes them back to the unified nation before its division—“the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt” (3:1). He continues, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities” (3:2). This does not mean that God forgot everyone else or that there was no hope for any other people (cf. Gen. 12:3; Psa. 145:9; Matt. 5:45). However, Amos alludes to the fact that God knew Israel in a very special way as opposed to the other nations (cf. Deut. 4:5-10; 2 Sam. 7:18-24; Psa. 147:19-20). Therefore, because of this special relationship that He had with them, they were without excuse (cf. Exod. 19:1-5). They had the word of God, and it is in this sense that He knew them and did not know the other nations. He gave His word directly to Judah and Israel, and they were to influence the other nations through their actions. Thus, Amos reminds them of their special relationship with God to show that they are without excuse in God pronouncing judgment upon them. What a valuable lesson for us to remember that we should never fail to remember our blessings! Do we appreciate our ancestors who threw off the creeds and doctrines of men?
Second, Amos gives illustrations to announce the judgment that God will use to deal with their sins so that they can repent, change their ways and not continue the way in which they currently are (3:3-8). The first illustration has to do with the relationship between God and His prophets (3:3). In other words, Amos is showing the agreement between himself, representing the prophet, and God. Thus, when Amos announces judgment, it is because Amos has agreed with God, and although the nation would think that Amos and God disagree, Amos says that this is not the case. This is why they carefully ought to hear what he has to say (3:1). The background behind this familiar statement is likely Leviticus 26:23-24. Moses warned Israel that when they would disobey God, then He would bring judgments upon them. Therefore, they are walking contrary to God and not in the agreement between the prophet and God. Notice some principles that are fundamental to walking with God.
- For one to walk with God, one must have the same purpose as God. I cannot walk with Him if I have one purpose, and God has another. For example, we learn in the book of Jonah that he did not have the same purpose as God did. Unfortunately, Amos would later state that Israel had one purpose and God had another (cf. 8:4-5). What is the purpose that God has for my life? Is it to bring glory to Him through the church that Jesus built (Eph. 3:21)? Is this for what I live?
- For one to walk with God, one must walk as God walks. God said, “Be ye holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). The words “holy,” “holiness,” and “sanctify” have a double significance—separated from something to something. Therefore, one must separate himself from the world (church—ekklesia) to serve Almighty God (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). God expected them to follow this principle, and God expects us today to follow this same principle. Therefore, we cannot live as the world lives and walk with God.
- For one to walk with God, one must understand that his pattern for life is not simply an occasional thing. For example, First John 3:9 does not conflict with First John 2:1-2 because sinning is not the pattern of his life. One does not walk with God when the pattern of his life is sinful and unholy.
- For one to walk with God, one must do so willingly. God does not force people to walk with Him, although He has the power that He could force us. Yet, that is not His desire; He wants willing service. When I walk with God under force of pressure, then God will not accept that service.
- For one to walk with God, one must do so with proper understanding—“agreed.” Knowledge and appreciation is important in walking with God.
Therefore, the method of God in revealing Himself is through the prophet (3:7), who is nothing more than a spokesperson for God (e.g., Noah, Abraham and such like). Jesus revealed Himself to His apostles (John 13:19, 14:29), and we have the revelation of these secrets in the New Testament. The New Testament uses the word “secret” with reference to the term “mystery.” In other words, God did not use feelings or urges, but He spoke to them through the prophets. The book of Amos underscores the importance of a prophet, beginning with Samuel all the way to this time. Yet, the nation had a careless regard for what the prophet had to say. The tendency of humanity is to get to the place where we become so familiar with what God has said that we tend to drift away and do not pay any attention at all to it. In fact, Amos will later record them telling him to go back home because they do not want to listen to him anymore (cf. 7:10-13).
The second illustration has to do with a lion (3:4, 8). Whenever a lion roars, he is about to jump on his prey (cf. 1:2). The third illustration has to do with a bird caught in a snare (3:5) and the fourth illustration has to do with trumpets blown in the city (3:6).
Third, note the reasons that Amos gives to explain the impending judgment (3:9-15). He begins with the fact that they “stored up violence” (3:10; cf. Rom. 2:5; James 5:1-6). Moreover, God judges them because of their improper outlook on material things, highlighted by the prosperity of the nation of Israel and the luxury they were enjoying—“palaces” (3:11). Yet, God did not intend for them to lavish themselves with luxuries, but to be a light to the rest of the nations, which they were not (2:11-12). Therefore, what will God do now that Israel has become so corrupt? He cannot overlook sin. Therefore, the judgment upon His own people would be a witness to the surrounding nations—He would not react to sin in Israel any differently than He would to anyone else. Therefore, captivity will be the result, but a remnant will come out.
This is a hard lesson for us to learn. The fact that I obeyed the gospel does not give me a license to do what I want to do, live and act in any way that I choose, as those in the world do. Yet, I believe sometimes that this is the impression we tend to leave on people. We need to realize that religion is not an escape from judgment, but it is an opportunity to glorify God by the right kind of living. When religion does not do this, then it fails in its purpose and is of no profit at all!
To conclude, what determines strength today? God determines strength, but prosperity and numbers do not determine strength. Character and righteousness reflect strength of the individual, congregation or nation. Can we not see this in our own country? So many surrounding countries despise America, and yet, look at the lack of moral fiber in our nation. The word of God is becoming more and more despised everywhere we turn. Crime and sin increases. How long will it be before the iniquity of America will be full (cf. Gen. 15:16)?