Amos has completed his original prophesies of the cities and nations of the region and two of three messages, or sermons, for Israel. Chapters Three and Four dealt, largely, with the many sins of Israel and her failure to turn back to the Lord. Chapter 4 ends with the warning that Israel has gone too far, it's too late, and they should prepare to meet their maker. And the Amos reminding them of who God is. Chapter 5 covers Amos' third sermon.
Amos is predicting Israel's complete fall. A Ryrie footnote explains Israel as a virgin because she had never been completely conquered. She'd lost battles, and recently faced a prosperity and peace that left her even more unrepentant. Now she will not rise again.
In verse 3, he prophesies that only 10% will make it back.
In verse 4, the Lord specifies that only a return to Him will save them. Bethel and Gilgal aren't the safe havens that Israel may have previously counted on with their showy and false worship.
In verse 6, He repeats the command to "Seek the Lord that you may live". Otherwise, He's getting ready to break forth like fire and consume those who sin against justice and righteousness.
Verse 8 is a list of God's accomplishments to remind the listeners who is speaking. He made the stars and galaxies, and constellations. He makes night and day. He creates and commands the seas. The Lord is His name. (Jehovah)
Conversely, in verse 9, He also brings destruction on the strong and on the fortresses. He creates and erases.
I used to say that God creates and evil destroys. I see that I was wrong in that summary. God creates. But in His righteous wrath, He destroys what has earned destruction.
Evil seeks to destroy what is good and pure and reflects God's glory and creation.
I think that's such an important distinction. God does destroy. We have to come to terms with that. He's not all rainbows and unicorns. However, there is a way to avoid that. Seek Him. With all that you are, all that you have been given, seek Him. And HIS will.
I'm struggling at work right now with a project that's too big for the time frame I've been given. I have stressed and I have lost sleep over this thing. I've generally prayed for help; but I hadn't stopped and really given this to God until worship service this weekend. And I was surprised to find that I was asking God to come into my circumstances and fix my life. INSTEAD, I needed to be seeking His will for my life. If this project is in His will and His plan, He'll make it happen. But maybe it's not. He may be more glorified if it doesn't happen. I have to trust Him and seek His will. Not try and figure out how I can get Him to do what I think I need.
He's a good Father and a good Teacher and a good Coach. He won't let me down. Even if His will is different than what I think I need.
I was broken inside as He taught me that. And I confessed to placing my will above His. But since then, I've had to repeat the message to myself 1000 times. I remember the mountain in front of me, and the stress levels rise, and I start again to try and plead for His miracle. Don't get me wrong, of course I pray for His help in times of need. And I have faith that He will answer my prayers. but the mistake is investing my well-being in getting my way. I'm afraid I'll look bad in front of my boss and co-workers. I'm afraid I'll feel bad about myself. Those aren't eternal. And when my prayers are to support my pride...I should be concerned that He may not answer, because my pride is NOT what He's told me to focus on.
He is my master and I am His slave (doulos). I must keep my focus on His will.
It can be the same prayer. For the same outcome. But as always, the heart is what God is looking at. And mine is all tied up in pride and shame and how those at work see me.
Seek Him that you may live.
And then, a few hundred years later, Jesus tells us to seek the kingdom of God and we will get what we need.
Seek Him. With your heart.
Starting in Verse 10
Next Amos describes their sins against one another. First it's those who hate the honest judges. I remember in school, as a student and then a teacher, there are a large group of people who hate those who do well in school and the "teacher's pet". It's like we should all agree to not care and do poorly. There is some instinct in us that I don't understand. I love to see people excel in things, even things I do poorly. Why wish ill on those doing well. I know the judges at the gate is probably also about wanting judges who can be bought; but the word in the NASB translation is "hate him who reproves at the gate". It almost just sounds like they want to get away with whatever they choose and don't want anyone correcting them.
Verse 11 is clearly about money and taking as much as possible from the poor and weak--taxes, rent, tributes. However, the second half of the verse describes what won't happen because of that. They won't get to live in their fancy houses or drink the wine from their fancy vineyards. It's going to cost way more than they got from their spoils.
Verses 12-13 God assures the sinners that He sees them and those they have harmed. He calls it an evil time and warns the prudent person to keep silent.
Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and thus may the God of hosts be with you, just as you have said.Amos 5:14
In verse 15, even in this most dire hour, the Lord provides an escape hatch that they can use. He encourages them to hate evil and love good, establish justice at the gate and perhaps the Lord will be gracious with the remnant. Which, of course, He was. So gracious that He sent His Son to die for them and all of us. What truly amazing Grace we all experience.
It's almost jarring to find this patch of grace at the end of such a long road of promised destruction. His faithful can be found everywhere because He is a God of mercy and grace; while still being the same God of justice. Amazing.
In verses 16-17 we know something big is coming because it starts with, "Therefore, thus says the Lord God of hosts, the Lord. That's God referring to Himself by 4 of His names- Jehovah, Elohim, Saba, Adonai. He describes the wailing, grief, and lamenting they will hear and experience:
...because I shall pass through the midst of you, says the Lord.Amos 5:17b
Fear is the beginning of wisdom. I'm sure when they were dropping their showy offerings in public they thought whatever gods there were now owed them. They took from the poor and then patted themselves on the back when they dropped some of it off at the next party in town. The did right according to their own eyes. And all the while, they were storing up God's wrath.
First, God walked with us in the Garden. And Jesus walked among us. He is our Creator and He walks with us. However, there are some very grim scenes in which He passes through a group and it is beyond terrifying. "Don't make me come down there, says the Heavenly Father."
Starting In Verse 18: Being Religious Isn't Enough-And It's Actual Worse
There is some very bad news in here for the religious people of Amos' time; and I can't help but to think it's the same bad news for the religious people of every ages, including this one.
Verse 18 specifies people who long for the Day of the Lord. These are insiders. These aren't people who came at Christmas and Easter (proverbially) 🙂 These are people who know the Day of the Lord is coming and they long for it. That's inside baseball knowledge. You'd think those were the believers God was looking.
But He doesn't congratulate them on their faith and promise them righteousness, He gives them this graphic imagery: you think you're running from a lion; but a bear or snake is waiting down the path.
He goes on to tell them that when the Day of the Lord comes it won't be the light they suppose, but darkness.
Wow. Heavy, grim words for people who are supposedly believers.
It gets worse. These are believers who do many of the behaviors asked of a believer-festivals, offerings, singing and music worship.
This is all very disturbing. What is going on that God would reject and condemn these people who do so much right?
It starts with what they don't so.
They disregard justice and righteousness.
And they carry idols and make kings of their idols and gods that they made for themselves.
You can think the right thoughts about God. You can do the right worship for God.
And He will reject you and leave you in darkness.
If you don't treat other well and you maintain idols.
This should leave us all shaking in our boots. If you consider yourself a God follower and are looking forward to Jesus' return; It. Isn't. Enough.
Here what He expects and all that He'll accept:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and your neighbor as yourself.
Everything else should be an expression of that love. Everything else isn't a sufficient replacement.
It sounds harsh. These people were doing many thing right. Many things. And at a time and place where it was very difficult to do right. Why would God completely reject them.
Consider how you would feel if you had a great spouse. Who did most things right. Said the right things. Bought you gifts. Sang love songs to you. But slept with other people on the side. Set up another household and was also a great spouse in a second marriage. Embezzled from a local orphanage. Would you reject that spouse or grade on a curve and let it slide because they did most things right?
Getting wrong the things that matter most is getting it wrong.
It remains true today. Going to church? Worshiping through tithes, offerings, singing, volunteering at church? Those only count if you get the first part right- Loving the Lord and others?
How do I know? Isn't Jesus Love? He wouldn't reject those who were trying, right?
21 Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV
So much for Jesus riding on a unicorn spreading love to everyone. He is Love. And He does Love us all. But We Rejected Him. And the only way back from that condemnation is His way.
One last thought on the subject. And I think I bang this drum quite a bit. Idols come in many forms and fashions. Obviously these people were looking of the Day of the Lord without fear. they had idols and didn't think they would be counted against them. I can often find myself relying on food and other worldly things above God. It slips in. Something that is a blessing from God becomes a replacement for God. Maybe it's a hobby, or a person, a something you use as a crutch to get you through life...but that should be God. And the next thing you know it's an idol.
We all need to constantly inspect our lives for idols. He takes them very seriously.
To God be the glory.