Amos has had some bad news for Israel (and Judah) (and some of us). They had forgotten how to do right. And even those waiting for the Day of the Lord were also carrying around idols. He does provide a very narrow path out for a remnant. The messages conclude in Chapter 6 and then the visions begin.
In verse 1, Amos cries woe to Jerusalem and Samaria, who are feeling comfortable and secure in their land and prosperity.
In verse 2, Amos suggests that they look around at some of their conquered neighbors and ask themselves if they are better or greater?
That's a tough question; but one we fail to ask when things are going well? We may be getting away with something and we know it; but it's easier to believe that we have fate on our side and our choices won't count against us. This goes for individuals and whole nations. As a nation, we should spend a little more time contemplating how Rome ruled the wold, but now they just produce olive oil. And Britain had a worldwide empire but now export reality TV judges that like to yell a lot. We were the world's single super power for decades; but clearly declining in power and authority. The reasons are numerous and varied; but they all come back to leaving our first love as a God-fearing nation.
I'm not sure what is being asked in verse 3, "Do you put off the day of calamity; and would you bring near the seat of violence? But I think it more of the same rhetorical questions as verse 2. I checked a couple of other versions and the wording was slightly different, but the ultimate meaning no clearer.
Verses 4-6: The Indictment
In these verses, Amos describes some of the behaviors that are bringing about the exile:
- recline on beds of ivory- I think it was Ahab, but one of Israel's leaders had a palace of ivory. That was their conspicuous consumption. There are other verses highlighting ivory as extravagance and waste.
- sprawl on their couches- the first one was recline and the second is sprawl. Bot words seem to connote relaxing; not working. The lazy rich, taking money from the poor and contributing nothing.
- eating lamb and calves- I wonder if this refers to a general gluttony or if these were animals intended for sacrifice to the Lord and they helped themselves. (asking for a friend :)). I'm inclined toward the second one because the next few seem directly related to corrupted worship.
- Verse 5 is very interesting. The next thing He holds against them is "improvising to the sound of the harp" (NASB) or "sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments"(NKJV). Followed by, "like David, have composed songs for themselves" (NASB) or "invent for yourself musical instruments, like David." (NKJV) It seems like He is saying that song and instrumental music is for worship alone. It makes sense, He created these gifts for worship. It just never occurred to me that we couldn't also use them for recreation. I'll be curious to see what the commentaries say; but being a jealous God, and knowing how completely music can be to the heart and spirit, it shouldn't surprise me that this is an affront to Him. I really need to reflect on this and consider if God has an action item here for me.
- He couldn't be more clear in verse 6. Drinking wine from the sacrificial bowls, anoint themselves with oils; but "not grieve over the ruin of Joseph". Living the good life and playing religion by using religious tokens; but allowing their poor brothers and sisters to be sold into slavery.
- The Wiersbe commentary on minor prophets, Be Concerned, theorizes that the reference to oil is actual the chief oil, the formula given in Exodus for the sacred formula of oils to only be used for God. Intentionally going out of the way to mix a forbidden formula is beyond pride or arrogance and is blatant and open rebellion.
In verse 7, He assures them that they will leads the exile or be dead and left behind. Over and over and over in scripture God makes it clear that justice may not look immediate sometimes, but it is thorough and complete.
Verse 8 starts with something I don't remember reading elsewhere in the Bible,
The Lord God has sworn by Himself, the Lord God of hosts has declared:I loathe the arrogance of Jacob, and I detest his citadels; therefore I will deliver up his city and all it contains.Amos 6:8
For those interested in the names of God- that translates into:
Saba Adonai Jehovah by Himself declares Jehovah Elohim Saba...
This makes me weak in the knees because God would got to such great lengths to swear by His own name...so you know the message is an important one...and then for the rest of the message being how he abhors Jacob's arrogance and detests Jacob's defenses. The language all the way through that paragraph is absolutely terrifying. God is showing us what His stored up anger looks like.
Lest you think this is Old Testament God, but Jesus is all unicorns and rainbows,
But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,Romans 2:5 (NASB)
None of us has ever gotten away with anything. From that first forbidden fruit, to the smallest white lie, to the biggest despicable sin against humanity, He sees it all and abhors and detests it. John 3:17 reminds us that we were always condemned by our own actions; Jesus didn't choose the wrath for us; we chose that. But He does make a way out; a narrow path for a remnant who would choose Him.
Verse 9-10 predicts an interesting situation with 10 men dying in a house and a conversation with a remnant that is left. One will hush the other and command that he not use the name of the Lord. I don't totally understand these two verses, but I will say that, at least, they finally seem to know who has wrought this destruction upon them.
Verse 11 states that the Lord is going to command that the big houses be smashed to pieces and small houses to fragments. That beyond dire. I took this to mean the houses of the rich and the houses of the less rich; but Wiersbe describes it as the two houses of the rich, the summer house and the winter house.
Verse 12-14: In Summary
In verse 12, the Lord, via Amos, wraps it up by implying that they have been as foolish as a horse running on rock or a oxen plowing rocks. He reiterates that they have turned justice to poison and righteousness has become bitter. It's worth noting, again, that the Lord's summary indictment is about how they treat each other and how they treat His characteristic of justice and righteousness. How we treat on another is of the utmost importance to Him.
In verse 13 He reiterates their trusting in idols and taking credit for their victories to their own glory.
All imagery is gone in the final conclusion of this message. He states it plainly. I am going to raise up a nation against you and they are going to afflict you from north to south. Yikes.
As Christians, we are some of the few who should be clear-eyed about what's going to happen to our nation without a true and sincere revival. We need to fall on our knees as a nation and shake off the tolerance and enabling of the truly monstrous sin that we have all agreed we just can't win against. God can do all things; the least I can do is grieve and fall on my knees for my nation. We are a small group with the truth that can benefit everyone individually and all of us together. We have to speak the truth in love and share the good news.