Scripture reading – Amos 5; Amos 6

Click on this link for translations of this Bible study. 

A word of introduction: As a citizen of the United States, I usually focus on the sad failings of the country I love. Like many, I lament the idiocy of government leaders and the moral failings of those in authority. Yet, I am reminded that nations worldwide are experiencing the same moral decay.

Sadly, Canada, my neighbor to the north, with the majesty and beauty of its landscape, is plagued by morally corrupt leaders who, from my perspective, are enemies of freedom and oppressors of its citizens. Today’s study in the Book of Amos presents obvious parallels between Israel that preceded God’s judgment and those of the United States and Canada.

A Lamentation for Israel (Amos 5:1-3)

Amos 5

 

A Lamentation for Israel (Amos 5:1-3)

Amos was charged with the non-enviable task of warning Israel of pending judgment, but he was nevertheless moved to sorrow and compassion for that rebellious people. That prophet’s lament for the “house of Israel” is recorded in Amos 5:1-3.

The prophet foretold that Israel would be overthrown and suffer utter devastation. He described the nation as no longer chaste or innocent. He wrote, “The virgin of Israel is fallen” and would never rise from the ashes of her ruin (Amos 5:2a). The people would be removed from the city and land, and no one would come to her aid (Amos 5:2). One-tenth of the people would be all that remained in Israel (Amos 5:3).

 

God’s Longsuffering (Amos 5:4-9)

Despite their sins, the LORD longed to show compassion to Israel. He invited the people, “Seek ye me, and ye shall live” (Amos 5:4). Amos admonished them to forsake Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba (places of idol worship), for those sacred places would “come to nought” (5:5). The people were exhorted, “Seek the Lord, and ye shall live” (Amos 5:6a).

Amos reminded Israel that their LORD was the Creator of the constellations (Amos 5:8a). He is sovereign and the sustainer of creation (causing the sun to set and rise and dispelling the darkness). Illustrating the science of evaporation before man understood it, Amos declared the LORD “calleth for the waters of the sea (i.e., salt water), and poureth them out upon the face of the earth (i.e., as freshwater)” (Amos 5:8). The LORD humbles the mighty. No stronghold is safe from His judgment (Amos 5:9).

A Portrait of a Lawless Nation (Amos 5:10-15)

A Portrait of a Lawless Nation (Amos 5:10-15)

Israel hated the Words of the LORD and His messengers. “They [hated] him that rebuketh in the gate, and they [abhorred] him that speaketh uprightly” (Amos 5:10). The wealthy taxed the “poor” who flaunted their wealth, building great stone-cut houses (Amos 5:11a). They planted vineyards. Amos warned they would not live to enjoy their houses or “drink wine” of their vineyards (Amos 5:11b).

Israel afflicted the “just” [i.e., law-abiding], judges took bribes, and the poor were denied justice (Amos 5:12). Describing the day as evil, the prophet disclosed that the “prudent” [wise and understanding] were silenced (Amos 5:13). (As it was in those days so it is in our day, as politicians, news outlets, and social media demand conservative voices be censored and silenced.)

Perhaps the prudent kept silent, for they viewed Israel’s suffering as the fate that was its due and, therefore, God’s plan and purpose (Amos 5:13). Then, with the passion of a faithful preacher, Amos called on Israel to “seek good, and not evil, that ye may live…Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate” (Amos 5:14-15).

 

Closing thoughts for Amos 5 –

The final days of Israel were preceded by the cries one hears at the funeral of a loved one. Amos declared there would be “wailing” everywhere, “in all streets…in all vineyards” (Amos 5:16-17). Amos declared, “Woe unto you that desire the days of the LORD!” (Amos 5:18), for some mocked the prophet’s declaration that God’s judgment was imminent (Amos 5:18-27).   

Despite their wickedness, the people continued a pretense of worship (Amos 5:21-22), but the LORD knows the hearts of men. Therefore, Amos warned that God’s judgment would soon pass over the nation like flood waters (Amos 5:24). Excusing their idolatry, Israel reflected on their “sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness” (though it seemed they forgot how the generation that departed Egypt perished in the wilderness, Amos 5:25).

The sins of the people and their worship of idols (Amos 5:26) sealed the fate of Israel, and the LORD declared, “Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, Saith the Lord, whose name is The God of hosts” (Amos 5:27).

An Admonition to the Careless, Self-confident Leaders of Israel (Amos 6:1-2)

Amos 6

 

An Admonition to the Careless, Self-confident Leaders of Israel (Amos 6:1-2)

Amos 6 continued the prophet’s declarations of woes against Israel and Judah (Israel being as Samaria, its capital city, and Judah identified as Zion, Amos 6:1). Both Israel and Judah were characterized as being “at ease” (meaning carefree, overly-confident, careless); however, the focus of chapter 6 is primarily upon Israel (the northern ten tribes).

Reflecting on God’s grace shown to Samaria and Zion (i.e., Jerusalem), Amos identified three heathen cities more significant than they were that succumbed to their enemy (which history reveals was Assyria). Calneh was an ancient city identified with Nimrod, the founder, and ruler of Babel (or Babylon, Genesis 10:10; Amos 6:2a).Hamath was the ancient capital city of Syria (Amos 6:2b), and Gath was one of the principal cities of the Philistines and the home of the giant Goliath and his kin.

Those great Gentile cities had fallen to the armies of Assyria. Therefore, Amos challenged the careless leaders of Israel and asked, “Be they better than these kingdoms? Or their border greater than your border?” (Amos 6:2). Were the leaders of Israel and Judah foolish enough to believe the same would not befall them? (Amos 6:2)

 

The Reckless Self-indulgent Lifestyle of Wealthy Leaders (Amos 6:3-6)

Though they had been warned, the leaders of Israel and Judah continued in their selfish, sinful lifestyles and refused to believe the warnings of God’s judgment. They “put far away the evil day” until the “seat of violence” was at the gates of the city (Amos 6:3).

They were guilty of self-indulgence and oppressed the poor, while the wealthy immersed themselves in extravagant luxury (Amos 6:4-6). They were lethargic and gluttonous (Amos 6:4). They desired to be pleasured with music (Amos 6:5), were guilty of excessive drinking, and anointed themselves with expensive perfumes (Amos 6:6a). Yet they gave no thought to the sorrows and sufferings of their countrymen (Amos 6:6b).

Illustrations of the Absurd: Things That Should Never Be (Amos 6:12-13)

God’s Judgment First Befell the Wealthy, Self-indulgent of Israel (Amos 6:7-11)

The ones who oppressed the poor and pampered and indulged themselves were the first to be exiled and taken into captivity (Amos 6:7). God swore an oath of judgment against them and declared, “I abhor the excellency of Jacob (i.e., Israel and Judah), and hate his palaces: therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein” (6:8).

Amos painted a picture of the devastation that would befall Israel and how the great majority of the people of Israel would perish (Amos 8:9). So many would die that the people resorted to cremation (usually reserved for criminals) to dispose of the dead bodies (Amos 6:9-10). It is believed an earthquake caused the destruction of houses described in Amos 6:11.

 

Illustrations of the Absurd: Things That Should Never Be (Amos 6:12-13) 

Amos illustrated God’s wisdom by referencing nature as the teacher.  The first and second teaching points were easy to understand: Horses should not run on rocks (for they risk falling and either hurting themselves or their rider), and oxen should not plow over a rock-strewn field (for there is little reward, Amos 6:12b).

The application of the illustrations of the absurd continued through the end of the chapter (Amos 6:12c-14). Amos asserted that the leaders of Israel and Judah so despised justice that they had turned “judgment into gall [poison], and the fruit of the righteousness into hemlock [bitterness; a curse]” (Amos 6:12). Israel and Judah boasted in their military might, but Amos declared it is “a thing of nought” (Amos 6:13).

 

Closing thoughts –

Though the leaders of Israel boasted in their might, Amos warned that the LORD would raise a nation that would afflict them (Amos 6:14). What the prophet declared would come to pass was fulfilled when Assyria destroyed the strongholds of Israel. As Amos prophesied, the proud, wealthy, and mighty were the first to be carried into captivity (Amos 6:14). 

Can any nation and people scorn the LORD’s Law and Commandments and escape His judgment?

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith 

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