Three Visions

Amos 7:1-9

Series of five visions finish out prophecies of Amos: swarm of locusts (7:1-3), fire (7:4-6), plumb line (7:7-9), basket of summer fruit (8:1-14), God himself (9:1-10). First two – pattern: vision, prayer/plea, response; then changes in third… no prayer from the prophet.

2-word phrase used repeatedly by Amos, increased frequency in last 3 chapters: Lord GOD, accompanied by LORD in text this evening. Lord GOD (Adonai Yahweh) used most often in prophets – translated Sovereign Lord in NIV, NET, NLT. Sovereign covenant God governing his people – Amos gets it even if countrymen don’t.

Is important we don’t fall into same mindset as Elijah – 1 Ki. 19:10So he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” Then God reminds him: 1 Ki. 19:18 “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” God not without witness in every generation – Amos not the only believer in all of Israel. God had preserved remnant even in worst of times even when looked like entire nation had turned away.

Might be believing remnant present in Israel yet God must follow through on his promises. As always, God’s purpose to bring about correction and repentance not destruction. Would preserve faithful followers through judgment, would use judgment to convert some and harden others according to his eternal purpose. Different aspects of God’s character appear to us to be in tension – justice and mercy, holiness and longsuffering. Because God is merciful, justice waits. Because God is longsuffering, holiness warns. Is so because God’s desire is to redeem, not condemn… 2 texts:

John 3:17-18 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Eze. 33:11 “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?'”

Obvious from later history neither Israel nor Judah heeded warnings. Instead took great advantage of God’s longsuffering, tested his patience, ultimately felt his rod of correction.

A. locusts v.1-3

vision: swarm of locusts

situation Amos could really relate to – as sheepbreeder, tender of sycamore trees, understood both mechanics and necessity of good harvest… for man and beast

even though Amos from away, much of his business done in north – these prophecies if fulfilled make life hard for him, too

Amos’ understanding: not a natural disaster that would come but supernatural one – orchestrated by God alone

after first crop

timing crucially important – “the late crop after the king’s mowings” – what Samuel promised would take place when Israel wanted a king

1 Sam. 8:12, 14“He …will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest… And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants.”

so here’s the order – God received firstfruits, king was second and took all needed to support him and all in his household; farmer got what was left

implied here that farmer himself got little or nothing from first mowing, first crop; relied on second crop, what was produced between first harvest and end of season

before second crop harvest

what Amos saw in vision was swarms of locusts that ate up everything farmers and families hoping to live on till next harvest

if was green, they ate it – little hope for miracle after that – nothing left of plants, no possibility of anything from second crop

affected all outside royal circles, increase in suffering as you go down the socio-economic ladder – story of Ruth impossible in these conditions… nothing left even for gleaners

prayer: forgive

when Amos speaking to people as prophet, could pour on the strong language – only listen to his prophetic words, hard to hear his heart speaking

might appear crusty on outside, in truth had heart for God and for his countrymen – plight of Israel he foresaw distressed him to very core of his being

qualities that must be present in all engaged in pastoral ministry – zeal for God and compassion for sinners

pleads with God to forgive his people, then need for judgment no longer present, God could, without acting contrary to character, stop locust plague

does not plead promises God made in covenant with his people – people had blown their side of things so thoroughly they truly deserved judgment

even if they not compelled to seek forgiveness, Amos did on their behalf, pleading for God to forgive them because Amos took pity on them

response: relenting

apparent change of course, never change of purpose with God – intent all along to use minimum disciplinary action necessary to bring about repentance

perhaps threat of judgment averted by Amos’ prayer enough to persuade the people – not likely, but God graciously agreed

B. fire v. 4-6

vision: judgment by fire

fire frequently seen as symbolic form of God’s judgment – promised as means of final purification of universe (2 Pet. 3:7, 12)

like locusts, this fire obviously of supernatural origin – consider extent of devastation: “consumed the great deep and devoured the territory.”

many probably remembered Elijah, Mt. Carmel – 1 Ki.18:38 “Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.”

similarly, fire Amos saw coming an all-consuming storm of judgment clearing away everything in its path

prayer: show mercy

this time Amos asks for less: cease / stop / forbear – pleading with God to halt judgment that is even more dreadful than locusts

throws himself with his people on God’s mercy and compassion – take pity on your people, hold back on judgment so at least some able to survive

response: relenting

once again God demonstrates apparent change of course – in reality threatening/relenting cycles part of his sovereign plan

God makes clear – not being hasty, does not send judgment even when justified – is quick to show compassion whenever possible

C. plumb line v.7-9

vision: a wall and plumb line

not just a plumb line, one accompanied by wall made with plumb line – God taking final measure before he sends judgment

plumb line a standard of quality and integrity for finished wall – if not plumb, exactly vertical, is in danger of collapse, unable to support whatever built on top

God shows building correctly is possible, can be made to measure up to his satisfaction… iow, his gracious acceptance

prayer: none

Amos sensitive to what God reveals in vision, what God is saying – believes would be contrary to God’s will / purpose to ask for mercy

response: no relenting

people so far from meeting God’s standard (not even trying) he will no longer withhold judgment – “I will not pass by them anymore”

is God himself applying his standard to his people and rendering final verdict – idol-worshipers will be removed from the land

places of false worship destroyed, abandoned because people have been deported – turns out, were completely cured of idolatry in sense of worshiping Baal, Ashtoreth, Molech

God also promises to bring the Jeroboam dynasty to an end – primary leaders/encouragers of Israel’s disobedience

D. Conclusions

every nation needs “prophets” to stand in gap

Eze. 22:30“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.”

fervent intercession of God’s people can postpone judgment

God hasn’t changed, will listen to cries of his people when they have right motivation – compassion for lost, not self preservation

typical unbeliever is selectively deaf – cannot hear God’s voice

God spoke to Jesus from heaven, “the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.” (John 12:29)

attentive believer hears/understands God’s voice (v.8d and broken pattern)

are times when God makes his purpose clear – we like Amos must be quiet, like Jesus – “not as I will, but as you will”

God mercifully sends warning before judgment

no one can ever say honestly and rightfully – God never warned me – warning signs are all around… people ignore or redefine

God’s standard is final judge

we don’t get to decide what is acceptable, when God should finally move – that is always God’s prerogative – thank him for his gracious and merciful longsuffering

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