Tough Love

Amos 9:1-10

Paul in 1 Cor. 10:1-11 makes plain Israel’s experiences under Moses’ leadership were ordained by God to serve as example for us. Also ordained the written record to instruct us by their example. Don’t believe is straining the principle to say it applies to other situations also. For instance, present text.

The back story: group of people brought out of place of tremendous persecution. Long arduous journey to new country, protected and guided by God all along the way. Given comprehensive set of laws with principles to govern all aspects of life, established in new country as nation distinct from neighbors. Governed for generations by God through appointed judges, then given visible king to rule. Three kings, 40-year reign for each, then issues simmering beneath surface erupted into divided people. One of first casualties following political division – proper worship of true God. Loyalties and worship rightfully belong to God routinely diverted to false gods including self. Was difference of degree on either side of divide, yet both ultimately guilty of disobedience and disloyalty to God.

Sure seems like are striking parallels between Israel as described and later nations including our own. In response to waywardness, God sent messengers to warn – turn back to true God or he would bring down judgment. Instead of heeding warning:

Neh. 9:26“Nevertheless they were disobedient And rebelled against You, Cast Your law behind their backs And killed Your prophets, who testified against them To turn them to Yourself; And they worked great provocations.”

When Stephen later levelled same charge against Jews, turned on him and stoned to death. (Acts 7:52ff) Did not turn on Amos in that way, certainly did show great disregard for his prophetic warnings. In first 10 verses of chapter 9, gives final warning of coming judgment; closing portion does give promise of hope for future. Yet is clear – all who deserve God’s judgment will be unable to escape. Most impressive of all: is God speaking and acting. God no longer showing things to Amos, rather standing there in person for him to see, probably in a vision. Declares what must be done, part He will play in it, his purpose to preserve a believing remnant.

Most prominent feature of this passage: is God himself who will bring calamity on nation of Israel. Highly unpopular concept in most circles, including Christian ones. Comfort zone is “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” whether specifically stated or not. Yet at particular times in history and certainly the future God says: “I will set My eyes on them for harm and not for good.” (v.4) God will not be provoked endlessly without responding. His children need not fear, He will take good care of them.

Keep in mind what is most important here: relationship between God and man. Lots of description about other things – places and calamities described. But is God’s actions and intents in light of people’s attitudes and behaviors that are central.

A. God strikes v.1

standing by the altar

mosts likely pseudo-altar in worship space at Bethel the one in view where judgment starts – God’s presence there no sign of approval… any more than Jesus’ presence showed approval of mnoeychangers (John 2:13-16)

even though God promises fearsome judgment, shows grace by giving clear warning well in advance – leave idolatry, return to God, will be spared

strike the capitals – Samson

capitals: the top part of a pillar or column – strike top of doorposts, driving them from underneath supporting structure of roof

slightly different action but same result as Samson at close of his life, Philistine temple – middle of sacrifice to Dagon, roof brought down with great loss of life (Judg. 16:28-30)

slay the survivors

if any should survive, God himself will kill them; if any still surviving, God himself will hunt them down wherever try to hide

is God who brings about this calamity… on purpose… in just judgment on those who remain stubbornly rebellious

not giving Yahweh what is rightfully his, instead giving to idols; not taking from Yahweh what he would generously supply, instead seeking supply and safety from idols

B. God searches v.2-4

the grave

David covered some of these places but from positive perspective – Psalm 139:7-12Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?…”

short answer: absolutely nowhere! is good if are on friendly terms with God, explains futility of those trying to escape judgment

hell = Sheol = grave: whether literally try to hide underground or choose death (suicide) God’s purpose will not be thwarted

death does not necessarily bring individual to better place – for impenitent, is far worse than anything imaginable because God is there pouring out his wrath on sinners who keep sinning against him

heaven – Babel

if were possible to get to heaven’s door by own effort, God not St. Peter will meet them and forbid entrance

Babel is not but should be sufficient lesson that only stairway to heaven is the one God has established through faith in Christ

hilltop – Elijah

a century earlier God clearly demonstrated his presence on Mt. Carmel, at same time his superiority over Baal and prophets

people got it right, even though short-lived: 1 Kin. 18:39​Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!”

sea bottom – Jonah

audience might have been closely acquainted with story of Jonah – he and Amos both active during reign of Jeroboam II

Jumping (or being thrown) overboard no way to escape hand of God – God has total authority over all that inhabit oceans, commands them according to his pleasure

even foreign captivity

tempting to say: “ok God, now I’m a POW in foreign Gentile (shudder) land; you’ve made your point, I’m safe now, right?”

God is neither provincial nor powerless: his sphere of activity not confined to land of Israel as was thought about other gods

in fact, Adonai Yahweh Tsabaoth (Lord GOD of hosts) not provincial at all unless consider his province to be all creation – and he exercises full power and authority over every last particle of it

C. God is sovereign v.5-7

“Lord GOD of hosts” — “​​​​​​The sovereign LORD who commands armies”

so there’s no confusion, this is God who is speaking, the one about whom Amos is speaking – not one of false gods worshiped at Bethel and throughout northern kingdom

the God who all without exception should worship, especially his particular people, is sovereignly governing all his creation

for devoted child striving to do Heavenly Father’s will this concept brings comfort and peace beyond understanding; same concept should strike terror into hearts of all estranged from him

those “hosts” give full obedience to sovereign Lord – to bring help of all kinds to his children, hindrances of all kinds to enemies

over earth and sky

God’s power not limited to doing things on the earth, he can do things with the earth – can as easily bring calamity as blessing

same is true about entire universe surrounding the earth – can make surface of earth toss and turn, create and destroy stars and galaxies, cause drought for years in California and reverse it all in a week

over people

God governs the actions of all people in all places at all times – places limits on behavior, changes desires, causes actions whether good or evil to achieve his purpose

side note: if God not sovereign over the lost, none would ever come to faith – requires God doing his work first to regenerate, give faith and life

friends

was time when children of Israel were God’s friends – heard their cry and sent deliverer, dealt with them gently, w/compassion

continues along same pattern: Matt. 7:11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

enemies

friend or enemy matters not when it comes to exercise of God’s power and authority – Prov. 21:1 “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.”

repeatedly God used nation’s enemies to teach lessons, corrective discipline; then taught those other nations their own lesson

because of idolatry had become no better/different than heathen neighbors – should expect no different treatment from God

D. God shows mercy v.8-10

destroys yet not utterly

God did indeed destroy the nation… but not the people – yes, is nation or political state of Israel today, estab. 1948; don’t confuse with people God formed into nation during time of Moses

God always careful to preserve his believing remnant, common theme throughout prophets, continued into NT

Rom. 11:5Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.”

that believing Jewish remnant will be grafted into olive tree along with believing Gentiles, adding their number to people of God

justice coupled with mercy

God committed to justice, is his nature to be just; yet God shows mercy whenever possible and prudent – is not a vengeful tyrant, is a just judge

distinguishes sinner from saint

God does not treat everyone equally – equality is often unjust: “you’re all gonna stay in seats until someone tells me who did it” not just for the innocent

another side note: God doesn’t treat his children equally in all situations, often for very good reasons, always for his glory

remedy

Amos 5:14-15Seek good and not evil, That you may live; …It may be that the LORD God of hosts Will be gracious”

same remedy is open to all today as was during Amos’ day – seek good, love good, first as is found in Christ, then follow him in faith – message of life to the lost

God preserved those loyal to him, yet at great cost to them. His purpose not to cause unnecessary pain and suffering but to demonstrate his greatness, bring glory to himself and sanctifying grace to his people. Is tough love that brings about greatest change in people.

 

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