Studies in Prophets and Writings

Amos 3: To whom much is given, much is required

The descendants of Israel, North and South, inherited the covenant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at Mt. Sinai hundreds of years before. Yet, instead of living in that covenant, the children of Israel preferred to imitate the practices of the nations around and actually surpassed the surrounding nations around in their iniquity. This is why God judges the entire family of Israel much more severely than He punishes the other nations. This is the prophet’s warning in Amos 3.

In Amos 1-2, God used the sins of Israel’s nations as a rebuke against Israel. In Amos 3, He was not just addressing the Northern Tribes but also Judah.

“Hear this word which the LORD has spoken against you, sons of Israel, against the entire family which He brought up from the land of Egypt: ‘You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.'” (Amos 3:1–2 NASB)

Isaiah shows us about 100 years after Amos that this issues were rampant in Judah as well. God pulled Israel out of Egypt, giving them His instruction and having taught them His way of life completely. They were given the opportunity to know Him specially and intimately. He gave them a special place where they could live out the culture that God placed upon them, but they did not live it out at all.

This opportunity was not given to the nations around them. This is why God judges them more harshly than He judges the nations.

“Do two men walk together unless they have made an appointment?” (Amos 3:3 NASB)

He lists examples of the family of Israel and their refusal to walk in God’s ways. The family of Israel should know how to keep God’s appointments and they don’t.

“Does a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey?” (Amos 3:4 NASB)

Lions don’t roar when the prey is far away. God is the lion, Israel is the prey. When God is ready to do so, he will pounce on them when its too late to get away from His wrath.

“Surely the Lord GOD does nothing Unless He reveals His secret counsel To His servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7 NASB)

God does not pronounce judgement without warning. He explains Himself fully to His prophets, not in the snippet of a dream which is difficult to understand. There’s no ambiguity when God makes a judgement. God explains Himself plainly to His prophets so when they speak God’s judgement to the people, it is plain and easily understood. It might be ignored but the judgement is understood and feared.

In Amos 3, God calls upon the nations of Philistia and Egypt, nations not selected by God into His special covenant relationship, to marvel at how messed up Israel are.

“Proclaim on the citadels in Ashdod and on the citadels in the land of Egypt and say, ‘Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria and see the great tumults within her and the oppressions in her midst. But they do not know how to do what is right,’ declares the LORD, these who hoard up violence and devastation in their citadels.” (Amos 3:9–10 NASB)

God hates oppression, this will trigger God’s judgement. Oppression comes from the top down. Oppression comes from the government and is pressed on the people.

God’s solution to deal with Israel’s iniquity is permanent exile.

“Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘An enemy, even one surrounding the land, Will pull down your strength from you And your citadels will be looted.'” (Amos 3:11 NASB)

What does God gain by this? What is God trying to stop. He is trying to stop the confusion and the oppression of the people. He will bring an army to bring oppression on the ruling government. The righteous still suffer though. God will oppress the oppressors.

How complete will Israel’s exile be?

“Thus says the LORD, ‘Just as the shepherd snatches from the lion’s mouth a couple of legs or a piece of an ear, So will the sons of Israel dwelling in Samaria be snatched away ― With the corner of a bed and the cover of a couch!'” (Amos 3:12 NASB)

The exile of the Northern Tribes will be so complete, only a tiny, insignificant remnant will escape exile and death. This is a judgement upon the entire house of Israel.

God’s instructions in Torah are not only upon the individual, but there are are many rules about good governance. The Torah also teaches the government how to rule righteously. Those who are in charge have more rules and regulations upon them than those who are not in charge. The government of Israel are so confused they don’t know what is right and wrong but God doesn’t allow them to use that as an excuse.

How can an occupying army remedy Israel’s confusion? Ask yourself what caused Israel’s confusion? Idolatry and false worship in Israel, brought in under Jeroboam I, the son of Nebat, was the source of God’s confusion.

“For on the day that I punish Israel’s transgressions, I will also punish the altars of Bethel; The horns of the altar will be cut off and they will fall to the ground.” (Amos 3:14 NASB)

Rehoboam caused the oppression, which sparked the separation of the Northern Tribes but it was Jeroboam who created the confusion about God’s identity and His ways by changing the Feast sites and Feast days. Jeroboam also placed God’s personal name on the calves he set up in Dan and Bethel which were the places of ritual worship for the people of the Northern Tribes from that time forward. The confusion just spiraled out of control from that time to Amos’ day.

When an army comes through they plunder gold, and since those golden calves were gold, they will be taken away. With an occupying army, that nation will replace the native culture. Once Assyria comes, the calves will be taken away, the purpose of worshipping them will be gone too.
The army will destroy the source of Israel’s confusion but not create understanding in Israel about God’s Torah. What creates understanding is removing the source of the confusion and then filling in the emptiness with instruction and understanding from the Torah.

“He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. “But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint you a place to which he may flee. “If, however, a man acts presumptuously toward his neighbor, so as to kill him craftily, you are to take him even from My altar, that he may die.” (Exodus 21:12–14 NASB)

Why would a murderer or a wicked person go to God’s altar? Here are a couple of stories to elaborate. Both Adonijah and Joab ran to God’s altar when they felt that judgment and even death were imminent.

“And Adonijah was afraid of Solomon, and he arose, went and took hold of the horns of the altar. Now it was told Solomon, saying, ‘Behold, Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon, for behold, he has taken hold of the horns of the altar, saying, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me today that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’ Solomon said, ‘If he is a worthy man, not one of his hairs will fall to the ground; but if wickedness is found in him, he will die.’ So King Solomon sent, and they brought him down from the altar. And he came and prostrated himself before King Solomon, and Solomon said to him, ‘Go to your house.'” (1Kings 1:50–53 NASB)

“Now the news came to Joab, for Joab had followed Adonijah, although he had not followed Absalom. And Joab fled to the tent of the LORD and took hold of the horns of the altar. It was told King Solomon that Joab had fled to the tent of the LORD, and behold, he is beside the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, fall upon him.” So Benaiah came to the tent of the LORD and said to him, “Thus the king has said, ‘Come out.’” But he said, “No, for I will die here.” And Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, “Thus spoke Joab, and thus he answered me.” The king said to him, “Do as he has spoken and fall upon him and bury him, that you may remove from me and from my father’s house the blood which Joab shed without cause. “The LORD will return his blood on his own head, because he fell upon two men more righteous and better than he and killed them with the sword, while my father David did not know it: Abner the son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, commander of the army of Judah. “So shall their blood return on the head of Joab and on the head of his descendants forever; but to David and his descendants and his house and his throne, may there be peace from the LORD forever.” Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up and fell upon him and put him to death, and he was buried at his own house in the wilderness. The king appointed Benaiah the son of Jehoiada over the army in his place, and the king appointed Zadok the priest in the place of Abiathar.” (1Kings 2:28–35 NASB)

In both instances, these men were guilty of treachery or murder. They went to God’s altar and grabbed hold of it. Amos is using this imagery to show how God will cut off the altars of Bethel. There is no hope. The altar didn’t save Joab from judgement and the altar of Bethel will not save Israel from God’s judgement either. God is removing their source of salvation and safety. They threw their lot in with their false god instead of the true God.

Who is God striking at?

“I will also smite the winter house together with the summer house; The houses of ivory will also perish And the great houses will come to an end,” declares the LORD.” (Amos 3:15 NASB)

When this army comes with their destruction, the poor suffer too, but it will be the leadership and the rich who use their wealth to gain favor and power from the rulers will suffer much greater loss. A pauper who has nothing still has nothing. It will be the wealthy who will lose much and have nothing. They will be a nobody like everyone else. The status of the government ruler and well-connected will be debased.

Speaker: Daniel Agee. Summary: Tammy.


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