Let the Verdict Be Read!

Amos 8:11-12; 9:8-15

 

Tom J. Nettles

 

The focus texts for this lesson show that judgment of God upon Israel is for the sake of establishing a spiritually prosperous people indebted to grace alone for their enjoyment of the blessings of covenant people. The judgment will be commensurate with the sin of the people, but mercy will be shown in that Yahweh will not bring utter destruction but will preserve a remnant to receive the shower of gracious advantages.

 

I.  The great wrath of God against religion, the great sin of the people

A.  The basket of summer fruit both as an image and in the similarity of the sound between “end” in Hebrew and the Hebrew for “summer fruit”, combined to mean that the end had come upon Israel.. “I will never again pass by them,” is repeated from 7:8 in the vision of the plumb line. No more review is necessary; God has made his final determination about their punishment.

B. The incongruity between an intended temple worship and the scene of scattered dead bodies points to the unwarranted and thus unacceptable worship that they offered. That thing, worship, by which they sought to establish their national solidarity in opposition to the southern kingdom, is the fountain of divine wrath against them. Not only was it unwarranted and false worship, but even to the people that engaged in it, it was a sham.

C. The complete meaningless of their temple exercises is shown in their zeal for cut-throat economy. They trample the needy and the poor, and can hardly wait for the suspension of commerce on account of a designated time of worship to be done. They are eager to leave the time of worship so that they may pursue their utterly dishonest practices that gain such enormous profit for them - verse 5, 6,

D. God will pass by none of this evil but shall bring devastation; Their culture shall perish as if obliterated by a great flood. God will be like the Nile in Egypt in a rapid rise of water lifting all things from their places and an even more rapid and rushing descent sucking away all things and hurling them down the river into the sea by the rapidity with which it all settled. So will God’s wrath wipe away their culture, their worship [see verse 14], their business, and their arrogant ignorance of him.

E.  The images Amos uses to describe that day are hauntingly familiar to those that muse on the day of Christ’s death. It is not merely coincidental that this day of wrath bears point by point similarities to the greatest day of wrath that the world would ever see. On the day of their judgment, the sun would go down at noon and broad daylight would become dark as night. See Luke 23:44, 45; The bitterness of the taste of such a display of wrath will turn jubilation into mourning and lamentation because of the awfulness of the spectacle ; verse 10 compare with Luke 23:48; Indeed, Israel’s only son died on that great and bitter day of the crucifixion of Jesus.

 

II. verses 11, 12 - The absence of the word. God now declares the most severe aspect of their abandonment to wrath. They shall suffer a famine of the word of God. Have we considered the greatness of the mercy toward us that we have the word of God? We see part of this fulfillment described in 1 Thessalonians 2:13-16; The Gentiles received the word of God but the Jews rejected it and God’s wrath came upon them.

A. The word of God opens the mind to truth that never changes (Isaiah 40:6-8); shows us our sin (Romans 7:7ff]; it shows us the character of God (Jude 24, 25, Isaiah 40:9-31), it shows us the great redemption wrought by Christ (Hebrews 13:20-21); it opens to us God’s eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:2-6); its power and truth alters human society (Ephesians 4:25-32);  it promises to believers the glories of heaven (1 Peter 1:3-9). The power of the word of God conforms us to Christ and prepares us for that great day of judgment that is to come (Hebrews 4:12, 13)

B. The word of God comes to us only by divine grace. It is a matter of divine revelation, not human initiative, that it originates for it is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:14-17); It is understood only by the special operation of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:12-16); It was hidden in times past but finds its fulfillment only in Christ (Romans 16:25-27); It is special food to give the knowledge of God and the gospel to the elect and for their eternal well being (Titus 1:1-3); It is still the obligation of all who hear it to believe it (Acts 28:23-28)

C.  The Israelites are getting that for which they asked, when Amaziah told Amos to take his prophesying back to Judah – (7:12-13)

 

III. God will be the Unavoidable pursuer against Israel – 9:1-4 – This display of rhetoric in showing the inescapability of the divine determination to bring a just punishment on a disobedient, yea, rebellious and perversely carnal people gives no point at which this people can expect any relenting of God’s hand until he has fully vindicated his character and satisfied his just wrath. “I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.” (4b) This is not the kind of careful attention from God that any creature should desire. If we want to know that God is near, the people of Israel have assurance of it; but this is not what they had in mind.

 

IV. God shows both his great power and the absurdity of any nation seeking any other God than He. 9:5, 6

A.  Amos gives a graphic image of the power of God over all things of nature for the sake of his moral order (“and all who dwell in it mourn”). He uses the image of the rising and falling of the Nile a second time. He views the earth as a lower part of God’s dwelling place and the heavens as his upper chambers. God inhabits the entire natural order, upholds it, disposes of it, uses it for the display of his wisdom and power, and leaves nothing in all of creation outside of his immediate power and purpose, It exists for him and its existence is dependent upon him.

B. Even the destruction of the earth is his, to be administered for his purpose. Once through a universal flood the world was judged, Intermittently portions of the earth are flooded; he controls the seas and “pours them out upon the surface of the earth.” The next universal agitation of the entire earth will be by fire, the natural combustible energy inherent in the elements of the world will be set loose for a massive judgment, purification, and renovation of the world (2 Peter 2:6, 7; 10-13)

 

V. Israel has made themselves to have no more advantages than the Cushites or the Philistines – 9:7-10.  Their idolatry has made them just like the uncovenanted, uncircumcised nations, for they are circumcised only in the flesh and not in the heart. God’s providence had delivered and established even Cush, and Philistia, and Syria; but he would judge them completely. So would he do to Israel, but, for the sake of his own name, would “not utterly destroy the house of Jacob.” As he shakes them through the sieve of wrath, still “no pebble shall fall to the ground.” But those that are numb to the pending righteous anger of Yahweh, who say, “Diasater shall not overtake or meet us,” will find themselves to be overtaken by wrath in the form of an Assyrian invasion.

A.  The first step of restoration is recognition of sinfulness. They refused to take the first step.

B. Next is the consent that such sinfulness deserves judgment and neither God’s justice nor mercy is compromised, or should be, when he exacts the utmost farthing from sinners.

C. Next is the recognition that all favor and redemptive action flows from pure grace, that for the glory of his great name, God gives mercy.

D. In recognition that God glorifies himself by displays of mercy as well as justice, every sinner, knowledgeable of his merited state of condemnation, nevertheless applies to God as the God of all mercies and the Father of all comfort for forgiveness and restoration.

 

V.  Verses 11-15 – In demonstration of  this mercy, God restores a remnant to all the privileges and abundance promised to his covenant people and includes all the nations in this promise.

A. The “booth of David” refers to the restoration of kingship to Israel from the line of David, something that had been missing in Israel since the rebellion of Jeroboam. This restoration signals David’s greater Son, coming “of the house and lineage of David,” the one “descended from David according to the flesh” [Luke 2:4; Romans 1:3]. Once a full repair has been made (“repair its breeches and raise its ruins”) then it will embrace also nations that are not in the present covenant relationship with God as Israel is  (“possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name.” Literally “upon whom my name is called.” This must refer to the elect of every tongue and tribe and nation; See Revelation 7:9, 10.

B.  The promises of the restoration must be commensurate with the restoration of the “booth of David.” Those that have David as their king also will have the covenant as their own. These promises now relate, in large part, to those who are made into the covenant people by the reconciling work of Christ. Look at 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 and 6:16-7:1 (even the Corinthians were heirs to all of God’s promises and the blessings of his fatherly presence); and Ephesians 2:11-22. Those that were “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise” and were “far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” These nations that are now possessed by the restoration of the booth of David “are no longer strangers and aliens, but . . . are fellows citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” This will include the “remnant chosen by grace” from Israel also (Romans 11:5).

C. This promise is similar to that of Ezekiel 34:23-31 where David becomes the shepherd, protects the sheep and none shall make them afraid, they are secure and the earth yields its increase for them. Obviously, Jesus is that shepherd David and he said, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16) Jesus expanded the promise of his davidic task to include sheep beyond the fold of Israel.

D. The “Promise” referred to in 2 Peter 3:4 and 9, that is “of his coming” points to the settling of all things under Christ’s visible rule and reign, when all foes are finally placed under his feet and all his people, the remnant of Jacob, the remnant of Edom and those elect sheep from the nations have their final number solidified and the land bestows all the promises of bounty. (Amos 9:13-15). When that day comes, the heavens and the heavenly bodies will dissolve, the earth and its works will be exposed, and “according to his promise” new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells will be the dwelling place of the people of promise. God will be their portion and the riches symbolized by grain, and wine, and fruit will be more than accounted for in the rich knowledge of the vine who is the bread of life who shed his blood for our sin memorialized in the wine of the new covenant. God’s people shall “never again be uprooted” for they have the “great and precious promises” through which they escaped the “corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:4) and now possess the “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept” for this present moment “in heaven for you”

 

 

VI. Comments:

 

I. How much of the worship in our churches has warrant from the word of God? It seems that we often struggle to find something new to excite the worldly, while we leave the simplicity of what God has required behind.

II. Do we find people who are glad when the service of worship is over so that they can continue their major goal in life of entertaining themselves, or enriching themselves.

III. Of what value is the word of God to us. What if we had a famine of the word of God? What if we had no Bibles, no preaching, no way of accessing the true knowledge given by divine revelation? What a conflagration of moral horror would the world fall into without the salting effect of revealed law and gospel.

IV. We should take hope in that even in the clearest declarations of the torrent of wrath that is due a disobedient and rebellious people, God continually intersperses the sweet notes of his determination to save. He is indeed not slack concerning his promise  but is patient and thus we should consider the patience of our God as salvation.