Day 131 – Thru the Bible
Today we start Amos and continue Psalms. Here is the overview video for Amos.
Video – Read Scripture: Amos
How does today’s video help you understand Amos better?
Amos 1 – After a brief historical introduction of the prophet, the book of Amos opens with six sermons of judgment against six nations, delivered from the roaring mouth of the Lord. God roars as a lion. This lion metaphor brackets the first two sections of the book (see also 3:8, 12). This portrayal of God as a divine predator appears elsewhere (Joel 3:16) and ultimately anticipates Jesus (Revelation 5:5; 10:3).
The totality and severity of judgment is captured in the image of impending fire. Fire is often associated with punishment (Genesis 19:24; Revelation 19:20) or refinement (Malachi 3:2; 4:1). For Amos, fire seems primarily to represent looming judgment. As we will see, however, the idea of refinement is never completely absent.
Jesus picks up on this judging and refining motif in Luke 12:49 as a reason He has come: “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!” The context indicates that He understands His death and resurrection as being the time when this refining judgment is accomplished. According to the New Testament, then, Israel’s response to Jesus’ death and resurrection determines their outcome in the final day of fire. The people of Israel either will be consumed in fiery wrath or will become the products of fiery refinement.
What is true for Israel is also true for the nations. All of humanity is subject to the fire of divine wrath. And yet even here mercy is extended. The poetic structure of Amos lays out a distinct view of mercy. The patterned statement of indictment—“For three transgressions . . . and for four . . .”—becomes the basis for the repeated statement of judgment: “I will not revoke the punishment.” Yes, God has decided to judge the world for repeated sin, but His gavel falls only after a season of patient endurance of repeated and unrepented sin. So, in the end, Amos holds out great hope for the nations (9:12) because the prophecy demonstrates that God is “slow to anger” (Exodus 34:6; Joel 2:13).
Finally, the impending judgment of God is focused squarely on how the people of the world behave toward one another. The sins in this passage are transgressions of the most basic laws of justice. Notice what God speaks against: border skirmishes (Amos 1:3), enslavement (1:6, 9), betrayal (1:9, 11), greed (1:13), and brutality (1:11, 13; 2:2). Because all humanity bears the image of God, this opportunistic and hateful behavior is an affront to God.
So, how are we to understand this universal punishment in light of God’s mercy? We ought not to delight in the world getting what they deserve. The proper response for us is like that of creation in Amos 1:2: bowing low, mourning, and pleading “Lord, have mercy.” God has had mercy, after all, on us.
How do you avoid becoming prideful in your salvation?
Amos 2 & 3 – God’s judgment is not limited to the nations. It extends to Judah and Israel—to “the whole family” (3:1) of God. That God would judge His own people is a testament to His impartiality (2:9–16; Romans 2:6–3:20).
In these verses, two primary sins are listed as the reason for judgment. First, God’s people have rejected God’s Word (2:4, 12). Second, they harbor an inappropriate love of material possessions and illicit sexual pleasure at the expense of people and propriety (2:6–8; 3:10, 15). To capture the nature of this judgment, Amos returns to the lion motif (3:7–8). In a horrifying image, Amos envisions God as predator and His people as the tiny bits of prey left behind after being devoured (3:12).
When He arrived some 800 years later, Jesus denounced the people of God for the very same things (Matthew 23:1–38). The consistency of this judgment becomes instructive for us. First, in the face of the lion’s roar, we should soberly revere, or “fear” God (Amos 3:8). As the church, we have a special relationship with God and therefore should be committed to repentance or turning from our rebellion. Second, just as obedience to God’s Word was needed in Amos’s day, the same is true for us. When we reject God’s Word we should anticipate the “teeth” of God’s correction—not, however, as punishment of His enemies but as loving guidance of His children. Third, as in Amos’s day, we need to uphold God’s standards of sexual purity and social justice. When we live to advance our own pleasures and, by negligence or intent, oppress others, then we should expect that God’s hand will soon correct us (1:8).
As Christians we should be thankful that Jesus came not only to denounce sin but to battle the powers that held us fast in it. He came as God’s warrior King to defeat Satan and our sin at the cross (Colossians 2:14–15), even as Israel’s judgment fell on Him. Jesus revered God perfectly, as we do not. He obeyed perfectly, as we cannot. He was sexually pure, materially selfless, and compassionate, as we are not.
How does this truth make you thankful for all Jesus has done for you?
Amos 4 – Chapters 4–6 place us squarely in the main section of Amos. The roar of impending judgment has been heard (chapters 1–3). The frightful visions of the execution of divine judgment are still to come (chapters 7–9). Thus, we expect these middle chapters to make the case for judgment. And in doing so, these chapters reveal to us the book’s central themes.
In Amos 4–6, God’s judgment on His own “house of Israel” is due to their setting aside of His Word (4:1; 5:1, 10), superficial worship (4:4–5; 5:21–24; cf. 5:7, 11–13; 6:12), and selfishness in social ethics (4:1; 5:11, 12, 15, 24; 6:4, 6). Simply put, in this time of blessing and affluence, God’s people did not pursue God’s house but rather their own. Even so, they thought that God would always look upon Zion as His place, and the people as heirs of His kingdom and members of His household—regardless of how they lived. Israel was presumptuous.
Amos uses a variety of terms for place (e.g., house, tent, city) to represent the people’s relational proximity to or distance from God. For Amos, place becomes a way of addressing the people’s orientation toward God as well as His orientation toward them. In this section, Israel is refered to as house seven times (5:1, 3, 4, 6, 25; 6:1, 14), and this is done as an emblem for Israel’s rebellion and its consequences. For example, “you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them” (5:11; cf. 3:15; 6:9, 10, 11). Amos uses other place terms 15 times (e.g., “beds,” “place,” “city,” “gate”). Amos is about more than just social ethics. Amos is about God’s house. In particular, the message of Amos vindicates God’s judgment of His household when its members put their own well-being above His kingdom and rule.
Israel as God’s house (or tent) becomes a prominent image the first time Amos is directly quoted in the New Testament. In Acts 7:42–43, Stephen quotes from Amos 5 in order to show how God’s people traded in His place (i.e., the tent where God resided) for that of the pagans (i.e., “the tent of Moloch”). Stephen cites this to show that when the “day of the Lord” came in the death and resurrection of Jesus, it signaled judgment for the idolatrous people who had been chosen to be a dwelling place for God.
Stephen’s understanding is part of a larger shift in the concept of place that had occurred since the writing of Amos, for Zion was replaced by a better dwelling: Jesus’ very own person. With Jesus’ death, the geography of Jerusalem has been replaced by the topography of the cross, now planted by grace and through faith in the human heart (John 4:23).
How do we see that those who respond to the work of Jesus become the very dwelling of God— His house, His tent, His temple? Hint: 1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:17–22.
Amos 5 – The “day of the Lord” rises to the surface in this passage. For the Israelites of Amos’s day, the meaning of the “day of the Lord” would be the dawning of an age of God’s complete victory over all the nations. It was expected to be a day when God’s people inherited all of God’s promised and long anticipated blessings.
And yet, shockingly, this day turned out to be one of judgment on God’s own people! Assyria swooped down and “the day of the Lord” arrived with all the unmitigated force of God’s wrath. This transformed meaning of “the day” takes center stage in Amos 5:18–20. Only later, in chapter 9, will the “day of the Lord” be used as a term of future hope (see 9:11–15).
In the New Testament, the meaning of the “day of the Lord” becomes clearer (Acts 2:16–17; 1 Peter 4:17). The day is already quietly underway through Jesus, though not yet in final perfected form (1 Thessalonians 5:1–11; 2 Peter 3:8–10). We have the advantage of living with a more complete understanding than the people of Amos’s day.
How does what we make of Jesus’ death and resurrection determine how we enter into and come through the final “day of the Lord”?
Psalm 126 – The covenant faithfulness and sovereign grace of God that preserved Jerusalem in the past are the basis for confident expectation that the same powerful and gracious covenant God will restore Jerusalem in the future, come what may.
Perhaps the psalmist was reflecting on some specific time of divine deliverance of Jerusalem—perhaps when David first brought the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:12–19), or when Jerusalem was spared from destruction by Sennacherib during the reign of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18–19). In a sense, the City of God had been under assault perpetually, and God had spared her over and again. The only reason for this was God’s own commitment to this city, its temple, and most importantly, its chosen people.
Even though Jerusalem would later be destroyed, first under Nebuchadnezzar in 586 b.c. and again by a Roman army in a.d. 70, yet God will do precisely what the psalmist declares in verse 4. God will restore the fortunes of Jerusalem and of His people. The Bible ends with the account of the new Jerusalem coming down from the sky, new and better than Jerusalem ever had been before (Revelation 21–22). No temple will be found there, “for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Revelation 21:22). God will indeed restore the Holy City.
In the light of Jesus’ coming and the great promises for the future, how does this give you a strong reason to trust Him with resilient hope?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s video and reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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