Day 132 – Thru the Bible
Today we complete Amos and continue Psalms.
Amos 6 – Recall, 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 7 – With the case for judgment complete, Amos now pivots to the execution of it in the form of five visions (vv. 1, 4, 7; 8:1; 9:1). God shows Amos what “the day of the Lord” will look like for the house of Israel. Interestingly, while the reader has been led to expect swift and total judgment, the first two visions show the Lord relenting from such obliterating action. Like Moses, the great prophet before him, Amos intercedes on Israel’s behalf and secures a commitment that God will not make Israel so small that it could never recover. Yet, after the content of the third vision was heard and subsequently rejected by Amaziah, Israel’s compromised priest, God indicates that judgment is certain. At least three gospel lessons emerge.
First, if we are tempted to push aside a message of a final day of reckoning because it seems outdated, we can be assured: it will come. A wrath-free gospel is no gospel at all. If grace rescues us from nothing, then it is not really grace.
Second, the God of Amos is merciful. He is gracious, slow to anger, and executes wrath in a way that salvages a hope and a remnant among His covenant people. At its core, the gospel, like the book of Amos, is a message of mercy.
Third, just as judgment was dismissed by Amaziah the priest, so too a later priesthood rejected Jesus’ rebukes and lament (Matthew 23:13–38; 26:3). Jesus’ sad song should have been recognized by the priesthood of His day. God was signaling that the time of His justice had come. Ironically, though, Jesus is more than a mere successor to Amos as God’s prophet. Jesus is not only a prophet; He is the ultimate prophet, embodying the message He proclaims (John 6:14; 7:40). For He not only represents God’s message to His people but also stands as the representative of God’s people before heaven’s judgment throne. His death completes the priestly act of making sacrifice for sin, lest we all be sent to an eternal spiritual wasteland of exile. He is not only the final Prophet, speaking judgment, but also the final Priest, bearing that very judgment for us.
How do each of these three pieces reveal the full gospel?
Amos 8 – That wrath remains in view for Amos is beyond doubt. The reasons for this judgment are manifold, including exploitation of the poor and a superficial adherence to the Sabbath. And this exploitation and superficiality are the products of a brazen commitment to greed. As a result, a pronouncement of judgment upon God’s people comes in two forms. In a sentence of physical death, their very lives will be taken away (9:1–4). And in a sentence of spiritual drought, God’s very word, which they had rejected, will disappear (8:11–12).
Given this verdict and sentence, an important question emerges: why is God’s displeasure with Israel based on her unmerciful treatment of others? Or to put it in our terms, why should I treat my neighbor as myself (Mark 12:31)? The answer is clear: because all humanity bears the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27) and because He treasures the helpless who depend entirely on Him (Psalm 74:21), mistreatment of others is an affront to God. His gracious care of those least able to obtain it exhibits and glorifies His nature. Therefore when God’s people in Amos’ day treated the underprivileged poorly, judgment came. For sins against other people, God “strikes” the people (9:1), fixes His “eyes upon them for evil and not for good” (9:4), and brings them to “utter destruction” (9:8).
And yet even here we find God’s mercy. Describing the dreadful “day of the Lord”, we find the language of covenant relationship. The “house of Israel,” long destined for exile, is once again called “My people Israel” by God. While God punishes the evil deeds of His people, He will not utterly destroy or abandon them (9:8). Hope remains.
This hope is prefigured in the judgment described in 8:9–10. The details are strikingly similar to the moment when Christ won our freedom from judgment on the cross. The day darkens at high noon (8:9; Joel 3:15; Mark 15:33; Revelation 6:12), and the feasts are turned into “mourning for an only son” (Revelation 19:6–21). For Amos, the mourning for an only son spoke of divine judgment—what a surprise, however, when this day of judgment turned out to be a judgment that fell on God’s only Son, in our place.
Because of the death and resurrection of God’s only Son, Jesus, we who are united to him by faith have no reason to fear the final day.
How does this truth, that your judgement has already been taken by Jesus, give you comfort and lead you to worship?
Amos 9 – The final verses of Amos offer promises from God that turn the book into one of hope. The “day of the Lord” has, to this point, been one of utter destruction. But a great reversal seems to have arrived. “In that day”, God promises to raise up the “booth” of David, “rebuild it as in the days of old,” unite the nations to Himself by His name, and restore the fortunes of His people and His place.
The question is—when? When do we see the house of David restored, representatives from the nations called by God’s name, and the fortunes of God’s people restored?
The ten northern tribes, led off to Assyria in 722 b.c. (4:2), never return from exile. That is, they never return to the land in a way that even approximates the fulfillment of these promises. And this absence of fulfillment remains today—unless, of course, the fulfillment was intended to represent what God accomplished for Israel and all the nations in the gospel of His Son. We must be clear on this interpretive shift. Where Amos understood these promises to concern place and prosperity in the material sense, we understand place and prosperity in the book of Amos to be—and always to have been—symbols pointing to the end of the exile that comes with Jesus.
This is not to deny the historical reality of the restoration promised in Amos (nor to deny God’s intentions for a remnant of ethnic Israel; see Romans 11:23–29), but to recognize the dimension it takes on for the Christian. Israel’s exile ultimately ended when Jesus ascended to the Father and sent the promised Spirit to take His place in the hearts of men and women who put their faith in him. Now the One who tabernacled among us in His own Son, Jesus (John 1:14), unites us to Jesus and makes us part of that eternal temple (1 Corinthians 7:17–19; 2 Corinthians 6:16).
Significantly, this is precisely how the apostles understood this text. And as a church built on a “foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 2:20), our interpretation of Amos should follow theirs. When the Jerusalem council convened in Acts 15 to settle a dispute over how Gentiles could be saved without adherence to all the obligations of the law, James appealed to Amos 9:11–13 as proof that God was fulfilling in the church His promises to Amos. The message of Amos validates God’s plan for rebuilding His household from among all the nations of the earth. Significant is the prophet’s inclusion of a remnant of Edom—the nation descended from Esau and the constant antagonist of historic Israel—among the nations called by the name of the Lord. By this inclusion, Amos makes the expansiveness of God’s grace and our mission clear. Our happy privilege is to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth that God will claim by His grace for His glory.
How do you share this good news with those around you?
Psalm 127 – Although the people of God are commanded to “build” and “watch” and “toil” and bring forth children, they must always remember that their labors are in vain apart from the enabling and sustaining grace and power of God. As our Lord Jesus reminds us, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
We exercise our human responsibility along with complete and utter dependence on God. Neither one cancels out the other. Our labor does not preclude either the need for or the legitimacy of God’s sovereign oversight, just as the display of God’s sovereign and gracious power does not render our labor superfluous. This Psalm reminds us that as we labor to build, and watch to protect, and toil to eat, and bring forth children for blessing, our ultimate and perpetual dependence must be on the God who alone can make these efforts succeed and bear fruit for eternity.
How good God is to give us meaningful work! But how good God is also to strengthen our hand, and instruct our minds, and direct our steps so that what we do will accomplish what He alone knows is best. This Psalm places a special emphasis on the blessing of children. Those who are led to marry and then granted the privilege to raise children should see these little ones as evidence of God’s blessing—they are, in the end, His children, not ours. Yes, we bear and raise them, but then we shoot them out as arrows to land in the places God designs. Indeed, even our children, the fruit of our most consistent and diligent labor, come from God, are matured by God, and are to be used by God. All of life is God’s abundant grace to us.
How does this Psalm free you to release your children, or anyone you love, to be used by God as God see fit?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s 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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