A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
This promise of judgment against Israel began in chapter 2 verse 6 and shows no sign of letting up. Now the Lord will single out the complacent and the proud.
Woe To The Complacent
Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria, you notable men of the foremost nation, to whom the people of Israel come! Go to Calneh and look at it; go from there to great Hamath, and then go down to Gath in Philistia. Are they better off than your two kingdoms? Is their land larger than yours?
You put off the evil day and bring near a reign of terror. You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end. (Amos 6:1-7)
Our sin nature gives us a natural inclination toward evil (Romans 7:18). The moment we let down our guard it begins worming its way slowly into our lives. The only way to prevent this is to remain constantly on guard. Complacency is the best ally evil has. Complacency lets footholds become strongholds and pretty soon we’re tolerating things that would have shocked us just a short time earlier.
There’s an old saying that building blocks can become stumbling blocks. Two primary building blocks of any society are security and prosperity, and the Northern Kingdom had both. True to form, as the people became more secure and more prosperous they became more complacent, tolerating things they would have rejected earlier. In their case it was idolatry and the mistreatment of the less fortunate. The wealthy viewed their enviable lifestyles as a sign that they were OK with God. But their tolerance of evil had hastened the Day of Judgment, and that day had come.
In the US the Christian Church has enjoyed over 200 years of being the quasi-official religion of the nation, much of it during times of unparalleled security and prosperity. Some of us can still remember when the Lord’s name was invoked at the beginning of public meetings, in school assemblies, and even in our classrooms.
But then things began to change. Freedom of religion became freedom from religion. School prayer was banned. The murder of the pre-born was legalized. The church’s complacency in reacting to these things opened the door to more and more evil until what used to be called pornography is now called public entertainment, we’ve murdered over 50 million pre-born children, “alternative lifestyles” are promoted and celebrated, and the phrase “family values” is considered hate speech by many.
Our complacency has rendered us incapable of responding to these challenges as well, even though the US Census Bureau said 76% of adult Americans claimed to be Christian in 2012, and both our security and our prosperity are notably diminished.
The LORD Abhors The Pride Of Israel
The Sovereign LORD has sworn by himself—the LORD God Almighty declares: “I abhor the pride of Jacob and detest his fortresses; I will deliver up the city and everything in it.”
If ten men are left in one house, they too will die. And if a relative who is to burn the bodies comes to carry them out of the house and asks anyone still hiding there, “Is anyone with you?” and he says, “No,” then he will say, “Hush! We must not mention the name of the LORD.”
For the LORD has given the command, and he will smash the great house into pieces and the small house into bits. Do horses run on the rocky crags? Does one plow there with oxen? But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness- you who rejoice in the conquest of Lo Debar and say, “Did we not take Karnaim by our own strength?” For the LORD God Almighty declares, “I will stir up a nation against you, O house of Israel, that will oppress you all the way from Lebo Hamath to the valley of the Arabah.” (Amos 6:8-14)
It was too late for the Northern Kingdom. Samaria, it’s capital and the pride of Jacob, would be conquered and destroyed. Having desired to be free of the Lord, they would get their wish. The very mention of His name, once a source of comfort to them, would now bring down His wrath. All that the Northern Kingdom had gained by conquest would be lost until finally the entire nation would cease to exist, from Lebo Hamath in the North to the Arabah in the South.
In their own way, many American Christians of today are just as prideful as the ancient Israelites were. They can’t distinguish our country from our church. They pray for God to “heal our land” as if America was the Church’s homeland, not realizing our citizenship is in Heaven (Phil. 3:20-21). Only American Christians search the Scriptures for mention of our country, thinking a people as important as we are must surely be there. They don’t realize that in the Bible American Christians are called “The Church” just like Christians of every other nation.
Locusts, Fire And A Plumb Line
This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: He was preparing swarms of locusts after the king’s share had been harvested and just as the second crop was coming up. When they had stripped the land clean, I cried out, “Sovereign LORD, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!”
So the LORD relented. “This will not happen,” the LORD said.
This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: The Sovereign LORD was calling for judgment by fire; it dried up the great deep and devoured the land.
Then I cried out, “Sovereign LORD, I beg you, stop! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!”
So the LORD relented. “This will not happen either,” the Sovereign LORD said.
This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the LORD asked me, “What do you see, Amos?” “A plumb line,” I replied.
Then the Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer. “The high places of Isaac will be destroyed and the sanctuaries of Israel will be ruined; with my sword I will rise against the house of Jeroboam.” (Amos 7:1-9)
The Lord showed Amos visions of two potential punishments for Israel. One was a plague of locusts that would strip away all the vegetation and the other was fire that would devour the land. Amos pleaded with the Lord against both these judgments, and the Lord discarded them.
The third vision, that of a plumb line, symbolized a builder surveying the accuracy of his work. Finding it to be out of plumb, he would tear it down and begin again. God’s plumb line was His righteousness. He measured the Northern Kingdom and found them out of plumb. His demolition agent was Assyria. Amos did not talk Him out of this one.
I don’t think it needs mentioning that America doesn’t measure up to God’s standards either. Once He has taken the Church, who are righteous by faith, He will set about demolishing what’s left of America as well. For God knows how to rescue godly people from trials while holding the unrighteous for the day of judgment (2 Peter 2:9).
Amos And Amaziah
Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent a message to Jeroboam king of Israel: “Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. The land cannot bear all his words. For this is what Amos is saying: ” ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.'”
Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”
Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the LORD took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’
Now then, hear the word of the LORD. You say, ” ‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and stop preaching against the house of Isaac.’
“Therefore this is what the LORD says: ” ‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword. Your land will be measured and divided up, and you yourself will die in a pagan country. And Israel will certainly go into exile, away from their native land.’ “ (Amos 7:10-17)
The prophecies of Amos now turn from national to personal. The king himself would die by the sword. Amaziah took exception to this pronouncement and to Amos’ encroachment upon his territory in general. He knew Amos was from the south so he told him to go back there, and earn his keep by prophesying about the south. But Amos hadn’t been hired by anyone to come north. He was doing what the Lord had commanded. And one thing the Lord commanded was to pronounce judgment on Amaziah and his family. The other was to confirm Israel’s demise.
But Wait, There’s More
There’s an interesting footnote to Amos 7, but you have to read Amos in the Septuagint (Greek) translation to see it. Instead of verse 1 reading like it does above, the Septuagint reads like this: Thus has the Lord God showed me; and behold, a swarm of locusts coming from the east; and behold, one caterpillar, king Gog.
This is one of three mentions of Gog in the Scripture spanning a time of nearly 3000 years, here in the 8th century BC, in Ezekiel 38 in the 21st Century AD, and in Revelation 20 at the end of the Millennium.
Apparently the Septuagint translators understood that God had a supernatural force in mind for the potential judgment he had Amos preview in his vision. In their version of Amos 7:1 Gog is identified as the king of the locusts. But Proverbs 30:27 states that ordinary locusts have no king, and observers of locust swarms agree that no obvious leader directs them, as a queen would direct a hive of bees. Is Gog a supernatural figure from Satan’s camp that God uses as a leader of demonic forces to bring judgment upon His people? The wide span of time covered by his appearances would seem to support this view. And if that’s the case we can understand why Amos would prefer Assyria to a swarm of demonic locusts as God’s agency of judgment.
This lends insight to another appearance of locusts as well. I’m referring to Revelation 9:1-11, where a swarm of locusts comes out of the Abyss to afflict those on Earth who lack the seal of God on their foreheads. These locusts have a king named Abaddon in the Hebrew or Appolyon in the Greek. Here again, Proverbs 30:27 would indicate that this is not an ordinary swarm of locusts, but a demonic agency of judgment. Only the 144,000 witnesses from the 12 Tribes named in Rev. 7:5-8 will be sealed in advance of this judgment, every other living being, believer or not, will be fair game for this agonizing attack. The locusts will not have the power to kill them, only to make them wish they were dead (Rev. 9:5-6).
Time will tell if my opinion of Gog is true or not, but I can’t help thinking that perhaps Amos got a glimpse of one of the end times judgments coming upon the world. More next time as our study in Amos concludes. 03-09-13