Book of Amos
Chapter 4, Part 9
“Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink” (Amos 4:1). “Kine” (or cows) of Bashan were the wives and daughters of rich rulers. Bashan was famous for its verdant green pastures where cattle were well fed and fattened. They were very large cows that gored and pushed aside the smaller cows so they could reach the best grass. The “cows of Bashan”, or the higher society women, were pampered and well fed and fattened even as the cattle were. They are said to have made their husbands, or masters, continually supply them with intoxicating drinks while they lay around eating off the “fat of the land.”
In this verse, Amos, speaking for the Lord, was taking these men to task. He derided the men as weak because, instead of acting as masters of their homes and families, they were running around for their wives like servants. The only way these men could continue to support their wives in their lavish lifestyle was to exploit the needy people.
This might also refer to the men who were lying around as a cow chewing her cud getting lazier and fatter every day. Ron Beckman, in his commentary, said that those men were only “fit for the butcher shop” as any other fat cow. God was sending the “butcher” (the Assyrians) and Israel would suffer the judgment they called down onto their own heads.
“Oppress and crush” are two descriptions of what the “masters” were doing to the people. They used threats (oppressed) and physical (crush) ways of intimidating the people into giving up their money. These ways included judges who, for a price, could be bribed to find in their favor against the poor. Often this led to the poor being sold for payment of the debt and the money being given to the “cows” so they could continue in their dissipation. These are things the Lord expressly forbid Israel to do. “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor” (Leviticus 19:15). They were to use balanced scales in judgment and in buying and selling. “Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:36; Deuteronomy 25:13; Proverbs 20:10).
“The Lord GOD hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks” (verse 2). What is God’s holiness? It is His very nature. “For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45). “And one cried to another and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6: 3) Also, John saw the four living creatures cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Revelation 4:8). It’s pretty clear throughout the Bible that God is holy, and therefore can swear by His own holiness.
What is God swearing will happen to Israel? He’s telling them, through Amos, that He will send a nation to overcome them so completely they will be taken out of their posh lifestyles with hooks in their noses! “Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult, is come up into mine ears, therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest” (Isaiah 37:29). This referred to barbaric practice of the Assyrians and other wicked nations where they would take large hooks at the end of tethers and place them through the bodies of the captive, sometimes though several places, and most often through their noses. Mr. Beckman says, “The hooks would disfigure their bodies and the effect would be to bring low the pride of princes and other notables who were on their way from prosperity into degradation, like cattle marked and taken to the marketplace for sale or slaughter.”
God also said He would take them out with fish hooks. That means they would not be able to save themselves any more than a fish can escape the hook that has caught it. He’s telling Israel that the “day” will come upon them swiftly. It took three years for the Assyrians to come and devastate Israel, but when the judgment came, it came quickly. The same way that Jesus says He is “coming quickly” but has not come yet. (Revelation 22:12; 22) When He does come, it will be quickly and decisively. Things will happen fast on those days.
“And ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is before her; and ye shall cast them into the palace, saith the LORD” (verse 3). “Breaches” are entry holes made in the walls around a city by the invading army. In the Albert Barnes commentary on Amos, Mr. Barnes said,
“Samaria, the place of their ease and confidence, being broken through, they should go forth one by one, “each straight before her,” looking neither to the right nor to the left, as a herd of cows go one after the other through a gap in a fence. Help and hope have vanished, and they hurry pell-mell after one another, reckless and desperate…”
Do you see it? The people living in Samaria had no hope, no one to help them, because they had turned away from God, had mocked Him (thumbed their noses at Him). They became idol worshippers and lovers of self and pleasers of the flesh. God warned that they would reap what they sewed, and here it was. Those who were not killed immediately would try to escape through the holes in the walls, but could not. They were fat and slow and easy to capture. The hooks were placed in each person and he or she was tethered by ropes or chains to the person in front.
A good lesson to take from this is that we cannot be smug or satisfied in what God gives us thinking we can never lose it. If we sin against God, He will take our blessing away “on that day.” It might take years, but it will come and it will happen quickly. God will not be toyed with. He will not play second fiddle, or co-pilot as we wander through life trying to please self and appease the flesh. Our all belongs to God. That’s when the blessings come. We will, “prosper as our souls prosper” (III John verse 2) if we will walk in faith becoming more like Jesus every day.
No one is sure exactly what “ye shall cast them into the palace,” means. Some think it means the women ran to their palaces and found a means of escape. Others think they put their children in the palace to protect them before they ran away. And others believe it’s the place the wealthy men and women ran to for protection believing the palace was strong with strong guards and could not be knocked down. WRONG! Nowhere is safe. There would be no one to bribe to get them out of their trouble this time; the crooked judges will be hooked right along with them.
“Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years: And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord GOD” (verses 4, 5). Oftentimes people believe they can sin and not be caught. This might be true of people not finding out your sin, but cannot be less true of God. No matter where you run to, where you hide, God can see you and read your heart.
Amos here was taunting the people. Bethel was one of their religious centers. The name Bethel means, “Beth” house”, and “El” God, so, house of God. They met there like us going to church, but their gatherings were social, not spiritual. The people who gathered were “doing” church not giving worship to God. They loved to go to church, but their hearts were not right. They were bringing sacrifices, tithes and offerings to the temple at Bethel, the northern kingdom where Jeroboam I, Solomon’s son and grandson to David, had a golden calf built and brought Israel to idol worship. (I Kings 12:25-33). We can liken the church meetings at Bethel to the lukewarm church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:15. To be lukewarm, we learned, is an abomination to God. He wants His people, the Israelites and us, to be either hot or cold. He will not tolerate indifference for long. Remember that Paul warned Timothy about people like this. He said they would have a “form of godliness, but would deny the power thereof” (II Timothy 3:5). I won’t preach Revelation 3 here, but you might read it for yourself and make the parallels.
The name Gilgal means “rolling” or “circle of stones.” Gilgal was named by God after Joshua and the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the land of Canaan. (Joshua 5:9) It was about five miles southwest of Shiloh and was also a place of idol worship.
There were two reasons why God was displeased with the worship of Israel. First, the people outwardly pretended to be worshipping the one true God when all the time they were worshipping many gods. Altars were erected to false gods in Gilgal where the people brought their sacrifices. Problem is, they had no real priests to make the sacrifices, so they were a sin unto God. These people were not heart and soul sold out to God. They were in their own little world of idolatry and God was supposed to accept their choice. No, God was not playing that game.
Second, they were self-pleasers. Part of their religious service was orgiastic in nature. Remember Amos 2:7? Father and son went in to the same maid and profane God’s name. The Israelites might have worshipped with fervor, but their worship was tainted by their false gods and their self-absorption. Remember too, “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Their pride was part of the cause of their destruction. They were lovers of self and did not follow God’s ordinance to love and provide for their neighbors.
Again allow me to quote Mr. Beckman. “Now, the "thank offering" (Leviticus 7:13) COULD be offered with leaven, but these were not people who were thankful to God. Their hearts were far from Him, which is a danger for us all. God SEES your intentions and mine. If you are not right inside, your religious acts will not please Him.”
Father, this congregation comes to You tonight with open hearts asking that You will search us. Point out our failings, our idol worship, our false religious practices. We want Your Holy Spirit to change all in us that is displeasing to You. Tonight we will remember Your Son, Jesus the Christ, our Messiah, for all He has done for us. We will eat the bread and drink the cup to proclaim Him until He comes for us. Let us do this with clean hearts. Take up the bread now.
Father, this is the Bread of Life which we take now. We ask that it will fill us with abundant strength to carry out Your Will for us. As we eat the Bread, we hold fast to our salvation bought at this great price. Please eat the bread now.
Take up the cup.
Father, this is the Blood that was shed for the remission of our sin. It cleansed us white as snow when we claimed Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives. We ask that the Blood of Jesus will keep our hearts and minds clean and pure. Let our sacrifices of praise be wholly acceptable to You. We do this now as we remember what Jesus suffered to set us free. Please drink the cup now.
Book of Amos
Chapter 4, Part 10
October 9, 2011
“And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD” (Amos 4:6). Notice one thing here. God “gave” them “cleanness of teeth,” and “want of bread.” This speaks to the famines the Lord had sent against Israel. It was a famine from the recent past and the Israelites remembered it. God was using the physical hunger in their lives to turn them back to Him, but they continued in their sinful ways of making money and worshipping false gods under the guise of worshipping God and mistreating their own people. The famine God brought to their minds had been prophesied by Elisha in II Kings 8:1. “Then spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying, Arise, and go thou and thine household, and sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn: for the LORD hath called for a famine; and it shall also come upon the land seven years.” This was not an isolated famine of this or that city as some were. It was a famine all over Israel. Yet, the people still would not repent. God’s judgment did not deter them. They did not return to the Lord.
“And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered” (verse 7).
One field received water and the other didn’t. The latter rain that would bring forth successful crops was withheld from some fields and their crops withered. Yet the in fields right next door were blessed with rain and their harvest was plentiful. Now I’m going to do a little preaching in this teaching. We know that Jesus said the fields are ripe and that we should go in and harvest. This message from Jesus is to all Christians. “Then said he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37, 38). Some would scoff, “Oh, Rev, that was written to the Jews!” I agree, because at the time of the formation of this church body, the laborers were Jews, as was our dear Jesus. But, we were grafted into the Vine and what they must do, we must do.
In the blog I wrote titled My Lesson we saw the men loitering around in groups chattering. The landowner came to them in 4 separate groups and sent each one out “into the vineyard” to gather in the harvest of grapes. Up to the time he came to them, they were accomplishing nothing. When the landowner sent them out, they gathered in the grapes. It’s the same premise here. We are the laborers that Jesus wants to prepare and send out. Most of the Jews have abdicated their responsibility because they don’t believe Jesus is the Messiah. They are still waiting for one to come.
There is a vast field of ripe grains just begging to be harvested. Jesus said, "He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me" (Luke 10:16). We are not responsible for what others believe, only for giving them opportunity to believe. What must they believe? “And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
In verse 7, Amos spoke of the time limit, 3 months, before the harvest was to be brought in. They needed the latter rain to ripen the harvest. We don’t have a specific time limit on bringing in the lost soul, but we know the Latter Rain, the Holy Spirit, has already been poured out on the earth and the fields are ready. All we can do is work the field every opportunity the Lord gives because He is coming soon. Don’t abandon your responsibility to the kingdom of God because, one day, Jesus will speak with us about it. We will not be judged because we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, but our works will be judged with fire. Don’t you want your works to pass through the fire unharmed?
“So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD” (verse 8). The Israelites “wandered” from city to city and town to tow seeking the places where they had received rain. They needed water for themselves and their livestock, but their need was never completely filled. Albert Barnes said, “The word “wandered” literally, “trembled,” expresses the unsteady reeling gate of those exhausted, in quest of food. They staggered through weakness, and uncertain, amid the general drought, whither to betake themselves.” And yet, they still did not “rend their hearts” (Joel 2:13) and turn back to God.
“I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD” (verse 9). “Smitten” is to be struck. God struck Israel. “Blasting” is the hot winds from the dessert that blew continuously with heat that destroyed the grapes, figs, and their gardens by drying them out. It’s also known as “blight” because it stops the growth and production of the plants. “Mildew” was brought on by an infestation of palmerworms (caterpillars) in the crops that caused the tips of all plants to yellow and caused the plants to rot. The crop was destroyed.
“I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD” (verse 10). The first part of this verse can have two meanings. One is, the “plague of Egypt” in which the angel came and killed the first born of every family not covered with the blood of the lamb on their doorpost and lentils. Two is, it might have been a plague of disease that killed many.
Although God said through Amos that He was sending the “pestilence after the manner of Egypt” it did not mean God would do as badly to Israel as to Egypt, but that He would do similar things to them if they did not turn from their wicked ways.
“Your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses…” It might be that when the people were moving from town to town looking for food and water, foreign armies sent by God came against them and their choice young men were killed and their horses taken by the opposing army. Either way, the stench of death brought on by God’s wrath in judgment was everywhere. There were no strong men to bury the dead, and yet, the people still mocked God by serving themselves and their false gods.
We are hearing a lot about the coming financial collapse of our once great country. We hear sickening numbers coming out of Wall Street every day. Yet, as the Egyptians, as Israel, and as all the other nations of the world, we put money before GOD. Money is our most famous god, our revered idol, and the one we spend the most time seeking after. The reason the collapse has not already happened is that God is in the warning phase of judgment. He’s giving us all time to repent and turn from seeking after the flesh to seeking after Him. Mark my word, though. If we do not turn and make HIM GOD, He is going to use the loss of money to wake us because He wants us to be free from all bondage. Right now we are slaves to money and pleasure. Paul was so right when he told Timothy, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (I Timothy 6:10).
“I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD” (verse 11). In His fury, God had destroyed some of the cities of Israel by fire even as He has Sodom and Gomorrah. The armies that had come against them burned the cities to the ground. “Ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning…” means the destruction that had come upon Israel was so terrible that God had to intervene in order to save out a remnant for Himself. Still, they continued to harden their hearts and no one turned back to God with their whole heart.
“Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, is his name” (verse 12, 13).
“Therefore thus will I do unto thee…” In their insolence, they ignored what God was telling them through the prophets. God had no choice but to fulfill the prophecy given by Isaiah. “O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation” (Isaiah 10:5). The Assyrians were the “rod” of God’s anger that would beat Israel. This confrontation was going to be very bad. Walvoord and Zuch speculate that the phrase, Prepare to meet your God,” is a summons from God to a battle. Israel would face God’s judgment.
Morning is normally a time of encouragement when the sun comes up and chases the darkness away. Israel was walking in evil and God was threatening to darken even their mornings. When it’s gloomy for several days in the row, many people get depressed because of the terribleness of lack of light. But they already lacked THE Light.
Who is the God of Israel? God is God in the mountains and in the valleys, in the wind and in the storms, the God of peace and of war. "If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?" (Amos 3:6) This is the God, the only true God who reads man’s thoughts. He is the Lord who not only created the high places where Israel built the temples to false gods. He also walks the high places and sees what Israel is doing.
Jesus came to earth on a certain day in time. No one knows the exact day or time. Religion has set the date for remembering His birth. But, we do know how He came and why He came. He came to earth born of a virgin through the ministering to Mary by the Holy Spirit. He came to save that which was lost. He came first for the House of Israel, God’s chosen, and then for the Gentiles. He came to defeat the devil and set us, who will accept Him, free from sin and death. He came because we were dying in sin.
For Jesus to save us, He had to give up His human body to the cross. He had to give up His glory in heaven. He had to be “forsaken” by His Father, our God, for a period of time. It was not an easy thing for Jesus to do. We know that by the drops of blood mingled with His sweat that fell from His face as He shed tears of sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane. We can say with all truth that Jesus was born to die. His pain and suffering and death were foretold from ages past, and Jesus Himself told the disciples He would be killed. His death was to purge our sin account and make us ready for Heaven.
Before Jesus could die, He had to share the Passover meal with His Apostles. This was because Jesus was, is, the Passover Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the earth for our sakes. The meal was lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs and wine. The herbs were the reminder to the people of the bitterness of slavery in Egypt. Jesus knew His death was imminent. He knew this would be His last meal on earth as a man, and He wanted it to be one that would be remembered throughout the time till He would come again.
Jesus told them, “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15, 16).
Take up the bread now. “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Please eat the bread.
Take up the cup now. “Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). Please drink the cup. Do these things in remembrance of Jesus.