Book of Amos
Chapter 6, Part 15
“Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came!” (Amos 6:1) “Woe” is a threat on Israel from God. It was a warning of the coming death of the people because of their actions. This message from God is His telling them that, because they were content to live a complacent sinful lifestyle, not seeking to change or repent, He would teach them a lesson. It’s like a father telling his child, “Uh oh, you’re in for it now. You knew you were not supposed to do that, and you did it anyway!” just before the punishment is given. God is the God and Father is Israel. He always has been. He picked Israel as His favorite child, and her people turned on Him without a second thought. It grieved God’s heart, but He had to stand strong against them or He would lose them all.
The Jews of Judah living in Zion, the capital of Judah, were mentioned because they were also happily wallowing in sin and deserved God’s wrath. Zion and Samaria were the two “chief” cities diseased with idolatry. Both had high places of worship to false gods, and both led people astray from God. One commentary I read on this sent me to read Ezekiel 8:1, but I read the entire short chapter, and it brought me to tears. It would behoove you all to read it too. How can the people turn their backs to God and bow down and worship the sun right from the doorway of God’s own temple?
We do it now! So often when a crisis arises in our lives, we don’t run to God, we run to our wallets; we don’t run to God, we run to our neighbor; we don’t run to God, we trust in our own feeble ability to “fix” the problem. We may not physically bow to the sun god, but we bow to every other god before we finally, in desperation, run to God, who should have been our first thought, not our last.
But the message is primarily directed at Israel.
Samaria, the capital of Israel, was considered the utmost city in the world, and the most influential community in Israel. The people took more comfort from knowing Samaria was a military power and had lots of money then in knowing God was on their side. The commoners, or low class people, looked to the influential men of Israel for guidance. They mimicked the “chief” men of Israel. John W. Ritenbaugh said, “The common Israelite looked to people of wealth, power, and influence for models of their own behavior, and they saw self-indulgence, unfounded pride, moral degeneracy, and self-satisfaction.” Because of their pride, God would call forth another nation and strengthen them to defeat Israel soundly so that men will ask each other, “Do any of your household remain?” and they will say, “None but I.”
The boss men of Israel thought they were above the scourging of God’s hand. They were content in their riches, their fine homes, and their secure positions. Although they saw the other nations around them suffering the wrath of God, they considered themselves a blessed nation that was above it all. Do you recognize anyone here? Americans see the judgment of God on the heathen, idolatrous nations of the world, and we feel bad for them, but we feel secure that the Lord is over this country so that could never happen here. We were once a blessed nation founded on the worship of the King of kings. Then we became friends to Israel and our blessings increased. Then we began to turn from God, allowing one foolish woman such a strong voice and power that she took prayer out of school and the decline was rapid from there.
Our school children cannot bow their heads in prayer before a test or any other activity, but special rooms of prayer are set up for muslims to pray as often as their religion dictates while they are at school. Our children are forbidden to say, “God bless you,” to anyone on school property, but the new agers can come in and teach them how to meditate and find their spirit guide to help them study and be good in school. Our children are suspended from school if they bring a Bible or other religious symbol to school, but the muslims can pass out their propaganda rags to recruit our children. My heart grieves that so many of our people will go to hell because our political, financial and spiritual leaders are complacent in their wealth and station.
I cry in my spirit to know that the poor of this country are striving so hard to be like the “chief” men of America, that they dig themselves into poverty with loans, credit cards, and other things that they will never be able to pay off. The wealthy of this country spend billions every year on developing new product, advertising and marketing the products. OK, I better stop preaching and get back to teaching.
“Pass ye unto Calneh, and see; and from thence go ye to Hamath the great: then go down to Gath of the Philistines: be they better than these kingdoms? or their border greater than your border?” (verse 2) Amos calls the Israelites to wake up. If God poured out His wrath onto those nations, He would do it unto them if they didn’t repent and come back to Him as only God. The three nations mentioned, Calneh and Hamath, and Gath, were all “were remarkable evidences of God’s wrath” as one commentary states it. It goes on the say that Israel, “had no reason to rest on their wealth, to rely on their fortresses, and to think themselves free from all dangers; for as God had destroyed these cities, which seemed impregnable, so he could also cut off Jerusalem and Samaria, whenever he pleased.” Pay heed, America! The same is true for us. We are not above God’s reproach. We know what He did to His favored city, that’s what we are studying. So we know He can and will do it here.
Amos asked the people is “their border greater than your border?” The answer is yes. God had taken great care is selecting Israel’s borders, but the mentioned nations were larger and still could not withstand God’s wrath when the armies came and defeated them. There is no nation, great or small, that cane avoid the wrath of God when they are living in such abundant sin.
God’s blessings on Israel are what the Bible calls Shalom. According to Strong's Concordance 7965 Shalom means completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.” Israel had peace in every aspect of her life from family and friends, to flocks and herds, to vines and orchards, to waters and dry lands, to forests and mountains. There was not a resource that wasn’t included within the Israeli border. But, the hardness of the people’s hearts toward God caused them to lose it piece by piece. Now, hundreds of years later, they are fighting desperately against the nations of the world to maintain the little they still have.
FYI: Jesus is Sar Shalom, Prince of Peace. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Speaking shalom over other is calling for the mighty blessings of God to fill their lives. I wish you all shalom.
“Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near; That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David; That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph” (verse 3-6). You, the chief men of Israel, pay attention. Just because you don’t believe the Day of Judgment is coming, and you don’t walk away from your sin, but rather cause more sin to happen, it doesn’t mean it won’t come. You, who draw violence to Israel, listen. These men decided they would not think of the prophecy of the war that was to come to destroy them made by Amos, Hoshea and other prophets. They put it out of their minds thinking and believing that this judgment will not come for a long time. It’s like the people now saying that Jesus won’t come for another 500 years. Sorry, He could come now, before this study is done, and not having the fear of His appearing, people live however they want. Homosexuality is a prime example of that. People all over the world, including Israel are practicing that and other perverted lifestyles as though judgment could never touch them. What they don’t realize is, even if Jesus doesn’t come, they will still die and meet judgment. There is no getting away from the wrath of God.
To “lie on beds of ivory” is not a sin. How they afforded to have those beds was. Also, it was sin for them as it was done in pride. These selfish men ate only from the prime of the flocks, herds and crops and vineyards. The meat they ate was specially raised and fattened for their tables. While the poor went hungry, they over indulged on everything, including wine. I will let John W. Ritenbaugh have his say about this. He said, “What a picture of excess and uselessness! Like Babylon, these people live in indolent luxury, surrounding themselves with the latest creature comforts, overindulging in rich and expensive food and drink. A glass or a cup is not enough for them—they must drink wine from bowls to satisfy their addictions! They sing songs that mean nothing, but in their hearts they think their songs and music equal to David's! Life is a party! And all they have to show for their lives is a lack of judgment.” Their music could never touch the depth of passion for God that David’s Psalms did. These are the men who had control over the less fortunate. They are the ones who turned on the poor and devoured all their pitiful resources.
How they could imagine God would bless them, or leave them alone, I can’t imagine. Bless the Lord that He doesn’t let people slide. Understand, that’s still true today. Sinners might receive many warnings of correction about their actions, but if we don’t pay attention, we will be judged.
Have you ever given thought to the fact that Jesus wept before His punishment at the hands of men began? Have you ever taken a moment to try to understand what He was going through in the Garden of Gethsemane? Jesus loved life on earth. He loved His disciples and He loved teaching them what they needed to know to spread the gospel, heal the sick, raise the dead, and love God and each other. He didn’t want to leave yet, and He surely didn’t want to endure the cross. He knew He had to, and yet, He asked the Father, who hears all prayer, to let the cup pass Him by. He knew He could not stay h ere forever, but He wanted more time with His men and women who followed Him. But Jesus did the one thing that made the difference. He gave all authority of Himself to the Father when He said, “Not My will, but Thine be done.” (Luke 22:42)
“Then Jesus said unto them, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever’” (John 6:53-58).
Take up the bread, please. Lord, we bless You as we remember You tonight. Thank You for Your body, broken for us. We eat this symbol of Your body now to show our oneness with You. Take the bread now.
Take up the drink, please. Lord, we give You praise for the blood You shed for the remission of our sin. Without Your blood we would be heading for hell. Thank You for calling us, by Your Spirit. We commit ourselves to You again. Take the cup now.
Book of Amos
Chapter 6, Part 16
“Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed” (Amos 6:7). “They” are the people who either didn’t believe the captivity would come, or didn’t think it would be in their lifetime. These are the people whose primary pastime was satisfying their lusts for food, drink, and sound. These would be the same people who would not show a bit of sympathy for the poor. They were prideful, self-indulgent and practicing a blasphemous religion. They placed their trust in gods made with hands rather than in the One True God.
When Bible people attended a meal, they didn’t sit on hard chairs pulled up to a table. They relaxed as they reclined on couches close to the floor and could just about scoop the food into their mouths. Servants and slaves waited table and made sure there was always an abundant supply within reach. Soon God would send the invading army and take everything away from the “chief men.” They would be the first taken in the captivity and they would lose their power, position, wealth, luxury, fabulous homes and worst of all, their freedom. They would go from riches to rags just about overnight. But they could not believe this. They had come to depend so heavily on their wealth for everything, they could not see that a just and living God could take it all from them.
“The Lord GOD hath sworn by himself, saith the LORD the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces: therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein” (verse 8). When we want to convince others of the truth of what we say, we might say, “I swear to God!” which is blasphemy, or, “I swear by all that’s holy!” which is God in three persons, which is blasphemy, or, “I swear on my mother’s grave!” which is sinful. We are told in Matthew 5:33-37, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” Because God could not swear by anyone greater than Himself, He swore by Himself. (Hebrews 6:13) The reason God can swear by His own head is that He is perfect. We can’t swear by God or anything else because we swear with ulterior motives, and we are surely not perfect.
God hated the “excellency of Jacob” which is the pride the people were steeped in. He hated their palaces which confessed to their pride. And, because pride goeth before destruction, Jerusalem and Samaria would be destroyed and all that is within them. What we have to remember is that all they had was allowed by God. He blessed them mightily before they entered into idol worship and greed. God sustained all of Israel, before she was divided into to nations, Israel and Jerusalem, and even afterward. They didn’t need to kill, steal, or destroy in order to attain greatness. God meant it for them all along. If the people had done as God required and taken care of the poor and needy, every one of them would have had abundance of all, including an abundance of days in which to enjoy the blessings of God. But they wanted to do things their way.
Pride is what makes it so much harder for a rich man to enter Heaven. He thinks he acquired all his wealth on his own merit through hard work and deceitful practices. He thinks in his heart, “Why do I need this God?” He also says, “Look at all I have accomplished for myself.” We saw a king who said that end up on his hands and knees eating grass out in the pasture with the cows. That was the mightiest king of all, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. You can read Daniel 4 for the story. It’s very interesting. As with Nebuchadnezzar, pride would cost them all they held dear.
“And it shall come to pass, if there remain ten men in one house, that they shall die. And a man's uncle shall take him up, and he that burneth him, to bring out the bones out of the house, and shall say unto him that is by the sides of the house, Is there yet any with thee? and he shall say, No. Then shall he say, Hold thy tongue: for we may not make mention of the name of the LORD” (verses 9, 10). If ten men survived the attack by the invading army and hid themselves together in a house, God would still find them and they would die of the pestilence that comes from war. So many people would die in that war that there would be no one to bury the dead. Their family members would take the bodies to the burn heap where the other bodies were being burned. As they brought their dead out, they called to each other, “Is there yet any with thee?” and the answer will be negative.
The men taking care of the bodies warned each other not to mention the name of God. There are many opinions on why they said this. I will give you three. Either they were so angry at God for causing the devastation that they held His name in contempt, or they were scared that to mention God’s name out loud might alert Him to the fact they had survived and He would finish the job, or, pride kept them from calling out to God for forgiveness and a stay of His hand. Personally I think it’s all three to some degree. But fear would be their strongest motivator. They have finally realized God has the real power, not the false idols they offered to. God was able to build up and to destroy. Where they once mocked God’s name, they now feared to speak it aloud.
“For, behold, the LORD commandeth, and he will smite the great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts” (verse 11). God is no respecter of persons. He caused the army to demolish the great houses and the humble homes alike.
“Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plow there with oxen? for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock” (verse 12, 13). This is a sarcastic question from Amos. He’s asking if horses can race on rocks or if oxen can plow rocks and make fertile soil. The answer is, “NO!” This is what the prophets felt like they were doing. God had sent prophets to Israel and Judah that they might “plow” the hearts of men to make fertile soil in which to plant the Word of God. But the hearts of the people had become like granite. There was no penetrating them. They were comfortable and would not listen to the truth of what was about to happen if they didn’t turn to God.
These are the people who took justice and perverted it to the extent that they made a nation of paupers. God wanted judgment to be honest and righteous, but they would not turn it around. There was no righteousness in the land anywhere, and it was time God fixed that. (He will again.)
“Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength?” (verse 13) The Israelites and Jews celebrated the things which have no meaning: Wealth, fine houses, and the good food and wine. They were sure Amos was blowing in the wind with his dire predictions.
Matthew Henry said, “They said, “Have we not taken to us horns; have we not arrived to great dignity and dominion, have we not pushed down our enemies and pushed on our victories, and this by our own strength, our own skill and courage, our own wealth and military force? Who then need we be afraid of? Who then need we make court to? Not God himself.” Israel had overcome many armies and even regained lands they had lost. They were feeling invincible. If you listen to the news, you will hear names of men who think the same thing of themselves now. Israel was judged harshly, and so will any nation that comes against her. God will not allow men to steal what He has covenanted to Israel.
“But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, saith the LORD the God of hosts; and they shall afflict you from the entering in of Hemath unto the river of the wilderness” (verse 14). In other words, the army would devastate Israel from top to bottom. The army God was raising up against Israel would be so well armed and so large that there would be no escape for the people. The Assyrians would come and they would destroy completely all that the people had placed their trust in. There would be nothing left for Israel to boast in. She would be returned to slavery.
Are there any sweeter words that those that beacon us to eat? When we hear, “Come to the table!” our mouths immediately begin to water. Everything is now ready. The places are set, the food has been prepared. All that’s left is for us to partake of each offering. The Thanksgiving table is a perfect example of that for those of us who are blessed to afford the food and have a home to fix and serve it in.
“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf” (I Corinthians 10:16, 17). In other words, aren’t the cup and the bread the way we participate in the body and blood of Jesus? Yes. As the yeast and the flour mix with the water to make bread, so do we become one loaf with Jesus as we take of His body and blood.
Father, this evening we take communion with thankful hearts for all you have done for us. We eat the bread and drink the cup to demonstrate our faith in You and what You have done for us. We participate together because we agree together believing that we should do this until you come, and that Your coming for us in imminent.
Come to the table now; take up the bread, and let’s enjoy our oneness with Jesus and each other as we thank Him for all He had provided for us this year. Take the bread now, eat and be filled with the presence of Jesus.
Take up the cup. Drink deeply of the love of the Savior who gave His life’s blood for you. Drink the cup now and be blessed.