Book of Amos
Chapter 8, Part 19
“Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit. And he said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A basket of summer fruit. Then said the LORD unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more” (Amos 8:1, 2). God came to Amos for the fourth time. He held up a basket of fruit and asked Amos what he saw. Amos stated the obvious, that it was a basket with fruit in it. But it was “ripe” fruit meaning the end of the season gleaning. The fruit was not fit to pick and keep in a bowl because they were already over ripe. Once picked, their eating time would be very short. What God was telling Amos is, Israel had been on the tree for a long time and the corruption in her had already reached the core. The rotting that was taking place in her had become a stench unto God’s nostrils. The people didn’t have much time left before God’s harvest began. This time there would be no stay of execution. They would be plucked from the tree and eaten up quickly by God’s invading army.
Notice the repetition of the phrase God spoke in Amos 7:8, saying, “I will not again pass by them any more.” When Scripture is repeated, it is for significance. God was finished giving “one more chance” for the people to repent and change their ways. He had given Israel leeway to change for hundreds of years, and they only became worse. The leaders of the people proved they didn’t want to change. They were supremely happy in their situation. A great number of the people had repented, though, and would be saved alive, even though captive, as God’s remnant.
“And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord GOD: there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth with silence” (verse 3). God had pronounced destruction for Israel and it would be devastating. It was a done deal that Israel would be destroyed, the people killed or taken captive. Even the wealthy and the educated, the doctors and the lawyers would be made slaves and die in faraway nations. God is now showing how the lives of the people would be altered. When the people went up to Bethel to offer sacrifices to the golden calf, they sang songs that were probably very offensive to God, although pleasing to them, and they danced before the calf in an ungodly manner. They took great pleasure in offending God.
The Holy Spirit just gave me a perfect example of this. It’s like us going to church on Sunday morning, supposedly to worship the one true God, and Him crucified, with psalms hymns, and spiritual songs, and instead we begin singing heavy metal rock about sex, drugs, and murder. What would there be about that which would bless or honor the Lord? Not one thing. It would be a perverted use of the “temple” of God, the church. The songs the people sang joyfully before their idol the day before literally became howls of sadness and grief from deep in the hearts.
When the army came up against Israel, there were so many dead bodies in the temples, the palaces, the homes and streets that people could not bury all the corpses. Some would be quietly buried in silence with no dirges sung and no mourners wailing for them as was customary. Others would be allowed to lie where they fell and become food for ravening dogs, and yet others were burned (6:9, 10).
“Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?” (Verse 4-6) I like John Gill’s interpretation of verse 4. He wrote, “Like a man that pants after a draught of water when thirsty; and, when he has got it, greedily swallows it down at one gulp; so these rich men swallowed up the poor, their labours, gains, and profits, and persons too; got all into their own hands, and made them bondsmen and slaves to them.” This describes the “rich” men who “swallow up” the poor.
Slavery is illegal in this country, but yet, the government enslaves people by hand-outs instead of requiring people to work for their living. Yes, there are situations that truly do need intervention, but, for the most part, most people on the welfare system could work and earn their living. However, now that government has handed over our jobs to countries that hate us, they have made an even greater number of our people dependent because they can’t find a job. The ones on welfare who could work think they are “working” the system and they are laughing at the shmucks that pay the taxes that allow them to sit and play games all day. Know what? They are slaves to the system just as surely as the Jews became slaves in Egypt. There is no joy or satisfaction in their lives.
These same men who were so preoccupied with accumulating wealth resented the monthly feast of the New Moon and the weekly celebration of the Sabbath. These celebrations were ordered by God, yet the men sat anxiously waiting for the days to pass so they could return to their price gouging on uneven scales “even to make the poor of the land to fail” which is, to starve them to death or sell them into slavery. The poor worked dawn to dusk for these rich men and were paid so poorly they could not meet their bills or afford food for their families.
As bad as things had become, the Israelites still kept the Sabbath and feast days as God had set them up. I wonder how we will answer for not keeping the Sabbath, for shopping on Sunday, running races, playing sports, etc… The Jews have Saturday for their Sabbath. The spiritual leaders of Rome set Sunday as ours, yet we do not keep either one.
“That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes.” Remember Judas Iscariot? How much was he paid for the betrayal of Jesus? 30 pieces of silver was the price. It was the price of a slave. Yet, the poor in the day of Amos were not even worth that much. For a few pieces of silver, the judges would pervert the legal system to find in favor of the one who could pay him a bribe. If two men came before the judge and one could pay nothing, but the other could pay a pair of sandals, the sandals guy would win. In other words, there was no justice for the victims. It’s like now when the criminals have all the rights and are “rehabbed” and get college degrees while the victims get nothing. We live under unbalanced scales of justice too.
Everyone but the victim gains something.
I’d like to show you the love of God through the shepherds today. God had the perfect opportunity on the night Jesus was born to light up the sky and send angels to announce to the world that the King of kings was born in Bethlehem, but He didn’t. He could have arranged it that Mary deliver the Christ in the fanciest hotel with the cleanest, most well-appointed rooms with all the scribes there to record the birth, but He didn’t. He could have called for the priests of the temple to come see this Savior that was born among them, but He didn’t.
So, to whom did God announce the birth of our precious King? God sent His herald angels to announce it to shepherds in the fields. Where was our mighty warrior King born? In a feeding trough in a dirty, dank, smelly stable behind the innkeepers rooming house. Who did God summon to come and witness this miracle? Again, it was the shepherds. There was no pomp and ceremony when Jesus was born. God chose to reveal His Son to the lowliest workers, uneducated shepherds who lived in the fields with their sheep, smelled like them, were as dirty as them.
What makes it special that God announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds is that they were religiously unclean. They could not leave the sheep to come in to town to make sacrifices for atonement of their sin. They could not participate in the Sabbath and the holy days at the temple. Shepherds were such social outcasts that they could not even testify in court. Their witness was not accepted or believed.
The shepherds spent all their time with the sheep. They didn’t go home after shift. Their life was given to tending the flock. They took them here and there for water and grass. The shepherds slept with their sheep, in the pens with them, to protect them from thieves and wild animals. A shepherd knew every sheep he was in charge of by site and the sheep knew his voice. Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd; and I know and recognize My own, and My own know and recognize Me,” and “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:14; 27).
Jesus is our Shepherd. He was born in the center of our sin. We were smelly, dirty, irreligious people until we heard HIS voice, recognized Him and followed Him. Jesus knew us all along but we were blinded and deafened to Him by sin, and we didn’t recognize Him. Praise God for His great love that saved us who is named Jesus, Emanuel, Messiah, King, Lord and Shepherd.
Jesus didn’t come only for the spiritual, political and financial leaders of Israel, but for all mankind everywhere. Sinners are His business.
Book of Amos
Chapter 8, Part 20
“The LORD hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works” (Amos 8:7). In Amos 4:2, God swore by His own holiness. In Amos 6:8, God swore by Himself. But, watch this. In this verse, God swore by Jacob. Wait! If God can swear by none higher than Himself, then how can He swear by Jacob of whom He said, “I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces: therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein?” (Amos 6:8b) God swore “by the excellency of Jacob”, or his pride.
Look at how John W. Ritenbaugh put this. He said, “So God says, ‘Look, I have sworn by My holiness and by Myself, and that didn't carry any weight with you. So now I will swear by something so great—your own pride—that you can't refuse!’ What irony! God says if He swears by something of theirs, it may mean more to them than if He swears by something of His!”
What God swore to do was never forget the works (sins) of Israel. There is a long laundry list of what God needed to clean. There is covetousness, greed, cheating, not keeping the Sabbath, unholiness, and idol worship to name a few. They were unjust, unrighteous in their dealings and caused their neighbors to suffer lack and want. Their major crimes were against the temple of God and humanity. These people mocked God in the worst possible way. They sacrificed to idols on God’s holy altars. Galatians 6:7 warns us, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” Also, they sewed sew corruption, therefore reaped corruption, that is bribery, exploitation, fraud, and dishonesty.
“Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwelleth therein? and it shall rise up wholly as a flood; and it shall be cast out and drowned, as by the flood of Egypt” (verse 8). God was angry. He had reached His limit of patience, and Amos told them what was about to befall. God was about to shake up Israel from the ground up to the king’s marble palaces. He was going to cause the lands to heave and flow as a river.
We recently witnessed what this verse speaks of live while it happened in Japan when the 8.8 magnitude earthquake caused so much damage. The earth rose and fell in waves like an ocean for about three minutes, and then, a few hours later, the land was devastated by the tsunami. The water poured violently over the land and flooded it, depositing sludge and debris everywhere. Homes, businesses, ships and personal vehicles became as toys in a pool before the rushing water. Then the water receded, people cried and mourned, and clean-up began.
Due to the nuclear power plant leakage, Japan will never be clean again. In the New York Times article I read From December 27, 2011, the reporter said, “But for many of the people of Fukushima, the crisis is far from over. More than 160,000 people remain displaced, and even as the government lifts evacuation orders for some communities, many are refusing to return home.”
I believe in verse 8, Amos was prophesying the earthquake that came upon Israel two years later. Even in His wrath, God made time for their repentance.
“And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day: And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day” (verses 9, 10). When we are in a brightly lit place and suddenly lose power and the lights go out, we tend to panic and fear because our eyes are not adjusted and we don’t know what’s around us. That’s the sense of what God was saying here. In that day of earthquake when the people were already in panic-mode, in the brightest part of the day, noontime, God would turn off the light of His grace and the people would panic to think He was withholding His blessings. When they needed God’s intervention most, He would be far off from them.
This reminds me of the crucifixion of Jesus. Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33 and Luke 23:44-48 all tell of the three hours of darkness that was over the land from noon till 3:00 PM of that afternoon. In Luke 23:47, we read, “Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, ‘Certainly this was a righteous man.’” There had been many people hanged up to that day, but never had the earth gone dark. The centurion who was in charge of Jesus’ death was wise enough to make the direct connection. That darkness was not from an eclipse. Gerardus D. Bouw, Ph.D. said that an eclipse at most can last only 7 ½ minutes. He explained, “For this to have been an eclipse of the sun, the moon would have to perform a quantum jump of half a million miles, stop its orbital motion, and stay in front of the sun for three hours. Then it had to jump back to where it should have been had it never jumped to cover the sun.” I believe this was God’s hand covering the sun. In both cases it was a demonstration of the darkness of sin in the world.
The earthquake would be devastating. Every household would suffer loss of lives and property. The people would exchange their celebratory clothes for sackcloth, a material made of goat’s hair and very rough on the skin. They would weep and mourn bitterly for all their losses. God likened it to the mourning of an only son. That day would end, but their sorrow would not. They would go on to experience their own “bitter day”, or loss of their own lives.
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it” (verses 11, 12). Israel had rejected the Word of God from their lives. Because of that, God said that they would hunger and thirst for the Word, they would search all the land, and find no one to preach and teach the Word. This is not referring to the written Word of God, but to its interpretation and preaching. Think about it. Isn’t that what’s happening now? The atheists and agnostics are working very hard to rid this country of the Word. The devil is developing an army of false teaching pastors who preach the lies that there is no satan or hell. There are false prophets who are teaching alternative ways to get what you want. According to them, you are God so don’t need to call on God for what you want. Just name it, and by shear mind control, cause it to happen. Sadly, what they are doing is taking a biblical principle and twisting it to fit their cult. Yes, we receive what we believe, but the meditation that must take place is prayer, not mind control. The Bible, in Matthew 21:22, says, “And all things, whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.” It doesn’t say to chant some silly humming sound and receive. It says believe.
See the connection? Amos spoke out against the people for placing their faith in the wrong things. They depended on money, fame and position to supply their needs. God wanted them to count only on HIM. They went after things themselves in a wrong way instead of letting God bless them as He so desperately wanted to. God is the same today! He wants to bless us, but we struggle, lose faith, and blame Him for our failures and lack. The people of Amos’ day worshipped their false gods at the altar of GOD. Our people do that too. Most don’t worship anyone at all but self. This old world is ripe for the wrath of God. I pray, “Even so, Lord Jesus, come!”
During the Tribulation, the Bible will be a forbidden Book. People will die for possessing it. God will be relegated to an imaginary friend with no power to change things. God will be mocked openly and the antichrist will sacrifice a pig in His newly restored temple.
“In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst. They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy god, O Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall, and never rise up again” (verse 13, 14). This “thirst” will be in spirit, soul and body. The young people will have no hope. Although they had heard of the miracles God performed for their ancestors, they have no such miracles to pull them out of spiritual or physical starvation and thirst. The soul of a person with no hope withers. Job said, "I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food" (Job 23:12). Those people learned the truth of that word. Without God and His Word, without Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we are nothing. Worshipping at the altar of greed, lust, jealousy, bitterness, wrath, envy, etc… causes us to walk outside of God’s will for us. No one and no thing should ever take the place of God in our lives. Without Him we have no hope of a future.
Since this is the first time we take communion together in this new year of 2012, I want us to take it with humility and grace. I’d like us to take a moment to judge ourselves to make sure we are clean before God. If the Holy Spirit reveals anything in you that would hinder you from taking communion, repent of it now, we’ll wait for you, and allow God to make you right once again. I had the advantage of knowing this was coming, so had time to pray before we all came in. I’ll sit here and pray for you all that the Spirit of God will open your hearts and minds as you search for the truth.
Lord, we take communion tonight as a way to remember Your sacrifice that set us free from sin and death. We take a moment now to judge ourselves to see if we have any anger, fear, resentment, unforgiveness, worry, unbelief or anything within us that would insult Your body and blood. We ask that Your Holy Spirit will disclose our sin to us and that You will forgive us and cleanse of from any and all un-rightness in us.
“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me” (I Corinthians 11:23, 24). Take the bread now.
“After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come” (I Corinthians 11:25, 26).
“…we do shew the Lord's death till he come.” Take the cup now.