We have now come to the end our study of the prophet Amos’ message to God’s people living in the Northern Kingdom. As we come to the end of our study we also draw nearer to the end of the nation. God had made His people so many promises throughout their history as His covenant people. God had chosen the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He called them His very own. They were the apple of His eye. He led them from captivity in Egypt all the way to the land flowing with milk and honey, the Promised Land. All of these blessings were lavished upon the Israelites, but along with these blessings came the responsibilities of the covenant. God’s people were called to walk in faithfulness and as long as they were faithful, God would continue to bless them. Deuteronomy 28 is such an important chapter to help us understand the covenant promises of God. Turn there with me and let’s take a look at God’s promises. Let’s begin in verse 1.
1 If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God: (Deuteronomy 28:1-2 NIV)
What follows, for the next several verses, are the promised blessings that God will lavish on His people if they walk in faithfulness to the covenant. They will be blessed in every conceivable way. Their wombs will be fruitful, their crops will produce in abundance, their herds of cattle and sheep will multiply like rabbits, their enemies will be defeated, and all of the people of the earth will see that they are the people of God. They will be so blessed that they will lend to many nations, but never borrow from even one nation. The description of prosperity that God describes is beyond the ability of the Israelites to even begin to comprehend.
At the same time, God made it very clear that if His people were disobedient, if they chose to not follow Him in covenant faithfulness, then He would bring on them consequences that would be beyond their ability to comprehend. In Deuteronomy 28:14-15 we read,
14 Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them. 15 However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: (Deuteronomy 28:14-15 NIV)
The description of the consequences that would come if the Israelites were unfaithful to God are lengthy. I’ll give you a sampling, but you can read them all in Deuteronomy 28 at a later time if you like. God says that the fruit of their womb will be cursed. He will send drought, scorching heat, and famine. The land will be like iron—it won’t yield a crop. The Lord will afflict His people with boils like He laid on the Egyptians. They will build houses but not live in them and they will be taken captive by kings they do not know. All of these consequences, which would come about because of their unfaithfulness, will drive the people mad. At the end of the description of what God will do to His people, we read,
45 All these curses will come upon you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the LORD your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you. 46 They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. 47 Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, 48 therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the LORD sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you. 49 The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, 50 a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. (Deuteronomy 28:45-50 NIV)
Israel wandered away from the Lord. At times, God’s people willfully turned their back on God. God sent His prophets to urge them to turn back and to warn them that if they refused to turn back to God that He would bring about their demise. The people of God refused to heed the warnings. As a matter of fact, there were times that the prophets spoke to God’s people and the people vehemently denied that they had turned away; they said that God was with them and they reminded the prophets that they were His chosen people. In Amos 5, the prophet said,
14 Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. (Amos 5:14 NIV)
The people heard the warnings of Amos, but in response to his warnings they said, “The Lord is with us.” You can see that in the verse that I just read to you as Amos urges them to “seek good, not evil, that you may live.” Amos then says, “Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.”
Just two chapters later in Amos, we find Amos speaking out against the people while he was at the temple in Bethel. The priest of the temple at Bethel was a man named Amaziah. Listen to what Amaziah says to Amos.
12 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. 13 Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.” (Amos 7:12-13 NIV)
The people of the Northern Kingdom had drifted so far away from the Lord that their hearts had become hardened to God’s call. The time for warning had come to a close. Now it was time for judgment. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today found in Amos 9.
1 I saw the Lord standing by the altar, and he said: “Strike the tops of the pillars so that the thresholds shake. Bring them down on the heads of all the people; those who are left I will kill with the sword. Not one will get away, none will escape. 2 Though they dig down to the depths of the grave, from there my hand will take them. Though they climb up to the heavens, from there I will bring them down. 3 Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, there I will hunt them down and seize them. Though they hide from me at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent to bite them. 4 Though they are driven into exile by their enemies, there I will command the sword to slay them. I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.” 5 The Lord, the LORD Almighty, he who touches the earth and it melts, and all who live in it mourn– the whole land rises like the Nile, then sinks like the river of Egypt– 6 he who builds his lofty palace in the heavens and sets its foundation on the earth, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land– the LORD is his name. 7 “Are not you Israelites the same to me as the Cushites?” declares the LORD. “Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir? 8 “Surely the eyes of the Sovereign LORD are on the sinful kingdom. I will destroy it from the face of the earth– yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,” declares the LORD. 9 “For I will give the command, and I will shake the house of Israel among all the nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, and not a pebble will reach the ground. 10 All the sinners among my people will die by the sword, all those who say, ‘Disaster will not overtake or meet us.’ 11 “In that day I will restore David’s fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be, 12 so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name,” declares the LORD, who will do these things. 13 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. 14 I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. 15 I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,” says the LORD your God. (Amos 9:1-15 NIV)
Our study of the prophesy of Amos has been a study in tragedy, but it is a strong message to the nations of the world in our day who choose to turn their backs on God, who choose to disregard God’s call to walk in faithfulness with His commands for living.
Amos begins chapter 9 by saying, “I saw the Lord standing by the altar…” This is the last of the five visions that the Lord showed Amos. What the Lord showed Amos was the destruction of the nation. There would be no escaping God’s judgment this time. I want to point out a couple of things that are very important for us to understand. In verse 2 we read,
2 Though they dig down to the depths of the grave, from there my hand will take them. Though they climb up to the heavens, from there I will bring them down. (Amos 9:2 NIV)
Look at the extreme effort of the people to escape the consequences of their unfaithfulness. Even if they dig down to the depths—God’s hand will seize them. Even if they were to climb up to the heavens—God will bring them down. I want you to notice the phrase, “from there my hand will take them.” In Deuteronomy 4:34, Moses spoke to the Israelites and told them that it was God’s mighty hand and outstretched arm that delivered them from Egypt, but now it is the mighty hand of God that will move in judgment upon His own people. The hand of God can deliver and the hand of God can destroy.
In verses 2-4 we are told about all of the places where the people of the Northern Kingdom might try to escape, but none of them will hide them from God’s presence. They can dig to the depths, scale the highest heights, plumb the depths of the ocean, or think that exile into a foreign nation will provide them shelter, but God says, “I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.” That is a terrifying statement if you ask me. As I was reading this chapter this past week I thought about what David wrote about God’s presence in Psalm 139:7-12. Let me read it to you.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:7-12 NIV)
The presence of God was a great comfort for King David. David knew that he was living under the comforting gaze of the Father. He knew that God’s hand was guiding him and holding him fast. What a contrast this is to what we have just read in Amos. God had set His sights on the people of the Northern Kingdom, but His presence would not be comforting at all.
There is rarely a day go by that we don’t hear some story of someone who got caught trying to get away with something. We do things in secret. We slip around, looking over our shoulders, plotting our deception, and sometimes we get away with things…for awhile. I should say that we get away with things in regards to people. The truth is that we never get away with anything when it comes to God. We can plot and plan until we have perfectly crafted our deception, but there is no plan that can even begin to shake God. He’s on to us. In Jeremiah 16:17 we read,
17 My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes. (Jeremiah 16:17 NIV)
This is not a concept that is found only in the Hebrew Bible. In the New Testament, in the book of Hebrews, we are told,
13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13 NIV)
There is absolutely nothing that is done that is hidden from God. He is omnipresent, He is everywhere, and He is omniscient, He knows everything. God not only knows, but He holds us accountable for what we do with this life that He has given to us to live.
The Jews of the Northern Kingdom felt that because they were God’s covenant people that they could get away with doing whatever they wanted because they were “special.” We see that same mindset present in our own day don’t we? There are those in our society that have somehow convinced themselves that because they are powerful or famous that they don’t have to obey the law. They think that because they are special they will be able to get away with it.
The Israelites were God’s chosen people, but God had chosen them to be a light in a dark world, to be ministers to the nations, and not to flaunt their unfaithfulness in His face. In Amos 9:7, God let them know that they were no more special than any other nation. Read along with me.
7 “Are not you Israelites the same to me as the Cushites?” declares the LORD. “Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir? (Amos 9:7 NIV)
It was true that God had led the Israelites from Egypt, but He had also led the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir. He is the God of all nations my friends. We, as Americans, desperately need to hear this because I hear many Christians in this nation speak about America in the same way that the Jews of Amos’ day spoke about their own nation. God has directed the course of our nation, but make no mistake about it; He has also directed the course of China, Iraq, Mexico, North Korea, Africa, and every other nation on this planet. He is the Lord of history, the God of all nations, and every nation is accountable to Him.
Before we end our study of Amos we have to take a look at the last section of his prophesy. It is in the last seven verses of Amos that we see that even though God is going to bring an end to the nation and judge His people, there will come a day of restoration. Read along with me beginning in verse 9.
9 “For I will give the command, and I will shake the house of Israel among all the nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, and not a pebble will reach the ground. 10 All the sinners among my people will die by the sword, all those who say, ‘Disaster will not overtake or meet us.’ 11 “In that day I will restore David’s fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be, 12 so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name,” declares the LORD, who will do these things. 13 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. 14 I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. 15 I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,” says the LORD your God. (Amos 9:9-15 NIV)
The people of the Northern Kingdom are going to be sifted, shaken in a sieve. I don’t know of any of us who live on a farm so you might not be familiar with the sifting process. When you sift wheat all of the good wheat goes through the sieve, but the rocks and stems, the bad stuff that you don’t want, remains in the sieve. God is going to sift His people and those who have not been faithful will die in the process, but the faithful remnant will survive the sifting process. God will take the faithful remnant and He will bless them in fulfillment of the promises we read back in Deuteronomy. This belief of Amos is reinforced through all of the prophets who came after him.
I want to close our study by showing you one of the most amazing truths found in Scripture: The renewal of all things by God. The message of God’s Word is this: God loves us. We have sinned against God. There is nothing we can do to reconcile ourselves to God. God has intervened in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. He invites us to come to Him in order that we might be reconciled to God. God takes broken, sin-filled people like you and me and He restores us to Himself and to the purpose He has for each of our lives. That is the Good News in a nutshell. We sin. God restores. We break things. God recreates what is broken.
The last few verses of Amos reinforce this message. After all that has been done by the people of the Northern Kingdom to turn away from God and to destroy the nation that God established for Jeroboam and the people of God, God will one day restore what they had mangled and broken. Let me share with you some examples from some of the other prophets. In Isaiah 65:17-19 we read.
17 “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. 19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. (Isaiah 65:17-19 NIV)
There will be no more weeping and the sound of crying will have ceased forever once God restores what has been broken. In Habakkuk 2:14 we get another example of what will take place once God restores His broken people and this broken creation. Read along with me.
14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. (Habakkuk 2:14 NIV)
“The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD…” What a day that will be! That is not this day that we are living in, right? I don’t think we need to take any time away from our study to debate that question. The day is coming when this will happen and it will be a glorious day.
The Scriptures that I’ve shared with you about God’s plan to recreate and restore have all come from the prophets, but I want to show you one more example. If you will turn to the very last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation. In Revelation 21:1-5 we read,
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5 NIV)
God is going to make everything new. He is going to restore and recreate in such a way that it will blow the minds of His people. God gave Amos a message of hope in the midst of judgment. If you will look back at Amos 9:13-15 you can see some of what God will do in the future.
• The reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes.
• New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from the hills.
• The exiles will return.
• They will rebuild cities and live in them.
• They will plan vineyards and drink their wine.
• They will make gardens and eat their fruit.
• They will be planted in the land and never, ever be uprooted again.
When will that day come? Well, some would say that the regathering of the nation of Israel is the fulfillment of this prophesy, but I would disagree. What we have seen in the recreation of the nation of Israel is only a faint foreshadowing of things to come my friends. What God has in store for those who will trust in Him, those who will walk in faithful obedience with the covenant He has established with us through His son, is far beyond anything that we can even imagine. I want to urge you to allow the Lord to examine your hearts this morning. Are you walking with the Lord today? Are you like the people of the Northern Kingdom who gave lip service to God, but their hearts were far from Him? Allow Him to search your hearts and show you the truth of where you stand with Him this very morning.
For those who have never trusted in Jesus, surrendered your hearts to Him as Lord and Savior, won’t you do that before you leave here today. I’ve shared with you that our God is in the business of restoring and recreating that which is broken. Well, left to ourselves we will most certainly break everything that He has blessed us with in this life. If you know all too well what I am talking about, then I want to ask you, “Will you trust Him to restore what you have broken?” Only He can. Won’t you trust Him?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
July 10, 2011