John T. Willis

Friday, December 11, 2009

An Adversary Even Around the Land--Amos 3

Amos 3 is a unit, divided into four parts. The theme of this chapter is: Yahweh announces that "an adversary" is all around the land of Israel, warning that Israel will fall if she continues to sin against Yahweh. This chapter begins with the call: "Hear this word," just as Amos 4 and Amos 5:1-17. Let us briefly walk through this chapter.

I. The Greater the Privilege, the Greater the Responsibility. Amos 3:1-2.
a. "Hear" is plural in verse 1, so the speaker is addressing a group. The context indicates that this audience is the people of Israel.
b. The speaker is the prophet Amos, because the speaker speaking of Yahweh in the third person. Yahweh has revealed his message to Amos, and now Amos is proclaiming Yahweh's message to this audience. Verse 1.
c. Yahweh had done marvelous acts in behalf of his people. He brought them out of the land of Egypt--verse 1. Amos 2:10 already made this point, and thus ties Amos 3 to Amos 2.
d. Yahweh, out of his own freewill grace, decided to choose Israel to be his own people. "Election" is a huge idea throughout scripture, Old and New Testaments. It is very easy for God's "chosen" people to feel arrogant and special. Such a thought is anti-godly, anti-Christian, and unbiblical. Rather, Yahweh chose Israel [and, in the New Testament, the church] to demonstrate to the world that Yahweh could save and redeem and use for his own purposes the most sinful people on earth. How could anyone, then, be arrogant or proud? Literarlly, the Hebrew word here is "know." This Hebrew word has a wide variety of meanings, and the modern English hearer or reader must beware of assuming this word means "perceive, recognize" as an intellectual undertaking. Rather, here and in other biblical passages [for example, Genesis 4:1, 17; Exodus 33:12], "know" is marriage language. Many scholars correctly translate this word as "choose" because of the context. The idea is that Yahweh is the husband and Israel is his wife, and hence Yahweh enters into an intimate, daily, personal relationship with Israel. This is what "know" means here.
As we discussed in Amos 1-2, Yahweh knows very well that he knows all the families of the earth, not just Judah and Israel. Accordingly, Yahweh punishes all these nations when they sin against Yahweh. Just as Yahweh brought Israel out of Egypt, he also brought the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans [Syrians] from Kir. Amos 9:7. Yahweh love, cares for, punishes, and redeems, all nations, not just Judah and Israel. Francis I. Andersen and David Noel Freedman, Amos, Anchor Bible
24A, page 382 write correctly:
"Amos 9:7 shows that Israel was not the exclusive object of Yahweh's historical activities, nor the sole recipient of his favor. . . . Although v 2 states the case in absolute terms, these should be taken as relative rather than exclusive: I have given you more attention than any other people; therefore I expect more from you than from them." The great the privilege, the greater the responsibility. In the Old and New Testaments, Yahweh has chosen first Israel and then the church, not to extol or elevate or make arrogant his people, but as Yahweh's special responsibility to use his chosen people to bless the rest of the world.

II. Two Walking Together. Amos 3:3-8.
a. Amos 3:3-6 contains 7 questions, which actually contain an introductory question and three illustrations in question form. (1) Do two walk together unless they have made an appointment? Obviously NO. (2) Does a lion roar when it has caught no prey? Obviously NO. (3) Does a bird fall into a snare when there is no trap there? Obviously NO. (4) Is a trumpet blown in a city and the people are not afraid? Obviously NO. But WHO are these TWO who walk together? Scholars propose two major interpretations.
1. The TWO are Yahweh and Israel. Yahweh will pounce on Israel like a lion pounces on a prey. Yahweh will entrap Israel like a snare or a trap catches a bird. Yahweh will announce the fall of Israel like a watchman or a sentinel blows a trumpet to warn the people that an enemy is coming.
2. The TWO are Yahweh and Amos the prophet. To demonstrate Amos' audience, Yahweh has "captured" Amos so that Amos will declare Yahweh's message. Yahweh pounced on Amos like a lion pounces on a prey. Yahweh ensnared Amos like a trap ensnares a bird. Yahweh proclaimed to Amos that Yahweh is about to punish Israel like a sentinel blows a warning trumpet.
In my opinion, either interpretation is possible. Verses 7-8 seem to fit a little better to the interpretation of Choice 2. But either is possible.
b. Yahweh does not punish a people or an individual without first warning of the impending punishment. Yahweh reveals this impending punishment through "his servants the prophets." This expression occurs often in the Bible. See Jeremiah 7:25. verse 7.
c. The parallelism in verse 8 is abab. Hence, "The lion has roared" is parallel to "The Lord has spoken." Amos 1:2 used this same language. Yahweh is like a lion, and the roar of the lion is the "voice" of Yahweh, proclaimed through Yahweh's prophets, here Amos. Again, "Who will not fear" is parallel to "Who can but prophesy?" Amos here is explaining that he MUST proclaim God's message; he has no choice.

III. Yahweh summons other nations to observe Yahweh's work upon his people Israel. Amos 3:9-12.
a. Notice that in Amos 3:9-12, Amos addresses non-Israelite nations to demonstrate that Yahweh's work on earth is an "object lesson" to the nations. Yahweh's acts toward his chosen people [Israel, the church] not to extol his chosen people, but to use his chosen people as an object to the nations. God's chosen people is like Wal-Mart. A person can find anything at Wal-Mart. This is a microcosm of the whole world--all nations. So, Yahweh calls the nations of Philistia and Egypt to watch what is happening on "Mount Samaria," the capital of North Israel. Verse
b. The nations see "oppression" and "violence" in Samaria, in Israel. God's chosen people are just like all nations. They oppress others and treat others violentsly. Verses 9b-10.
c. Hence, Yahweh announces that "an adversary" surrounds the land of Israel, the land of Canaan. Amos never specifically declares WHO the adversary is. But, historically, this adversary is the Assyrians who overthrew Israel in 721 B. C. Verse 11.
d. When a lion attacked a sheep and tore the sheep apart, the shepherd would try to find some small remnant of the sheep to demonstrate that he attempted to defend his sheep against the lion. Yahweh the lion is about to attack the sheep Israel. All that will be left is a tiny piece of the remaining sheep: "two legs" or "a piece of an ear." When Samaria falls, one may find "the corner of a couch" or "part of a bed." Verse 12.

IV. Yahweh will soon punish rich, powerful Israel, his chosen people. Amos 3:13-15.
a. Amos calls again to the audience. "Hear" is plural in Amos 3:13. He summons the people to testify against the house of Jacob=Israel. Yahweh declares that he will punish his chosen people because of their transgressions. Verses 13-14a.
b. Specifically, Yahweh announces that he will punish the altars of Bethel. Bethel was a well-known place of worship in North Israel. The Book of Amos refers to Bethel several times. 1 Kings 12:29-33 reports that Jeroboam I set up two golden calves to symbolize Yahweh bringing his people out of Egypt: one in Bethel in the southern part of North Israel, and one in Dan in the northern part of North Israel. Verse 14b.
c. Specifically again, Yahweh announces that he will destroy the rich houses of the powerful and the pretigious in North Israel: the winter house, the summer house, the houses of ivory, the great houses. Verse 15.
Times and people have not changed. Many people in the USA and in other countries spend millions of dollars to build opulent houses, as if this made them important or demonstrated their wealth or power or wisdom. When will we ever learn? Wealth and power and influence is here today and gone tomorrow. Only God persists and prevails.

Amos 3 is full of rich, wonderful, powerful message from God. Share YOUR thoughts with others. Can YOU see how relevant this chapter is for all of us? Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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