John T. Willis

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Last Two Oracles concerning the Nations--Amos 2:4-16

The last two oracles concerning the nations in Amos 1:3-2:16 [following the first six oracles concerning the nations in amos 1:3-2:3 discussed in a previous blog] deal with [South] Judah [Amos 2:4-5] and [North] Israel [Amos 2:6-16]. First, let us work through these two oracles, and the make some observations.

I. Oracle concerning Judah. Amos 2:4-5.
a. Note that Yahweh approaches Judah in the same way as all the other nations. They all have sinned against Yahweh, including Judah and Israel. Verse 4.
b. Judah prided herself is keeping the law of Yahweh, keeping Yahweh's statutes. Yahweh through Amos declares that Judah has sinned against Yahweh. "Being led astray by lies" probably refers to the worship of foreign gods. See Deuteronomy 32:21;
1 Kings 16:13, 26; Jer. 8:19; and often.

II. Oracle concerning North Israel. Amos 2:6-16.
a. Yahweh declares that Israel is just as guilty as all the nations, because they all mistreat and oppress innocent people who cannot defend themselves.
b. Selling the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals refers to the practice of wicked rich people seizing the possessions of their neighbors to gain what they desire to have for themselves. Verse 6. A very similar term appears in Amos
c. The rich and powerful afflict the poor. A man and his son commit fornication against the same woman. Verse 7.
d. The wicked rich recline beside their altars on "garments taken in pledge." Exodus 22:26-27; Deuteronomy 24:10-13 decree that a person in debt must supply his/her "collateral" [garment in pledge] to the person to whom he/she owed the debt, but each night, the individual receiving the debt must restore the collateral to the debtor. These "rich wicked worshippers" drink wine in the temple with fines exacted from debtors. Verse 8.
e. Yahweh stops and reminds his people of all the mighty acts of Yahweh, empowering them to be Yahweh's people. He mentions: Bringing Israel out of Egyptian bondage; leading Israel in the wilderness 40 years; giving the land of Canaan to the Israelites; raising up prophets and nazirites to encourage the people. Verses 9-11.
f. But, the Israelites made the Israelites drink wine and commanding the prophets not to proclaim Yahweh's message. Verse 12.
g. Consequently, Yahweh declares that Yahweh will punish his sinful people. Yahweh will take away their ability to flee and remove their military strength. Verses 13-16.

A study of Amos 1-2 leads one to see the following conclusions:
1. Yahweh is in control of all nations.
2. Yahweh cares for all nations. All nations are completely dependent on Yahweh.
3. Yahweh has chosen Israel to be his special people [see Amos 3:1-2]. This does not mean that Israel is politically, economically, religiously, or scientifically superior to other nations. Such an idea misses the whole point of the text.
4. Yahweh is ready and anxious to forgive all nations for all their sins. This is just as true to all nations as it is to Yahweh's chosen people.
5. Behind Yahweh's punishment is Yahweh's grace and love and mercy. Yahweh does not punish people to destroy them, but to attempt to bring them to repentance. Punishment is Yahweh's means to try to save all peoples.
6. Oppressing the poor and the needy and the widows and the orphans and aliens is a major concern of Yahweh. Some people have made a distinction between "social" ane "religious" worship and practices. This is not God's view. God is deeply concerning with all people. Read James 1:26-27. Verse 27 says: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

These texts are as fresh and contemporaneous as the morning newspaper. They should change the hearts of professed Christians who neglect the needy. "True religion" is not something that occurs in a church building, but in the interactive behavior and actions toward others.

What are YOUR thoughts? Share YOUR ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis


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