John T. Willis

Friday, December 25, 2009

Rebuilding Ruins--The Fifth Vision of Amos--Amos 9

Amos 9 essentially has the same structure as Amos 7 and 8. First, there is a vision, then there is an oracle. It is difficult to divide Amos 9. The vision could end at verses 6, 8, or 10. Arbitrarily, I will stop at verse 6, because verses 1-6 contain a message of doom, whereas verses 7-15 contain a message of hope. The fifth vision does indeed announces Yahweh's punishment of Israel for her sins, but not utter destruction. Hence, there is still hope because of Yahweh's grace and mercy. Follow Amos 9, which falls into two parts.

I. The Vision of Yahweh standing beside the altar. Amos 9:1-6.
a. In visions 3 and 4, Yahweh declared to North Israel: "I will never again pass by them" [see 7:8; 8:2], and now he declares that when the Assyrians come, there will be "no escape."
b. In a vision, Amos the prophet "saw" "the Lord standing beside the altar," and he commanded the attackers to smash the temple there and kills its inhabitants. And he declares:
"Not one of them shall flee away,
not one of them shall escape." Verse 1.
It cannot be certain what "altar" this text mentions. However, in the context of the entire Book of Amos, it is most likely that this is the altar at Bethel. Amos 4:4; 5:5; 7:10, 13 specifically denounce unacceptable "religious" activites at work at Bethel. 1 Kings 12:28-30 narrates that Jeroboam I built two golden calves for worship by the Israelites in North Israel, one at Dan in the north and the other at Bethel in the south. Bethel had a long history as a place of worship in Israelite tradition--see Genesis 28:10-22; 35:1-15. Therefore, the "altar" in Amos 9:1 is probably at Bethel.
c. Like human beings always do, when the invaders come, the Israelites will try to find ways to escape. Some go "down" as low as they may; some go "up" as high as they may; some flee to "Mount Carmel" on the shore of the Mediterranean; some strive to find a place in the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea; some seek safety in captivity. But Yahweh declares that all this is in vain. Yahweh WILL punish his people because of their persistent rebellions against him. Verses 2-4.
d. Then, for the third and final time in the Book of Amos [see earlier Amos
4:13; 5:8-9], the prophet quotes part of a doxology, extolling Yahweh for his power and wisdom, who touches the earth, builds his upper chambers in the heavens, founds his vault on the earth, and causes rain to fall on the land. Verses 5-6. THIS GOD is the God who will punish North Israel for her sins.

II. BUT, Yahweh will "restore the fortunes" of his penitent people. Amos 9:7-15.
a. Yahweh loves, cares for, and deals equally with all nations. He chose one nation as an "object lesson" like a fish in an aquarium so that all could see, in the hope of saving the whole world. Yahweh brought Israel out of Egypt [see Amos
2:10; 3:1; Hosea 11:1 and often in the Bible], BUT he also brought the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians [Arameans] from Kir. Verse 7. The same is true of ALL nations. God raises up nations to accomplish his purposes. God does not work among the Israelites or Christians exclusively on earth. God created the whole world, not just this or that isolated people. We badly need this message. God "chooses" or "elects" or "selects" a peculiar people, NOT to make them arrogant as if they were more important or religiously superior to others, BUT to use them to bring the world to God. This is the meaning of MISSION.
b. Verse 8 at first seems to be a contradiction. In lines a and b, Yahweh declares that he will "DESTROY" his sinful people. But in lines c and d, Yahweh declares that he will "NOT UTTERLY DESTROY" his people. Yahweh will leave a "remnant" to sustain those to repent and turn back to him. Verse 8.
c. Yahweh works like a miner who sifts out sand to find "gold nuggets" to use to accomplish his purposes. In this context, that "nugget" is Israel. God will find that "nugget" and "destroy" it. But actually this is "the sinners" of God's people, not all the people, because some will repent. The people at large arrogantly assume: "Evil [Punishment} shall not overtake or meet us." Obviously, this is a huge mistake. Yahweh WILL punish his hard-hearted sinful people. Verses 9-10.
d. And YET, there is hope. "On that day" [some time in GOD'S FUTURE], Yahweh will raise up the dynasty of David [remember that in the days of Amos, the king of JUDAH was Uzziah, and he became arrogant and thus failed] and raise up its "ruins" "as in the days of old," probably referring to the "golden age" of David and Solomon. Then, they will be in control of "all the nations" whom Yahweh created and sustains. Yahweh, and no one else, will accomplish this. Verses 11-12.
e. Yahweh assures the penitent that great prosperity lies in the future. Yahweh will "restore the fortunes" of Israel, and othey will rebuild the "ruined cities" and live there, and plant vineyards and gardens abundantly. Yahweh promises: "they shall never again be plucked up out of the land that Yahweh has given them [back in the days of Joshua--see Joshua 21:43-45].

Now, we have attempted to work through the Book of Amos. I hope these messages will inspire and encourage and build up your life and your church. Share YOUR insights and thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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