Today: [Amos 5] What Does Reformation Look Like. In today’s chapter Amos sees the nation as a forsaken woman, left to die in the wilderness, because the people have sought reformation outwardly without truly dealing with their heart conditions. At this point there are solemn assemblies, and gatherings, but God declares that He hates such things because they don’t result in true repentance and change. For us we read this chapter and seek to extract from it how we, in difficult times can be a part of the solution and not part of the problem.
[Amo 5:1-27 KJV] 1 Hear ye this word which I take up against you, [even] a lamentation, O house of Israel. 2 The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise: she is forsaken upon her land; [there is] none to raise her up. 3 For thus saith the Lord GOD; The city that went out [by] a thousand shall leave an hundred, and that which went forth [by] an hundred shall leave ten, to the house of Israel. 4 For thus saith the LORD unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live: 5 But seek not Bethel, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beersheba: for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nought. 6 Seek the LORD, and ye shall live; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour [it], and [there be] none to quench [it] in Bethel. 7 Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth, 8 [Seek him] that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD [is] his name: 9 That strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong, so that the spoiled shall come against the fortress. 10 They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly. 11 Forasmuch therefore as your treading [is] upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them. 12 For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate [from their right].
Chapter 5 of Amos begins with a lamentation for the lost innocence of the Israelites. The nation is depicted as a virgin who has fallen, no more to rise, left as a dead body in an open field. Though this does not describe any particular trial the people are going through at this time, Amos sees the demise of the nation as impending, which in fact came about to be true, beginning with a devastating earthquake 2 years from the time of his writing.
Verse 3 declares that the troubles that are coming will affect both large and small communities alike. Even today remote, rural communities are seen as a refuge from the upheaval and social problems that affect our nation. The recent mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas is an ominous harbinger of warning that even the smallest, remote community is not always shielded from the horrible tragedies that often strike in urban areas. In stating this, Amos is provoking those in outlying areas not to assume they are disconnected from the sins of the nation because they live in a pastoral, rural setting.
The answer to the unspoken question of deliverance is found in v. 4. “Seek Me and you shall live…” The people might have answered “but we DO seek you…” The warning given is not to seek the Lord at the polluted, alternative altar at Bethel but to seek the Lord at Jerusalem, at the temple of Solomon, where God commanded worship to take place. There is a point where worshipping God in your own way as you see fit is not acceptable. Jesus is not just our savior, He is our Lord and we have a responsibility to determine His will and comply with it, whether it is according to our tastes, or convenience.
Verse 6 repeats the call to seek the Lord and live. What is the answer when we see such difficulty in the land, and rising anti-religious sentiment breaking out on an unprecedented scale. Many believe that making preparation for what is coming calls for setting aside food stores and building bunkers. Several nationwide ministries are thriving not through donations of their supporters but by feeding the fears of the people and provoking them to by freeze dried food, generators and other such products. If there is any exemplary conduct to be found in the scripture we can only conclude that Jesus was not a prepper. The early church was not a prepper community. The command is not to lay up foodstuff or to be prepared to repel your starving neighbors who come to take your food in the apocalypse. The call in v. 6 is SEEK THE LORD and ye shall live! V. 8 reiterates again “Seek him that makes the seven stars and Orion…” The seven stars represent the seven sisters of the star cluster Pleiades, a type of the church. Orion is a type of Christ who turns the shadow of death into the morning.
Again in v. 11 the people are reproved for living their lives in such a way that they are disenfranchising the poor, claiming there is nothing to do for them – all the while building houses and vineyards for their own pleasure. The prophet Amos declares that they will not live in these houses, nor drink from these vineyards because they enriched themselves and refused to care for the poor. It is scandalous to drive through a town and see millions upon millions of dollars of church facilities, but when you stop to inquire how the Ministerial Alliance cares for the poor, they give you one night in a seedy hotel and a voucher for enough gas to get out of town. God looks on these things. We are accountable for the impoverished in our communities and will be dealt with when we turn the poor from our gate.
13 Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it [is] an evil time. 14 Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken. 15 Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph. 16 Therefore the LORD, the God of hosts, the Lord, saith thus; Wailing [shall be] in all streets; and they shall say in all the highways, Alas! alas! and they shall call the husbandman to mourning, and such as are skilful of lamentation to wailing. 17 And in all vineyards [shall be] wailing: for I will pass through thee, saith the LORD. 18 Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end [is] it for you? the day of the LORD [is] darkness, and not light. 19 As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. 20 [Shall] not the day of the LORD [be] darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it? 21 I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. 22 Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept [them]: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. 23 Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. 24 But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. 25 Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? 26 But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves. 27 Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name [is] The God of hosts.
When we read such passages, and agree with what they say – what is to be our response? How do we determine to be a part of the solution and not part of the problem. V. 13 says if you are prudent, we should keep silence in the evil time. We should hold our peace (v. 13) and seek good and not evil that we might live. We are to hate the evil (v. 15) love the good, and establish judgment and equity where we have the power to do so. We may not be able to put sin run rampant in the earth in check but we can hold our peace, seek righteous paths, and care for the impoverished that God leads us to relieve of their sufferings. In so doing we put ourselves in the position to receive of what grace is available to us in such difficult days (v. 15)
Regardless, v. 1 says there will be wailing in the streets, and the people are crying “alas, alas” (v. 16) and according to Amos will become skillful at lamentation and wailing. We see this in the news outlets every day. The pundits and opinion makers are much more adept at decrying all the horrible news events and difficulties, and while we may be aware of these things, they are not our portion if we seek the Lord and live. CNN defines itself as giving all the news “we need to know” but leave out the gospel. FOX news claims to be fair and balanced, but give no deference to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have to realize that if we seek the Lord as this chapter calls for over and again, that our path is not found in popular culture or the 24 hour news cycle. Our trust is in the Lord and He will protect and lead us regardless of what is happening around us.
V. 18 speaks of those who see the ominous events around us and embrace the unfolding of human events and call for the day of the Lord. These are apocalypticists that want to see society brought to rack and ruin. Amos says to them, “Woe unto you who desire the day of the Lord for the day of the Lord is darkness and not light…” We know that difficulties come and that there is an ultimate end that will come, but our heart should be to pray that God would forbear to give our society opportunity to repent. Repentance is more than going to a conference, or holding a solemn assembly. Amos foresees this in Israel and speaks the heart of God (v. 21) that He will not accept their solemn assemblies or their offerings of conciliation until (v. 24) until true and personal reformation takes place to show mercy to the impoverished, to tear down the idols and the pagan groves. Knowing that the people will not do this – Amos declares there is nothing left for them but to go into captivity.
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