Today: [Amos 4] God Champions the Cause of the Impoverished. In this chapter Amos by the word of the Lord reproves the northern kingdom for its abusive policies toward the poor. In our own United States there is much ado about the plight of the poor yet genuine relief seems never to actually materialize. In Amos 4 we see that God deals with a nation by how it champions the poor and relieves their suffering. In that light we give pause and wonder what the outcome might be for our own nation, if our policies toward the marginalized go unchanged.
[Amo 4:1-13 KJV] 1 Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that [are] in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink. 2 The Lord GOD hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks. 3 And ye shall go out at the breaches, every [cow at that which is] before her; and ye shall cast [them] into the palace, saith the LORD. 4 Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, [and] your tithes after three years: 5 And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim [and] publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord GOD. 6 And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. 7 And also I have withholden the rain from you, when [there were] yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. 8 So two [or] three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. 9 I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured [them]: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. 10 I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. 11 I have overthrown [some] of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD. 12 Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: [and] because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. 13 For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what [is] his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, [is] his name.
In this chapter the northern kingdom is reproved for their oppression of the poor. They are compared to livestock, without cognitive ability to realize they are being chastised for correctable things in their lives that are going undealt with. Several judgments are enumerated against them that have come to pass already, yet the people and the nation have not repented nor shown remorse for their godless policies. Notwithstanding their inveterate rebellion the chapter concludes with a continued call for repentance as the time of meeting their God appears. In light of the ominous nature of these chapters of Amos we are reminded that all of Amos’ words are in the light have having been said according to ch. 1 “two years before THE earthquake”. For all of the difficulties they have brought on themselves something more severe still awaits them.
V. 1 calls the people the “kine of Bashan” which refers to breed cattle raised by the Canaanites before them, who were taken as the spoils of war when Joshua led the conquest into the promised land. The implied statement is, that for all the prosperity in Israel, it was only preparing them to be consumed by their enemies who would benefit from their current wealth by taking the northern peoples into captivity to be sold into servitude to the far flung nations in the north. These warns are based on the ill treatment of the impoverished, as the elite of Samaria enriched themselves by robbing the poor of their meager goods for the purpose of financing their stores of wine and to pay for their feast days.
We see then that a nation’s treatment of the lower classes is cause for judgment and scrutiny by the hand of God. In our nation, traditionally the policies pursued by conservatives favor the wealthy with the expectation that the wealth of the financial elite will make its way to the poor in the form of job creation and expansion of the business sector. The liberal party on the other hand makes promises to the poor and marginalized in the US for the purpose of creating bloated bureaucracies with the feigned purpose of addressing disparity between the very rich and very poor while allegedly promising to increase the middle class. Both of these positions are gravely lacking in true compassion for the impoverished and the disenfranchised. To all of this we are reminded that as God did not ignore the ill treatment of the poor in the northern kingdom, so there are consequences in our own country when we build political juggernauts by grinding the faces of the poor into deeper poverty while claiming it is all for their own good and betterment.
V. 2-3 declare that God in His holiness will “put hooks” into the elite of the nation and compel them to be drawn out in servitude through the breaches they had created between the poor and the upper classes. We can see by this that class warfare is nothing new in the earth. In v. 4 the prophet derides the worship conducted at Bethel where the piety of the elite classes was only regarded as the multiplication of transgression because while their religious life was sacrificial in nature, they were stubbornly resistant to actually change their hearts and their policies regarding those that were subjugated by their governance.
Because of the practices and hypocrisies of the upper classes of Samaria v. 6 warns that they will have cleanness of teeth and want of bread because they had not returned to the Lord. In considering this we can look at the Great Depression and the effect it had in this country of bringing about a correction of great decadence and sinfulness in the 1920’s and giving birth to the revivals of the 1940’s and 50’s. Rom. 2:4-5 tell us that it is the goodness of God that leads men to repent, but if repentance is not forthcoming then consequences will come that will motivate change albeit too late to avoid the penalties for refusing to heed the voice of God before the judgments came. There comes a place as Isaiah said that the whole head is sick and the whole heart is faint and there is no use in correcting the people further. Isaiah said these things at the same time Amos was prophesying. When we compare the Great Depression to the financial disaster of 2008 we do not see any nationwide return to piety and repentance toward God. In fact, our country is as decadent and godless than it was before the disastrous events of 911, the crash of 2008 and two long and costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In v. 8 though the nation suffered from invasion, and drought and many difficulties still the second time they did not return to the Lord.
In verse 11 we see that the depth of judgment that came upon the northern kingdom before its destruction was compared by God Himself to the devastation of Sodom and Gomorrah yet for the third time it is mentioned, the people did not return to the Lord. Because of this thrice mentioned refusal of Samaria to amend their ways, but to continue in policies of idolatry and abuse of the impoverished in v. 12 Amos warns them to prepare to meet the God that they have refused to return to in repentance. We can see by this that God does not take no for an answer. When a nation declines to acknowledge Him, He will so move in their midst as to compel the repentance that they have stubbornly refused to embrace. Just as God exercised sovereignty over the nations that eventually took Israel and Judah into captivity so He first dealt with His people in determination to turn their hearts – yet for all that they refused and rebelled and the only thing left for Samaria was captivity in Assyria.
In reading this chapter we can find application for our own lives on an individual basis and also find instruction regarding intercession for our nation. If there is any efficacy in prayer, let us be a people who not only bemoan the decadence and godlessness in our nation, but also devote ourselves daily to intercede not that God will do something for He is holding out His hands every day to a disobedient and a gainsaying people. Rather let us pray that the nation as whole will do the one thing that will altar her fate, and that is to return to the Lord in repentance and sorrow for sins that have separated us so far from the mercy and grace that God has made available to us.
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