Amos 4-5

Thursday Evening Bible Study

April 13, 2006


Amos is living at the time prior to the destruction of the northern kingdom.  It was a prosperous time economically.  It was a disastrous time spiritually.

Amos 4 – Message of accusation

:1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, Who oppress the poor, Who crush the needy, Who say to your husbands, "Bring wine, let us drink!"

Bashan was in the northeast. It was known for well fed cattle.

Amos is talking about the well-fed women of Samaria as if they’re the cows of Bashan.  I’m not sure this is very flattering…


Two elderly, excited Southern women were sitting together in the front pew of church listening to a fiery preacher. When this preacher condemned the sin of stealing, these two ladies cried out at the tops of their lungs, "AMEN, BROTHER!" When the preacher condemned the sin of lust, they yelled again, "PREACH IT, REVEREND!" And when the preacher condemned the sin of lying, they jumped to their feet and screamed, "RIGHT ON, BROTHER! TELL IT LIKE IT IS...AMEN!" But when the preacher condemned the sin of gossip, the two got very quiet, and one turned to the other and said, "He's quit preaching and now he's meddlin'."

Amos is going to start meddlin’.

:2 The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness: "Behold, the days shall come upon you When He will take you away with fishhooks, And your posterity with fishhooks.

The people would be forced into captivity, taken away by the Assyrians.

:3 You will go out through broken walls, Each one straight ahead of her, And you will be cast into Harmon," Says the LORD.

:4 "Come to Bethel and transgress, At Gilgal multiply transgression; Bring your sacrifices every morning, Your tithes every three days.

Bethel – the place of worship of the golden calves.

This is a bit of mocking on Amos’ part.  This sounds like a “call to worship” that a priest would cry out.  Normally a priest would say, “Come to Bethel to worship”.  But instead he says, “Come to Bethel and transgress”.

Gilgal – the place where Israel first camped when they came into the Promised Land.  It remained a place where pilgrims came to worship, but by this time it was worshipping other gods.

tithes – the people were commanded to bring one special tithe every three years.

(Deu 14:28 NKJV) "At the end of every third year you shall bring out the tithe of your produce of that year and store it up within your gates.

This is a taunt at the religiousness of the people.


True religion

They dressed up like believers, but their lives looked like unbelievers.
(Mat 7:15-23 NLT)  "Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep, but are really wolves that will tear you apart. {16} You can detect them by the way they act, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit. You don't pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles. {17} A healthy tree produces good fruit, and an unhealthy tree produces bad fruit. {18} A good tree can't produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can't produce good fruit. {19} So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. {20} Yes, the way to identify a tree or a person is by the kind of fruit that is produced. {21} "Not all people who sound religious are really godly. They may refer to me as 'Lord,' but they still won't enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The decisive issue is whether they obey my Father in heaven. {22} On judgment day many will tell me, 'Lord, Lord, we prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.' {23} But I will reply, 'I never knew you. Go away; the things you did were unauthorized.'

:5 Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, Proclaim and announce the freewill offerings; For this you love, You children of Israel!" Says the Lord GOD.


Foolish sacrifices

Some people feel that if they put money in the offering box that that will take care of their sin.
I would imagine that there are some pastors who don’t mind this either.


There were 2 men shipwrecked on this island. One started screaming and yelling, “We’re going to die! We’re going to die! There’s no food! No water! We’re going to die!” The second man was propped up against a palm tree, so calm it drove the 1st man crazy. “Don’t you understand? We’re going to die”! The 2nd man replied,” You don’t understand, I make $100,000 a week” The 1st man looked at him quite dumbfounded & asked, “What difference does that make? We’re on an island with no food & no water. We’re going to DIE!!!” The second answered, “You just don’t get it, I make $100,000 a week & I tithe on that $100,000 a week. My pastor will find me!”

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s an important step in our maturity that we learn to give.
It’s been said that a good indicator of just how much of your heart the Lord has is by measuring how much of your wallet He has access to.
But as important as tithing is, God would rather that you learned to walk with Him in obedience in all your life.  He doesn’t want you going through life thinking you can just pay your way out of your problems.  He would rather that you don’t get into problems.
(1 Sam 15:22-23 NKJV) Then Samuel said: "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. {23} For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king."

:6 "Also I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities. And lack of bread in all your places; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD.

cleanness of teeth – not because of dentists, but because of lack of food.

:7 "I also withheld rain from you, When there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, And where it did not rain the part withered.

God was selective in where the rain fell.

:8 So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, But they were not satisfied; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD.

God continues to try and get their attention.

:9 "I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, Your vineyards, Your fig trees, And your olive trees, The locust devoured them; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD.

:10 "I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; Your young men I killed with a sword, Along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD.

:11 "I overthrew some of you, As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, And you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; Yet you have not returned to Me," Says the LORD.

In both the book of Leviticus (ch. 26) and Deuteronomy (ch. 28), God warns the people about what would happen if they walk away from Him and live lives of disobedience.

In Leviticus, God warns of one disaster after another, as a way of getting their attention to get them to turn around.

(Lev 26:18-21 NKJV) 'And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. {19} I will break the pride of your power; I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. {20} And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit. {21} 'Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins.

Now the warnings are coming to pass. God has brought one thing after another and they still do not turn around.

:12 "Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; Because I will do this to you, Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!"

:13 For behold, He who forms mountains, And creates the wind, Who declares to man what his thought is, And makes the morning darkness, Who treads the high places of the earth; The LORD God of hosts is His name.


Ready to meet God?

This may be talking about being ready to meet God in their coming judgment, but the principle applies just as much to us today. Are we ready?
(Luke 12:16-21 NKJV) Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. {17} "And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' {18} "So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. {19} 'And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."' {20} "But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' {21} "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
For some people, the concept of being ready to meet your God is a scary one.  It sounds like something that Dirty Harry would say to a bad guy before he pulls the trigger.
But in reality, for those of us who ARE ready, we can hardly wait!

(Isa 25:9 NKJV)  And it will be said in that day: "Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the LORD; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation."

Amos 5 - Lamentation

:1 Hear this word which I take up against you, a lamentation, O house of Israel:

lamentationqiynah – lamentation, dirge, elegy; It’s not fun for Amos to be saying these things.  He weeps over the sin of the people.

:2 The virgin of Israel has fallen; She will rise no more. She lies forsaken on her land; There is no one to raise her up.

:3 For thus says the Lord GOD: "The city that goes out by a thousand Shall have a hundred left, And that which goes out by a hundred Shall have ten left to the house of Israel."

Only 1/10 of the nation would survive the coming captivity of the Assyrians.

:4 For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: "Seek Me and live;

:5 But do not seek Bethel, Nor enter Gilgal, Nor pass over to Beersheba; For Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, And Bethel shall come to nothing.


Seeking God, not religion

To these people, Bethel and Gilgal were centers of religion.
God doesn’t want you seeking religion, He wants you seeking Him.
Christianity is not a religion about going to church.  Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.
Being a Christian means you have come into a personal relationship with God.  You know Him.  He knows you.  You spend time together.

:6 Seek the LORD and live, Lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph, And devour it, With no one to quench it in Bethel;

:7 You who turn justice to wormwood, And lay righteousness to rest in the earth!"


Disobedience is bitter

wormwood – bitterness; Many species of wormwood (a woody herb) grow in Palestine, and all have a strong, bitter (but not poisonous) taste, which causes the plant to be used as a symbol of bitterness, sorrow, and calamity.
(Deu 29:14-19 NKJV) "I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, {15} "but with him who stands here with us today before the LORD our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today {16} (for you know that we dwelt in the land of Egypt and that we came through the nations which you passed by, {17} and you saw their abominations and their idols which were among them; wood and stone and silver and gold); {18} "so that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood; {19} "and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, 'I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart'; as though the drunkard could be included with the sober.

Disobedience brings bitterness in your heart. Serving other gods brings bitterness.

(Heb 12:14-17 NKJV) Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: {15} looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; {16} lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. {17} For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.

I’ve often thought that “bitterness” here was speaking of the bitterness of unforgiveness, but I think it’s bigger than that. I think it’s referring to the bitterness of Deut. 29:18, the bitterness of disobedience, the lack of holiness.

The people of Amos’ day had taken the justice that comes from following God, and exchanged it for the bitterness that comes from disobedience.

:8 He made the Pleiades and Orion; He turns the shadow of death into morning And makes the day dark as night; He calls for the waters of the sea And pours them out on the face of the earth; The LORD is His name.

Pleiades and Orion – constellations in the sky

He is an awesome God.

:9 He rains ruin upon the strong, So that fury comes upon the fortress.

:10 They hate the one who rebukes in the gate, And they abhor the one who speaks uprightly.

the gate – where the elders gathered, where the courts were located.

the one who rebukes in the gate – a just judge who sits at the gate and punishes criminals – these people hate the judge who punishes the criminal.


Handling criticism

I’m not very good at this…
(Prov 9:8 NKJV)  Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.
(Prov 13:18 NKJV)  Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction, But he who regards a rebuke will be honored.
How do you handle it when someone corrects you?
(Prov 15:31 NKJV)  The ear that hears the rebukes of life Will abide among the wise.

In J. Oswald Sanders’ Book, Spiritual Leadership (pg.120), he writes:

Samuel Brengle, noted for his sense of holiness, felt the heat of caustic criticism.  Instead of rushing to defend himself, he replied:  “From my heart I thank you for your rebuke.  I think I deserved.  Will you, my friend, remember me in prayer?”  When another critic attacked his spiritual life, Brengle replied:  “I thank you for your criticism of my life.  It set me to self-examination and heart-searching and prayer, which always leads me into a deeper sense of my utter dependence on Jesus for holiness of heart, and into sweeter fellowship with Him.”

I wonder when I’ll learn to respond to criticism like this.

:11 Therefore, because you tread down the poor And take grain taxes from him, Though you have built houses of hewn stone, Yet you shall not dwell in them; You have planted pleasant vineyards, But you shall not drink wine from them.

:12 For I know your manifold transgressions And your mighty sins: Afflicting the just and taking bribes; Diverting the poor from justice at the gate.

:13 Therefore the prudent keep silent at that time, For it is an evil time.

Sometimes the thing to do is to be bold and brave and speak up when things aren’t right.  Sometimes the best thing is to keep your mouth shut. God will take care of it.

:14 Seek good and not evil, That you may live; So the LORD God of hosts will be with you, As you have spoken.

:15 Hate evil, love good; Establish justice in the gate. It may be that the LORD God of hosts Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Joseph – used for the northern tribes

:16 Therefore the LORD God of hosts, the Lord, says this: "There shall be wailing in all streets, And they shall say in all the highways, 'Alas! Alas!' They shall call the farmer to mourning, And skillful lamenters to wailing.

:17 In all vineyards there shall be wailing, For I will pass through you," Says the LORD.

:18 Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the LORD to you? It will be darkness, and not light.

They thought that the “Day of the Lord” would only bring judgment on the enemies of Israel.

They didn’t realize that it would bring judgment to them as well.

There may be people who are religious, who go to church and who think they want Jesus to come back, but in truth they’re not ready.

But for those who are “ready”, they have found peace with God, they are no longer at war with God.

(Rom 5:1 NKJV)  Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

For those who have learned to trust in Jesus, they will find that they’ve already faced God’s judgment.  Jesus was judged on the cross in our place. The penalty for our sins was put on Him.

(2 Cor 5:21 NKJV)  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

:19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion, And a bear met him! Or as though he went into the house, Leaned his hand on the wall, And a serpent bit him!

There is no escaping God’s judgment.

:20 Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light? Is it not very dark, with no brightness in it?

It can be a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

:21 "I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies.

:22 Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.

:23 Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.

God hates the noise of religion when people aren’t following Him.

:24 But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream.

God would rather that the people learned to do what was right.  He wants it to be a continual stream that flows from their life.

I think this is only possible through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives:

(John 7:37-39 NKJV)  On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. {38} "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." {39} But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

:25 "Did you offer Me sacrifices and offerings In the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?

:26 You also carried Sikkuth your king And Chiun, your idols, The star of your gods, Which you made for yourselves.

(Amos 5:25-26 NLT) "Was it to me you were bringing sacrifices and offerings during the forty years in the wilderness, Israel? {26} No, your real interest was in your pagan gods--Sakkuth your king god and Kaiwan your star god--the images you yourselves made.

Even in the wilderness there were people who were giving God sacrifices, yet at the same time they had their other “gods” hidden in their back pockets.

:27 Therefore I will send you into captivity beyond Damascus," Says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.

The captivity came in 722 BC as the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom (2Ki. 17:6)