Amos, Missionary to Israel, Part 10
Issue No. 358
Amos 5:14, 15 says,
14 Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and thus may the Lord God of hosts be with you, just as you have said! 15 Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate! Perhaps the Lord God of hosts may be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
This is the third and final admonition where the prophet tells Israel to seek God. The three are:
Verse 4, “Seek Me that you may live.”
Verse 6, “Seek the Lord that you may live.”
Verse 14, “Seek good and not evil.”
Amos accepts the possibility that Israel might repent and yet avoid judgment, but he sees little hope that such repentance will actually take place.
Hence, he moves directly into a continuing dialog of impending judgment upon the nation. Amos 5:16, 17 says,
16 Therefore, thus says the Lord God of hosts, the Lord, “There is wailing in all the plazas, and in all the streets they say, ‘Alas! Alas!’ [Heb. “HO! HO!” Articulated in a drawn-out manner] They also call the famer to mourning and professional mourners to lamentation. 17 And in all the vineyards there is wailing, because I will pass through [avar] the midst of you,” says the Lord.
In those days men used to hire professional mourners who knew how to make long cries on behalf of the living relatives at a funeral. Amos foresees Israel in such a state of public mourning on account of the dead in the coming war in which the nation is destroyed.
The wailing and lamentation, he says, comes not at the hand of the Assyrians, but “because I shall pass through the midst of you.” Here Amos uses the same word (avar) that Moses used in Exodus 12:12 to show that God passed over (or through) the land of Egypt at the first Passover.
12 For I will go through [avar] the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord.
When God passes through the land of Israel, it is for the same reason. God will look for the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintels of the houses, and if He sees no blood, those houses will suffer loss. There will then be a great cry out of Israel, even as there was a great cry in Egypt in Exodus 12:30,
30 And Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead.
Hence, the great wailing that occurred in the land of Egypt was soon to be duplicated in the land of Israel. The God of Impartial Justice was to apply the law equally when He passed through the land of Israel.
The Day of the Lord
Amos 5:18 says,
18 Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord, for what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you? It will be darkness and not light.
The Day of the Lord is the day in which the Lord Himself takes the stage and is clearly seen in control of world history. If the religious people of Israel think that the day of the Lord will work in their favor, they are ignorant of His ways. If they think that it is a day of “light” for Israel and “darkness” only for other nations, they will be taken by surprise when God passes through the land of Israel.
They have no right to think that darkness will be upon Egypt while the Israelites remained in the light, as what occurred in Exodus 11:22, 23. As long as the Israelites were guilty of the same idolatry and rebellion that characterized the Egyptians in the days of Moses, God would treat Israel by the same impartial laws that he treated Egypt earlier.
Amos 5:19, 20 continues,
19 As when a man flees from a lion, and a bear meets him, or goes home, leans his hand against the wall, and a snake bites him. 20 Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it?
In other words, there will be no place to hide, for if you are fortunate enough to escape one enemy, you will simply meet another, and if you are able to find refuge in your own home, a snake will bite you in your home. The day of the Lord is a day of darkness, not light.
Joel 2:1, 2 speaks of the Day of the Lord as well,
1 Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near, 2a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness…
The prophets do not treat the day of the Lord as a day of rejoicing. When God comes, He comes in judgment upon the land. So the second coming of Christ, too, is not a day of rejoicing per se, but a day of divine judgment.
Paul says in 1 Thess. 5:2 that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” In those days, robber bands often swept down upon a town just before dawn when men slept most soundly and peacefully. Suddenly, the thieves might descend upon a town, bringing sudden destruction.
So also is it with the coming of Christ. He does not come as a cat-burglar to snatch believers to heaven in a rapture. Instead, He comes as a Mideastern thief in the night to bring destruction upon the existing order.
I believe that the day of the Lord is to be equated to the feast of Trumpets, or Rosh Hoshana. It is the opening scene of the second set of feast days in which is portrayed the sequence of events surrounding the second coming of Christ.
But one must know the lawful way to keep a feast, and one ought to know the prophetic meaning of those feasts as well. The problem is that few throughout history have understood those feasts, and so even most religious people are inadequately prepared for that which is to come.
Amos deals with this problem next.
God Rejects Israel’s Feast Days
Amos 5:21-24 says,
21 I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer up to Me burn offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. 23 Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. 24 But let justice roll down like an ever-flowing stream.
Though God commanded Israel to keep these festivals, they were unacceptable as long as the nation continued to violate the law of God and remain in rebellion against God. It is not likely that the people would have understood Amos’ denunciations, for most religious people think they are doing quite well.
Yet since human nature changes little over the centuries, we only have to look at the condition of the church today to understand the words of Amos. Most religious ceremonies continue unabated, while at the same time the church gives itself the right to cast aside the divine law. Having been taught that this is acceptable to God, the people do not even realize that they are part of a system of rebellion—the very kind of problem that brought about Israel’s disaster.
Isaiah’s Double Witness
Isaiah, too, received the same revelation as Amos in regard to the feast days. Isaiah 1:13, 14 says,
13 Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me; new moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. 14 I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me. I am waring of bearing them.
God is not impressed with rituals. Rituals are only designed for our benefit. Rituals are God’s teaching tool, but if we do not learn those lessons, the rituals are just an abomination to God.
The feast days teach us first of Israel’s history and the manner of divine deliverance on those days. Secondly, the feast days are instructive in prophecy. The first set of days from Passover to Pentecost prophesy of the first work of Christ; the second set of days from Trumpets to Tabernacles prophesy of the second work of Christ in His second coming. But if we remain ignorant of these prophecies, then the rituals themselves remain an abomination in God’s eyes. Those who refuse to learn are as bad the ancient Israelites.
God says, “take away from Me the noise of your songs.” God gets tired of all the talented music when the people’s hearts are full of lawlessness and rebellion. What is music to God’s ears is “justice” and “righteousness.” In other words, God wants people to know the principles of justice found in His law. His desire is that men live according to those principles so that they do not violate the rights of their neighbors.
When they learn to love God first and their neighbors as themselves, then is God pleased and will bless their land. But the unfortunate pattern through the church has been a lack of understanding, due to a heart of rebellion.
Israel’s Wilderness Example
Amos 5:25 says,
25 Did you present Me with sacrifices and grain offerings in the wilderness for forty years, O house of Israel?
The answer is YES. Throughout the forty years in the wilderness, Israel’s priests presented offerings twice daily. The implication is that in spite of their offerings, most of the people died in the wilderness not having received the promises. This shows the inadequacy of those offerings.
What made them inadequate? The answer is found in the next verse. Amos 5:26 says,
26 You also carried along Sikkuth your king and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves.
Sikkuth and Kiyyun were two images of false gods which were apparently popular among the Israelites during their wilderness wandering. Sikkuth literally means “tents, booths” and is virtually identical in meaning to the feast of Sukkoth, or “booths,” the third main feast of Israel.
Perhaps Sikkuth was meant to represent prophetically a false feast of Tabernacles.
Kiyyun (or Chiun in Greek) meant an image of some sort, which was a representation of some star. Translations vary. The KJV reads “Molech and Chiun.” The Greek translation (Septuagint) reads:
26 Yes, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Raephan, the images of them which ye made for yourselves.
This is quoted also in Acts 7:43 (NASB), which reads,
43 You also took alone the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Rompha, the images which you made to worship them. I also will remove you beyond Babylon.
We see that Sikkuth is called “tabernacle of Moloch,” and Kiyyun is called “the star of the god Rompha.” The text implies that these were the names of the golden calf that the people made for themselves in the wilderness.
The golden calf itself was derived from the constellation Taurus, in whose shoulder resided the Pleiades, the seven stars among which was Al Cyone, called in Hebrew Sukkot. Hence, when Aaron built the golden calf, the people understood that it was Taurus.
And “the star of the god Rompha” (that is, Kiyyun, or Kaiwan) was probably Saturn, because in ancient Persia Kevan or Kaivan was their name for Saturn. In modern Arabic, too, Kaiwan is Saturn. In ancient cosmology, Saturn used to rule the heavens until chased away by Jupiter, who became the king of heaven.
In either case the people had adopted the Egyptian view of the meaning of the stars, having long forgotten the original prophetic meaning that revealed the divine plan in the names of the stars.
Idolatry does not always worship an entirely different God but is a perverted understanding (image) of the true God. Any time men create icons which they say represents God, they inevitably fail to portray the precise truth of God’s character. Hence, they become perversions of truth, which men soon adopt as actual truth.
So God forbids making such counterfeit images, for they are only man’s image of God and not God Himself. While we may appreciate good art (sculpture), such images always fall short of reality and invariably lead to idolatry.
Amos concludes this section, telling us that all of Israel’s religious activity would not prevent disaster from coming upon the nation. Amos 5:27 says,
27 “Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus,” says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.
In other words, God says that He will make them go into exile to the far north in the land of Assyria. That, of course, occurred a few years later.
The Impartial God
Amos 6:1 says,
1 Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria, the distinguished men of the foremost of nations, to whom the house of Israel comes.
It is interesting that Amos addresses this to the leaders in both Zion and Samaria. Zion was the seat of government in Jerusalem over the house of Judah, while Samaria was the government of Israel in the house of Joseph.
Amos’ main focus was upon Samaria and the northern tribes, but he makes it clear that Judah was not exempt from divine judgment as well. Hence, the term, “beyond Damascus,” refers to both captivities, but moreso to the house of Israel who was to be exiled to Assyria. Judah’s captivity would take them in an arc around the southern desert to Babylon, which was ultimately due west.
Amos 6:2 continues,
2 Go over to Calneh and look, and go from there to Hamath the great, then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are they [Zion and Samaria] better than these kingdoms, or is their territory [or “borders”] greater than yours?
The laws of God apply equally to all nations. The answer is that Israel and Judah are no better—nor any worse—than the other nations who are in idolatry. All are equally accountable to God, although the other nations might use ignorance as an excuse.
Calneh was a city on the Tigris River, built by Nimrod in the land of Shinar (Gen. 10:10). Hamath was north of Damascus, not far from the coast, directly east of Cyprus. Gath was a city in the southern part of Philistia. Amos uses these as random samplings of foreign cities, each with its own gods, to show that God treats all nations equally.
Amos 6:3 goes on, saying,
3 Do you put off the day of calamity, and would you bring near the seat of violence?
These leaders of Zion and Samaria acted as if the day of calamity (judgment) would never come. Shortsighted, these leaders showed no concern about the future of the nation, as long as they themselves were able to live lives of luxury.
Amos 6:4-6 describes this luxury,
4 Those who recline on beds of ivory and sprawl on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall, 5 who improvise to the sound of the harp, and like David have composed songs for themselves, 6 who drink wine from [over-sized] sacrificial bowls while they anoint themselves with the finest of oils, yet they have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.
The rich and powerful were concerned only with their own personal comfort and luxurious life style, as if they were deserving of it, while the rest of the nation could go into ruin. Things have not changed to this day, for this is always the tendency of human nature. Wealth and power only bring human nature to the surface, and this is why the overcomers are truly the only ones qualified to rule the earth under Christ.
As a consequence, judgment was sure to come, for we Amos 6:7 says,
7 Therefore, they will now go into exile at the head of the exiles, and the sprawlers’ banqueting will pass away.
The Hebrew word translated “sprawlers” is sarakh, “to pour out, to be redundant, hang over, to be unrestrained, to exceed, sprawl.” Amos paints a picture of excessive luxury, living beyond the means of most people. All of that, he says, “will pass away” and come to an end.
God’s Vow of Judgment
Amos 6:8 ends by saying,
8 The Lord God has sworn by Himself, the Lord God of hosts has declared: “I loathe the arrogance [gaown, “majesty, pomp, pride”] of Jacob, and I detest his citadels; therefore, I will deliver up the city and all it contains.”
Note that God calls Israel by the old name, “Jacob,” as if to say that the nation was not living up to its name Israel. Jacob means “deceiver, supplanter,” showing the human nature of both Jacob himself and his descendants. As long as they remained in that state of arrogance and self-deception, they were unworthy of the name Israel, and it is as if God refused to recognize them by that name.
When God makes a vow or an oath, it is established legally in a court of law, and there is no turning back. Hence, when Amos heard God swear an oath to bring judgment upon Samaria, there was no turning back, for the word of God cannot be broken.
This seems to have been the point of no return, where it was decided in the courts of heaven that the people lost any further opportunity to repent. The nation had reverted fully back to its Jacob way of life, and this could not be reversed.
Similarly, Judah and Jerusalem reached the same point of no return in Jer. 7:15, 16, when the prophet was told to stop praying for that nation, “for I do not hear you.” It is a serious matter when a nation reaches such a point.