Preaching from Amos

Douglas Beyer  |  Southwestern Journal of Theology Vol. 38 - Fall 1995

Treat your congregation to a series of sermons from the prophet Amos. You will find seven of his sermons in the book that carries his name. You and your people will be amazed at how contemporary the message of this eighth-century prophet sounds to twentieth-century ears. To begin the series, I suggest you introduce the prophet with an exposition drawn from the seventh chapter of his prophecy. Amos interrupts a series of visions with a few words about his prophetic rival, Amaziah. This occurs in connection with his   vision of the plumb line. Amaziah was “out of plumb.” What Amos says about that, however, fits better at the first of this series of sermons because the visions in chapters seven and eight will take all the time and attention most preachers have available on a Sunday morning or evening. Besides, the contrast between true and false prophecy will prepare your people for the stem words from Amos in succeeding messages.

Sermon One Prophets
True and False

Begin by asking your people to open their Bibles. to the seventh chapter of the book of Amaziah. Some will smile knowingly while others start flipping through the pages until you explain there is no such book. But if you were an Israelite publisher in 760 B.C. and received manuscripts from Amaziah and Amos, you would most likely choose Amaziah over Amos. Amaziah held a prestigious pulpit. He was the priest of Bethel (“the house of God”). Amos was a layman. He was a farmer turned preacher. Amaziah was an insider; a confidant of the king. Amos was an outsider; a renegade from Judah. Amaziah was trained in the best prophetic schools. Amos had no such credentials. By his own testimony he was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet. Amaziah preached the blessing of God. Amos preached the wrath of God. Amaziah was a friend of the rich and powerful. Amos was a friend of the weak and poor. Amaziah’s name in Hebrew means “the Lord strengthens.” Amos’s name in Hebrew means “a load.” By contrasting Amaziah and Amos, you see the difference between true and false prophecy which is about as important as distinguishing arsenic from apple juice.

False Prophecy

Give Amaziah credit: his words were true (Amos 5:27; 7:9). Amos did, in fact, declare the death of Jeroboam and the exile of Israel just as Amaziah alleged. Not everything false prophets say is false. That is what makes false prophets so deceptive. If the message were totally false, it would be easy to detect. False prophecy usually has enough truth in it to make it believable.

Do not give Amaziah too much credit: his motive was false. He used the truth as a weapon against the true prophet of God. His intention was not that King Jeroboam heed the warning of Amos and repent, but to castigate Amos. False prophets use truth more for support than for illumination.

Amaziah did not tell Amos what to preach, but where to preach and where not to preach (7:12- 13). The Devil does not care if we tell the truth, if only he can get us to tell it to the wrong audience. He loves to hear preachers tell the wretched poor to be generous and the affluent rich to be content.

True Prophecy

Amos had not graduated from the “schools of the prophets” (2 Kings 2:3-5). His training came from field experience (literally): among the herds and trees. He was what we might call today a “lay preacher” or “bi-vocational.” By profession he was a shepherd and dresser of sycamore trees (fig trees) (1:1; 7:14). He said, “The LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me ‘Go prophesy to my people Israel”‘ (7:15).[1]All Scripture is from the New Revised Standard Version unless oth­erwise noted. When God takes and God speaks, his prophets must listen and go. Amaziah and even King Jeroboam were overruled. They did not ordain and commission Amos. God did.

Amaziah preached what people wanted to hear. Amos preached the truth. Though Israel did not want to hear it, it was the prophecy of Amos they remembered and the prophecy of Amaziah they forgot.

Sermon Two
God, the Judge of All the Earth

You can do justice to the general thesis by focusing on the specific prophecies against Moab, Judah, and Israel. Some prophets are called to comfort the afflicted (see Isa. 40:1). Others afflicted the comfortable. That was Amos’s irksome assignment. The temptations people face during times of prosperity are different om the temptations they face when times are hard (Prov. 3:7-9). During hard times God tests our faith. During good times he tests our character.

The people of Israel flunked the test. They made two big mistakes about their prosperity. First, they assumed they had done well because they had done good; that their prosperity was a sign of God’s blessing. Secondly, their economic blessings were not shared by all the people. As the rich became richer, the poor became poorer.

Amos had his work cut out for him. His job was to persuade the rich and powerful to act on behalf of the poor and weak. Only a powerful word from God could do that.

The Judge of Israel’s Enemies

Amos began his sermon with a clever strategy. He told Israel what they wanted to hear. He began by denouncing the sins of Israel’s enemies. That is always a popular theme. People love to hear preachers attack ideas and folks they do not like.

Amos is good at that. Over and over again he thunders: “For three transgressions and for four….” With this rugged rhetoric he lets them know they have gone too far. One after another he declares God’s judgment against Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab. His congregation was, no doubt, cheering him on: “Amen! Preach on!” they shouted. The crowd may have become a little quieter, however, when he turned to the sin’s of Judah, for although they had been divided for over a hundred years and did not like each other, they were, after all, both the covenant people of God.

You and I know where Amos was headed in this sermon, but Israel should have known, too. Amos gave them clues. The God who holds foreign nations accountable for their behavior also holds us accountable. More about that later.

Among Amos’s indictments is this: “For three transgressions of Moab and for four I will not revoke its punishment, because he burned the bones of the king of Edom to lime” ( 2:1). The Moabites showed their contempt for the Edomites by turning the ashes of their king into lime with which to whitewash their buildings. The God of Israel demanded that Israel’s enemies respect each other. Behind that ultimatum is this startling idea: Israel’s God is not just the God of Israel, but the God of all the earth.

You might say, as I am sure others did, that what happened between Moab and Edom, was none of Israel’s business. Such, however, was God’s business; and, therefore, was Amos’s business. Amos reminds us that God is against cruelty done by anyone against anybody anywhere. He is the judge of all the earth.

The Judge of Israel’s Neighbor

The prophet’s complaint against Judah, the southern kingdom of God’s covenant people, was different from what he said about the foreign nations. He charges those outside God’s covenant with sins against humanity-cruelty (1:3, 11, 13) and slavery (1:6, 9) But he charges Judah with sins against God himself-lying against the known will of God ( 2:4).

God holds everyone accountable, but he will punish more severely his own covenant people who know his statutes and misrepresent the truth. We are accountable not only for what we do but also for what we know.

The Judge of Israel

God reminded Israel of his grace to them through the years (2:9-12). Israel thought their peace and prosperity was their own doing. They refused to listen to the prophets who said they could not build a just society on the backs of the poor.

You cannot get away with it. The same God who has provided your needs through the years will make things right. Specifically, God will press you down (2:13), slow you up (2:14), push you over (2:15), and strip you naked (2:16).

Sermon Three
The Perils of Privilege

Amos begins by laying out the responsibility of privilege.

The Responsibility of Privilege

If God writes “privilege” on one side of the door, you may be sure that he will write “responsibility” on the other side. In a Peanuts cartoon, Linus complains, “Everyone’s so upset because I didn’t make the honor roll. My mother’s upset, my father’s upset, my brother’s upset, my teacher’s upset. Good grief, they all say the same thing: I have great potential! There’s no heavier burden than great potential!”

Amos reminds Israel of her great potential (3:l-2a). Other nations were aliens, but the Israelites were God’s children. So are we (1 John 3:1). Like ancient Israel, let us “Forget not all his benefits” (Ps. 103:1-5). As a consequence of our great privilege God says, “Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities” (3:2b). To show the certainty and reasonableness of that punishment, Amos asked a series of rhetorical questions (3:3-6). He showed the causal connection between human sin and divine retribution. Although people can suffer without sinning, they cannot sin without suffering. Amos drove home his conclusion: “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (3:7). He has given us fair warning. He says what he will do and he will do what he says. You can count on it.

God keeps no secrets from his prophets. If we do not know what God wants us to do, it is not God’s fault. He has spoken clearly to his prophets and apostles long ago. The great truths of Christian faith are not hidden from us but declared to us by God himself.

The prophets keep no secrets from the people. “The lion has roared; who will not fear?” Amos asks. “The Lord GOD has spoken; who can but prophesy” (3:8)? One can more easily ignore the roar of the King of Beasts than the word of the King of Kings. What the prophets say, however, may not be welcome news to the listeners. Amos invited the heathen nations to witness the sins of God’s covenant people (3:9). God’s people, who ought to know better, forgot the difference between right and wrong (3:10-11).

Not all will be lost, however. “Thus says the LORD: As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who live in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed” (3:12).

“Shepherd” means “pastor.” Pastors know how it feels to rescue people in pieces. Often, it is unnec­essary. If only they had taken heed of God’s word in the first place, their lives would not be in such tatters. They ignore the responsibilities of privilege.

Bethel (3:13-14) was the center of idolatry set up by Jeroboam I as an alternative to Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:29ff). Although its name means “House of God,” it became, instead, a tool-shed for Satan. Bethel stands for good religion gone bad. Those who worship other gods will wind up with nothing but bad memories. Not only will they lose their place of worship, but also their place of pleasure (3:15).

The Privilege of Responsibility

To humanity alone God gave the awesome freedom of choice. Comets and cabbages do God’s will perfectly, but they do not choose it. To humankind alone God has given the privilege of saying yes or no to him. He planted the forbidden tree in Eden so that Adam and Eve and all their descendants would have the alternative of choos­ing to love and obey him, or to reject and defy him. By giving us the privilege of responsibility he makes us his partners, not his pets.

Sermon Four Without God

In an interview with Bill Moyers on PBS (5/26/87) Martin Marty said, “Highly commit­ted people aren’t very civil and highly civilized people aren’t very committed.” Nobody ever accused Amos of being too civil. Civility was not the style of the prophet Amos. In language that would offend some, he addressed the wealthy, sophisticated women of Israel (4:1). Bashan was fertile farmland (Ezek. 39:18; Micah 7:14; Jer.1:19) famous for its fat cattle (Deut. 32:14). Amos, who was a farmer before he was preacher, said there were women like that in the capital city of Samaria. They combined oppression of the poor with indulgence of the self.

They will not get away with it (4:2-3) ! Nobody knows for sure where Harmon is located. All we know for sure is that it is some place they did not want to go. Where they wanted to go was to Bethel and Gilgal. At Bethel, Jacob had a vision of a ladder to heaven and angels ascending and descending (Gen. 28:10-18). But it had long ago lost its identity as a contact point between heaven and earth (1Kings 12:29ff). Gilgal was the first camp set up in the promised land after Israel left Egypt. They stacked twelve memorial stones they took from the Jordan river when they crossed on dry land. They were to be “a memorial to the people of Israel forever” (Josh. 4:7). “Forever, in this case, meant only a few years.” God’s people quickly forgot and turned Gilgal into a center of idolatry (Hos. 4:15; 19:15; Mic. 6:5). Bethel and Gilgal represent churches and denominations that stray from the original vision and purpose of their founders.

Worshiping Without God (4:4-6)

“Come to Bethel and transgress; to Gilgal­ and multiply transgression” (4:4 ). The list of their transgressions (4:4b-5) sounds more like a charac­ter reference for “member of the year” than an indictment for excommunication. Not everyone who loves to “play church” is really serious about their faith. They brought a “thank offering” and “freewill offering,” but not a “sin offering.” Their religion was strong on thanksgiving but weak on confession.

Not all religion is good. The first person to offer sacrifice was Cain (Gen. 4:35). And he got it wrong. People still get it wrong. We are forever building the church and banishing the creed. Form overtakes spirit. In our day, as in theirs, people seek human approval instead of divine forgiveness. What they want is “churchianity,” not Christian­ity, a form of godliness without the power (2 Tim. 3:5).

Living Without God (4:7-11)

“You did not return to me” is a cry of grief and tenderness. The cry is the voice of God begging you to come to him who is your refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble (Ps. 46:1). With open arms God stands ready to receive you. “You did not return to me,” may be the last cry you hear from him on the day of judgment.

Dying Without God (4:12)

Each of the three sermons in chapters 3-6 has a big “therefore” in the middle of it. Amos never leaves his people in doubt about the consequences of his preaching. “Therefore thus I will do to you, 0 Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, 0 Israel” (4:12)! God says, “Thus I will do,” but leaves unsaid what he will do. Whatever it is, you are not going to like it!

Heaven is a place where there will be no partings. After enduring long committees, one pastor sighed, “Heaven may be a land of no partings, but what I want is a land of no meetings!” There is one meeting, however, none of us can avoid: “Prepare to meet thy God” (KJV). Why? Because he is the King and we are not exactly court material (see Heb. 10:31).

In the final verse of this sermon Amos reminds us of the true nature of God (4:13). Meeting God can be downright dangerous! If God is absolute goodness and purity, evil cannot exist in his presence for a split second. Just as bright light destroys darkness, as a blazing fire destroys cold, as antiseptic destroys germs-not because they are in a furious temper, but because it is their nature to do so-in the same way God means instant death to all that is contrary to his nature.

Prepare to meet your God. It is a meeting you cannot miss. You will meet him now as your Savior or then as your Judge. You need not fear to meet him then, if you have faith to meet him now. Every time you meet him in worship you, in effect, rehearse that greater meeting to come.

Sermon Five
The Death of a Nation

So certain is Amos of the judgment of God that he grieves its execution thirty years before it happens:He attends the nation’s funeral while others are out partying (5:1). The nation’s fall (5:2-3), though catastrophic, is not necessarily terminal. The prophet calls for the eighth century B.C. equivalent to intensive care.

Intensive Care (5:4-15)

The prescription is clear: Seek God and live; seek anything else and die. Israel’s condition is critical. The nation needs CPR. Fortunately, there is a “life support system” nearby. Life is a choice, not just a chance. The choices you make today will make a difference in your life tomorrow and forever. There are a thousand ways of saying no; one way of saying yes; and no way of saying anything else. To refuse to answer is an answer. To delay to answer is an answer. In God’s intensive care unit you can live only if you seek him.

The very thing that struck Israel down followed Israel into the hospital (5:5). Instead of being clinics where hurt souls were healed, Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba were idolatrous morgues for those who were dead in trespasses and sin (5:6-7).

Amos reminds them and us of who God is and what he does (5:8-9). They preferred sweet lies to the bitter truth (5:10). The reproof came at the front gate. The admissions desk turned away all those who sought the empty promises of Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba.

Any nation’s health can be measured by the waythey treat the poor (5:11-12). A cartoon that is both funny and sad shows a character saying, “Sometimes I’d like to ask God why he allows poverty, famine, and injustice when he could do something about it.” “What’s stopping you?” asks a friend. “I’m afraid God might ask me the same question.” That is the same question Amos asked Israel. The answer Israel gave led to Israel’s death.

The Funeral (5:16-26)

Amos’s funeral sermon is no eulogy of the deceased; a belated plea for the defense delivered after all the evidence is in. Israel thought the Day of the Lord would be good news-vindication over their enemies. Amos said, “You got it wrong. You are the defendant, not the plaintiff. The case against you is air-tight” (5:18). They spent their lives trying to get away from the God they said they wanted to meet. Now they will meet God, but not as they thought (5:19-20). You can run, but you cannot hide. God will find you. And the sooner the better!

At their worship services, Israel thought they were the star performers. Instead they were the hecklers (5:21-22). God gets tired of worship where there is no service. He is not impressed with offerings, songs, and instrumental music (5:23). The only worship God approves is coupled with justice (5:24). Justice is not some little muddy creek, but a white-water river gushing down uncontaminated by the toxic waste of false religion. The Bible consistently links justice to three groups of people: widows, orphans, and foreigners (Deut. 10:18-19; 16:11, 14; Ps. 146:9; Rom. 12:13; Eph. 2:12; Heb. 13:2). The just society is the society in which all the weak and voiceless people are brought into the community and enjoy its goods.

Amos closed his funeral oration by noting that the cause of death was not murder, but suicide. Israel did it to themselves (5:25-26). Sakkuth and Kaiwan were pagan gods, popular among the Assyrians of that day. Instead of placing all their chips on the one true God, Israel tried to hedge their bets by including the gods of current culture. We do the same. The false gods of money, sex, and power compete with our loyalty to the Lord of heaven and earth.

Sermon Six
The Danger of Early Retirement

Amos began his sixth sermon with this warning: “Alas, for those who are at ease in Zion, and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria” (6:la). He delivered his prophetic words to both capitals of the divided kingdom of Israel. You can tell by the way this sermon began that Amos was not going to encourage those who look to the church for ease and comfort. In his day and ours it is much more popular to preach “Blessed are those who are at ease in Zion.” We prefer a cushion to a cross. That is what we want to hear, but that is not the word of God.

Though someday you may retire from your job or profession, you should never retire in Zion. God gives you work until your life is done and life until your work is done.

To Retire in Zion is Satan’s Reward for Success

Having struggled for two hundred years to build their nation, Israel died in 722 B.C. So thoroughly disintegrated were they that historians call them the ten lost tribes. When Israel felt the most prosperous and secure, Amos warned them of their approaching doom. His prophecy was fulfilled thirty years later by confusion, apathy, and war. One who enters Zion to retire snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.

People and churches retire in Zion when they lose their vision for the future. It is okay for a middle-aged couple to tum the nursery into a den, but it is sad when a church does the same thing. Churches and Christians that try something and fail are better off than those that try nothing and succeed.

To Retire in Zion Is God’s Judgment for Failure

Amos directed his message to the “famous and popular among the people of Israel” (6: 1b Living Bible). They were celebrities who got their pictures in the paper as models of success. But Amos invited them and us to take another look (6:2). Calneh and Hamath were Syrian cities annexed by Israel. Gath was a Philistine city annexed by Judah. “Are you better than these kingdoms?” asked Amos. Their answer would have been, “Of course! They are the outsiders; we are the insiders. They are the slaves; we are the masters. They are the refugees; we are aristocrats. They are poor; we are rich.” Amos responded with a declaration of doom that sounded like an advertisement for Club Med or an ocean cruise. But the ”kicker” came in the last phrase: “but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph” (6:4-6)!

The leaders of Israel not only did nothing to help those who suffered, they did not care. They used their wealth and power to serve their own opulence. The important thing is not just being on the right track, but staying ahead of the train. There was a steam locomotive coming down that track of affluence that Israel was not expecting (6:8). “God is love” (1 John 4:8), but God is also hate (Amos 6:8). Love and hate are not opposites, but two sides of the same coin called “caring.”

Great tragedies are best understood in terms of how they affect a single family (6:9-10). Rich and poor alike will lose their homes (6:11).

Amos asked two stupid questions: “Do horses run on rocks? Does one plow the sea with oxen” (6:12)? Of course not! But equally foolish was Israel’s efforts at retirement ( 6:12-13). Lo-debar and Karnaim were towns Israel seized from Syria. “Lo-debar” in Hebrew means “nothing.” The ancient joke is lost in translation. Israel was rejoicing in nothing. They thought their military victories were testimonies to their own strength. They had a surprise coming (6:14).

Ultimately, everyone gets what he or she wants. In heaven before the throne of God, John says, “his servants shall serve him” (Rev. 22:3). Those who want to serve God will continue doing that for all eternity. And those who do not want to serve him will be condemned to an eternity without purpose or meaning.

Sermon Seven
God’s Word Seen and Heard
God’s word comes to us in different ways: sometimes on stone tablets, sometimes in loud words from heaven, sometimes in a still small voice, sometimes in dreams and visions, sometimes from a whirlwind, a burning bush, and a donkey’s mouth. Of all the ways God communi­cates to us, the most interesting is object lessons. God takes a familiar object and gives it special meaning. In the sixth sermon of Amos found in chapters seven and eight of his book, he used four object lessons to show us God’s patience and persistence.

Note: One way to add excitement to the sermon would be to preach it using similar visual aids. The local Agriculture Department could probably provide a poster of some pest equivalent to the Middle Eastern locust. A lighted candle would illustrate fire. A carpenter could lend a plumb line. A basket of ripe fruit could decorate the altar. Such a display would trigger curiosity and increase comprehension and retention.

Locusts (7:1-3)

The king received the first crop and the people the later ones, if there were any (7:1). In this case, there were not. God sent locusts to eat the latter growth. After the locusts finished eating the crop, Amos prayed, “O Lord GOD, forgive, I beg you! How can Jacob stand? He is so small” (7:2). Amos’s prayer showed another side of him. He was no “hell-fire and brimstone” preacher who took delight in the damnation of the wicked. He was a compassionate friend who grieved over the afflic­tion of God’s covenant people.

Amos begged forgiveness not because the sin was small, but because the sinners were small. They were overwhelmed by a swarm of insects. You can easily crush a locust between your fingers, but when they get together, they can devastate crops. Likewise, it is not the big obvious sins that ruin your life, but all the little compromises that eat away at your character.

Fire (7:46)

Fire under control can light a candle, cook your meal, and heat your home. Out of control, it can bum down your house. This was a wild fire so intense it “devoured the great deep.” Water could not extinguish it.

Once again Amos interceded in behalf of Israel and God relented. Amos was God’s agent who asked God for what God wanted to give in the first place. God did not, and does not, desire the destruction of his people. His change of mind does not indicate that he is fickle. God would not have put it in Amos’s heart to beg forgiveness if it had not been in God’s heart from the beginning.

Plumb Line (7:7-9)

Plumb lines are used to build walls straight. There is a strong aversion to plumb line morality today. People refuse to accept an absolute code of ethics by which all conduct is measured. The moral crisis of our time is not just the widespread viola­ tion of accepted moral standards, but the denial that there are any such standards. To violate moral standards while at the same time acknowledging their authority is one thing, but to repudiate all moral authority is something far more serious. It is bad enough to build a crooked life, but it is far worse to deny there is moral plumb line.

What is right or wrong is not set by individual conscience, nor by public opinion polls, nor by human laws and statutes, nor by Supreme Court judges. It is set by God’s plumb line.

Ripe Fruit (8:1-13)

The word Amos used for summer fruit means ripened fruit. It had no shelf life. It was ripe and ready to rot. Amos used a pun that is lost in translation. In Hebrew the word for “ripen” and the word for “end,” are different words but pronounced the same. The people became rotten apples. The stench of rotten fruit was compounded by the stench of rotten flesh (8:3).

Physical death is a metaphor for the spiritual death of God’s people. The evidence that their spirit died is seen in their unscrupulous business practices (8:4-6).

The solar eclipse on June 15, 763 B. C. was still fresh in the minds of the people. Amos used it to remind Israel that God would put out their lights (8:7-9). Their anguish will be like a family that loses the last of its heirs. Instead of shaving only the forelock, the men will shave their entire heads as a sign of their grief (8:10). So long did people refuse to listen that God gave them their wish and had nothing more to say (8:11-12).

Sermon Eight
God’s Presence, Power, and Promise

In the ninth chapter, Amos saw God not in heaven but on earth. The Lord was in his holy temple-not in love, but in anger. Why? Because God’s people desecrated his house by their hypocrisy and apostasy. Therefore, God called for the destruction of his place of worship.

God will shake up the apostate temple from the “capitals,” the top of the pillars, to the “thresh­ olds,” the bottom of the door posts. The temple   will fall on the heads of the people (9:1). Archaeo­logical excavations at Hazor and Samaria reveal that a devastating earthquake hit Israel in 760 B.C. So memorable was the destruction of that quake that hundreds of years later, Zechariah used it as an illustration of God’s judgment (Zech. 14:5). Amos delivered this prophecy in 762 B.C., two years before it happened, giving the people time to prepare (Amos 1:2). For them, earthquake preparedness meant more than storing up food and water. It meant making peace with the God who shakes heaven and earth. Californians talk a lot about the “Big One.” The Big One is coming. The Big One is not a what; it is a who. God is the real Big One whose presence is inescapable.

God’s Inescapable Presence (9:2-4)

Those who ignore God’s warnings cannot escape his punishment. The all-seeing eyes of God can bring great comfort as well as great terror (see Psalm 139:1-10). What comforted the psalmist terrified Israel. Why? Israel could not say, “Search me, 0 God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23- 24).

God’s Inexhaustible Power (9:5-10)

God rules over nature (vv. 5-6). The same God who moves the moon and stars in their orbits moves the affairs of your life. The God who created nature rules over nature.

God rules over nations (vv. 7-8). Amos reminded those who took pride in their exodus from Egypt that the Philistines and the Arameans had their exodus, too. God brought the “Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir.” It is shocking to know that no people have a “most favored nation” status before God. The God whose eyes see things spy satellites miss will judge all nations. He will destroy those who sin against his sovereign will. No nation and no person can hide the evil they do.

There is a thin ray of hope: “I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob” (9:8b). A faithful few will be saved in the end. Amos used the image of a sieve to suggest how they would be saved (v. 9).

God’s Inextinguishable Promises (9:11-15 )

The same God who delivers on his promises of judgment against those who do not repent will deliver on his promises of restoration for the faithful few. First, the throne of David will be restored to a place of leadership over former enemies like Edom (vv. 11-12). God tells what he will do, but not how and when he will do it. No one guessed that seven hundred years later he would use wicked King Herod to rebuild the holy temple in Jerusalem. The sovereign Lord of hosts is full of surprises.

Second, the restored kingdom will be so produc­tive that before the harvesters can finish, the plowers will be preparing the soil for the next crop (vs. 13). Sowers and reapers will get in each other’s way (see Lev. 26:5).

Third, both the land and the people will be productive again. God will plant the people and the people will plant the produce and all will bear fruit (vv. 13-15); This is good news to those who have become discouraged at the barrenness of life. Nothing you do seems to make any real difference. Your life seems to be going nowhere. Sometimes you feel that it is just not worth the effort. God designed you to be fruitful. He who gave you life has given you a purpose for living. And he will persist in that purpose until it is completed (see Phil. 1:6). You are part of God’s garden. You have an essential place in his master plan.


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