It is easy to become secure in our comfortable world around us. When life is good, we look back at our job, our money, our relationships, and say that we are successful. But how does God measure success? And more importantly, where do we base our security.
Almost 3,000 years ago, God sent the prophet Amos to speak to a successful, wealthy people. They were secure in their powerful country, their devout religions, and their wealthy lifestyles. Yet God looked on them and announced that they were ripe for punishment! They had forgotten God!
Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt:
“You only have I known
of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you
for all your iniquities.
Amos opens the chapter with a summary of his message. These are the people whom the Lord had led out of slavery in Egypt, through the desert, and into the promised land. He has guided, protected, and forgiven them throughout their long history.a
The Lord God had also chosen Israel to be His unique people. He chose pagan Abraham, his unlikely son Isaac, and his younger son, Jacob.5 These men fathered a nation that was unique to God and chosen by Him to be His special people. As the Lord reminded them in Deuteronomy, it was not because of their own goodness but because of His great mercy that He chose them. He chose to build a relationship with them!
But they rejected the God who led them. They received His laws and knew His commandments, yet refused to obey Him. Therefore, the Lord will come in punishment!
He Sent His Warnings
“Do two walk together,
unless they have agreed to meet?
Does a lion roar in the forest,
when he has no prey?
Does a young lion cry out from his den,
if he has taken nothing?
Does a bird fall in a snare on the earth,
when there is no trap for it?
Does a snare spring up from the ground,
when it has taken nothing?
Is a trumpet blown in a city,
and the people are not afraid?
Does disaster come to a city,
unless the LORD has done it?
“For the Lord GOD does nothing
without revealing his secret
to his servants the prophets.
The lion has roared;
who will not fear?
The Lord GOD has spoken;
who can but prophesy?”
Using a series of cause and effect analogies, the prophet shows that God will not bring disaster unless there is a due cause.b Furthermore, He will warn His people through the prophets before sending His judgment. Therefore, the harsh judgments in Amos’ message are a final warning to God’s people.
Note that the disaster escalates with each successive warning. Two people don’t walk together unless they had planned to meet. The lion doesn’t roar at an empty field, but rather sounds out when he is on the hunt. The bird is not ensnared unless a trap has been set. Therefore, the Lord will bring the disaster after He has sent the warning.
But now the Lord has spoken. The lion has roared! The prophet has given his warning! It is time to respond.
“A warning is never given unless disaster is imminent, but a warning is being given and God is sending disaster.” – Boice5
His People Rejected Him
Proclaim to the strongholds in Ashdod
and to the strongholds in the land of Egypt,
and say, “Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria,
and see the great tumults within her,
and the oppressed in her midst.”
“They do not know how to do right,” declares the LORD,
“those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.”
Israel’s depravity was so great that it would shock their ancient pagan enemies, Egypt and Philistia.c The nations are invited to come and witness Israel’s tumults, oppression, violence, and robbery.
The final verdict is bleak: “They do not know how to do right”. Israel is incapable of obeying the Lord!
“They were so bound by their greed and idolatry that it was impossible for them to do what was right.” – Wiersbe2
He Is Sending Judgment
Because of Israel’s violence and oppression, the Lord will destroy their military power, their religious temples, and their wealthy homes.
He Will Destroy Their Military Power
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:
“An adversary shall surround the land
and bring down your defenses from you,
and your strongholds shall be plundered.”
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 dwell in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed.
The people were secure in their military might, but an enemy will come and destroy the land of Israel, demolishing their fortresses and looting their strongholds. This was fulfilled when the northern kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. (see here).
The example of the shepherd illustrates how complete their devastation would be. The law required that if a sheep was killed by a predator, that the shepherd produce part of the sheep’s mangled body parts (e.g. two legs or a piece of an ear) in order to prove that he attempted to rescue the animal (Exodus 22:10-13). In the same way, just like a dismembered sheep, only the bare remnant of Israel will survive the coming disaster.d e
He Will Destroy Their Religious Temples
“Hear, and testify against the house of Jacob,”
declares the Lord GOD, the God of hosts,
“that on the day I punish Israel for his transgressions,
I will punish the altars of Bethel,
and the horns of the altar shall be cut off
and fall to the ground.
The people of Israel were also secure in their devout religion. Their altars in Bethel incorporated their idol worship, but God promised to destroy these idols and shrines.
The altar to the Lord was built with horns on its four corners (Exodus 27:2), where a condemned man could flee for mercy (see 1 Kings 1:50). Apparently, the pagan altars in Bethel followed a similar pattern. But this refuge would be taken away, with the altars destroyed and the horns cut off.
He Will Destroy Their Wealthy Homes
I will strike the winter house along with the summer house,
and the houses of ivory shall perish,
and the great houses shall come to an end,”
declares the LORD.
The people of Israel were also secure in their wealth. During this time of affluence, they had built larger houses, including both winter and summer resorts, furnishing their estates with gold and ivory.5 But their wealthy homes would come to an end as the nation would be looted and destroyed.
This message from Amos was a final chance for Israel to turn back to the Lord. He had chosen them uniquely among all the peoples of the earth, and protected and guided them. Yet they rejected His commandments and left Him to follow their own pleasures.
God’s judgment will be severe, but His messages are a warning — both to Israel and to us. God has given us His word and shown us His mercy by coming to save us, but how have we responded to Him? Have we received Him or have we rejected Him? Do we obey Him, or are we angling to get our own way?
Even when we know Jesus Christ, we can still base our security on the things of this world and forget about him. But His judgment on the ancient people of Israel should serve as a warning to us. We need to return to Him!
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
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 H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries: The Minor Prophets, Amos 3, THE CHASTISEMENT OF THE CHOSEN NATION
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: Old Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Amos 3, pages 1419-1422
 Frank E. Gaebelein, Editor, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 7, Zondervan, 1985, Amos 3, pages 297-302
 John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, Thomas Nelson, 2005, Amos 3, pages 995-996
 James Montgomery Boice, The Minor Prophets, Baker Books, 2002, Judgment on God’s Elect, Amos 3:1-15, pages 179-186
[a] Amos was sent to the northern kingdom of Israel (see here), but these opening warnings are addressed to both the northern and the southern kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Amos includes the entirety of the Jewish people with the words in Amos 3:1, “against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt”.1 2
[b] These analogies in Amos 3:3-8 are also an appeal to Amos’ personal authority as God’s prophet. He was sent without prophetic credentials, yet he came because God had called him (see Amos 7 and the study here).
[c] Ashdod was one of the primary Philistine cities. See here.
[d] The phrase in Amos 3:12 is very difficult to translate, “with the corner of a couch and part of a bed”. The actual word is “ḏemešeq”, which may indicate part of a bed covering (as translated by ESV), or may refer to the city of Damascus (as translated by KJV). Regardless, the point in Amos 3 is that the survivors will be few and widely dispersed.3
[e] Although Amos 3 begins with a message against “the whole family” of Israel, the final judgments are directed specifically against Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom. See Amos 3:9,12.
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