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encouragement theology

The Lord Has Spoken

Amos 9

Amos concludes his book of prophecy with a final vision of the Lord standing beside the altar, commanding to destroy the temple and kill all the people. The message of judgment — taught throughout the book — reaches a climax in this final chapter. There is no escape. All who rejected the Lord will be destroyed.

But there is hope for the future. There will come a day when the Lord will restore Israel, rebuilding the broken kingdom and returning the people to a land of peace and security. 

The final chapter of Amos divides into two sections: the first showing The Judgment of God, and then the Restoration of God. 

The Judgment of God

There is no security in your knowledge of God!

Amos 9:1-4
I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and he said:
“Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake,
and shatter them on the heads of all the people;
and those who are left of them I will kill with the sword;
not one of them shall flee away;
not one of them shall escape.
“If they dig into Sheol,
from there shall my hand take them;
if they climb up to heaven,
from there I will bring them down.
If they hide themselves on the top of Carmel,
from there I will search them out and take them;
and if they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea,
there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them.
And if they go into captivity before their enemies,
there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them;
and I will fix my eyes upon them
for evil and not for good.”

As seen earlier in Amos’ message, the people of Israel were secure and complacent in their religious life. They thought they knew God and were confident in His favor. The altar in the temple was designed as a refuge for fugitives (see here) as well as the central place to worship Him.a Yet their religious piety was only a facade as they pursued their own selfish agendas. Therefore, the Lord sent out His judgment from their very source of security — the temple itself!

The Lord knows all about us, and we can walk in confidence, knowing that we are never separated from His presence. See Psalm 139:7-12 for the comfort of the Lord’s knowledge and presence with us. But in contrast with Amos’ prophecy here, there is also nowhere that wicked Israel can escape from God’s judgment. 

Amos 9:5-6
The Lord GOD of hosts,
he who touches the earth and it melts,
and all who dwell in it mourn,
and all of it rises like the Nile,
and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt;
who builds his upper chambers in the heavens
and founds his vault upon the earth;
who calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out upon the surface of the earth—
the LORD is his name.

The Lord, in His glory and greatness, will destroy the earth. The earth will melt, it will shake like the flooding Nile river, and the waters of the sea will flood the earth. This is how great and terrible will be His judgment!b

“Nine times in the book, Amos calls God “the Lord of hosts,” that is, ‘the Lord of the armies of heaven and earth.’” – Warren Wiersbe2

There is no security in your history with God!

Amos 9:7-10
“Are you not like the Cushites to me,
O people of Israel?” declares the LORD.
“Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt,
and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir?
Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom,
and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground,
except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,”
declares the LORD.

The Israelite people were also secure in their history with God. He had rescued them from Egypt, but their wickedness has made them no better than their pagan neighbors.c God’s past deliverances were meaningless when they refused to obey Him. Their rescue had become no more than a national migration.d

But God will not utterly destroy His people. For the first time in this chapter, we see words of hope for the few who continue to follow the Lord.

Amos 9:9-10
“For behold, I will command,
and shake the house of Israel among all the nations
as one shakes with a sieve,
but no pebble shall fall to the earth.
All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword,
who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.’

The Lord will shake all of Israel like one would shake a sieve in order to strain out the extra particles. But unlike the sieve, nothing will fall out. All the disobedient will be destroyed.e All who were secure in their delusions will meet with disaster at the hands of the Lord.

The Restoration of God

He will restore the broken kingdom!

Amos 9:11-12
“In that day I will raise up
the booth of David that is fallen
and repair its breaches,
and raise up its ruins
and rebuild it as in the days of old,
that they may possess the remnant of Edom
and all the nations who are called by my name,”
declares the LORD who does this.

In the midst of the darkness there is a reason to hope. There will come a day when the broken house of David will rise up again, surpassing even the splendor of the days of old.f 

He will bring in a world of plenty, security, and permanence for Israel!

Amos 9:13-15
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when the plowman shall overtake the reaper
and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed;
the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
and all the hills shall flow with it.
I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,
and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,
and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.
I will plant them on their land,
and they shall never again be uprooted
out of the land that I have given them,”
says the LORD your God.

Amos concludes His book of severe judgment with this final message of hope. David’s dynasty will be restored with glory and will show the Lord to the other nations. Their crops will be abundant, their cities repopulated, and they will harvest their bounty in peace. God will plant them on their land, so that they will never suffer loss again.

Note that these promises from Amos are still yet to come. Verse 13 uses hyperbolic language to show the lavish success of the land of Israel when the nation is restored.g Verse 14 tells of the peace and security that Israel will have in their land, and verse 15 promises that they will never be uprooted. Even during its greatest success, Israel has never experienced anything like what is promised in Amos 9:13-15. This will happen when Jesus returns (see Revelation 20:1-6).

Conclusion 

Amos 9 promises both destruction and restoration for the nation of Israel. The wicked will be destroyed, but there will come a permanent time of peace and security for Israel as they return to the land.

But what lessons can we learn from this passage? First, it is important to remember that it doesn’t matter what you know about God or how religious you are. We can know a lot about God and have many religious convictions, but they are meaningless without a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus concluded His sermon on the mount with this same warning (see also the study on this passage here):

Matthew 7:21-23
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Secondly, it is encouraging to remember that after all of the severe judgment, God promises hope for Israel. Likewise, we have the hope that we are never so far away that we are beyond God’s forgiveness and restoration!

1 Timothy 1:15
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

“The words ‘says the LORD your God’ abruptly close the book. He has spoken, and He will perform His word for His own name’s sake.” – H.A. Ironside1

Previous post: The Silence of God


References

[1] H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries: The Minor Prophets, Amos 9, NOT A GRAIN LOST

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: Old Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Amos 9, pages 1434-1435

[3] Frank E. Gaebelein, Editor, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 7, Zondervan, 1985, Amos 9, pages 326-331

[4] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, Thomas Nelson, 2005, Amos 9, pages 999-1000

[5] James Montgomery Boice, The Minor Prophets, Baker Books, 2002, Days of Fruit and Wine, Amos 9:11-15, pages 222-231

[6] James Montgomery Boice, The Minor Prophets, Baker Books, 2002, Five Visions, Amos 7:1-19; 8:1-9:10, pages 213-221


Notes

[a] For more details about the horns of the altar, see the link here: https://www.gotquestions.org/horns-of-the-altar.html

[b] “The people of Israel created their gods in their own image and held such a low view of Jehovah that they thought He would approve of their sinful ways. … Amos reminded them of the greatness of the God they thought they were worshiping. He is the God of creation, who can melt the earth with a touch and make the land rise and fall like the swelling of the Nile River.” – Wiersbe2

[c] The Cushites were the people south of Egypt, in modern-day Sudan and Ethiopia. Caphtor is the island of Crete.4

[d] “Israel’s special privileges would not avail now. They were no more deserving than other nations. In nothing were they superior to the Ethiopians. The same One who brought Israel out of the land of Egypt had brought the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir. In His eyes, Israel was now but a sinful kingdom, even worse than their neighbors. So He would destroy them from off the face of the earth.” – H.A. Ironside1

[e] Amos 9:9 says, “For behold, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall to the earth”. This verse is difficult to fully understand and there are two prevailing interpretations:

  • One interpretation is that the sieve separates the good from the evil, and the promise that “no pebble shall fall to the earth” is a promise that none of the righteous will be destroyed with the wicked. This is further reinforced by the fact that the word for “pebble” here, can also be translated as “kernel” (e.g. KJV, NASB). 
  • The other interpretation is that the sieve is an illustration for the way the Lord will shake the house of Israel. Therefore, it is about destruction, not separation. I have followed this second interpretation here since this passage concludes that “all the sinners of my people shall die by the sword”. This passage is about total destruction of the wicked.

[f] James quoted Amos 9:12 to the early church, showing that God will call Gentiles into His fold. Therefore, the promises of Jesus Christ are not limited to the Jews, nor are we required to keep Jewish customs in order to be accepted by God. See Acts 15:16-18

James quoted the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), and so, at the Lord’s direction, he substituted the phrase from Amos, “that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name” to “that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name”.3

[g] Amos 9:13 uses hyperbole to describe the abundant harvest, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.” The picture here is that the crops will grow so quickly that it will be harvest time before they are finished planting. And wine will be so abundant that it is pictured as flowing from the mountains!

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