Amos saw a basket of ripe fruit in a vision. God told him it was a symbol of Israelís end. What was the connection? It is difficult to see the connection in English. The Hebrew words for ďripe fruitĒ and ďendĒ were phonetically related. The sounded similar. The pun was to illustrate that Israelís end was near and they were ripe and ready to be plucked.
Their sins were heinous. They abused their poor and needy. Even when they were participating in worship and in their religious festivals they were planning on how they would cheat their fellow Israelites in their business dealings in order to make money. They plotted their course of unjust business practices to take advantage of their own people, especially the economically vulnerable. The Lord would not forget their sins. His judgment would come and shake the whole world. He would disrupt their religious practices and turn their joyous singing to weeping and mourning.
His punishment would be a famine, but a famine unlike the one of the agricultural kind. He would no longer reveal his will to his people and his word would be taken away from them. He would strip them of their access to the source of life. They would die in their spiritual walk with God (8:11-12).
Israel believed that their relationship with God made them special and a privileged people. They felt that so long as they worshiped in the temple (8:3) and kept their religious feasts (8:10) they could live however they pleased. But Godís covenant relationship with Israel was not one-sided; it demanded that Israel remain obedient to his commandments to live pure lives and care for those in need. If they refused to repent of their disobedience and sin, they would suffer for their transgressions and be destroyed, but not completely.
Restoration was still in Israelís future and it would come in the rebuilding of the tent of David. The Davidic reign would be restored, bringing justice and righteousness to the people (2 Chronicles 9:8; Isaiah 11:1-5). This was ultimately expressed in the work of Christ as evidenced by Jamesí application of this passage in Acts 15:12-18). All of Israelís enemies would be gathered to him under the reign of this king, not just Israel. The restoration would be universal.
Agricultural plenty would come to Israel. The harvest would be so plentiful that when one harvest was completed, another harvest would begin. Israel would rebuild and their vineyards would produce abundant wine for their consumption. Israel would be rooted into their land and they would never be uprooted again. It would be a new Eden, an idyllic world (Isaiah 11:6-9) and the Davidic king would be that perfect king who would bring that perfect world. Jesus would be that king (Revelation 11:15; 21:1-8).
Questions for Home Study and Class Discussion
1. In 8:4, Amos singled out the needy and the poor of the land as individuals needing protection. The needy are singed out constantly throughout Scripture as those individuals God expected his people to assist with their needs. What are our responsibilities to the poor and needy according to Scripture (see Acts 20:35; James 1:27; 2:14-17; 1 John 3:16-17)?
Rather than helping the needy and helpless out of their debt and troubles, the wealthy and powerful Israelites pushed them further and further into debt and poverty. They ignored the Laws regarding their responsibilities to the poor. They failed to release their fellow Israelites from debt when they proved they were unable to repay (Leviticus 25:1-34; Deuteronomy 15:1-18; compare to Nehemiah 10:31). They failed to feed the hungry, and instead fed their own bellies until they were sated (Amos 4:1; 6:4). They used their power and influence for the sake of gain. They were willing to lie to and deceive their fellow believers just to add to their coffers (Hosea 12:7; Amos 8:5). They proved loyalty to Mammon rather than God (see Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13 for this reference). They failed to mourn for the ruin which they helped bring about (Amos 6:6). Even though Israel was ethnically Godís special people, the poor and helpless were economically his special people and continued to be throughout the Old and New Testaments (see for example Psalms 12:5; 140:12; Proverbs 14:31; 17:5; 19:17; 21:13; 22:16; Galatians 2:10; James 1:27). Clearly, it is no different today. They are to be treated with respect and kindness. Scripture makes it clear that those of us with affluence and power in this world are given a great responsibility to use our wealth and power according to Godís standards, not to accumulate wealth and goods simply for ourselves (Luke 12: 13-21; 16:10). Our concern is to assist the weak and needy out of their poverty and despair and may God be merciful to those who do not live up to this standard and abuse and defraud the helpless and weak.
2. What expectations did God have for Israel in business practices (8:4-6)? How were Israelís worship and business practices related? What were dishonest scales? Is it ever right to use dishonest means or deceit to make a profit? How does God view dishonest practices (Proverbs 11:1; Micah 6:2-16)?
Honesty, integrity and a God-centered focus were and remain to be Godís expectations when his people interact within the business world (Proverbs 11:1; James 4:12-17). Israel refused to accept this, despite everything their worship practices were trying to teach them. They maintained their observance of the Sabbath and kept their religious festivals, such as the New Moon festival. They attended the worship services whenever they met and kept the Sabbath! However, they refused to accept the fact that these assemblies had anything to do with their socioeconomic lives. They cheated their fellow Israelites by using scales that tipped in their favor. They were willing to not only buy their fellow Israelites as slaves due to their debt problems (Amos 2:6), but to sell them for gain (Amos 8:6). They mixed their good grain with the refuse found on the threshing room floor, passing it off as acceptable produce (8:6). They lied, deceived and cheated each other, all for money, God would not forget this heinous sin (Amos 8:7). God expects all his children to conduct business with each other (and the world) honestly. If we sell homes to each other, we cannot intentionally lie or deceive about their conditions. If we are selling cars, we must be honest about their problems. If we act with deceit then we are no better than the Israelites whom God condemned. This is one of many thing that worship should teach us. Our worship needs to have practical value. It needs to spill into our interactions with our fellow Christians and our work ethics (Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 11: 17-34). If our worship does not effect the way we conduct business or interact with our fellow Christians, our worship is fruitless and worthless.
3. In 8:11, what was the punishment God would bring on Israel because of their sins? Would we consider it a punishment if we no longer had Godís word? Would it change our lifestyle? How can we make certain that Godís word guides our decision-making?
God threatened to take away his word because of Israel sins. They refused to listen to his prophets, whose goal was not to add to the Law, but to defend it. Israelís punishment was no more than what they were doing to themselves. They may have even been reading Godís Law, but using only for their own benefit. They may have been using it only to make themselves look or feel religious. They obviously cared little for the sections that contradicted their lifestyles. They refused to hear his prophets call to return to the Law, for they believed they were blameless. God illustrated the need for his word by using the imagery of hunger and thirst (8:11-12). Godís word is essential to our spiritual lives, and by not reading, studying and praying for Godís blessings, we will die spiritually. It is impossible to claim to follow a God whom we know or desire to know nothing about. So the question remains, if the Bible were taken out of our homes, how much would that effect our Bible studying/ Christian walk? Or would we just get angry, not because we cannot read our Bible, but because someone is telling us we cannot read it. There is a vast difference between the two.
4. In 9:1-4, Israel can go nowhere to avoid Godís wrath. In what ways do we try to hide from God?
Israel could not hide from Godís anger. They could dig to the abode of the dead (9: 2: Sheol) or climb 1800 feet above sea level to the top of Mount Carmel, but to no avail. God would find them and punish them for their sins. He was the source of their slaughter (9:3-4: note the use of the first person singulars ďIĒ and the possessives ďmyĒ). No longer could they claim innocence (9:10: ďThe calamity will not overtake or confront usĒ). Often Godís people attempt to hide from him, either when they are committing sin or when they have committed sin and feel that God is angry with them, but no one can hide from God. He sees us when we are alone or when we are with people who lead us into compromising situations. He witnesses what every man or woman does in every dark place of this world. God is a witness to the most heinous of crimes. All of them are committed before him. He sees the battered wife, the abused child, the murderers and adulterers as they commit their sinful deeds. He is there, and when he becomes angry and decides to punish, no one can hide from his terrible wrath. If only those God seeks to destroy would repent. There is no reason to try and hide if one is deeply sorry for his sins. God will forgive.
5. In 9:7, God is said to have released the Philistines from captivity in Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir, both of whom were Israelís enemies. What implications does this have in our understanding of Godís sovereignty? What does it say about his work among nations not in a covenant relationship with him? Does he work this way today (Romans 13:1)?
God made certain that Israel knew as long as they lived lives that broke the covenant stipulations and refused to acknowledge their sin that they were no better than the other nations he released from captivity (9:7). His eyes were on the sinful kingdom of Israel (9:8) because they no longer maintained their privileged status as his people. They were no better than Ethiopia, Philistia and Syria (Aram).
It was Godís hand that delivered these nations from the power of other nations. He brought the Philistines from Caphtor (Crete: see Deuteronomy 2:23; Jeremiah 47:4) and Syria (Aram) from Kir (see Amos 1:5). His hands worked in favor of pagan nations as well, although none of them enjoyed the privileged status that faithful Israel maintained. Nothing was and is outside of his power to accomplish, even among those who do not know him. All nations lie within his power (Romans 13:1), for there are no existing authorities that God has not established.
6. In 9:11-15, what hope is there in Godís restoring the tent of David (Isaiah 1:7-9; 16:5)? Who is this hope? Why was it mentioned at the end of this book of judgment? How are these passages fulfilled? Why are all nations and Edom included within this blessing?
Israel would not be completely destroyed (9:8), despite Godís anger and their sins. After all, they were still his people, his children. His anger resulted in punishment and his punishment would result in a better people. That was and is the purpose of God punishing (disciplining) his people. He would raise the booth (house) of David and reestablish the Davidic kingship. The new kingdom would not only allow Israel to return to their land and enjoy agricultural and economic plenty (9:13-14) , but also attract all nations to worship the Lord (9:12). The prosperity under David and Solomon would return (ďdays of oldĒ in 9:11). God would never again allow them to be taken into exile (9:15). The idyllic world presented here never came to fruition for the Israelites prior to the NewTestament. The return to Jerusalem found the Israelites anything but abounding in wealth and agricultural blessings (see Ezra; Nehemiah; Haggai for examples). James, the brother of Jesus (Acts 15:15-18), used these passages to show that the Jewish churchesí acceptance of the Gentiles was part of this passages fulfillment. Jesus reestablished the dynasty of David by becoming the true and just Davidic king (Acts 2:25-36; 13:23, 32-37). He is the king who invites all nations to become obedient to his rule. In Revelation 22:1-3, God promises agricultural blessings for his people and that their would be no more curse (see Deuteronomy 27:11-26) when Jesus returns to complete Godís redemptive work. Eternal blessings and no fear of Godís wrath will abound in heaven and we will live under the rule of God with all of our needs fulfilled.
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