Christ in the Minor Prophets: No. 4 - Amos

Amos 1‑9  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 7
H. P. Barker
No. 4. — Amos
“The words of Amos who was among the herdmen of Tekoa. which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam, the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.”
Thus saith the Lord; “ For three transgressions of Damascus, ... .of Gaza, ... . of Tyrus,... of Edom, ... of Ammon,... of Moab, ... of Judah,.... of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof.”
“Hear the word that the Lord hath spoken against... the whole family... brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”
“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets.”
The prophecy of Amos belongs to a period when the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were at the zenith of their glory. Illustrious monarchs filled their respective thrones, and during their long reigns of forty-one and fifty-two years, secured a state of prosperity for their subjects that had not been enjoyed since the palmy days of Solomon.
Worldly prosperity, however, is a transient thing at best. Of this we are reminded by the mention of the great earthquake by our prophet (see also Zech. 14:55And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. (Zechariah 14:5)). Perhaps nothing is better calculated to make men see the flimsiness of their greatest works than the shaking of that whereon they are all founded. But it is a lesson men are slow to learn. What are all the political plans of today, the schemes of reform and of national expansion, but the work of builders engaged upon a structure that is to be shaken to pieces before long?
In contrast to this, we (Christians) receive “a kingdom which cannot be moved” (Heb. 12:2828Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: (Hebrews 12:28)). We are brought to that which is eternally stable, and beyond all liability to change or decay. Unless our souls are really established in the truth of this, we cannot “serve God acceptably,” for our thoughts and hopes will be largely taken up with things that belong to the earth, so soon to be shaken. If, however, we make’ our home by faith amid “those things which cannot be shaken,” we become ourselves steadfast and unmovable, abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:5858Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58)).
Amos, himself a man of Judah (an inhabitant of Tekoa), concerns himself for the most part with Israel. The rupture between the two tribes and the ten still existed, but the prophet, directed by the Spirit of God, does not confine his testimony to the tribes with which he is directly connected. His words are addressed to “the whole family” which had been brought out from Egypt (ch. 3:1). Here there is no trace of the selfishness that would consider none but those with whom we have immediate links. In spite of ruptures and dissensions, from apostolic days to the present time, the Church of God is one under His eye. There is one body, one flock, one “household of faith,” which we are to serve. Indeed, our sphere of service and testimony is wider still, for we are bidden to “do good unto all men,” and to go into “all the world” with the glad tidings, and even in our prayers to have “all men” in mind. In this way the character of the blessed God is set forth, for He desires the salvation of all (1 Tim. 2:44Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4)).
But though Amos had “the whole family” in view, his words of warning are intended specially for the house of Israel. Why then, it may be asked, does the prophecy begin with the doom of six Gentile nations? For a very cogent reason. Jehovah had said of Israel that “the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations” (Num. 23:99For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. (Numbers 23:9)). Yet Amos here presents us with a list of eight guilty nations, in which Judah and Israel are the last included, and marked out for doom, in exactly the same formula of words as are the other six. They had, by their sin, forfeited all special recognition by Jehovah. As to their state, they were even as Damascus, Philistia, and Moab before Him, and are mentioned alongside these heathen peoples in a way to reach their consciences, and stir up their remembrance of their peculiar place in God’s favor.
Special privilege carries with it special responsibility. This important principle is enforced in the prophecy before us. “You only have I known, of all the families of the earth: therefore will I punish you.” The nearer the relationship, the more serious the sin, and the more severe the punishment.
Another great principle is laid down in Amos 3, namely, that when God designs to do anything, He makes it known to His servants. This is true, whether He has blessing or judgment in view. His hidden purposes are revealed to His servants. They are honored with His confidence, and are let into His secret. It is the same with us Christians. God has been pleased to let us into the blessed secrets of His mind, and to reveal to us, for our present joy, and as subjects for our testimony, that which He will by and by display to millions of wondering eyes.
“Thus saith the Lord; As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the lion two legs. or a piece of an ear; so shall the children of Israel be taken out...”
Amos 5:3-143For thus saith the Lord God; The city that went out by a thousand shall leave an hundred, and that which went forth by an hundred shall leave ten, to the house of Israel. 4For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live: 5But seek not Beth-el, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beer-sheba: for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Beth-el shall come to nought. 6Seek the Lord, and ye shall live; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Beth-el. 7Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth, 8Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his name: 9That strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong, so that the spoiled shall come against the fortress. 10They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly. 11Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them. 12For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right. 13Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time. 14Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken. (Amos 5:3‑14).
“For thus saith the Lord God; The city that went out by a thousand shall leave an hundred, and that which went forth by an hundred shall leave ten, to the house of Israel.
Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.
Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.”
Judgment, not blessing, is the theme upon which Amos dwells in the first part of his prophecy. The very fact, however, of doom being pronounced upon the guilty nation, is the occasion of reference being made to One who should deliver a remnant.
Here, surely, we trace the footsteps of Him, who is the Object of our study in these pages. He comes before us here as
The Shepherd-Deliverer
The nation, as a whole, would be given as a prey to the adversary, but a small handful would escape. Israel’s Shepherd would deliver “a piece of an ear” from the mouth of the lion, and in connection with this remnant, God’s promises would be fulfilled. There could not be even this little remnant were it not for the delivering grace and power of the Shepherd. When restored to their land and blessed with the bounty of God, they will own that they owe it all to Him. They have been in the lion’s mouth, and while multitudes have perished, they have been delivered. And Christ is the One who has done it. All praise and glory to Him.
In Amos 5 this remnant of Israel comes still more distinctly into view, a mere tithe of the whole, a hundred left out of a thousand, and ten out of a hundred. They are characterized by prudence, or wisdom, in the “evil time.” The power of oppression seals their lips, but in their hearts they hate the evil, and love the good, and they experience the goodness of the God of hosts. Thus they live before Him.
“... then I said, O Lord God, forgive, I beseech Thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small...
Then said I. O Lord God, cease, I beseech Thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small....
Then Amaziah the priest of Beth-el sent to Jeroboam, king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words.
“... I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only son...”
In Amos 7 Amos himself becomes a type of Christ as
The Great Intercessor
The name of Amos means “Burden”, and in his measure he carried the burden of Israel’s sin and woe upon his heart, thus foreshadowing the One who did the same in a far deeper way. The prophet, acknowledging the smallness and helplessness of Jacob, beseeches God on his behalf. His prayer is effectual, but his service and testimony are rejected of men, and priest seeks the aid of king to rid their land of his presence. He was not officially a prophet, being a mere herdsman, but God was with him, and those, therefore, who rejected him were fighting against God.
All this speaks eloquently to our hearts of Christ. No graduate in the “schools of the prophets” was He. Coming of lowly birth, He was God’s messenger to Israel. He bore upon His heart the burden of the nation’s woes. Yet He was set at naught by them, despised for His lowly birth, a mere “carpenter’s son” in their eyes. Priest and king, Caiaphas and Herod, conspired to rid themselves of Him, and the cross was His award.
But He has not given up Israel forever, and in the coming day they will prove how mighty His intercession has been on their behalf. To Him they will owe the joy and blessing which will be theirs, beyond all conception, in that day. But the first results of Christ’s mighty intercession for Israel will not be joy or glory, but bitter repentance. Conscience will be awakened, and the discovery made that He whom they crucified as an impostor was their Messiah and Deliverer. The scene between Joseph and his brethren will be re-enacted upon a grander scale. Sackcloth will be upon all loins, and baldness upon every head when they thus mourn “as for an only son.”
We are reminded thus, of Christ as
Israel’s Hope —
What a moment it will be for Him! His love for the chosen nation has not waxed cold, and with infinite joy He will welcome them to His arms. Shall we refuse to find pleasure in the contemplation of this because we have no direct part therein? Perish the thought! The heart that loves Christ will rejoice to know that He is gratified, and that with streaming, tear-filled eyes, Israel will turn at last to her rejected Messiah.
Amos 9:1-91I saw the Lord standing upon the altar: and he said, Smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake: and cut them in the head, all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the sword: he that fleeth of them shall not flee away, and he that escapeth of them shall not be delivered. 2Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down: 3And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them: 4And though they go into captivity before their enemies, thence will I command the sword, and it shall slay them: and I will set mine eyes upon them for evil, and not for good. 5And the Lord God of hosts is he that toucheth the land, and it shall melt, and all that dwell therein shall mourn: and it shall rise up wholly like a flood; and shall be drowned, as by the flood of Egypt. 6It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven, and hath founded his troop in the earth; he that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his name. 7Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the Lord. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir? 8Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the Lord. 9For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. (Amos 9:1‑9)
“... I will slay the last of them with the swore... Behold the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob...
“... I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.”
“In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, ... and I will build it as in the days of old.
“That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my Name, saith the Lord that doeth this.
“... the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed;...
“And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel,...
“And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.”
But the nation at large must go in judgment, “all of them”, to the very “last of them” (chap. 9.).. Only the election of grace will be preserved, and of these “not the least grain” will perish. In the midst of these preserved ones, “the tabernacle of David” will be raised up. The existing state of things under Uzziah and Jeroboam II would be ended, and God would revert to David, and secure permanency for him, and for his order of things. Here, too, our thoughts are carried off to Christ, the true David, as
The Man of God’s Counsels
Upon Him, from the beginning, God’s choice has been set. Everything here has fallen into decay, and every man that has lived has contributed to the ruin, but when the appointed time comes, that which God has purposed will be brought in and established by Christ: none but He could accomplish this. In that day, even the heathen will share in the blessing. As for Israel, they will be planted upon their land, no more to be “pulled up.” Then shall the plowman overtake the reaper, and happiness be the portion of all.
The pivot upon which all this turns is CHRIST. As we have seen, He is brought before us in Amos, (1) as Israel’s Shepherd, rescuing a remnant from the lion’s mouth; (2) as Israel’s Intercessor, beseeching God for them, that at all events some might “arise;” (3) as the One for whom Israel will mourn, and to whom their hearts will turn; (4) as the true David, who will bring in the state of blessing and peace which God has from the beginning purposed for His people.
Into all this Christianity does not enter. But there are precious lessons that Christians may learn, and it is food for our souls to contemplate Christ whether in connection with Israel, or ourselves.