LXXIV A TRUE PROPHET AND HIS MESSAGE
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Amos 3:8 says, “The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord God
hath spoken, who can but prophesy?“ As one walking in a jungle fears to
hear the lion’s roar, so much more should one fear the words of Al-mighty God spoken in judgment. And likewise, when God speaks and
puts His hand on an individual for service, that one must speak out and proclaim His Word.
Identifying God’s Spokesmen Was it possible for hearers to determine whether or not the one speaking was a true prophet? The land was filled with false prophets and not all of them used the various heathen methods of divination.
Some would prophesy in the name of the Lord and claim to have received His message through a dream or vision. However, the Lord provided several biblical tests for validating the claims of a prophet.
First, the prophet spoke only in the name of Yahweh. This was the
validation Amos used in 3:8.
Second, the prophet spoke only by revelation. If a prophet claimed
to speak on behalf of Yahweh, but practiced sorcery or divination, he
was to be rejected as false.
Third, the true prophet of God could be identified by his personal
testimony. His moral character was such that his lifestyle marked him as a prophet of God. The false prophet was a mercenary who prophesied for money (Micah 3:5,11). He was often a drunkard (Isa. 28:7). He could be profane and wicked Uer. 23:11). He sometimes conspired with others to deceive and defraud (Ezek. 22:25). He often committed adultery, walked in lies, and supported evil-doers Uer. 23:14). His over-all lifestyle was one of immorality and misconduct (Jer. 23:15). In addition, more than all else, he was a religious opportunist.
Fourth, the true prophet was conscious of a definite call experience.
We will see that Amos recognized this in giving his personal testimony in 7:14-15.
Fifth, his message was always in harmony with all previous revelation.
Sixth, whatever the prophet prophesied, eventually came to pass.
There would be an event in subsequent history that would confirm and authenticate the fact that he spoke for God.
Judgment on Bethel Amos continued to prophesy God’s impending judgment on Israel by looking to the future through the Assyrian conquest. On that day, God said (vs. 14), “I will also visit (or punish) the altars of Bethel.“ Bethel, you recall, was the site of one of Jeroboam’s golden calves. Is it not ironic that Bethel, which means “house of God” and which had such a sacred history in connection with the patriarchs, especially Jacob and his vision of the ladder, should have been a place defiled by the sin of Jeroboam? God said, “the horns of the altar shall be cut off and fall to the ground.”
Misused Prosperity Verse 15: “I will smite the winter house with the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end, saith the Lord.“ With these words, we have an indication of the prosperity of the time. There is evidence from archaeology, of the opulent lifestyle during that time, by the discovery of wall panels inlaid with ivory. Many people had second homes in the hills from which to escape the heat of summer. In chapter 4, Amos addresses the overweight women of high-society, saying, “Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria.“ These women would recline on their ivory beds, wine and nagging their husbands for even more riches. As a result, their husbands
oppressed the poor and crushed the needy.
What a picture we have here of the blatant social injustice being perpetrated by the Israelites,. There was no middle-class society in Israel. There was the elitist group, the wealthy and powerful people; and there were the very poor, who were oppressed and exploited by the rich. But the Lord swore in His holiness that, “the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks.“ This was a reference to the Assyrian practice of putting hooks through the lips of their captives before leading them away. The next verse describes them being led out single file through a hole in the city wall. Historically, we know that this is exactly what happened when the Assyrians invaded.
Knowing that Israel was not going to repent, the Lord spoke sarcastically through Amos: “Go ahead and do what you love to do. Go to Bethel where I learned to hate you. Go to Gilgal. Take your tithes and your thank offerings of leavened bread.“ Evil had completely permeated the nation of Israel. Everything was leavened, and in Scripture leaven is always a symbol of evil (Matt. 16:6; I Cor. 5:6-9). These things were what Israel loved to do, because they ritualized the outward show of worship, sacrifice, and the licentious activities that went with the system.
The Privilege of Chastisement Personally, I praise God for the concept of chastisement. If it were not for chastisement, we would not be aware of when we are beginning to stray from the path that God has planned for us (Eph. 210). Occasionally, one hears of a child born without nerves. A recent newspaper told of one who had gouged out his eyeball with his finger because he could not feel pain. Others have been known to lean against something hot and completely destroy their hands or feet because they were not aware of being, burned.
This is what chastisement Prevents. It is the believer ’s spiritual
nervous system. God gave Israel a number of remedial chastisements but they refused to heed them. They did not recognize them as a privilege. Read carefully Amos 4:6-11 where the Lord lists all that He has done to bring them back. There is a momentum and tempo to this section which keeps increasing. Over and over the refrain is repeated, “Yet have ye not returned unto Me.“ See the methods God used:
Verse 6: “I gave you cleanness of teeth ... and lack of bread.“ He had
sent famine. A person in a land of famine does not need a toothpick
when there is nothing to eat.
Verse 7: “I have withholden the rain from you. when there were yet three
months to the harvest.“ No rain during the critical growing season was a tragedy. And just to be sure they did not shrug it off as coincidence, He sent rain on some cities and not on others.
Verse 9: “I have smitten you with blasting and mildew.“ The gardens,
vineyards, and orchards were ruined. Insects also attacked them. Notice the ascending severity of the chastisements. Famine, then drought, then blight.
Verse 10: There was a plague “after the manner of Egypt. your young
men have I slain with the sword.“ This was comparable to the Passover
night when the death angel visited Egypt.
Finally, verse 11: “I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew
Sodom and Gomorrah.“ Think of the evil in those cities which motivated
God to destroy them. Now because the same evil is present, He has to destroy Israel in the same way.
Five awesome opportunities were presented, but, “yet have ye not
returned unto me, saith the Lord. “ “Therefore (verse 12 pronounces their judgment) thus will I do unto thee, 0 Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, 0 Israel.
The Israelites claimed to be a special people, but God had demonstrated that being divinely elected did not mean they could sin with impunity. In fact, Amos 3:2 showed that God must punish Israel because of its unique position in the world. Because Israel was chosen to participate in God’s program, then failed in her responsibility, the punishment was all the more severe.
Chapter 5 has the tone of a funeral dirge. Amos says, “Hearye this
word which I take up against you, even a lamentation of the house of Israel.“ Verses 2 and 3 are prophetic because while Amos is speaking, Israel is prosperous; but he envisions the nation as fallen and forsaken. In this statement he foresees the Assyrian invasion and their brutal conquest.
God’s Plea for Return Verses 4-7 are God’s plea for Israel to return to Him. Once again, as in Hosea, we see God’s emotions churning between His love for Israel and His holiness which demands judgment upon them. In the last verse of chapter 4, God demonstrated that He has powers men cannot duplicate, by forming mountains, creating wind, and identifying Himself as the Lord God of hosts. This is a military term and is appropriate for God to use when predicting judgment.
But in 5:4, He pleads once again, “Seek ye me, and ye shall live.“ God
is speaking as a wounded father, or as a rejected lover. In verse 5, He begs them not to go back to Bethel. He has already warned that He is going to destroy Bethel, so He pleads, “Seek the Lord, and ye shall live; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph.
Lack of Integrity God has been identifying Himself to Israel in various ways, and in 5:8-9, He shows Himself to be the omnipotent Creator. Then, beginning in verse 10, He goes on to describe Israel. “They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly. “ These evil Israelites hated the righteous man who pointed out their injustices or any official who sought to uphold justice in the gate. Verse 11 continues by saying, that because of their ruthless collection of the heavy fines and taxes they impose on the poor, they are going to witness their own luxurious houses and pleasant vineyards taken by others. Little did they realize how soon the Assyrians would be living in their houses and drinking their wine!
God was well aware of their transgressions. “They afflict the just,
they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their
tight” (verse 12). Yet the Lord had prescribed through Moses how business and judgment should be transacted. Look at Deuteronomy 16:18- 19: Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes; and they shall
judge the people with just judgment. Thou shalt not wrest judgment, thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift. for a gift
doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
God said that judges must not accept bribes, but in 5:12 Amos
said, “they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their
right. “ Why? Because the poor did not have money to pay a bribe and therefore, their cases were ignored, ruled against, and they were pushed aside by those whose money had met the needs of the judges. But in verses 14 and 15, they are once again offered the opportunity to repent:
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. Hate the evil, and
love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that
the Lord God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.
False Hope In verse 18, Amos echoes the earlier theme of Joel when he rebukes his listeners for desiring the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord is a day to be feared by the ungodly, not hoped for. For the unrepentant sinner, “the day of the Lord is darkness, and not light.“ There will be no escape from it. The one who tries will be like a man fleeing from a loin only to meet a bear. If he reaches his house safely, he will suddenly be bitten by a serpent. There will be no escape in the Day of the Lord; judgment will come!
Hypocrisy In verses 21 and 22, the Lord demonstrates His hatred for hypocritical worship. “I hate, I despise your feast days.“ God refused to accept their offerings; He did not want to hear their hymns; their rituals were part of Jeroboam’s system, not the one He had given to Moses. Verse 24 is the key thought of Amos: “Let judgment (justice) run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.“ For parallel passages, see James 2:26; also Psalm 97:2, which say that righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne. These must be present in a person’s life before his worship is acceptable to God. Righteousness and justice were not present in the gate of Israel, so the Lord said of their worship, Take it away. I hate and reject it!
LXXV VISIONS AND OPPOSITION
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Beginning in chapter 7, Amos describes five visions. The first vision
is of a locust swarm forming to devour the spring crop after the king
had received his share. When Amos saw the pending destruction he
prayed, “O Lord God, forgive ... by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small.“ God relented at Amos’s intercession and said He will not send the locusts. Vision number 2 was of a great fire that dried up the sea and devoured the land. Again, Amos interceded because Israel was small, and again the Lord relented and restrained His hand of judgment. Vision number 3 was of a plum line. If you have done some carpentry work, you know that a plumb line is a string with a heavy weight attached to determine whether a vertical object is plumb. The Lord was about to measure Israel with a plumb line. He determined that He will not spare them any longer.
To understand this concept, we must look at Isaiah 28:17: “Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet” (or plumb line). God hangs the plumb line in the midst of Israel and it reveals
how far the nation is leaning away from the standard God had
established. Israel was a leaning wall that will eventually collapse.
When this vision is seen, Amos does not intercede. He has nothing
to say, because he knows that size has no relationship with integrity.
justice can be practiced by one person or by an entire nation.
In verse 9, Amos prophesies about the devastation which will be
wrought by the Assyrians, but says the invasion will be preceded by
judgment on the house of Jeroboam II. That occurred in 752 B.C., when Shallum assassinated Jeroboam’s son Zachariah and usurped the throne by claiming it for himself.
Confrontation When Amos said these things, the priest of Bethel, Amaziah, had enough of Amos and reported these last words to the king, saying, “Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel, the land is not able to bear all his words.” He accused Amos of having prophesied both the assassination of the king and the invasion and captivity of Israel. After his report to the king, he returned and confronted Amos. “Go home, Seer.“ He commanded. “Prophesy in Judah and not in Bethel. It is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court.
The humble herdsman, knowing God’s hand was on him, stood
before Amaziah with his eyes blazing. He looked at the godless priest
who served at Bethel where Jeroboam I had put one of his golden calves, and was now even more polluted by Baalism, and gave his testimony: “The Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.“ In effect Amos said, “Are you saying to me, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel’?” (vs. 16-17):
Therefore thus saith the Lord, Thy wife shall be an harlot in the
city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and
thy land shall be divided by line, and thou shalt die in a polluted
land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.
Because of his disrespect for God, four curses were pronounced
against the godless priest by Amos; plus, he gave a reminder of the
promised invasion by the Assyrians. Evidently, Amaziah had been attempting to nullify this prophecy by Amos.
Rotten Fruit Chapter 8 describes the fourth vision of the summer fruit. We can best understand this illustration by realizing the effect of the summer climate in Israel. Summer fruit does not last. When the temperature soars, it turns black and rotten. God said this was the condition of Israel; like a basket of summer fruit, rotten and worthless, ready to be thrown into the garbage disposal. So, in 8:2-3, Amos reported the conclusion of the vision:
Greediness In verse 4, Amos once again turned his attention to the greedy merchants who exploited the poor people. They were impatient with the Sabbaths because they had to close down their businesses. When will it be over? they fretted, so we can start trading again?
Corrupt Business Dealings The indictment goes even farther. Not only were they impatient about closing down in order to “worship, “ they were seeking ways of “making the ephah small, and the shekel great.“ In this way, they were altering the system of weights and measures. Amos gave a picture of both sides of a transaction. Merchants were using baskets somewhat smaller than a normal bushel. When a customer approached, they would fill the short bushel and charge the customer for a full bushel. The shekel represented different divisions of weight. When dishonest customers wanted to buy produce, they would use oversize shekels. They led the merchant to believe the shekel weighed an ounce, and paid him for an ounce of product when actually, the grain weighed more.
A classic picture by Norman Rockwell shows a butcher with his
thumb on the scale while the little old lady on the other side has her
finger underneath it, each is trying to cheat the other. But it was not a
joke in Amos’s day, because no one could be trusted in the marketplace. In Amos’s day there were no official controls on weights and measures.
A wealthy man could even buy the helpless for money. And if he
needed a pair of shoes, he could sell a slave for just the necessary amount. He could rob the poor by selling grain to them from which only part of the chaff had been removed. In Amos’s day, dishonest merchants increased the weight of the wheat by mixing some of the chaff back into it. God abhors such practices and Amos says (vs. 7): “The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works.”
Then, in verse 11, Amos predicted a different kind of famine, “not
a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of heating the words of the Lord.“ God was going to return to His place and when He did, the voice of the prophets would no longer be heard in the land. All who had sworn by the false gods would fall “and never rise up again” (vs. 14).
Vision of the Altar Chapter 9 describes Amos’s fifth vision, the vision of the Altar. The altar involved is the one established by Jeroboam I, where all the kings of the north had worshiped. Symbolically, an altar was a place of mercy because a substitutionary sacrifice was offered there. Likewise, the cross of Christ is our altar. We read in I John 2:2 that Christ is our “propitiation, “ and in Hebrews 9:5 the same Greek word is translated “mercy seat. “ Christ is our mercy seat, our altar, our place of judgment. When the altar of God is despised, there is judgment for the one who despises it. We can see this in John 3:36.
Israel worshiped at Jeroboam’s altar because they had despised
God’s altar. So, it became a place of judgment. In his vision, Amos saw God standing beside it and giving instructions for its destruction. In the vision, God said there was no way possible that the people could escape from His judgment, regardless of where they hid themselves. Even after their captivity, they would be slain because “I will set mine eyes upon them for evil, and not for good” (vs. 4).
Beginning in verse 5, He reaffirmed His omnipotence and His
control over the physical universe. In verse 7 He took them to task for
their belief that they were a unique people. They took much pride in
that fact and the Lord had affirmed throughout the Old Testament that
they were His special Exodus people. Now He asks, “Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?“ In other words, God said: “You are no longer special.
I have brought other nations from other places just as I did you. Be-cause of your wickedness you are, so far as I am concerned, just like the Philistines or the Syrians or the Ethiopians. “ No longer does it mean anything to be an Exodus people. But even after this, in verse 8, He again confirmed the Davidic covenant:
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, saith the Lord. So, although Israel would be completely destroyed in 722, the nation of
Judah would still be protected because of the Davidic covenant.
Ultimate Blessing Amos 9:11 begins an eschatological section describing how the fallen booth of David would again be raised up and be rebuilt as in the days of old. So, at the time of national restoration, Israel can look for-ward to the return of a converted remnant. Again, as with all of the true
prophets, there is left to the listener a ray of hope, a fight at the end of
the tunnel. After God’s judgment has fallen, He will continue to be
faithful with His hesed love and still honor the Davidic covenant as He
promised in 11 Samuel 7.
LXXVI ISAIAH, THE UNIVERSAL PROPHET
Isaiah’s prophetic ministry begins in the year 739 B.C., which he
identifies as the year that king Uzziah died. He probably began his ministry in the last years of Uzziah’s reign, but then received his official call into prophetic service at the time of Uzziah’s death. Chapter 1:1 indicates that his activity extended through the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, so he was prophesying and preaching for at least forty years.
Rabbinic tradition says that he was murdered by Manasseh.
With these facts in mind, we are familiar with the historical back-ground against which Isaiah preached. The situation in Judah was similar to what it had been in Israel during the reign of Jeroboam 11. Since Isaiah began his prophetic ministry in 739, we know that he was an eyewitness to the Assyrian invasion and conquest of the northern kingdom. The inhabitants in Judah, after 722, had been given a graphic visual demonstration of what God’s judgment could do. It should have provided additional impact to the prophetic messages which commanded them to repent.
Isaiah Spans History It is difficult to analyze and summarize all of the tremendous truths in this wonderful book. Isaiah’s broad scope of revelation deals with everything from Satan, in eternity past (Isa. 14), beyond the church age, to the New Heaven and the new earth (Isa. 66). No other prophet in the Old Testament has Isaiah’s span of knowledge, history, and prophecy.
Without his prophecies, there would be a significant void in our knowledge of future events including those events that preceded the Advent of the Messiah.
He was given unusual insights into the life of Messiah. He talked
about the virgin birth, His deity, and His eternal kingdom. He spoke of
His humanity as the Root of Jesse, and he wrote of His righteous reign and the fact that He is the Mighty God. He talked about His vicarious suffering, death, and His reign as king during the millennium.
It is because of the book of Isaiah, that we are able to put together
the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. If the other
prophets had been able to completely understand the book of Isaiah,
they would have seen that Messiah was both to suffer and to reign.
Even Isaiah, however, was not allowed to see the Church Age.