Archive for March, 2017

Amos 7

Amos 7 has the prophet seeing visions of God’s judgment and experiencing the power of prayer.  God speaks to us in many ways.  For Amos, some of that was through visions.  In this chapter, he experiences that again.  “This is what the Lord God showed me: behold, the Lord God was calling for a judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land”.  Late in the harvest, Amos sees a swarm of locusts coming to devour the crops of Israel. It came after the king’s mowings, so the royal court already took their taxes, so there is nothing left at all.  The country would be desolate.

Amos prays that God will not allow the vision to happen.  He intercedes for God’s people and the frail situation they are in.  Amos stands in the gap.  And what is God’s response?  “The Lord relented concerning this: “This also shall not be,” said the Lord God”.  There is power in prayer, and in particular in earnest prayer of intercession.  This is another amazing example of how much rests upon prayer. It certainly appears that the plague either came or was held back based on the prophet’s prayer.  Amos made it strong and with passion, and God heard and responded.

After the vision of locusts, now Amos sees a vision of a great consuming fire upon the land of Israel. In response, he does what he did before: plead for mercy. And God again relented at the prayer of the prophet.  God gives a visual of what He expects from His people as He sets a plumb line for them to measure against His standard.  “I am setting  a plumb line in the midst of my people”.  That plumb line still exists for us today.  We will be judged according to God’s standards and commands.  And like His people in Amos’ time, we’ll be found ‘crooked’ and unable to meet that standard.  It’s the reality of sin in our life.  That’s why we need Jesus to take away the crookedness of our life and through grace to make us straight compared to God’s plumb line.

Amos has wrestled with God and some coming visions where he interceded.  But as the chapter ends, he faces attack from Amaziah, the wicked priest of Bethel, who accuses him of conspiring against King Jeroboam.  He also said that the message Amos was bringing was too hard and that Amos should go home and leave them alone.  So Amos answers him directly about his accusations.  “I was no prophet….But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel”.  Let there be no doubt – Amos tells the king and this wicked priest that he’s doing what God called him to do. He was a reluctant, untrained, and unprofessional prophet – only a farmer by trade. Amos was not the type to launch a conspiracy.  But he was exactly the type to carry God’s truth to the people, and that’s what he did.

Amos 6

Amos 6 has the prophet continuing to speak God’s truth as he warns Israel of its sinful living.  “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion”.  Israel was filled with pride and their main objective at this time was a life filled with luxury and ease.  Is luxury and ease a sin?  Maybe.  It certainly was for God’s people at this time.  Anytime anything pushes God from His place on the throne of our life – it is sin.  Good things become sin when we allow them to become the most important pursuits of our life.  And for the Israelites at this time – that pursuit of luxury and ease had become a sinful behavior.  A bad choice of making it the thing they most cared about.

Don’t get it wrong.  The idea of rest isn’t bad by itself.  In fact, God made it one of the 10 Commandments.  In the New testament, Jesus wants to give us rest.  We need it to be able to live effectively for and with Him. There is a rest waiting for the people of God when we enter into eternity with Him. But then there is another kind of rest, a sinful kind of rest – connected to indifference, laziness, and self indulgence.  It is all about how we focus and make it god in our life.  When we live for self, and for self only, and the things we want and pursue it rather than the things of God – it is sin!

Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory…. but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph”!  Things were good in the kingdom of Israel during this time.  People were living in economic prosperity, but completely ignoring where that gift came from (God’s blessing) and forgetting completely the reality of those who were not able to participate in that prosperity.  Their self focus was so total and complete that anything else was completely ignored.  And when that happens – when we get so self focused that we completely ignore God and the world around us – look out because God’s going to get our attention.  And Amos delivers a powerful prophecy of just how God’s going to do exactly that.

Therefore they shall now be the first of those who go into exile, and the revelry of those who stretch themselves out shall pass away”.  The people were living very highly, and fell to another sin that God can’t stand – pride.  As much as their sinful life of luxury and ease, God hated their pride equally as much. In their season of prosperity and success they lifted their hearts high in pride, and God will send a destroying army to bring them back to reality and down to earth.  It didn’t need to end this way.  God isn’t against luxury and ease – but He is absolutely against us believing it happens because of our own efforts and when we make it the pursuit of our life.  God must remain on the throne of our life – it’s a choice – and when we choose something else we sin and will pay a price just like the Israelites will for their sin through Amos’ prophecy.

Amos 5

Amos 5 has the prophet continuing to wail against Israel and talk of their impending judgment.  Amos prophecies that things will go very badly for Israel.  “The city that went out a thousand shall have a hundred left, and that which went out a hundred shall have ten left to the house of Israel”.  Ninety percent of the soldiers that go out to deal with the enemy will die.  It will be carnage in the streets.  Israel will have only a handful of warriors left after they do battle with the enemy. The defeat will be staggering.

Even though Israel has been sinning like there is no tomorrow, God still wants to restore them.  “Seek me and live….Seek the Lord and live”.  He offers multiple times to save His people if they will only seek Him. When Israel was ripe for judgment, the key to survival was to simply seek the Lord. However, we can’t seek the Lord unless we do not seek places of disobedience and willfulness.  When we put self ahead of God, we can’t seek Him.  We have to put God back where He belongs, on the throne of our life, if we are truly going to seek Him.

God makes clear what the problem is for His people.  He describes the cause of their pending judgment, the curse that they will incur, and the cure that can set them free from what is to come.  “I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins….Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you….Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate;  it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph”.

This isn’t rocket science – for God’s people then – or for us today.  Sin carries a price.  It will bring judgment.  We are all guilty as sinners – scripture is extremely clear about that and we know it too if we’re honest.  So we have a sin problem, just like the people of God did in Amos’ day.  If we don’t deal with it, we’ll stand in the face of judgment just like Israel did.  The same cure will work for us as God offered then to His people.  Confess (because God knows our sin), repent (seek good and not evil), and receive God’s gift of grace through Christ.  Amos didn’t have that last piece to offer the people in his day.  But God saw how lost we were and sent His Son to offer us redemption and restoration.  All we have to do is receive it.  Have you done that?  If not, why not today?

Amos 4

Amos 4 has the prophet stepping across the lines of political correctness and addressing the women of his day.  “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, Bring, that we may drink”.  Amos wasn’t trained as a prophet, he was a simple herdsman and farmer. When he wanted to get the point across to the indulgent women of Israel, he called them fat cows.  He grabs their attention so he can deliver a  picture of what is to come – punishment and judgment.

 

It wasn’t that these women were merely fat and affluent, it was that they gained their wealth and position by oppressing and crushing the less fortunate. God saw this and promised to hold them accountable.  They are going to pay for their sin.  God reminds them that He has been trying to get their attention and draw them back to Himself.  But since they were not repenting, God tells this prideful land of Israel of their coming agony when they will be conquered and exiled by the Assyrians. When the Assyrians took over and removed people from a conquered city, they led the captives away on journeys of hundreds of miles, with the captives naked and attached together with a system of strings and fishhooks pierced through their lower lip.  It was a humiliating way to be exiled.

God reminds them all this happens for one reason – a stubbornness and willingness to repent. God reminds them that He had tried, but “You did not return to me declares the Lord”.  That’s always what God hopes for when we are in the midst of living a life of sin and disobedience.  He does things to get our attention and to draw ourselves back to Him.  He shines the light on our sin and gives us a chance to repent and be in right standing with Him.  He always is ready to take us back, but we have to take that action.  We have to be willing to humbly confess and repent and return to God.

In Amos day, the people we having non of that.  They were far too ingrained in their sin and bad choices.  God tells them of a number of ways He was trying to get their attention – and they couldn’t miss them as these were big and in their face.  But the still chose to ignore Him.  So Amos tells them to “prepare to meet your God, O Israel”! They can pretend they don’t realize what God’s up to, and try to ignore the reality of their sinful lives, but God is not leaving nor forgetting what they have done.

For behold, He who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth—the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name! God isn’t going anywhere, and His judgment will come when the people of Israel stand before Him and have to answer for their choices.  We’ll have to do the same at Judgment Day ourselves.  Are you ready for that discussion with a Holy God?  If not, we need to get right with Him.  That is why Jesus was sent to earth – to make a way!

Amos 3

Amos 3 has the prophet carrying God’s message of punishment to the people of Israel.  “Against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt….I will punish you for all your iniquities”.  Israel’s rejection and disregard of God is all the more inexcusable in light of God’s great deliverance from their captivity in Egypt.  It’s easy to sit here today and wonder how the people could forget God’s love and provision.  But we’re no different.  We tend to forget all about God and do our own thing unless we’re in well over our heads and need His help.

God makes it clear that the connection He has with His people is a great privilege but also carries a great responsibility.  God expected (and expects from us today) that we will walk with Him in obedience to His will and His ways.  God makes six very obvious statements that everyone knew were true.  He reinforces it all with a seventh statement: “Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it”?  The answer is obvious as well, but God is reminding the people that when judgment comes, everyone should know that it was the Lord who has done it. It won’t be an accident. It will be the hand of the Lord.

And it won’t be unplanned or should not be unexpected.  God is consistent and does what He says.  “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets”.  Prophets have been telling God’s story for generations.  There has been every opportunity for His people to repent and walk in obedience.  But they have chosen not to.  They have chosen to continue in their sinful ways and now will face judgment for those choices.  It hasn’t happened accidentally, and certainly without them knowing what the price would be.  Yet they chose to sin, just like we do today.  Sin is a choice, not an accident.  And like in Amos’ day, sin carries a price tag today too.

God tells them what’s ahead through Amos.  “An adversary shall surround the land and bring down your defenses from you, and your strongholds shall be plundered”.  God tells them that they are going down.  Amos prophecies an event that happens a mere 30 years later when the Assyrians come calling and Israel is under their reign for 10 years.  It didn’t have to be, but it was because of the sinful choices of the people.  God will deal with sin.  And the people were taken and scattered across the Assyrian Empire as God promised.

Amos 2

Amos 2 has the prophet talking about the sixth of the judgments against the Gentile nations as he addresses the nation of Moab.  He has now addressed those nations around those of His children – Judah and Israel – who have split the Promised Land into a north and south kingdom.  But God’s punishment doesn’t stop here.  He uses the same judgment to address His children, as they are just as guilty as the previous six nations that God has punished.  “For three transgressions of Judah, and for four….” – Judah has piled on sin after sin after sin and now will face the result of those choices.

We find it pretty easy and comfortable to talk about and rebuke the sins of those who aren’t proclaiming to follow God. That is what Amos did with the first six announcements of judgment, but just as Amos went on to look at sin among God’s people, we should do the same.  Here is what he says about the people of Judah: “I will not revoke the punishment, because  they have rejected the law of the Lord, and have not kept his statutes, but  their lies have led them astray, those after which their fathers walked”.  God had blessed His people throughout history with His law and commandments, but He expected them to honor and obey His word.  They were not, and because of that would face His wrath and punishment.

Israel is in the same boat.  “I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals—those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted…”.  Israel has the same problem as Judah and the six Gentile nations – they are guilty of sin.  Theirs is more of an abusive cruelty and sexual immorality – but it is still all about sin and making choices that were against God’s laws and commands.  These weren’t simple mistakes but rather violent and direct rebellion agains God’s Word.

As history states, God calls out the things that He has done for His people:

  •   it was I who destroyed the
  • I destroyed his
  • I who brought you up out of the land of Egypt 
  • I raised up some of your sons for prophets”

God has been faithful and blessed His people for generations.  Yet they turn and walk away from Him.  Our walk with God should be based on gratitude for what He has done for us.  Without Him, we are nothing.  God is dealing with rebellious children in both Judah and Israel.  But dealing with them He will, and they will have to accept the outcome of the choices they have made.  God will not tolerate sin.  There is a day of reckoning and Amos is the messenger that makes that clear for both the Gentile nations, as well as the children of God.

Amos 1

Amos 1 brings us the words of God through Amos, a sheep herder from Tekoa which was a city about ten miles from Jerusalem.  This book of prophecy is the only mention in the Bible of Amos.  His name means ‘burden or burden bearer’. Since most of the prophecies of Amos concern coming judgment on either the nations surrounding Israel or judgment on Israel itself, he was a man with a burden.  He doesn’t appear to have any formal theological background or training, and was likely a simple man who worked the land and was called by God uniquely to share His truth.

Amos is around during the period of the kings.  What God revealed to him “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”.  When Amos served as a prophet, the people of God had been divided into two nations for more than 150 years. The southern nation was known as Judah, and the northern nation was still known as Israel. Through the period of the divided monarch Judah saw a succession of kings, some godly and some ungodly (Uzziah was one of the better kings of Judah). The northern nation of Israel saw nothing but a succession of wicked kings. Jeroboam the son of Joash was one of the better kings among these wicked men – especially in a political and military sense – but he was still an ungodly man.

Amos brings a message of judgment from God.  “The Lord roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem;  the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the  top of  Carmel withers”.  God’s people have been disobedient again (what a surprise), and have set up worship centers outside Jerusalem in direct disobedience to God’s commands.  Sin is a big problem, and God calls it out through Amos as sin upon sin upon sin.  “For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four”.  It isn’t that there were only four sins committed by the Syrians in Damascus, but that they, as the first of the folks God is dealing with through Amos’ words, were just piling on sin after sin.  That’s how we seem to live as humans.  If we get away with one sin, we just tack on more and more until judgment comes.

Amos moves on to address Gaza and Tyre and Edom and Ammon – all of whom are guilty like Damascus of piling on sin after sin against God’s will.  Judgment comes for all sin.  We don’t know when, or how that God will choose to address it.  But there is a day of reckoning for our sin and Amos makes it clear to each of these places that they would not get away with it.  In these cases, these people came against God’s chosen and were punished. But it is still God’ dealing with sin, which He did then, and continues to do today.  He can’t ignore it, whether it is attacking His people in days gone by, or violating His will and commands today.  There is a price for sin.  We need to pay attention and learn!

Joel 3

Joel 3 has the prophet brings a prophecy related to the Last Days.  According to Guzik, ‘Many have the wrong idea of the “last days,” thinking only in terms of the final years or months immediately before the return of Jesus in glory to this earth, or the rapture of the Church. Scripturally, we can think of the last days as an era, one that began with the birth of the Church on the Day of Pentecost. Since that time, the Church has not been rushing towards a distant edge that represents the consummation of all things. Instead, at the Day of Pentecost the Church came to the edge – and has run parallel to the brink for some 2,000 years’.

God’s already in motion moving toward those final days.  God’s judgment is pending, and will come upon us soon.  Beside the judgment we will face for our individual sins, where we stand before God and give account, there will also be a judgment of the nations.  God cares about how His people have been treated.  “I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel”. Held on the earth after His return in glory, this judgment determines who is allowed to enter into the Millennial Earth, and who goes straight to judgment.

God is going to retaliate against those who have mistreated His people.  All of us will stand before a righteous Judge.  Judgment is about the only aspect of God’s plan of the ages that is plainly logical. The grace and mercy of God is not plainly logical. Salvation by grace through faith is not plainly logical. The high standing and destiny of the believer in Jesus is not plainly logical. Judgment – God simply giving those who reject Him what they deserve – is plainly logical.  We’ll all stand before Him and face that judgment, for our own actions, and for our actions as a nation.

God’s clear that He will be on the throne making the call.  “I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations”.  His time, His place, His standards – it’s all about Him. In those days, everyone will come before Him and face the outcome of their choices.  Sin is always our choice.  It never happens to us.  We choose it. “For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision”.  Joel sees the vision of all mankind coming before God to get His decision.  There is only one way for us to avoid that terrible valley – to receive God’s mercy and grace through Christ.  “But the Lord is  a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel”. We should decide for Jesus right now so we never stand in this valley of decision.  It’s our choice how we prepare for our face to face with God at Judgment Day.  Don’t be unprepared to stand before a Holy and Righteous God!

Joel 2

Joel 2 reminds us all the Lord’s judgment was arriving against Judah.  “Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near”.  We’re in a similar situation with Christ’s pending return.  When we are right with God, we want the day of the Lord. We long for Him to show His strength because we know that we abide in Him. When we are not right with God, we dread the day of the Lord, because when God shows Himself strong, His strength may work against us.  It is coming for us, as it did for Judah.  We need to be ready.

Christ’s return will change everything. And as it was for Judah, it will be amazing for us. “For the day of the Lord is  great and very awesome; who can endure it”?  That return will begin the end of time and eternal judgment.  It’s reckoning for how we have lived.  And even though we don’t deserve anything except punishment for our sin, God still wants us to come back to Him.  “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;  and He relents over disaster”.  Even at the point of judgment, God is in the restoration business.

What’s God want from us?  In a word it is repentance. He wants us to turn back to Him with sincerity, and Joel tells us how to do that:

  • Sincere repentance is to turn to God, and therefore away from our sin.
  • Sincere repentance is done with all your heart, giving everything you can in surrender to God.
  • Sincere repentance is marked by action (with fasting) and emotion (with weeping . . . mourning). Not every act of repentance will include fasting and weeping, but if action and emotion are absent, it isn’t real repentance.

God desires restoration.  And if we come back to Him, promises abound.  “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you….You shall know….that  I am the Lord your God and there is none else”.

Joel prophesies the future and how God will pour out His Holy Spirit on those who repent and are restored to Him.  We see this come to pass in Acts 2.  “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions”.  That is the foretelling of Pentecost.  Centuries before Christ was born, God spoke through Joel to tell the amazing story of Acts 2. But that wasn’t the end of the story – it continues today. “I will show wonders in the heavens and  on the earth….it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”.   Are you in right relationship with God?  Have you called on Him to save you from your sin?  He’s still in the restoration business, just waiting for you to confess, repent and believe!

Joel 1

Joel 1 has a new prophet speaking the word from God.  “The word of the Lord that came to Joel”. The prophet Joel spoke to the southern kingdom of Judah, and makes no reference to the northern kingdom of Israel. It’s hard to pin down when this writing occurs, because he doesn’t mention any other kings or prophets. Many scholars date the book of Joel to around 800 b.c. Joel is one of the earliest prophets – only Obadiah prophesied before him – and this prophecy happens prior to the fall of both kingdoms.

Joel is a prophet that gets truth directly from God.  But he not only proclaims that to the people – he instructs them how to spread the truth and make impact.  That means to teach it to the children.  “Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation”.  Teaching our kids God’s truth is of extreme importance.  It’s how the word truly gets spread.  This is discipleship demonstrated as it should happen in a family.  Parents teach their kids, who teach their kids, and on it goes for generations.  It has to be interntional and continual.  But this simple principle can change the world and a family forever.

Joel also demonstrates the impact of ongoing devastation.  “What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust left, the destroying locust has eaten”.  There is a progression of destruction here where each type of locust takes a little bit more and causes a bit more damage. It’s how unrepented sin works. If we don’t address it through confession and repentance, it gradually eats away at our life and the judgment of God will take more and more.

Joel makes it  clear that God’s people need to wake up and pay attention.  Joel tells Judah that they should look at their condition and mourn, with emotion and passion. They should not miss the lesson and opportunity here – they need to turn around and come back to the Lord.  Joel gives the formula for what that repentance should look like:

  • Consecrate a fast – make getting right with God the main thing, even more than eating
  • call a solemn assembly – call all God’s people together to repent
  • Gather the elders  – it starts with the leaders
  • all the inhabitants of the land  – it should include all people
  • to the house of the Lord your God – it happens in God’s house
  • cry out to the Lord” – it simply is a cry to God for His grace and mercy and to restore right relationship

Joel paints a picture of how we should get right with God.  Things are in shambles and destruction has happened.  He informs the people how to turn that around and get right with God.

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