All right. Let's open our Bibles to Amos chapter 4. A.W. Tozer once said that scholars can interpret the past, but it takes a prophet to interpret the present. Amos entered the scene of the Northern Kingdom of Israel at a very crucial time. The Lord sent him.
He came out of obscurity, though. Nobody really had heard of him. He's not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible except in this book. He has no notability, no great family background that we know of-- as far as someone of wealth, or import, or influence. We do know he was from the south, a place called Tekoa.
And there on that ridge overlooking the Dead Sea, 12 miles out of Jerusalem, he had an interesting occupation. We saw last week that he was a sheep breeder of a particular kind of sheep that was kept down from that area of Tekoa toward the Dead Sea. They had sort of a long, stringy hair. We called them hippie sheep last week.
And he was also a producer, or a harvester of the sycamore fig fruit. So here was an outdoors kind of a guy. What most people would think of as untrained, unlearned, unschooled-- perfect guy for God to use.
For the Bible says, God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. The weak things of this world, to put to shame those that are mighty. That no flesh would glory in His presence.
So the prophet goes north to Bethel. And he had an interesting style of ministry. He first pronounces judgment on other nations that deserved it-- that would get the Northern Kingdom, the audience in Israel, in Bethel, to nod their heads, as he would pronounce doom on Damascus, and Ammon, and Edom and Philistia.
And all the notable people who were hearing them that day said, right on, now that's good preaching. Then, he got a little closer to home, as he pronounced doom on Judah, where he was from. And they probably thought, uh-oh, he's getting a little too close for comfort.
And then, as he was going around in circles, he finally drew a bull's eye on Israel, and he prophesies against them. And the bulk of the book is his prediction against this Northern Kingdom, and the different ways that God was trying to get their attention. And with each layer of revelation, with each attempt to get their attention, they wouldn't hear it. But rather they turned from the Lord, rather than returning to the Lord.
You're probably familiar with that telephone commercial that's been playing for such a long time. The phone rings, and the guy says on the other end, can you hear me now? And so they'll try another location-- can you hear me now? That's sort of what God is saying through the prophet-- through a variety of both blessings and blastings. The Lord is saying, can you hear Me now?
In chapters 1 and 2, the Lord is roaring. We call that the roarings of judgment. The Lord roars from Zion. In chapters 3, 4, 5, and 6, God gives the reasons for judgment. And then finally, next week, when we cover the rest of the book, it will be the representations of judgment. That is, there will be different visions and depictions of the judgment, as given to us by this prophet.
We started with chapter 4-- a series of five messages that he gives, one after the other. And these five messages-- and we'll see them all tonight, the rest of them. They all begin with the same phrase that we read in verse 1-- hear this word. And that first message, with that introduction, began in chapter 4.
Tonight is the second message. The first three messages begin with that introduction-- here this word. The second two messages that comprise the five begin with the word, woe-- or the whole introduction, woe to you. That will be the last two.
And last week, we saw some of the reasons that God gave for judging his people-- the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The first reason is because of their privileged position. They were saying, oh, we're God's chosen people. And God would say, exactly, that is why I'm going to judge you the way I am. Because the punishment will be commensurate with the privilege that you hold. To whom much has been given, much shall be required.
The second reason God said he would judge them is, because of prophetic revelation. He warned them over, and over, and over again-- through not just one prophet, but several prophets over a long period of time.
And finally, the third reason is, because of their persistent oppression. They were oppressing the poor, the needy. They were withholding justice. They were changing the laws to suit the notable, and those who could buy off the judges.
So with that same theme in mind, we now enter chapter 4. And we come to the second of these five messages. And let me prepare you for this one. Because though he will address the entire nation of Israel-- the Northern Kingdom-- in this second message, he addresses the women of the land in a very unkind and unflattering manner. So I just want to prepare you for what you're about to read.
However, he's going to not only speak to the women, he'll speak to the whole nation. And at one point, he will even speak to the men-- especially the notable ones, who were leading at that time. Hear this word you cows of Bashan. Who are on the mountains of Samaria. Who oppress the poor. Who crush the needy. Who say to your husbands, bring wine, and let us drink.
The land of Bashan is east of the Jordan River, between the mountains of Gilead and up north all the way toward Mount Hermon. It's a very lush area. You could go almost any time of the year, and the greenery, it's so beautiful and verdant.
And therefore, the cows who were in the area that were raised, were known to be strong and in good condition. But here that term, that fatted cow of Bashan, is a picture, a metaphor of women living in luxury through the oppression of the poor people of the land. They were living at their expense. They were luxury-loving extravagant women.
I think years ago it was Sophie Tucker, who said, every girl has needs. From birth to age 18, she needs her parents. From 18 to 35, she needs good looks. From 35 to 55, she needs a good personality. And after 55, she needs cash.
The women of Israel would have agreed with her. They wanted cash. They wanted luxury. They wanted benefits at any cost. And to enjoy that, they had to oppress the poor. So because they are afflicting the poor, the prophet Amos is afflicting them through his message.
We notice about the prophets, that sometimes God sent them to comfort the afflicted. And at other times, He sent them to afflict the comfortable. Hosea was of the first kind. He was so comforting of the love of God toward errant Israel-- and how God would restore them if they would only turn. And just like his wife turned from him, Israel turned from God. But oh, the love of God in forgiveness.
Amos, however, at a different time in their history-- because they were living so luxuriously, not a care in the world. They were enjoying a level of prosperity, as we saw last week, that was only second to the time of Solomon reigning the land. The borders were expanded. Business was up. The economy was strong, military was strong, everything was going their way. That was just the veneer.
The prophet Amos comes to afflict them and their comfort. And he addresses these women, after he's gotten their attention. And I'm sure that this really got their attention. He's not the only prophet to do it, however. Isaiah the prophet also did, on one occasion, two occasions-- he spoke to the daughters of Zion. And he says, oh, daughters of Zion, those who are haughty and walk with outstretched necks. Same idea, walking in arrogance, and proud-- head lifted up, not a care in the world.
In Isaiah chapter 32, the same prophet says, rise up, you women who are at ease-- you complacent daughters. So that is the theme that this prophet reaches toward. He is taking a slice of the population, and pointing his prophetic finger at them. In verse 2, the Lord God has sworn by His Holiness-- "Behold, the day shall come upon you when he will take you away with fishhooks, and your posterity with fishhooks." That is, they would be completely at the mercy of their captors.
And it is interesting-- when the Assyrians did come down, there are a couple of texts of scripture, that says, that those in captivity-- namely the King and his entourage-- were taken away into Assyria with hooks.
Second Chronicles chapter 33-- they took Manasseh with hooks, and bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off. And he went to Assyria. So this was more than just a shadow, or a metaphor. This was more than just picturesque prophetic language. It literally happened.
Verse 3-- "You will go through broken walls, those walls they once sought to protect them. Each one straight ahead of her. And you will be cast into Harmon, says the Lord." Now, that's a difficult verse. And here's why-- there is no Bible atlas that has the site of Harmon. It is unknown. We don't know where it is. The Hebrew here is [HEBREW], which literally means the mountains of [? Mona, ?] or the mountains of the palace.
We don't exactly know what it is. But we think it's some place, that either they thought they could flee to for protection, or better yet, sort of a holding area-- a protected holding area. As the Assyrians were taking the Northern peoples captive to Assyria, they'd place them there, and round them up. And then, take them all en masse toward Assyria.
But the bottom line is, captivity is awaiting those who live in wanton luxury. Now, it's not just the women that are hammered here. Verse 4, everyone in the Northern Kingdom is addressed-- come to Bethel, and transgress at Gilgal-- multiply transgressions. Bring your sacrifices every morning-- your tithes every three days.
This is divine sarcasm. God really isn't trying to get them to sin, or transgress. He's not inviting them to sin. God can't tempt anyone with sin, the Bible says. So it's a sarcastic way, because He knew that's what they were doing. "Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leven. Proclaim and announce the freewill offerings. For this you love, you children of Israel, says the Lord."
These two places that are mentioned by the prophet-- Bethel and Gilgal. They are mentioned, because of their place of importance in Israel's history. Both of them were very special, very sacred, because of what happened in times past.
Bethel first shows up in the book of Genesis. Abraham went there, and he called upon the name of the Lord. And he built an altar to the Lord there. Before it was called Bethel, it was called Luz-- same place. When he returned back from Egypt-- after he lied about his wife being his sister. He returned back to Bethel. And there again, he called on the name of the Lord.
But it really comes alive when his grandson Jacob is fleeing from his house, and going toward Haran toward Laban's house-- fleeing his brother's wrath, after he was conniving his father, and got the blessing.
And there he is, out in the middle of nowhere-- dry, barren, rocky place. And he puts his head on a rock, and he falls asleep. And that night, he gets this wonderful vision of a ladder stretched up into Heaven. And the angels of God ascending, and descending.
And the Lord spoke to him, and said, I'm going to give this land-- this land that is to Abraham and Isaac-- to you. And to your children-- your posterity as well.
Well, Jacob wakes up the next morning, and he said, this is none other than [INAUDIBLE], the house of God. Surely, the Lord is in this place. And I knew it not. I know it now, but I knew it not.
Then, there's Gilgal. Gilgal was the place-- you remember in Joshua chapter 5, when the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River from the wilderness. They're entering the land, moving toward Jericho. That that new generation-- that fresh, young generation-- went through the ritual, the covenant of circumcision at Gilgal.
So at Bethel, there was the renewal of the Abrahamic covenant. At Gilgal, it was the renewal of the Mosaic covenant-- sacred places. Now, at this time of Amos, they had become filled with false gods.
Altars of idols-- they had multiplied idols unto themselves, and these places had become defiled. So here they are, going to these places of historical, spiritual importance. Probably thinking, we need to do this. This is part of our spiritual heritage, as the children of God.
And they were calling upon the Lord, but also worshipping other gods at the same time. You see, these people had a divided heart. It was this very same thing that the prophet Elijah addresses Israel with when he was on Mount Carmel. And he said, how long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, then follow Him. If Baal be god, then follow him.
So they were going to these places-- calling on the Lord, but also worshipping idols. Now, in verse 6, specific chastisements are given by the Lord. He's going to list several things, that He is doing to get their attention. All of them-- all of them will be unheeded. And it will show the obstinacy of this people, the children of Israel.
So with each chastisement, you can just sort of see the Lord, can you hear me now? Can you hear me now? And the truth is, they refused to hear.
I also gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places. Yet, you have not returned to Me, says the Lord. And you're going to see that phrase five times-- yet, you have not returned to Me, says the Lord.
Now, when the Lord says, I gave you cleanness of teeth, he is not referring to some oral hygiene program-- that he gave them mouthwash, and great toothpaste, and floss. That's not the idea. The idea is, famine-- a famine due to drought.
That is, God touched their physical need, in order to get them to see their spiritual need. But instead of being hungry for the things of God-- oh, they were hungry for food. But they didn't hunger for the Lord. They didn't return to the Lord in repentance and faith.
I also-- verse 7-- withheld rain from you. When there were still three months to the harvest, I made it rain on one city. I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon. Where it did not rain, the part withered.
This drought came in the latter time. This is the latter rain-- the spring rain, which would enliven the crops, like the wheat, the grains. And God said, I withheld it.
You may want to remember and read later, or write in the margin of your Bible, Deuteronomy chapter 28. That chapter is filled with exactly what we're reading tonight. All of the things predicted-- or a lot of them, in Deuteronomy 28-- will be mentioned here, specifically, of what God did, exactly as he said he would do.
In that chapter, the Lord warns these guys years before they are even in the land-- look, you're going to a land that's different from the land of Egypt. It drinks water from Heaven. You obey me, I'll give you plenty of rain. You disobey me, I'll make the heavens like brass. You won't get any rain. So you're going to have to walk by faith in this land, not by sight. It's not like the land of Egypt. You don't have the Nile River.
This rain was different, however-- or, this drought. It was in one place, than another place. It was selective. It wasn't widespread. Which would take from them any opportunity for them to say, hmm, must be a coincidence.
God was removing these spots where their crops were growing, and withholding rain. So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, but they were not satisfied. Yet, you have not returned to Me, says the Lord.
There they are wandering. The wells are dry. It hasn't rained-- nothing in the cistern. So they are wandering for water. But here's the deal. They had forsaken the living water.
Reminiscent of Jeremiah chapter 2, my people have committed two evils. They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters. And they have hewn out for themselves cisterns-- broken cisterns that can hold no water. Oh, they're thirsty, but they're not thirsty for the things of God.
So, verse 9-- I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased-- your vineyards, your fig trees, and your olive trees-- the locust devoured them. Yet, you have not returned to Me, says the Lord.
Now once again, in Deuteronomy 28-- in that fifth book of the Torah, this was specifically predicted. It says in that chapter, for the Lord will strike you with consumption, and with fever, and with scorching, and with mildew.
Now, that word, mildew-- don't think of it as the mildew we might get here in the coastal regions of the United States due to moisture. This was a mildew due to the lack of moisture-- due to the blasting, scorching, dry winds, and the drought. Because the Hebrew word for mildew means, to yellow. And it speaks of the pale yellow grain on the crop-- that it would appear to be ripened. And yet it wasn't full grown, because of the drought, the lack of moisture.
I sent among you-- verse 10-- a plague after the manner of Egypt. Your young men I killed with a sword, along with your captive horses. I made the stench of your camps come up in your nostrils. Yet you have not returned to me, says the Lord. So you can see these various attempts to get their attention. Can you hear me now?
And even the stench of the corpses-- so many were slain in the battlefield, the rotting flesh should have gotten their attention-- where they would cry out to the Lord. Years ago when I was in medical training, I wanted to be in the ministry.
And I talked to Pastor Chuck about the ministry. And basically Chuck said, well, you need to get a life. You need to have a job-- some trade, something that you could use as you start a fellowship, start a church. And so I got involved in medicine, in radiology.
And when I was in training at San Bernardino County Medical Center, every now and then the coroner would bring in a part of a body, or a body that had been rotting for some time. And we would have to examine it radiographically to find the cause of death. I have never in my life smelled that kind of odor, and never want to again. It was something I could never get used to. I didn't want to take part in any of these training exams. I was forced to graduate. But it would wake anyone up, and cause anyone, you would think, to pray-- that much widespread death on their battlefields.
Yet, the Lord says, "You did not return to Me." So chapters 2 and 3-- I blessed you, the Lord said. Chapters 3 and 4-- toward the end of 3, and here and 4, the Lord says, I blasted you. I blessed you. You wouldn't hear Me. I blasted you. Can you hear Me now? But yet, you did not return to Me.
As you read that, I want you just to think ahead into the future. There is coming a time where God will judge this world in an unprecedented manner. It will be an unparalleled judgment. It's the great tribulation period. It's what Joel described as the day of the Lord. It will be absolutely unbearable and unimaginable from a physical suffering standpoint.
And yet, you go through that in the Book of Revelation, and you discover how hard hearted the people of the earth will have become. Just a perusal through Revelation 16, and you see that the sun scorches men on the earth. And then, their sores appear on their body, and the fresh water is touched. And there's blood, and all of these judgments upon the earth. And finally, hailstones-- about 125 pounds. Imagine 125-pound block of ice careening out of Heaven. And yet it says there-- and they blaspheme the name of God who has power over these plagues, and did not repent and give him glory.
Now, that is the height of stupidity. When you're going to curse the one who is capable of bringing those kinds of judgments upon the earth-- to be so arrogant, so prideful, so boastful, as to refuse-- not only to repent, but to curse that one. God sent blessing. God sent blasting. And they were unmoved by either one.
William Newell, who wrote so many great books-- good commentaries on Hebrews and the book of Romans-- said, men who will not be won by grace will not be won at all. So the judgment was coming. They were sealing their own doom. Their fate was absolutely sealed. Even though you see God saying, I'll give you another opportunity, they were marching toward judgment. In France, in Paris, years ago in the 1700s, there was a castle-like prison called the Bastille. It was finally destroyed in 1798.
Just before it was destroyed, they were taking prisoners out of it and setting them free. There was one prisoner who was kept in the deep recesses of the Bastille. He was brought out. He had not seen sunshine for years. And he was brought out into the open light to get his freedom. You'd think that he would be so excited. He begged to be put back into the prison. His eyes just couldn't get used to that kind of light. And he said, I would rather die in the recesses of the prison than be set free.
He had grown so accustomed to the darkness. Well, the Bible says, men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. And in that time, the tribulation period-- similar to what we're reading in Amos-- the earth will refuse to repent, and love their darkness rather than come to the light. Sad. Thus, the judgment of God is sure. I overthrew some, the Lord says in verse 11-- as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah-- and you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning. Yet, you have not returned to Me, says the Lord. Therefore, thus will I do to you, O Israel. Because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.
Now, the context of this is not primarily a gospel message-- prepare to meet your God-- as much as a judgment message. It's like, look, all of these ways to get your attention, and you won't hear. Now you're going to deal with me face to face. Prepare to meet your God.
What a task old Amos had-- this unknown coming from Tekoa, giving these kinds of messages. I wonder what kinds of looks were on the faces of the audience about now. Billy Sunday, the evangelist baseball player turned evangelist, was often accused of being a harsh preacher, as an evangelist. And so he addressed it one time. He said, they tell me I rub the fur the wrong way. I do not let the cat turn around.
That's old Amos. I'm not rubbing their fur the wrong way. They need to turn back to God-- get right with Him. By the way, how do you prepare to meet God? By meeting Jesus Christ, God's solution for your sin, on a personal level. By allowing Jesus Christ to take your sin upon himself-- we've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And the truth is, we're all going to have to stand before God in some manner, some day. So that lovely verse that Paul writes to the Corinthians-- 2 Corinthians 5-- God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
In other words, the Father treated Jesus like you and I deserve to be treated, so that God could treat you like Jesus deserves to be treated. That's how you prepare to meet God. So prepare to meet your God, O Israel. For behold, He who forms the mountains and creates the wind, who declares to man what his thought is. And makes the morning darkness, who treads the high places of the earth, the Lord of Hosts is his name. Get ready to meet the God who is in control of all of these supernatural wonders, and all of creation-- all of these signs.
Before we move on into the next chapter, could it be that the Lord over the years has tried to get a hold of your life, to get total control? Because he has such a great plan of using you that he wants absolute, total surrender. Maybe He's tried to get through when you are young, and you said, oh, I'm too young. I still have so much of life to live the way I want to live it. And so you push it aside. Then, in your teenage years, the Lord knocked again. Oh, I'm still too young. I've got time.
And then, in your middle-age, the Lord knocks again. Well, I'm too busy now, Lord. There's so many responsibilities I have. And the Lord will continue to knock. The Holy Spirit will continue to move and prod your heart, even into old age. But then, so often people say, well, now I'm too old.
There was a rabbi who was walking with his disciples. They were talking about repentance. And they said to the rabbi, what is the best time for a man to repent? He said, well, a man should repent at least on the last day of his life. The disciples of this rabbi said, well, Master, the problem is, we don't know when the last day of our life is. He said, you're right. This is how you solve the problem-- repent right now. That's how you get ready. Now is the day of salvation. Now is the accepted time. The Bible emphasizes the present time.
Now, in chapter 5, we have the third message. And in this chapter, in this message, Amos is to become a singing prophet. He's to sing a lamentation-- not a happy song. He's not to entertain them. He's to sing a dirge-- to take up a lamentation, which is a song of lament, or a sad, sad song. Hear this word which I take up against you-- a lamentation, O house of Israel.
That would not have gone over very well. Because you see, they-- the people of Israel-- were singing not a lamentation, but a song of celebration. (SINGING) Happy days are here again.
That's what they were singing in Israel. This prophet is singing a funeral dirge. And they're thinking, what's up with this guy?
I found an interesting news article yesterday in the Reuters news publication about a rebel group in Sri Lanka-- that little island right off the coast of India, just south. And it's called the Tamil Tiger rebels. They have been fighting the government for about 20 years. And about 64,000 people have been killed due to their insurgent activities.
Now they're saying they want a national anthem of their own. They claim that they already have selected a flag, and a flower-- which is sort of odd for a rebel insurgent group, who is responsible for 64,000 people dying. They've selected their government flower and government flag. Now they want an anthem, a song. And they gave specifications. They said, we want 18 lines. And it has to be a catchy, lively tune.
That's what the people of Israel wanted-- a catchy, lively tune. It's not what they're going to get. This prophet sings a dirge. Once again-- can you hear Me now? The virgin of Israel-- verse 2-- has fallen. She will rise no more. She lies forsaken on her land, and there is no one to raise her up.
Question-- why is Israel called a virgin? I don't think it's wishful thinking. I don't think it's a reference to the beauty of the land. It's certainly not a reference to their character. I think it's a reference to their unoccupied condition. They have never been taken captive before. They have never been used by other nations, like they are about to by the Syrians in 722. So it's their unconquered condition that he is speaking about.
Now, it says that she-- that is, Israel-- will rise no more. Be careful with that statement. Be careful that you don't read into that some indefinite, permanent condition, because it doesn't refer to that at all. Over and over again, God will promise the restoration in the end times of the nation of Israel. It's going to happen. We're already seeing it happen-- but even a spiritual restoration.
No, this is referring here to the captivity, the exile. He's saying, you won't have the strength to fight off the Assyrian captivity. You will fall, and not be able to rise and resist this captivity. That's what it's a reference to. "For thus says, the Lord God, the city that goes out by 1,000 shall have 100 left. And that which goes out by 100 shall have 10 left to the house of Israel." Those aren't good numbers. That's 90% death rate. One out of ten will survive that attack, that captivity into Assyria. Which, again, was predicted specifically in Deuteronomy chapter 28.
So that's why it's a good chapter to make reference to after tonight. Don't look at it now-- wait till later. In Deuteronomy 28 verse 62, the Lord says, you shall be left few in number, whereas you were as the stars of Heaven in multitude. Because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God, you shall be left few in number.
Now, as you hear that, that should ring a bell inside your mind and your heart. That is another evidence for taking the Bible not figuratively, but literally. Yet, so many people when it comes to prophecy will say, wow, I know it says that, but it probably doesn't mean that, because that doesn't fit into my theological construct. So the nation of Israel, the promises of it being restored-- oh, that's really not a reference to Israel, they say, but to the church.
The entire book of Revelation, for some, has been allegorized, and made to mean something other than what it says. And so they'll take, and say, well, we believe in the Bible literally. We just don't believe in prophecy literally. And we certainly don't believe in the future fulfillment, literally, of the Book of Revelation. And I would ask, on the basis of what? What gives you the right to decide this is to be taken literally, and this is not to be taken literally?
When you do that, you open a Pandora's box. You create a worse dilemma. Because, for instance, when you get to that prediction of the Millennium in Revelation 20-- if 1,000 years doesn't mean 1,000 years., what does it mean? Well, it could mean anything. If you say it's not 1,000 years, you could make it mean whatever you want. But you have more problems, because there are so many exact numbers in the Book of Revelation. There's seven churches. There's twelve tribes. There's Twelve Apostles. There's 3 and 1/2 years. There's 42 months. There's 1,260 days. It's very, very specific.
And that's why the approach should be a plain, face-value approach. You take it figurative where it's obviously meant to be a metaphor-- otherwise, you take it literally.
I love what Vance Havner once said. He wrote, "It is easier to understand what the Bible says than to understand what someone thinks it meant to say." You run into people like that. Oh, I know it says that, but I think it meant to say-- no. God can get by communicating nicely without us reinterpreting it for Him. So there God predicted, and it literally came to pass. "For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel"-- verse 4-- "seek Me and live." Isn't that wonderful? Even before judgment is about to fall, yet the Lord keeps the door of mercy and grace open as long as possible. And hear that beautiful entreaty-- seek Me and live. That's God's style. And He has style.
God was so patient in the generation of Noah, as Noah preached-- a preacher of righteousness. And God waited patiently for 120 years with that generation. With the Canaanites, He was gracious for over 400 years-- about 430 years. In fact, God even told Abraham, Listen, your posterity are going to go into captivity, into the land of Egypt for about 400 years. And then, I'm going to bring them back into this land for the iniquity of the Amorites-- that's the chief tribe of the Canaanites-- is not yet full. God waited over 400 years, being patient with the Amorites, before He finally judged them through bringing the children of Israel into that land, that he promised to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Here's the point-- don't become impatient with the patience of God. We all want the Lord to come back. And He is coming back. And you know what? He's coming back soon. But, don't get impatient with the patience of God. Aren't you glad God waited for you?
He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. So there is the Lord again, saying, seek Me and live-- verse 5-- but do not see Bethel, nor enter Gilgal, nor passover to Beersheba-- for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel's shall come to nothing. Seek the Lord and live, less He break out like a fire in the house of Joseph and devour it, with no one to quench it in Bethel.
You who turn justice to wormwood-- now, justice is sweet. Any country that exercises integrity and justice, it's a sweet temperament, and a sweet way of governing. They turned that which was sweet justice into something very bitter-- wormwood. That plant that exudes that dark green, bitter poison. And lay righteousness to rest in the earth. He-- that is, the Lord-- made the Pleiades and Orion. He turns the shadow of death into morning, and makes the day dark as night. He calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out on the face of the earth. The Lord is his name.
So the Lord, who made the heavens, the earth, the constellations-- the Pleiades, the Orion. Who is in charge of this hydrological cycle of moisture from the ocean going up into the air-- the wind taking it in inland, and God hosing off the earth by letting the rain drop from the clouds. The Lord is in charge of that.
Now, he mentions the Pleiades and Orion. These were constellations that were well known all the way back into the time of Job. And these constellations-- not only were they familiar with, but they were familiar with what they signified. The Pleiades is that small constellation that becomes more visible. And when it is more visible in the night sky, it's an indication that spring is coming.
When Orion is visible, and becomes more visible, it's an indication that winter is coming. They were signs for their agricultural life in Israel. And even so, God was giving them sign after sign, indication after indication that judgment was coming. It's the same God who's in charge of all of it, and can pull it off with precision.
He reigns ruin upon the strong, so that fury comes upon the fortress. They hate the one who rebukes in the gate. And they abhor the one who speaks up rightly. Now, the gate was the place where the nobles sat. It's the place where if you wanted to find the news of the day, or if a certain court case was to be adjudicated, it was adjudicated, judged, handled by the elders who sat in the gate.
Well, Amos was in town. And it's pretty obvious that they didn't want to hear what this prophet had to say. They didn't want to listen to words of the Lord that would come forth-- an honest, prophetic voice. They wanted to close their ears to it. They were reproving an honest man, and rebuking anyone who would speak in righteousness.
There are occupational hazards to being a servant of the Lord. That's why you didn't have people usually lining up for the prophet business. You didn't have a kid say, I want to be a prophet when I grow up. First of all, you had to be 100% accurate, or the law gave the ability to have you stoned to death. So if you made a prediction, and it didn't come to pass, look out-- you're toast.
But also, you weren't well received all the time when you were that clarion call speaking forth the word of the Lord-- pointing out the sins of the nation. John Bunyan, who wrote Pilgrim's Progress and so many other great books, was cast into prison in the Bedford jail in England.
He was told, first, that he'd better stop preaching, or else he would be thrown in prison. When he heard that, it was a quandary for him. He knew his family was already poor. And if he would be thrown in prison, it would make them destitute. It pained him, but he also knew he couldn't stop preaching. He had been given a commission from Christ.
And so, he preached. And so, he was imprisoned. And now we thank God, not that he suffered, or that his family suffered, but we thank God for what came out of that prison-- Pilgrim's Progress, and other great books. He had time to write them. And the Lord has blessed so many since. So this occupational hazard-- they hate those who rebuke in the gate, and if we're the one who speaks up rightly.
Therefore, because you tread down the poor and take grain taxes from him, though you have built houses of hewn stone, yet you shall not dwell in them. You have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink wine from them. For I know your manifold transgressions, your mighty sins-- afflicting the just and taking bribes, diverting the poor from justice in the gate. Therefore, the prudent keep silent at this time, for it is an evil time.
Now, this is sad. Because the people who knew what was going on had the spiritual discernment and wisdom to tell their times that this was an era of judgment. And though they had the right spiritual inclinations and answers, they refused to speak up. I don't want to get involved. Because if I get involved, and I say what is honest and I confront with what is honest, it's going to stir up more trouble.
So, unfortunately, it was that kind of a period where they remained silent. Seek good, and not evil-- that you may live so the Lord God of Hosts will be with you, as you have spoken. Hate evil, love good-- establish justice in the gate. It may be that the Lord God of Hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
You see how in the midst of that proclamation of judgment-- we see it virtually in all of the prophets-- there is that chance. That door is kept open, in hopes that there will be a turning. Therefore, the Lord God of Hosts the Lord says this. It's interesting all of those names together-- the Lord God of Hosts the Lord says this. It's a combination of the names of God-- Yahweh, Elohim, and Adonai all put together.
It says this. There shall be wailing in all the streets. And they shall say on all the highways-- alas. Alas, they shall call the farmer to mourning, and skillful the mentors to wailing. In all the vineyards there shall be wailing, for I will pass through you, says the Lord. Now, the fourth message, which is the first woe. Message four and five begin with, "Woe to you who desire The Day of the Lord. For what good is the day of the Lord to you? It will be darkness, and not light."
I think that there were some people-- some hypocrites-- who just thought it was a pious-sounding statement-- to say, oh, we just want The Day of the Lord to come. Now, they were thinking in terms only of the messianic glory. Now, we know what the day of the Lord is-- from Joel, from here, from Isaiah-- from Revelation, from what Jesus said.
The Day of the Lord is not a 24-hour period. But it's a period of time when God unleashes his judgment-- after the rapture of the church, and during the tribulation period, that will culminate with the second coming of Christ. So there is a group of people-- Oh, I hope the Lord comes back. I hope The Day of The Lord comes. No, they don't want that, because the day of the Lord is a time of judgment. It will be as though a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him. Now that would be a drag.
You'd get out of the clutches of an attacking lion. You manage-- oh, you're safe. And then there's a bear there to meet you, and to eat you. As though he went into the house, leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. So they're wanting The Day of the Lord-- thinking, yes, The Day of the Lord is when God delivers us from our enemies. God is saying, I'm about to deliver you into the hand of your enemies. You don't know what you're asking for.
Is not The Day of the Lord darkness, and not light? Is it not very dark with no brightness in it? Remember what Joel said? It's a day of darkness and gloominess. I hate, I despise your feast days. And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer me burnt offerings, and your grain offerings, I will not accept them. Nor will I regard your fatted peace offerings. Take away from me the noise of your songs. For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.
There is an idea-- even today, unfortunately, in some circles-- even of Christendom-- the thought that if we partake of certain rituals, certain ceremonies, the ritual itself will impart some protection to us. Because I've done that, now God will protect me. Because I've gone through this little ritual, or series of prayers, or pilgrimage. It's known as sacerdotalism.
It's the trust in the very things they are doing, and working toward for protection. And you remember what the Lord said to Isaiah, or to the nation of Israel, through Isaiah the prophet-- Isaiah chapter 1. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me, says the Lord. I've had enough of your burnt offerings.
And here, the very Lord who commanded them to bring the sacrifices and the offerings says, I've had enough of them. Because the heart isn't right. It's all outward. You're trusting in the ritual itself to impart some form of protection. In fact, all these rituals, prayers, and assemblies did is arouse the wrath of God.
But here's a key verse to this whole book. "But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream." Again, reminiscent of Isiah chapter 1-- where the Lord says, Rather than going through the rituals, if the heart is right, I'll see it. It'll be evidenced. There will be fruit in these activities of how you treat people.
Did you offer me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness for 40 years, O House of Israel? You also carried [INAUDIBLE], your king. Now, that's the Hebrew. The Assyrian name is very similar to this. And there was an Assyrian god by the name of [INAUDIBLE] And that's probably a reference to this star god, that was also worshipped. And [INAUDIBLE] which is, in the Hebrew, your idols-- the star of your gods, which you made for yourselves.
And both of these gods are named in Assyrian text as deities that were worshiped. "Therefore, I will send you into captivity beyond Damascus," says the Lord, whose name is the God of Hosts.
So, superficiality, idolatry, inequality-- all of these were sins of the nation of Israel. Inequality, meaning lack of justice-- giving favor to those who were rich. Punishing and oppressing, and taking money from those who are poor, so that certain ones could live lavishly and wantonly.
And so God is speaking out through this prophet against it-- lack justice. Now, we live in a country that has a problem with justice. Don't you think? Don't you think it's unfair and unjust when the criminal gets all of the rights, and the victim gets none? Where in a court case, the worse you are as a criminal, the more protected you are by the government. And favors you are. And victims are made to feel even more victimized by some of the calls that are made in the courts.
We question a sense of justice where the unborn would not be protected, but pregnant lobsters shipped to market have to be kept under certain specifications, so as not to hurt that newborn, possible lobster coming into the world. Goldfish, in certain states, have more rights than the fetus. It's not justice. Let justice run down like a stream, the Lord would say.
Now, Amos 6, this fifth message-- the second woe. "Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Sumeria. Now, the woes are used twice. And you know, woe is not a great word. It's a word of-- it's somber. It's to get your-- whoa. And you could even look at it is as, like, slowing down a horse. Whoa. You know, stop, look, listen, pay attention to this. Whoa.
Look at what's happening to you. Look at how the Lord's trying to get your attention. "Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and trust in Mount Samaria, notable persons in the chief nation to whom the house of Israel comes."
Now, Chapter 4 pointed the finger at women who lived in wanton luxury. This chapter points the finger at those notable men who were in charge, and they are indicted. Zion, of course, is down south. That's the center of worship in Jerusalem, the headquarters of Zion. And it's that Southern Kingdom of Judah, where Zion is the capital. That's where this prophet, Amos, is from.
So he's not just pointing the finger at the 10 Northern tribes. But also those who are in Zion, and are at ease, and very comfortable-- as well as those who are in the North. For he says, "And trust in Mount Sumeria, notable persons in the chief nation to whom the house of Israel comes."
Here's the deal. Both Sumeria and Jerusalem, North and South, had become complacent, in that they were situated on the top of the hill. They were surrounded by hills. They had strong walls. They thought they had a strong military.
They thought they could kick back. They've got Homeland Security. They've got the government working on their side. They are strong. They are blessed. They are at ease. "Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and Sumeria." They weren't trusting the Lord.
Go over to [INAUDIBLE] and see. That's the east bank of the Tigris. Once a powerful city, taken over by the Assyrians at this point. And from there, go to the Hamath the great. And go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are you better than these kingdoms? Or, is their territory greater than your territory?
Those kingdoms had fallen. God is saying, look at the ones that I am pointing to. They have fallen. And I said, you will fall. So if they fall-- they weren't protected. What about you guys? "Woe to you who put far off the day of doom, who caused this seat of violence to come near, who lie on beds of ivory."
And we're told that there were some elaborate wooden bed frames that were inlaid with beautiful ivory patterns. Stretch out on your couches. Eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the midst of the stall, who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments. And invent for yourselves musical instruments like David. They were so into music they spared no cost.
They were inventing instruments for the sake of entertainment, but using King David as their excuse. Well, David did it. David was into all sorts of music. Yeah, but David made those for worship of God-- for praise of the most high. They were making it just for their own lavish entertainment. It had nothing to do with God.
"Who drink wine from bowls." Boy, it's getting pretty bad when you have to go to a-- not a glass, but you drink it from a bowl. You're really guzzling it at that point. "And anoint yourselves with the best ointments, but are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph."
So they're not even discrete anymore. Just, hey, Skip, I'm going to have four or five glasses. Just give it to me in a trough.
"Therefore, they shall now go captive as the first of the captives. And those who recline at banquets shall be removed." That makes sense, doesn't it? These were the nobles. These were the first in rank over the nation. It only makes sense that they should go into captivity first. And they will. The Lord God is sworn by Himself.
The Lord God of Hosts says, "I abhor the pride of Jacob, and hate his palaces. Therefore, I will deliver up the city and all that is in it. Then it shall come to pass, that if 10 men remain in one house, they shall die. When a relative of the dead with one who will burn the bodies picks up the bodies to take them out of the house, he will say to one inside the house, Are there any more with you? And then someone will say, none. And he will say, "Hold your tongue, for we dare not mention the name of the Lord."
It's an interesting set of verses-- probably refers to the fact that there would be so many corpses, as already predicted. That rather than disposing of the corpses the traditional Jewish way-- by burial-- they would just have to have mass graves, and cremate them, burn them. And that people would be going from house to house like a search and rescue operation, calling out to those in sight.
It's interesting, as I read these verses-- I just finished an emergency response team training course. And part of it was in search and rescue. And they tell you when you go into a building, that either has been burned, or fallen, and you think there's people inside, you have to put a pretty standard marking on the front-- that lets people know who's in there, what time they entered. And then they sign out at that same x.
But you first stand at the door, and you call out, Can anybody hear my voice? If so, come toward me. Well, in this scenario-- this search and rescue scenario-- somebody from the outside is calling in. Somebody from the inside is so elated that he has been found, that he seems to be on the verge of thanking the Lord for sparing his life.
Anticipating that that person's going to be so thankful to the Lord, the rescuer says, "Hold your tongue. Don't even mention the name of the Lord. For we dare not mention the name of the Lord." In other words, we who were once so close to the Lord, in this beautiful covenant relationship of intimacy, have gone so far from the Lord.
Rather than walking with Him, rather than being protected by Him, we don't want to mention His name-- lest we now provoke Him to more wrath, and more anger. It seems like they're starting to wake up, but not returning to the Lord. Now they're recognizing-- the Lord's in this judgment stuff. Why don't you repent, then? Just don't mention His name. That's sad.
For behold the Lord gives a command he will break the great house into bits and little houses into pieces. Do horses run on rocks? Does one plow there with oxen? Yet, you have turned justice into gall. That which is sweet into something that which is sour, bitter. And the fruit of righteousness into wormwood. You who rejoice over Lo-debar, a town just east of the Jordan-- who say, Have we not taken [INAUDIBLE] for ourselves, by our own strength?
Apparently, these two sites had been captured already. They had been once captured by Jeroboam II. They would also fall to the Assyrians. "But behold, I will raise up a nation against you, O House of Israel," says the Lord God of Hosts. "And they will afflict you from the entrance of Hamath to the valley of Arabah.
And what was that nation? It was Assyria. The nation that God says, "I will raise up," indeed came in full force-- taking over the known world-- that part of the world-- and sweeping down, and taking it all. In 722 BC, Bethel, Sumeria, the Northern 10 tribes fell to the Assyrians.
Think of their condition-- living in unchecked luxury, wantonness, debauchery, while at the same time using spiritual sounding phrases. Oh, you want The Day of the Lord to come? No, you don't, says Amos. It means deliverance into the hands of your enemies. Woe to you who say that. But they were using these spiritual terms.
The Lord is coming. And the Lord Jesus gave us signs that we are to be aware of, that would point to his coming. And after giving those signs, he said, "When you begin to see those things come to pass, lift up your heads. Rejoice, for your redemption draws near."
And I've been lifting my head lately, as I see so many things being fulfilled. And I wonder, Lord, You can't be far away. You've got to be at the door. And yet, I love the Lord's patience, because it might mean more that will come to know Him.
It's a good way to live actually, when you think about it-- knowing that the Lord could come back at any moment. It keeps you living in anticipation, expectation, and purity. For John said in 1 John, "Whoever has this hope"-- this hope being the coming of Jesus Christ-- "whoever has this hope purifies himself, even as he is pure."
There's something purifying about knowing that at any moment, unannounced, the Lord could come and take us home. It changes your perspective, doesn't it? And the way you live, and the decisions you make.
I remember as a boy when I would misbehave, which was frequent. I was the youngest of four boys, and I had all sorts of examples from my older brothers on how to misbehave. So by the time I was around, I had it down pat. And I know my mother's listening by radio right now, and she would attest to it.
She had one little phrase she would use when she saw me getting out of line. She'd say, your father will be home soon.
[LAUGHS] It picked me right up, and set me in my place. Because I knew how Dad would handle it. Now, it's not that I live in morbid fear of the Lord. But knowing the Lord could come back-- and, oh, yes, I want to live in such a manner that is pleasing to Him. I am so excited about His coming. The Lord could come back at any moment.
A family picked up their daughter from vacation Bible school, and they were going home. And she was so excited about what she learned in vacation Bible school. But she said, Mommy, Daddy, could we stop by the library on the way home? They said, well, certainly, honey. Why?
And the little girl, in her naivete and innocence said, well the teacher in vacation Bible school said we won't go to Heaven unless our name's written in the Book of Life. And I just want to make sure my name in there. Thinking if she went to the library, surely she'd find the book. That's where books are. The Book of Life-- make sure that your name is in the Book of Life. Make sure that you know Jesus personally, the Lord of Life. And when you know Him, you are prepared to meet your God.
Let's pray together. Father, thank you for the preparation. Not that we've done, but the work that has already been done at Calvary's cross on our behalf. That our sins were laid on Him who knew no sin, that we might know and experience the righteousness of Christ. And be found in Him, not having our own righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness which is by faith in Christ, in Jesus alone. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Shall we stand? I am amazed at the grace of God. When the nation had gone so far away, yet the Lord is still holding out the opportunity of them returning. As He called them over and over again, even in the midst of their darkness, to seek Him. And so the patience of God-- and Skip was sharing with us tonight how patient God has been with each of us, and maybe some of you. The Lord is still calling. And you're far away.
But the Lord is still calling, and saying, seek Me. As long as the Lord is still speaking and calling, it means there is still hope. And so I would encourage you to respond to that call of God upon your heart, and seek the Lord. And surely, he said, "In the day that you seek Me with all of your heart, I will be found of you."
The pastors are down here at the front. They're here to minister to you tonight who would like prayer. For any cause, for any reason, the Lord is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we could ask or think. And they're here to minister to you tonight in prayer, whatever your need might be.
God has been doing some marvelous things of late-- exciting answers to prayer. And God will meet your need. You give Him the opportunity, and you'll discover that you can meet with God tonight. Not in a judgmental way-- but you can meet with Him tonight in that wonderful way, where He will meet your needs.
(SINGING) Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness. And all these things shall be added unto you. Hallelujah. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness. And all these things shall be added unto to you. Hallelujah.