INTRO: Going to have to discipline Hannah - ? remember doing it (or receiving it) – what did you count up to? - wayward people, gives 5 warnings, wants to turn them back – It's because God loves them, because they are His people that He disciplines them (3:2)
- talk about discipline and judgement – discipline is corrective, intended to turn His people back to Himself. [Psalm 32:8-10 I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, otherwise they will not come near to you. Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him.] יהוה teaches His people the way they should go – we should heed His voice, His word. But if we don't, we get the bit and the bridle [give Matthew directions to drive me home] – need force to direct them in the right way. It is a much more painful way – the sorrows of the wicked – that is discipline: painful pressure to bring you into line.
- That is God's purpose here: to bring His wayward people back: first lists their offence (1-5); then gives warnings (6-11); counted to 5 – what then?! (12-13) – meet God!
Crimes: Materialism (1-3) v.1- What if I had a word for the women of the fellowship "You fat cows"! Strong language! Cows of Bashan renown for their fatness. The chapter opens with an indictment of the wealthy women of Samaria (the capital of Israel) - these greedy, vain women lived to feed themselves, stuffed themselves with all they desired - in fact they were fattened for slaughter. These women demanded their luxuries, that their husbands provide their every whim. Have them running after them, waiting upon them. Again the dual accusation of living a life of ease and doing so at the expense of others - oppressing the poor and needy. Still today, often the pressure comes from the woman of the house for the obtaining of things. With the rise of feminism, the placing of demands and expectations upon men by women is greater than ever before - a complete reversal of the order of authority that God intended in the marriage.
v.2 - יהוה Himself has decreed! - gone on oath. Sworn by His own holiness! What greater thing could He swear by? He has sworn that these women would be taken away into exile. Dragged off with hooks through their noses - typical of the cruel exile imposed by Assyria - barbaric treatment of prisoners – proud of it, recorded it for all to know– Shalmaneser's prism in museum, Jehu paying tribute some 50 years before this prophecy was given. They would not get away with their oppression, exploitation and manipulation of others. Living in ease and luxury at the expense of others. Lazy, idle, and soft - they would soon find out for themselves what it was like to be on the other end of the misery they had inflicted - only their suffering would be many times worse. יהוה is a God of justice - He sees and knows injustice and will pay back in kind, bringing retribution on those who oppress their fellowman.
v.3 - The city of Samaria will be besieged and its walls broken down. These delicate women will be forced to flee through breaches in the wall - but there will be no escape, no diverting from the path set before them - they will each travel straight in the direction their captors send them: into exile i.e. exile to Assyrian territory. יהוה had declared - exile was declared for them. Judged for living for self at the expense of others.
Religion (4,5) v.4 – Israel weren't irreligious – they loved to make a show of their religion but their ritualism was abominable in יהוה’s sight. They loved empty, idolatrous ceremonialism in the name of religion. Bethel was the idol ridden royal sanctuary and Gilgal was another polluted shrine. Sarcastically יהוה tells them to continue their religious ritual. They were very "religious", and maintained observance of ritual and ceremony but it was futile observance. Their religious services were not to יהוה but to idols who were not God. יהוה encourages them to carry on their futility - continue on in their sin - for every time they performed their worship they transgressed. יהוה was saying, "go on keeping up your transgression for judgement is assured." Their earnest religious observance changed nothing - all it did was add to their sin - they were multiplying their transgression. Their religion was actually making matters worse! the same is happening today in churches with empty ritual, idolatrous worship, where their "god" is man, humanism - the service is centred on meeting man’s needs and desires - entertainment, convenience, healing, blessing, fortune telling, clairvoyant "prophecy", aesthetic ritual and music. It is all an exercise in futility, is adding to our sin by continuing our self-centredness and pampering to our fleshly desires. Idolatry is "$ in the collection plate Christianity" – pay your due and then live as you like. Is Christianity more than ritual? Why do I come to church?
v.5 - Peace offerings for thanksgiving offerings were to be presented with cakes of bread that were leavened (cf. Lev 7:13) but the sacrifice of thanksgiving had to be with unleavened cakes mixed with oil (see Lev 7:12). The ceremony they carried out was contrary to what יהוה had stipulated - they offered thank-offerings that were leavened. Not only was this against the Torah it also symbolised the truth - their offerings, their life, their religion was corrupt - mixed in with the corruption of transgression, the softness and luxury of the world and its values had corrupted the pure religion. They prided themselves in their "piety" and religious practice. They made a show of how "spiritual" they were in their offering of freewill offerings - offerings that weren’t compulsory - they made a show of doing more than was required, of being super-dedicated. But the motive was self - to be noticed, to be known, not to glorify יהוה or return thanks to Him (cf. Matt 6:1-6, 16-21; Luke 18:10-14). They loved to be noticed and approved by men - in doing so we forfeit approval by God (Luke 16:15). By her religious practise Israel merely increased her guilt. The purpose of the thank offerings was to express gratitude for blessings and answered prayers (Lev. 7:11-15). Freewill offerings were voluntary and spontaneous gifts, born of an inner devotion to God (Lev. 7:16; 22:17-19). But all these offerings, Amos charged, had become a sham. The people’s religious activities were carried out to impress others, not to fellowship with God. Proud of their spirituality. The Israelites would brag about their devotion, but their day-to-day conduct violated the spirit of their offerings. Israel must face God’s judgement (v.6-13). Failing to respond to God’s chastening love (v.6-11) Israel must now get ready to face God’s justice and wrath (v.12) and realise how great He is in power, wisdom and justice (v.13). They came before God but Israel must actually face her God - prepare to meet her Maker! Something we all must do! What if God came to church?
Warnings: But God wanted His people to turn back to Him, so He sent warnings to get their attention.
 famine v.6 – יהוה sent famine, to warn His people, to get their attention - a calamity that would force them to seek His face. It was an act of love - though it caused distress, the motive was for the good of Israel - to bring them back to God. But they refused to return to Him. They ignored His hand of discipline, paid no attention to what He was saying through circumstances that afflicted them. Are we similarly obdurate and insensitive? Do we seek יהוה in our times of trouble, receive them as discipline from His hand and return to Him? Do we ask ourselves and examine ourselves when lean times strike to see what in our relationship with יהוה and in our behaviour is wrong?
 drought v.7,8 – יהוה had sent famine, a lack of food to Israel, in order to cause them to turn back to Him - but they did not return to Him. But יהוה did not give up on His people - again He took action in order to force them to seek Him in their distress - He sent drought. The drought was the LORD’s hand at work - it was יהוה ’s doing (note the emphasis on "I" (אנכי ): "I withheld rain" "I made to rain ...."; "I would not rain ...". This was not chance happenings but יהוה’s sovereign control and intervention in the affairs of men (so much for the Deist's concept). יהוה withheld rain at the most crucial time - three months before harvest, so that the crop would not mature and come to fruition. יהוה’s action was mixed with mercy - there was not total devastation - it was to get the people’s attention, to motivate them to turn back to Him, it was not in order to wipe them out. Some cities had rain, others did not. יהוהּ ’s action was selective, even one part would receive rain while another dried up. Thus the people would see that יהוה made distinctions, His action is not indiscriminate. The punishment was limited and controlled. - Those selectively afflicted by the drought would stagger to a city that was spared in order to drink, but they would not be satisfied - those יהוה chose to be afflicted were afflicted no matter what they did to alleviate their condition. They did all they could to solve their problem but they did not return to יהוה - they didn’t seek what was the underlying cause - seek God to find why they were so afflicted when others were spared. They did not take יהוה’s disciplining to heart. They were taken up with resolving the surface condition rather than dealing with the underlying cause. We too are taken up with damage control rather than returning to God, our going away from whom is the basic reason for our state of distress. God is the reason – not satanic attack.
 Agriculture v.9 - ["Declares יהוה" - indicates the five separate disciplining acts that were ignored] First famine, second drought, now their agriculture was afflicted by a succession of disasters: scorching wind and pests - mildew (fungal disease) and caterpillars (insect pests – no Orthene or Bravo) which ate that which grew in their gardens, the vineyard and in their fig and olive orchards - the agricultural industry upon which their society was based. They delighted in wealth but the economy was being devastated by the hand of יהוה - "I smote ....". But even though this must have hit them hard, still in their obstinacy, they refused to return to יהוה. All these successive actions were intended to turn Israel back to God, but they did not heed what He was doing in the situations of their lives. Do we take heed and seek the significance of the events that "befall" us?
 Disease and war v.10 - "I sent ...."; "I slew ..."; "I made rise ...." - this was the LORD’s doing. The fourth affliction was a dual one - plague and death by battle. The first three caused hardship, this fourth one brought death! - including the death of some of their prime young men - their future. Also horses - indicating their wealth and advanced society were killed. The stench of death was in the air. But even with this more drastic action, still the people did not return to their God (Isaiah 65:2,3“I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts, a people who continually provoke Me to My face, offering sacrifices).
 Judgement from heaven v.11 - יהוה had sent four disciplining actions to Israel in order to prompt them to turn back to Him, each had been ignored. Now He mentions the fifth crisis He sent upon Israel in order to drive them back to Himself. This was the final one. יהוה had been very patient - done everything possible to turn His people back to Himself - but each act of discipline, each warning had been ignored. Now this final action had failed to have the desired effect, there was no course of action left but judgement. These five action had caused distress but they weren’t judgement - they were loving discipline - the motivation was to restore. Now judgement would come, its intention was opposite: to drive the people away from God and from the land. יהוה didn’t want anything more to do with them - His long-suffering had come to an end. Each successive disciplinary action was more severe than the last: first famine, then drought, then He struck the agriculture, then lives were actually taken in plague and war. Now in this ultimate disciplinary act יהוה gave them a foretaste of the judgement that they would suffer if they did not turn back to Him - they suffered defeat, were overthrown as Sodom and Gomorrah were in judgement - but at the last moment (unlike those two cities) יהוה spared them. Fire came on Sodom – but Israel snatched out. Gave a taste of what would happen - then He snatched them at the last moment before total destruction occurred. But even given this foretaste of what was going to come, they still did not repent, turn back to יהוה. If they failed to respond to this - which was only one step short of judgement - they would respond to nothing else. There was no course left, but for judgement. It was יהוה’s last resort. He did everything to try and avoid it but His people would not take any notice. Are we going to be so obdurate and senseless? Therefore judgement would come! And will come!
Meet God! v.12,13 - "Therefore ....." because Israel had refused to respond to יהוה’s disciplinary hand or heed His attempts to get her attention and turn back to Him; therefore יהוה would act! It is a fearful thing when יהוה acts in judgement! "I will do this to you" is repeated twice. יהוה most assuredly act. This threat would be carried out. This judgement is יהוה’s doing and His alone. He takes full responsibility for it. "Therefore" (לָכֵן) "because of (עֵקֶב) - יהוה’s action wasn’t capricious, there was a reason, a cause for this judgement, it wasn’t indiscriminate, it was because of Israel’s obdurate and insistent refusal to acknowledge God. On the same basis, is not virtually the whole world ripe for judgement?! Judgement was coming! יהוה Himself would do it! Israel had persistently turned her back on Him, now she must prepare to meet Him. Prepare to meet God in judgement! What a terrible prospect! (Hebrews 10:26-31 For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 12:25-29 See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” This expression,“Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.). How prepared are we to meet our God? (2 Corinthians 5:10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.). - God will enter into judgement with His people (cf. 1 Peter 4:17) - an awesome and terrible prospect, for He is the Creator of all - there is no hiding from Him or fooling Him, for He knows our innermost thoughts and declares them. It is He who is in control, who is sovereign, who acts, who determines what is - that makes dawn into darkness. We may think we are pure as light but that light of our own, on which we rely, will turn to be darkness before יהוה’s all seeing, all knowing eyes! What defence can we make before Him?! He who is יהוה, God of armies - that is His Name! When He acts in judgement there is no escape - all human resources will utterly fail. יהוה is full of justice and wrath, great in power, wisdom, knowledge and justice.
- It is a fearful thing to meet God if you are living for self or in pride. It is best to heed His voice than experience His bit and bridle. "Do not be like the horse and mule which have no understanding" – come obediently to your Master and be spared His chastening.