THE DAY OF THE LORD Amos 5:16-27
What is it? [v.16,17] – Therefore" – this is a consequence, a conclusion from what has gone before (2 months ago) goes back to v.13, because of the suppression of justice and righteousness. conclusion: judgement because of Israel's refusal to repent. This judgement comes in what is known as "the day of the LORD". What is the day of the Lord? The time that יהוה Himself passes through our midst – in the NT it is equated with the coming of Jesus. Jesus is coming! Coming as King! - to rule and judge! Are we ready, are the people around us? This is what God says! Full weight of authority! There will be bitter anguish and distress! Wailing! When God says it will happen – it will happen! יהוה has spoken! The full weight of His Name: יהוה, God of armies, the Lord, goes behind this declaration of the misery that will come upon Israel because they spurned His appeal to repentance, to seek Him, to life. The name "God of hosts" recurs throughout Amos - God is in command of armies, the heavenly host that will execute His judgement that He has decreed." It's not going to be a fun time! Note the repeated emphasis on "wailing" (מִסְפֵּד) - there would be great distress in Israel: wailing (מִסְפֵּד - 3x), cries of "woe! woe!" (הוֹ - 2x), mourning (אֵבֶל), lamentation (נֶהִי) - woe, misery and lamentation heaped upon each other, such will be the sorry, tragic plight of Israel - because she did not heed יהוה. So too will be our fate if we do not heed the one who speaks from heaven (Hebrews 12:25See 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.) This mourning is universal - in every street, all the plazas, not only in the city but also the rural areas are in mourning. Why? "Because ...." there is a reason:- יהוה will pass through the midst of them in judgement. It is wonderful to have God with if we have turned from our evil ways (v.14) but it is terrible for God to be near us, in our midst, if we have not! God in our midst! - ? wonderful – that's what Israel thought – they longed for the day of the LORD, but it wasn't going to be like they expected. We long for the day of the LORD, for His coming – have you ever considered the possibility that your preconception of how it will be may be wrong? What will the day of the LORD be like? God in our midst – either wonderful or awful.
What will it be like? [v.18-20] - Israel thought that it was religious, that יהוה was with them - they longed for the day of the LORD. They had this great longing for this great day of deliverance, the day when יהוה would come and set everything right and vindicate His people. Such a day was coming but they had an entirely false concept of what it would be like. We too profess to long for Jesus’ return. But they were deluding themselves - they had no concept of how far they were from God. They were far from God because their behaviour did not line up with His standards. God’s coming is wonderful if we have turned from evil (v.14) but if we have not, the "Day of the LORD" will not be the wonderful occasion we have been anticipating, but a day of terror - darkness and gloom, not light and brightness. So יהוה warns them of the "Day of the LORD". It will be a wonderful day and an awful and terrible day - depending on our relationship to יהוה (cf. The Last Battle) - there will be fire, blood and smoke - war and devastation, the fires of judgement. It will be a day of darkness not of light (Joel 2:31,32“The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.“And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.). This will be what the day of the LORD will be for God’s people who have forsaken their covenant relationship with Him. The Day of the LORD is a day of distress and destruction from the Almighty. From it only individuals (the remnant) will be saved - those who call on the Name of the LORD. v.19 – Things were bad, but they looked to the Lord's coming to make everything right. But instead of better, thing got worse! The Day of the LORD will be "out of the frying pan and into the fire" - as times get more difficult (cf. 4:6-11). The people of God long and hope for deliverance, for the "Day of the LORD" - but instead of deliverance and salvation, it is even worse - not disciplinary action, but judgement - from lion to a bear, escaping to the "safety" and "security" of home, only to be bitten by a snake. So their panacea for all, the Day of the LORD, won’t solve all their problems but will bring even greater calamity. v.20 - The light they had hoped for will turn out to be darkness, not salvation but judgement, not deliverance but exile. They had clung to a false hope - held on to a lie! Tragic indeed! "Gloom with no brightness in it!" Have we believed a lie? Set before ourselves a false hope? Has incorrect doctrine and eschatology set us up for bitter disappointment, left us unprepared for the reality we will have to face? Are we resting on our laurels, confident of deliverance and thus unprepared, not alert for His coming?
How can we be prepared? [v.21-24] – Religion won't do it- Israel was religious. Why so bad and not what they longed for? They were not godless – in fact it was their religion that was the problem. Have you ever considered that our religious observance may be making things worse rather than better? I've met many sincere religious people who are convinced that their religion has ensured that things are right with God [sung in choir]. Going to Tedder Ave will not help you in that day. Israel prided themselves in religious observance – there's the problem!: PRIDE! Israel felt secure in its religion (v.14, 18) but יהוה hated it! God hates religion! It was empty religionism, ceremonies and services but without any relationship to יהוה - a relationship that would affect their lives, the way they lived (cf. James 1:21-27Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.). To avert disaster, "justice must roll down like waters, and righteousness like an overflowing stream" (v.24). JUSTICE and RIGHTEOUSNESS - the foundation of יהוה’s throne, the basic principles of His reign - is the essence of Amos’ message. Israel thought it had not gone away from God because it was still highly religious. They observed the festivals and feasts, gathered together for religious observance, offered sacrifices - burnt offerings, grain offerings and peace offerings (notably, sin offerings were absent - they were not conscious of their sin, thought they were O.K., no repentance or contrition). They sang songs and played music - but there was no reality. It was mere religious observance because it was tradition, habit, to absolve their conscience, discharge their religious duty, superstition, keep God happy. "As long as we go to church on Sunday, we can do what we like in our business during the week, we’re good faithful Christians". Many today believe church attendance, or active involvement secures life for eternity ("Anglican" mind-set). But it is utterly futile, meaningless, a waste of time - there is no reality. How do you know? Because it makes no fundamental difference to their life - still they live for themselves, are self or man centred. It has no effect on their concern for others, they continue to exploit and practice injustice. God hates such religious carryings on! Great ceremonies, beautiful "worship" and music, entertaining and lively programs - but יהוה is entirely missing - He is left out - there is no life transformation, people being transformed into His likeness as they behold Him, and this being evidenced by their lives lived according to the principles of justice and righteousness. v.22 - Great sacrifice – but God takes no notice [whole life sacrificed to religious service – on way to being declared a saint – but what does God think?] They went through all their religious rituals but יהוה would not accept them, or take delight in them or even look at them. If God doesn’t accept the sacrifices, what on earth is the purpose of continuing to offer them?! If God isn’t there and isn’t involved, then religion is the most futile exercise. Yet church service continue and observance goes on even though they deny Jesus’ resurrection, miracles, the Bibles as God’s Word etc. What on earth is the point?! If God isn’t involved, why do it?! v.23 – Worship of worship – fine music (Messiah), loud music – but does God hear? How like today’s churches where music is worshipped. Loud, tumultuous, noisy commotion, stirring people with loud insistent music - soulish enjoyment of human spirits delighting in the atmosphere the music generates - often it has precious little to do with offering to God praise that is His due, but is rather a ministering to the people. If it is directed to man, the motive is soulish; if the people’s hearts aren’t directed to God then He says: "I WILL NOT HEAR!" Our music may be loud but God doesn’t hear it! God had had a gutsfull of insincere, soulish, religious carrying on. v.24 – If not religion, what is God looking for? - righteousness and justice – the foundations of His throne. Is this salvation by deeds/works? No, but if your faith is real it must affect your everyday life. Dichotomising – do their religious bit then get on with life. There is no "spiritual" and "non-spiritual" – all our life is worship, not just singing in the Spirit. God doesn’t want our empty religious carry on, He wants virtue - RIGHTEOUSNESS and JUSTICE (cf. Matthew 23:23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.). Changed lives, deep within, a different set of values that effects the way we live our lives. Not for maximum gain and benefit for me, but according to the principles of what is right in God’s eyes and what is just for our fellow man. Righteousness (to God) and justice (to man) are the foundations of Christ’s Kingdom (cf. Psalm 89:14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You.). What God wants is perennial righteousness and justice - limitless, continual, perpetual. Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an over-flowing stream.– justice and righteousness are the basis of the Messianic Kingdom – if we are truly seeking Jesus, if He rules in our life, this is what we should be practising – not to gain His approval but because that is what His life in us produces.
Judgement of inveterate idolatry [v.25-27] – Is it possible that you have been worshipping and serving God but it was not Him? What a waste of time and effort! - all futile. I don't want you to doubt and question your faith – but you need to be sure you are investing in the real thing, trusting in Jesus alone, aligned with His Kingdom and the principles of His rule and not in church attendance. It is possible to join the church "club", be comfortable with its culture and company and all the while be serving idols! Israel did. When Israel was in the wilderness of Sinai יהוה was with the nation in a mighty way - there He revealed Himself to them and entered into covenant with them; there He was continually with them, leading them with the pillar of fire; there He protected them and drove out their enemies before them; there He performed mighty miracles on their behalf; there He provided for them, giving them bread from heaven. Unmistakably יהוה was with them, yet they did not bring their sacrifices and grain offerings for they were not yet in the land to grow grain. The offerings weren’t a payment to ensure God’s presence, a superstitious ritual to be performed to keep Him on side. He was committed to them before they gave Him anything. Even today we can have a superstitious notion of religious service - that what we do will ensure God’s favour - "If I tithe He will provide for me". We cannot buy God’s favour - He is not indebted to us. What we do, we do out of gratitude, praise, worship - for Him. Religious service with an underlying selfish motive (doing it to gain God’s favour) is abominable to the LORD. But Israel did offer sacrifices in the desert, but those offerings were not to יהוה - they were to idols! Despite the very real presence and display of God’s mercy and might, Israel consistently persisted in idolatry even through that special time of the Exodus. The following verse and (Deuteronomy 32:17 “They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread.; Josh 24:14; Acts 7:42) indicate that Israel carried on idolatrous, self-orientated, religion right throughout their wanderings in the wilderness. – not when they'd gone astray after settled in the land of Canaan, but right there in the desert when the revelation of God was so fresh. Israel may have been carrying on the religious service as proscribed during their time in the wilderness - but it was not יהוה who they were worshipping. In their hearts they were still worshipping their other gods. It was the same in Amos’ day - they were carrying on the ceremony but they were not worshipping יהוה because their heart was not toward Him. It is not the ceremony, the externals, but the heart that matters. Today we can be going to church, praying reading the Bible etc - but our heart is in the world, self is our god. Israel viewed religion as a superstitious practice to keep the gods on side - appease the spiritual powers. They acknowledged there was a spiritual realm, but they wanted to get on with their own lives, so they did what was necessary to keep the spiritual powers that be, happy. So they covered all the bases - they didn’t want any god left out. So they worshipped יהוה but they also took out insurance, in case these other gods might have influence - they also carried along idols of Sikkuth, Kiyyun, stars etc. This despite the fact that יהוה demanded exclusive worship (Exodus 20:3-5). And this, while still in the desert with יהוה doing wonders in their midst! Even then, at that early stage, they were involved in idolatry! We do the same - we cover all bases: "It can’t do any harm to pray for healing but go to the Dr., homeopath, osteopath etc as well." - man-made gods - trusting in man, not God. Assyria was rising to power, so their god must be powerful, therefore Israel adopted their god ". We make our own gods, then worship that which we have made!– I see the outward observance, I don't know your heart. But Jesus is coming and He will judge according to the truth – the true intent of our hearts. It looked like Israel was worshipping יהוה but all the while it was to other gods. Gods of their own making - have I made a "god" of may own conception, or is it the true יהוה as revealed in the Scriptures? יהוה God of hosts has spoken! Spoken by His Name! As God over armies, He has sworn that Israel will go into exile. They would be exiled because of their inveterate idolatry, their rejection of יהוה, their empty lip service to Him instead of exclusive allegiance. יהוה Himself would make them go into exile. It was the LORD’s doing. Damascus was Syria, beyond Syria was Assyria. Israel would be carried into Assyria, the great, fierce and cruel power that would terrorise the world. This passage is quoted in the NT: Stephen was addressing the Sanhedrin.
Read Acts 7:42-43 - the Jews in the Sanhedrin would maintain that they were worshipping יהוה, but Stephen quotes Scripture to back up his contention that they were not worshipping יהוה at all, but rather were serving idols. Israel never gave up its idolatry! This is what the prophet Amos had said (Amos 5:25) – Stephen quotes the Greek translation which says "It was not to Me that you offered sacrifices and offerings in the desert for forty years, O house of Israel? You also took the tent of Moloch and the star god Raiphan which you wrought for yourselves. I also will remove you beyond Damascus." Scripture testified to the persistent idolatry of Israel right throughout their wilderness wanderings. Man is inveterate in his opposition to God. - Stephen follows this word for word, though he does leave out "for yourselves" and adds "to worship"; he also replaces the word "Damascus" with "Babylon" Stephen has the Babylonian captivity in his mind, as was not unnatural in one speaking in Jerusalem. This Scripture attests to Israel’s continuing idolatry. They performed the form of worship that was given to them on Mount Sinai but in their hearts they were still worshipping idols. So it was not the tabernacle of יהוה that they carried with them but the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Rompha. They continued to worship gods that their own hands had made. So it was because of this continuing idolatry that God removed them into exile beyond Babylon. [Idolatry at Sinai, Amos, Exile, LXX, Acts, today] – consistent record. Israel exiled beyond Damascus to Assyria, later Judah to Babylon, and later the Jews were dispersed through all the nations. So how come Acts differs from Amos – that is the Greek from the Hebrew? "Sakkuth" is the name of an idol but also a succah is a tent/tabernacle – so the Greek translated it. But "Moloch" which the Greek takes as the name of a god is Hebrew for king. Rephan and Kaiwan are different names for the same god of the planet Saturn. The prophecy referred to Israel in Amos' day, but also in the days of the Babylonian exile, and when the LXX was translated and when Stephen quoted it – yes, and today. It is eternally relevant. Not just Israel then! Jesus is coming! The day of the LORD! God amongst us! A terrible time, unless we are prepared. Jesus will judge man's inveterate idolatry. We must not be just going through religious motions but know and worship God in truth – this will effect the way we live, we will act as He will when He rules, in righteousness and justice.