Intro - Sometimes feel like coming across as a prophet of doom, like an angry young man, preaching all these messages of judgement – much nicer to preach a pleasant message, to encourage and build up. That is the very reason these books are less well known: we seek out that which is pleasant to our ears. I mean it can seem like Amos had it in for the nation of Israel – he was from Judah and poured out vitriol against his northern brothers. But Amos did not delight in delivering these messages of judgement, he had a real heart for Israel. So far we have seen the message – now we gain insight into the messenger, the prophet, the man of God, called by God HImself. Israel may not mourn over their impending doom but it tore at Amos' heart. He was more concerned for Israel than Israel was. Here the Lord decrees judgements but Amos can't bear to see them befall Israel and intercedes and stays God's hand. Read
Intercedes - יהוהּ communicated to Amos via visions concerning the judgement coming upon Israel – he saw five visions of judgement, three in this chapter. Amos interceded on Israel’s behalf that יהוה might spare such devastation. Though from Judah and proclaiming judgement Amos was not vindictive against Israel, wanting to see her downfall. On the contrary he loved Israel (though she hated him) - the prophecies were delivered in love, he longed to see Israel spared. Though rejected by Israel (10-13) still he interceded for her and sought that יהוה might spare her - he withheld יהוה’s full force of wrath. Though they failed to appreciate it, Amos caused יהוה’s hand to be stayed - the affliction could have been much worse - twice Amos caused יהוה to relent from His intended judgement. That's the prophet, that was Jesus – poured himself out for a people, motivated by love – but in return they despise him and reject him.
Locusts v.1-3 – This was יהוה the Lord’s doing! He formed locusts to come and eat the second crop. The first crop was the king’s, taxed to the king, the second crop was their own. So they still had to pay their tax but their own income was cut off, destroyed by locusts as it was sprouting (beginning to come up). We begrudge paying tax as a portion of income but to have to pay tax and then receive no income after paying it - this is cruel. Too much for Israel to bear. So Amos pleaded to יהוה on Israel’s behalf - what would they have to live on? They would die and be too few in number to recover - it would be the end of Israel! v.2 - The locusts finished eating the vegetation of the land - it was totally consumed! This picture that יהוה had shown Amos was too terrible to contemplate. He pleaded for mercy, for forgiveness (סְלַח). No one could stand before such a punishment even though it was deserved. No one would survive if we received our full due - we are too weak, too small to survive, to come through alive (Psalm 130:3-4 If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. Habakkuk 3:2 In wrath remember mercy.). v.3 - יהוה heard the prayer for mercy! Hallelujah! He hears our cries for mercy and compassion. He listens to our intercession for mercy on behalf of others. We ought to engage in it more. What power! What an amazing thing: "The LORD changed His mind"! יהוה God Almighty heard a solitary man plead for mercy and turned from His intention - this man by his intercession caused the plan of God to be changed! What power there is in prayer on behalf of others, in the simple cry for mercy! "יהוה relented"! Hallelujah! יהוה had compassion, had pity! Praise His Name which is "gracious" and "compassionate". He is mindful of our frame, He knows that we are dust, that we cannot withstand the full wrath that is due to us (cf. Psalm 103:10,13,14 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.13 Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.
Fire v.4-6 - Second vision was of fire this evidently means drought (cf. Joel 1:17-20). Amos’ plea for mercy stayed this plague also. this was some fire! It consumed the great deep – usually refers to oceans! It spared nothing! But aquifers under Israel, when they dry growth ends. Both water and land were eaten up! Who could survive such a devastation? He saw it! Though Amos knew Israel merited judgement, this punishment was too horrible to contemplate. He pleaded with יהוה for mercy. This would utterly wipe out Israel - she would not survive, which was contrary to יהוה’s promises to the patriarchs. (cf. 2:5; Isaiah 66:15,16 For behold, the Lord will come in fire and His chariots like the whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire. For the Lord will execute judgment by fire and by His sword on all flesh, and those slain by the Lord will be many). Destruction by fire will come as judgement from יהוה, though it was stayed as a judgement at this particular time. v.5 - Again Amos pleads to the Lord יהוה on Israel’s behalf - she is so small and weak (despite her inflated opinion of her strength cf. 6:8, 13) - she will be totally obliterated by the force of יהוה’s judgement. So vast is His strength that He could easily wipe us all out - he who sets himself up to fight against יהוה does not know what he is taking on! - in fact it is only His gracious upholding that enables us to continue to exist (Lamentations 3:22 It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.). The first time Amos appealed for forgiveness/pardon (סלח - v.2), this time he cried out for יהוה "to stop"! (חֲדַל) - cease from His intention before Israel is completely annihilated. v.6 - Again יהוה spoke - He listened to the earnest, desperate prayer of intercession and answered. Hallelujah! This time also יהוה had compassion (נחם) for that is His Name. Again He changed His mind, had mercy, repented. יהוה Himself was turned from His intent by the prayer of a mere man! - who prayed in accordance with יהוה’s eternal nature (Exodus 34:6 then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth). This is God's mercy, turning from deserved wrath. But wrath is part of God's nature also – not solely grace, grace won't be extended forever.
Upholds God's standard v.7-9 - יהוה showed Amos a third vision, but this time it was not a direct picture of punishment/judgement but a parable of judgement and this time יהוה spoke with His prophet about the vision, questioned him and explained its significance. He made clear to Amos the reason why judgement must come and made it clear that no longer would He relent - this time Amos was not to intercede (Jeremiah 7:16 As for you, do not pray for this people, and do not lift up cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with Me; for I do not hear you. 11:14 Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not listen when they call to Me because of their disaster.) - the judgement was settled and could not be altered. The man of God interceding holds back God's judgement but His hand will not be stayed forever. יהוה would spare Israel no more. Judgement by war was decreed from יהוה and could not be altered. The vision was of a plumb-line (7-9) [putting up framing for house]. יהוה, however, declared the irrevocable sentence of destruction, after having measured His people with a plumb-line and finding them so irredeemably warped by sin as to be past correction. (2 Kings 21:13-15 I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria and the plummet of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. I will abandon the remnant of My inheritance and deliver them into the hand of their enemies, and they will become as plunder and spoil to all their enemies;because they have done evil in My sight, and have been provoking Me to anger since the day their fathers came from Egypt, even to this day.) Judgement was the only alternative left for this obdurate, hard-hearted, deaf-eared, unresponsive, self-centred people. Many think that God does not know, or doesn’t care about sin - but He does know, He measures us all against an absolute standard. You can have a crooked rule, or a false weight but the plumb line is always vertical and any deviation from that absolute unchanging standard is evident when that standard is placed against it. We have become relativists - we measure ourselves against others, or set our own standards. Decline in standards [live together – used to be shocking, now the norm]. Measure against my neighbour (I don't drink, cheat on taxes) I'm pretty good – but it is a crooked rule! Measure against God's standard – see what I really am like – worthy of death! [white sheep, until it snows]. How out of true we are is shockingly revealed when יהוה places His standard against us! (Proverbs 16:2 All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives.24:12 If you say, “See, we did not know this,” Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?). The LORD stands with plumb-line in hand - it is against that that we must measure up, not our own standard, nor that of any other. There is an absolute standard. There is a God who is absolute! and further more He judges the heart of man against His absolute standard! v.8 - יהוה showed Amos a vision of Himself - He stood by a wall with a plumb-line in His hand, and He spoke with Amos about the significance of this. יהוה asked Amos what he saw. He replied: "a plumb-line". This standard of uprightness is emphasised (4x in two verses). יהוה declared that he was about to place a plumb-line in the midst of His people - to test the uprightness of their work [Belshazzer "mene mene tekel upharsin – Dan 5]. יהוה was going to come near to His people and they would be judged according to יהוה’s standard - anything that deviates from that standard will not be spared. Many are convinced of their own righteousness - they seem upright compared to others around - but everyone is out of true and only God’s standard (for He alone is righteous) can reveal how far off the standard we are. Amos had said "how can Jacob stand?" - the fact is that Jacob was so far off the vertical that he would collapse, flat under his own weight - the weight of his own sin which he had built up. יהוה was coming to test the quality, the uprightness of His people. He found them so far out that the whole edifice must be pulled down - it is no good - it could be passed over no more - something had to be done about it. There could be no more mercy or second chances. יהוה says He would no longer spare them. There comes a point when intercession can avail no more - judgement must come [Abraham interceding for Sodom]. Thus יהוה decrees judgement, one that will not be turned back. Judgement by invading army. v.9 - יהוה Himself would rise up against the house of Jeroboam - not only the present king but Jeroboam I, the first king of the northern kingdom who set up idolatrous calf worship and in whose sin, the Scripture states, the rest of the kings of Israel walked. The idolatrous worship would be destroyed and the northern monarchy wiped out in battle - they would be attacked by armies and die by the sword. Grace will not be extended forever (Romans 2:4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?). This is God's wrath – both mercy and wrath are God's nature – without mercy we would be consumed, without wrath there would be not righteousness [Hannah Alicia]. Grace and truth revealed in Jesus Christ (John 1:16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.). Mercy is available now, we must take the opportunity before it is too late and we face God's wrath, His unyielding standard. There comes a time when it is no longer possible to repent – God will no longer relent.
Called by יהוה Himself v.10-11 - This specific mention of "Jeroboam" was too much. Those listening did not like Amos’ prophecies of judgement, but now he had spoken directly against the king - this was treason! Thus the prophet Amaziah (for Amos delivered his message at the place of worship) reported to the king Amos’ conspiracy. These messages had to be stopped! Amos’ bold prediction against the house of Jeroboam of the Jehu dynasty (v.9) aroused the weak crown-loyal official priest of the royal sanctuary at Bethel to report Amos to the king. This weak religious conformist urged Amos to flee to Judah. Amos’ reply showed his magnificent spiritual stature in that decadent syncretistic age (v.16-17). There was one brave soul at least who would buck the tide of iniquity and easy conformity. He was God called and not a mere man-pleasing ecclesiastic. Amaziah went to the king - ran to a higher authority to get some clout to set his domain (the temple) in order. He wanted the king to do something about it - the king’s response is not recorded. Amaziah comes back telling Amos to go (v.12,13) - presumably Jeroboam wasn’t bothered by the incident (he paid no attention to prophets) and told Amaziah to deal with the situation himself, just get rid of the trouble-maker. The king wasn’t going to get involved, lest he had to face the prophet and hear the word of יהוה. He was too busy running his kingdom, amassing wealth, rejecting God - just as Amos had been saying. Message of יהוה had no impact – he wasn't bothered by religion and prophets. Amaziah reported to the king the bones of what Amos was saying - the bottom line: that the king would die in battles and Israel was destined to a certain fate of exile – but not the reason for the judgement, the sin that needed addressing. Amaziah charged Amos with conspiracy against the throne but the king was not concerned about this being a threat to his rule. He knew that Amos wouldn’t get the house of Israel against him as Amaziah implied he was conspiring to do. Jeroboam was self-assured and secure - he did not regard Amos or his words as a threat. Weak and panicky as Amaziah was, he had more of an understanding of the power of these words than Jeroboam had. For יהוה had spoken! We ignore Him at our peril! Jeroboam was unconcerned by word of death and certain exile by some insignificant raving lunatic from Judah. v.12,13 - "Amaziah" means יהוה is mighty - but he wanted nothing to do with יהוה or His prophet. He returns from the king and tells Amos to get out, stop prophesying there and go back to his own country and bother them there instead. He tells him to flee. To be a burden on Judah, not Israel. There was no way the king was going to subsidise a prophet like him. He was implying that Amos was a professional prophet living off the provisions made for them. The royal house evidently supported the prophets supplying them with food - hence the plethora of false prophets who prophesied pleasant things - they didn’t want to upset the apple-cart, get out of favour and have their means of support removed. Today many ministers of the Word deliver innocuous messages that cause no offence (sin, repentance and judgement are never mentioned) in order that their support base not be diminished - their salary comes from the tithes of the people, so their self-interest is what motivates them, to have a large congregation and one that is not offended by what they say. This accusation of eating the king’s bread is why Amos is careful to make clear that he is not a professional prophet (eating Israel’s bread) but self-supporting (v.14). Financial/support pressure and politics is used to control and stifle God’s message. Amos was prophesying at the sanctuary at Bethel - it was a royal sanctuary - strictly under the king’s control and set up by an earlier king Jeroboam. It wasn’t יהוה’s temple - He did not control what went on. It was set up and firmly under the control of man. Like much of the "church" today. Because it was the king’s sanctuary, he determined what went on. Amaziah had sent word to the king about Amos and was, as the king’s representative and appointed to run the sanctuary, telling Amos to get out - this order was backed up by the king to whom he had sent note. Man determined and controlled what went on and what was said - anything they didn’t like, that criticized or convicted, they kicked out - even the word of יהוה Himself! Just as it is today! (e.g. Jacob Prasch, Philip Powells etc.). No one was allowed to rock the man made boat, or threaten their comfortable system that they themselves had established. v.14,15 - Note the repeated emphasis on "I" (אָנׄכִי) as Amos defends himself, answering to Amaziah’s insinuation about "eating bread" - hitherto he had spoken nothing of himself. He denied he was a prophet - this did not mean he wasn’t prophesying or was a prophet - but wasn’t a professional prophet - he didn’t earn his living from it, not was it the family occupation. He didn’t come from a line of prophets, he hadn’t deliberately chosen this path - he was just an ordinary farmer - he was a herdsman and orcharder of figs. Amos hadn’t been trained as a prophet, sought it as an occupation, nor earned his living by it. Amos was just an ordinary bloke getting on with his job of shepherding the flock when יהוה called him. He wasn’t a prophet by the will of man but a true prophet - called by יהוה. "יהוה took him." "יהוה said to him" - it was יהוה’s doing. Amos had no say in the matter. Note the emphasis on "יהוה" - this was a Divine commission - the only way a prophet exists. It is not by royal support or human choice that one becomes a prophet. יהוה gave and order: "Prophesy to My people Israel" - יהוה had spoken, Amos obeyed - the characteristic of every true prophet. יהוה had spoken - who can but prophesy (cf. 3:8). יהוה said prophesy, so Amos prophesied. What יהוה said, he did – he obeyed the heavenly calling. May we do likewise. v.16 ,17 - Up until now Amos had prophesied against nations, the message was to the people. Now he prophesies against an individual. Amaziah had forbidden him to prophesy - that is, he was saying God must not speak - he sought to muzzle יהוה Himself! Thus יהוה had a message for this audacious apostate. יהוה was incensed! and spoke judgement against Amaziah! This is what יהוה Himself says! Hear the word of יהוה This is not Amos being vindictive – this was the word of יהוה – what יהוה Himself said to Amaziah. - "Therefore" - this awful judgement was for a reason - the consequence of Amaziah’s actions: seeking to muzzle יהוה, prevent יהוה’s word from going forth, for persecuting His servant, Amos. The judgement would come upon him and all his family too. Our actions affect others - those close to us share in the misery our sin causes. His wife would become a prostitute, and both sons and daughters would be killed by the invading army. His land would be divided up and taken. Amaziah would be left with absolutely nothing! No wife, no family, no land, no posterity. Utter and complete devastation. Who can stand the wrath of יהוה?! What fools we are to oppose Him, fight Him and set ourselves against Him!! Then Amaziah himself would die - not in Israel by on defiled soil, cursed, far from the promise and blessing of יהוה, far from the land. And indeed what Amos prophesied would come about despite Amaziah’s attempt to muzzle him - most assuredly Israel would be exiled from its land - יהוה had spoken! Preventing Amos prophesying the exile would not prevent the exile taking place - all it meant was that the warning would not be heard and the calamity would overtake them unexpectedly. We can muzzle the man of God but we cannot prevent God's will from being carried out. By silencing the voice of prophecy we are being ostriches, burying our heads in the sand, refusing to face what will most assuredly take place.
Conclusion: What about us living amongst an apostate generation? Are we men of God – interceding for the nation, have a real heart fort them, that God would spare them? Do we uphold an absolute standard that is not shifted by the changes in behaviour and society around us, warning of the judgement to come? Are we called of God – obeying Him, pleasing Him and not man, not intimidated by the pressures of those who are opposed to God?