We’ve come to the final installment in our study of the Book of Amos. The Lord’s anger against the Israelites continues, His promise of judgment clear. There will be no last minute reprieve; the Northern Kingdom will cease to exist. But as He always has, God will preserve a faithful remnant to keep the flame of His people flickering.
A Basket Of Ripe Fruit
This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: a basket of ripe fruit. “What do you see, Amos?” he asked.
“A basket of ripe fruit,” I answered.
Then the LORD said to me, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.
“In that day,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “the songs in the temple will turn to wailing. Many, many bodies—flung everywhere! Silence!”
Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?” —skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.
The LORD has sworn by the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done. “Will not the land tremble for this, and all who live in it mourn? The whole land will rise like the Nile; it will be stirred up and then sink like the river of Egypt. (Amos 8:1-8)
Originally, the Pride of Jacob was the Lord. He was swearing by Himself that He would never forget what the people had done. To give our vows additional authority we swear by someone higher than we are. We might even say, “I swear to God.” There is no one higher than God, so when He wants to underscore a vow He swears by Himself (Hebr. 6:13-14).
The Nile River flooded every Spring, its waters flowing over its banks to cover the entire delta region. The Lord used this to symbolize the fighting men of Israel rising as a great army to resist the Assyrians.
The River of Egypt, or Wadi al Arish, is a different river that has water in the spring but dries up in the summer. It symbolizes the outcome. Though Israel’s army would be like the flooding Nile at the beginning, it would soon disappear into the ground like the River of Egypt under the onslaught of the Assyrians. The Lord could tolerate their corrupt practices no longer.
Throughout the Bible the Lord gets especially upset when the powerless are exploited. Whether it’s widows and orphans, or slaves, or the poor, He’s predictable in his reaction. He takes their part and oppresses those who oppress them. His laws were written to give people every opportunity for a second chance. Israelites weren’t allowed to charge each other interest. They couldn’t keep collateral to secure a debt. Debts were to be forgiven every 7 years, and those held in servitude as a means of repaying their debts were to be freed and given a stake toward a new beginning.
In Deut. 15:4 He said that the land was so bountiful that there shouldn’t be any poor among them if they just obeyed His laws. That means the poor were a class created by the disobedience of the rich, and that’s what made Him so angry.
America is the wealthiest country in history. Compared to world standards even Americans of average means are rich. And yet we have many poor among us, and they’re exploited just as surely as those in Biblical times. It still makes the Lord angry, and he’ll judge us in our time just as He did them in theirs.
“In that day,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your religious feasts into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.(Amos 8:9-10)
Although the context here is Israel’s defeat, this prophecy was eerily fulfilled on the day Jesus died. The Sun went dark at noon and from that time forward Passover has been associated with the death of God’s only Son. And in Zechariah 12:10 we’re told that near the end of the Great Tribulation as the Lord sets out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem, He will pour out a Spirit of Grace and Supplication upon the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. “They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”
Just in case they didn’t know who He was talking about, the Lord had a two letter un-translated Hebrew word placed after the phrase “look upon me” in Zechariah 12:10. They’re the first and last letters of the Hebrew Alphabet, the Aleph and the Tau. These two letters also appear in the Hebrew text of Genesis 1:1 after the phrase “in the beginning God …” Their better-known equivalents are the Alpha and the Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, used to describe the Father in Rev. 1:8 & 21:6 and the Son in Rev. 22:13. Zechariah was saying that the one they would look upon as the Messiah is God Himself.
“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.
“In that day “the lovely young women and strong young men will faint because of thirst. They who swear by the shame of Samaria, or say, ‘As surely as your god lives, O Dan,’ or, ‘As surely as the god of Beersheba lives’—they will fall, never to rise again.” (Amos 8:11-14)
Contrast this with the Lord swearing by “the Pride of Jacob” above. The people are swearing by “the shame of Samaria”, and the pagan idols of Dan and Beersheba.
The people wanted to be free of any relationship with the Lord so now they would be. They wouldn’t hear any prophets calling them back though they traveled the length and breadth of the land. The word of the Lord would be like water during a time of extreme drought, nowhere to be found. And would the pagan gods to which they had given their allegiance save them? Not a chance.
Some believe that this famine of hearing God’s Word will occur again at the end of the age, as the anti-Christ seeks to eliminate all reference to God from society. He’ll even try to change the calendar (Daniel 7:25) in his effort to erase every reminder of God from peoples’ lives.
Israel to Be Destroyed
I saw the Lord standing by the altar, and he said: “Strike the tops of the pillars so that the thresholds shake. Bring them down on the heads of all the people; those who are left I will kill with the sword. Not one will get away, none will escape. Though they dig down to the depths of the grave, from there my hand will take them. Though they climb up to the heavens, from there I will bring them down. Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, there I will hunt them down and seize them. Though they hide from me at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent to bite them. Though they are driven into exile by their enemies, there I will command the sword to slay them. I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.”(Amos 9:1-4)
No matter where they tried to hide, the Lord would find them and punish them. Psalm 121 says that He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep, but will watch over their coming and going forever. Now He tells them that because of their betrayal it will be like He’s hunting for an enemy, not watching over a friend. As the writer to the Hebrews would say,It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.(Hebr. 10:31)
The Lord, the LORD Almighty, he who touches the earth and it melts, and all who live in it mourn— the whole land rises like the Nile, then sinks like the river of Egypt- he who builds his lofty palace in the heavens and sets its foundation on the earth, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land— the LORD is his name.
“Are not you Israelites the same to me as the Cushites?” declares the LORD. “Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?”
“Surely the eyes of the Sovereign LORD are on the sinful kingdom. I will destroy it from the face of the earth— yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,” declares the LORD.
“For I will give the command, and I will shake the house of Israel among all the nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, and not a pebble will reach the ground. All the sinners among my people will die by the sword, all those who say, ‘Disaster will not overtake or meet us.’” (Amos 9:5-10)
The Cushites were another race of people in the region of Egypt, ancestors of today’s black Africans. Because of their sin, the Israelites, whom the Lord brought out of Egypt in a mighty act of deliverance, had become no better than the Cushites, whom He’d left there. No better than the Philistines whom He brought from Caphtor, or the Arameans whom He brought from Kir. Therefore He was about to judge them, sifting them as grain to separate the sinners from the faithful. The Kingdom would be gone, and not one of the sinners would escape. But the faithful remnant of Jacob would be spared.
The Church, instead of being preserved through the coming judgments, will be rescued beforehand. In the original language of 1 Thes. 1:10 Paul said we’ll be removed from both their time and their place.
“In that day I will restore David’s fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name,” declares the LORD, who will do these things.
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,” says the LORD your God. (Amos 9:11-15)
The Lord’s brother James, as the head of the early Church, presided over the Council at Jerusalem about 20 years after the cross. Because of the evangelistic efforts of Peter, Paul, Barnabas and others, Gentiles were becoming followers of Jesus. These leaders had all gathered in Jerusalem to determine whether a) Gentiles had to convert to Judaism before they could join the Church, and b) if not, what would become of Israel. After a lively discussion it was decided that Gentiles could be baptized directly into the Christian faith.
As for the future of Israel, James said that the Lord was first going to take a people for Himself from among the Gentiles (Acts 15:13-14). Using Amos 9:11-12 as His authority, he said after that, the Lord would return to rebuild David’s fallen tabernacle. He was speaking of the nation in general and the Temple in particular.
Ezekiel had prophesied that in the latter days Israel would be reborn, (Ezekiel 36-37), but now James clarified that when that happened they would revive Biblical Judaism as well. Otherwise there would be no need for a Temple. Daniel had also prophesied a Temple in the Latter Days. (Daniel 9:27) You can read all about the Council at Jerusalem in Acts 15:1-21.
There are three critical clues to the End Times in the way James used Amos 9:11-12. One is the chronology. First the Lord will focus on the Church. After He has taken us, He will return and rebuild the Temple. The second is that Israel will not disappear as a people, nor will they be replaced in the Lord’s plan by the Church. Israel and the Church will remain separate entities. And the third is that His shift back to Israel will happen after He has taken the Church. The Greek word translated “taken” literally means to carry away, or remove. It’s most often translated “receive.” It’s a reference to the rapture of the Church.
Paul would soon write that Israel has been blinded in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in (Romans 11:25), agreeing with James that what we now call the Rapture of the Church will precede the Lord’s shift back to Israel. After alluding to it several times in earlier chapters, Ezekiel clearly said that this shift will happen as a result of the battle he prophesied about in chapters 38-39 (Ezekiel 39:22).
20 years after the Council at Jerusalem the temple was destroyed, and soon after that the nation ceased to exist. For the last 1900 years the Lord’s focus has been on the Church. Some day soon the Lord will cause events we are already witnessing to culminate in the Lord’s shift back to Israel. The Church will disappear, Israel’s eyes will be opened and their re-gathering will enter its final phase.
A Temple will be built, and after the most terrible time of trial the world ever has or ever will see, Israel will once again become the preeminent nation on Earth. God Himself will dwell in their midst (Ezekiel 43:7). When that happens, the land will rejoice with the people, its curse broken forever.
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12)
Their harvests will be so plentiful that they’ll hardly be in the barns before it’s time to plant again. The exiled remnant will have been brought back, their cities rebuilt, and no one will ever uproot them again.