Study Notes

Amos 3:1-4:13


Our first study of Amos introduced us to the sheep raiser of Tekoa, who was called by God to speak His word to the nearby nations. He faithfully proclaimed God's coming judgment for their sins, even that which would befall the kingdoms of Judah and Israel.

Although we do not know how much time elapsed between the prophesyings of the first two chapters and this new proclamation beginning in chapter three, the basic message is the same: sin will be judged unless there is repentance.

3:1-2 I Have Chosen

God is addressing the Jews. Not just Israel, not just Judah. Both kingdoms. Notice that He refers to them as "the entire family" which was brought out of Egypt. These were God's chosen people, who had been singled out for God's special blessings and attention.

Way back in Genesis 12, when the world was inundated with idolatry, the Lord had called Abraham out of his idolatrous country, away from his idolatrous family. God set him and his descendants apart, and promised to bless them. He had chosen for Himself a special people through which all the nations of the earth would be blessed.

But, the more God entrusts to you, the more He expects of you. Jesus taught,

Luke 12:47-48 "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know {it,} and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more."

The more you know, the more you're accountable for. The more you're given, the more is expected of you. The Jews had been singled out by God for blessings, yet they turned their backs on Him. They had been given charge of the Holy Scriptures, yet they had neglected them. They had been entrusted with much, and God was requiring much of them. Their punishment would be greater than that of the other nations, for they were more accountable.

3:3-8 Cause And Effect

In these verses, God lists seven things which have a cause and effect.

People don't travel together without making plans to meet up. Birds don't get caught in traps unless they are baited. Cause and effect.

The last thing listed is that if calamity occurs, the Lord has done it. Many times, man's hardened heart refuses to believe that the terrible things which have come upon him are a result of their own sin and rejection of God. Things are written off as coincidence or freak accidents. But God wants them to know that the disasters which are befalling them are directly resulting from their rejection of Him. They have caused it, and He is effecting it.

He Reveals To The Prophets

Some people have a big problem with God bringing calamity on a city. But it's not like He hasn't warned them. He has spoken it through the prophets over and over again. He has warned them of the consequences of sin and given them countless opportunities to repent.

Throughout history, God has always let mankind know in advance of His plans. Before the world was wiped out with a flood, God forewarned them. First, the prophet Enoch announced the coming judgment with the birth of his son, naming him, "Methuselah," or "his death shall bring." He was saying, "Listen up, everyone. When my son Methuselah dies, God's judgment will be sent." And, in fact, if you work out the genealogies, the flood of Noah came in the year that Methuselah died.

Down through history, it has always been so. God has forewarned and foretold through the prophets. His plans of the Messiah, the crucifixion, the church, the rapture, and the end of the world - all of these things were spoken through the prophets, and we have them written down in the Bible. There are no surprises - unless we choose not to believe.

This is one reason that I am continually amazed at Christians who follow after winds of doctrine, or signs and wonders not foretold in the Scriptures. The Lord has been faithful to let us know through the prophets exactly what to expect in these last days, and has made it crystal clear.

But when I point out to people that what they are following after is not in the Bible, they say something like, "Brother, God is doing a new thing! You can't limit God."

Well, that's fine - God's allowed to do a new thing if He wants, but it is He Who has limited Himself, not me. According to His own statement here, He's not going to do some new thing unless He first let us know in advance beforehand through the prophets writing these things down in Scripture!

Oh, that we would heed the words of the apostle Paul when he told us to...

1Cor. 4:6 ...learn not to exceed what is written...

3:9-10 See The Great Tumults

The Lord calls out to Ashdod, one of the capital cities of the Philistines, and to Egypt to observe Samaria. Samaria was built on a hill in the midst of a valley. Although it was the highest point in the valley, the mountains surrounding the valley were taller still. If you went up on one of these mountaintops, you could look down into Samaria.

God calls the Philistines and the Egyptians to look down into Samaria and see the "great tumults." In other words, the violence that they were committing against one another - the rioting of the poor, and the oppression of the righteous. It was evident to even the most casual observer that Samaria was corrupted to the core. The "right thing" was never done - sin was so rampant that they didn't even know right from wrong anymore!

Paul wrote that hypocrisy like this sears peoples' consciences (1Tim 4:2). Literally, their consciences are cauterized - burned to the point of having no feeling. This was where sin had brought the people of Samaria.

God was calling to the Egyptians and the Philistines to come look. He wanted to show the surrounding nations the reason for the judgment that was coming upon those who were called God's people.

3:11-15 The Judgment

The judgment was going to come in the form of an enemy army putting them under siege. Everything would be looted and destroyed. We saw this happen in 2Kings - the Israelites were carted off in the Assyrian captivity. Even the rich sitting on couches and relaxing in their ornately decorated homes would be taken away.

From The Lion's Mouth

The strangest expression we have read so far in Amos is found in verse 12, making reference to a shepherd snatching legs or a piece of an ear from a lion's mouth. While this is commonplace to Amos the shepherd-turned-prophet, it mystifies us and taxes our Bible knowledge.

Historically, when men were hired to watch over a flock of sheep, they were financially responsible for any that wandered off. When a lion or other predator attacked one of the sheep, even if the shepherd couldn't save its life, he would try to recover some of the sheep's body to prove it was attacked, thereby freeing him from the financial burden of replacing the sheep. The Law of God stated in Exodus,

Exod. 22:10-13 "If a man gives his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep {for him,} and it dies or is hurt or is driven away while no one is looking, an oath before the LORD shall be made by the two of them, that he has not laid hands on his neighbor's property; and its owner shall accept {it,} and he shall not make restitution. But if it is actually stolen from him, he shall make restitution to its owner. If it is all torn to pieces, let him bring it as evidence; he shall not make restitution for what has been torn to pieces."

Sometimes, bringing the evidence meant approaching the lion and stealing a body part while it was feasting on the carcass.

You may recall that when Jacob was angry with his uncle Laban for accusing him of wrongdoing after years of hard work, he said,

Gen. 31:38-39 "These twenty years I {have been} with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten the rams of your flocks. That which was torn {of beasts} I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it myself. You required it of my hand {whether} stolen by day or stolen by night."

Jacob's work environment was unusually difficult, for Uncle Laban even made him pay for the sheep which were attacked by predators.

And so what Amos is saying is that just as a shepherd would quickly grab what small portion he could from the lion's mouth and run away, the Jews in Samaria are going to be grabbed quickly and taken away.

4:1-3 You Cows Of Bashan

The area of Bashan was rich and fertile, the best grazing land around. God calls the women who were reveling in their lavish surroundings and luxury "cows of Bashan." They too would be included in the judgment, carted away like cattle, caught like fish, marched in captivity over the rubble of what used to be the protective walls of Samaria.

4:4-5 Offer Sacrifices

The sarcasm drips throughout these statements. God is certainly not encouraging them to continue in their abominable idolatries, but is speaking with irony to get them to see their twisted ways.

Bethel was one of the two cities where King Jeroboam had placed the golden calves. People from all over Israel came to worship this idol.

When Jeroboam had introduced the calves, he imitated the offerings that were brought to the temple. Thus, they were giving sacrifices, tithes, thank offerings, and freewill offerings. But they did no good. Even if they began to offer their tithes every three days, their sacrifices were still full of leaven, a symbol of sin.

Their sacrifices meant nothing to God, their religion was worthless. No matter how dedicated someone is to their religious system, it is sickening to the Lord if it is a false religious system. The school of thought which teaches, "all roads lead to God," is a lie of the devil. Jesus said,

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me."

You can be the most devoted Buddhist, the most dedicated Muslim, but God finds no pleasure in your efforts - they will not save you.

4:6-11 Famine, Drought, Plagues

When God tells them that He gave them "cleanness of teeth," He is not speaking of the blessedness of dental hygiene. In those days, if your teeth were clean, it meant that you had not eaten. God brought famine upon them, desiring them to come to repentance.

He also brought drought, waiting for them to cry out to Him. He would demonstrate that it was no coincidence, but show them that He could make it rain on one city, but not another. But they would not come back to the Lord.

He brought scorching wind, mildew, and caterpillars to attack their fields, but they would not repent.

He allowed the enemies of Israel to come in, but even after thousands died, the survivors still would not return to the Lord.

Jeremiah put it this way:

Jer. 5:3 ...Thou hast smitten them, {But} they did not weaken; Thou hast consumed them, But they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; They have refused to repent.

4:12-13 Prepare To Meet Your God

I can think of no more intimidating situation in this life than to be in unrepentant sin and hear the words, "Prepare to meet your God."

God is all-powerful and all knowing. Who can resist Him? Why would anyone want to try?

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