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Amos: Missionary to Israel

Amos was a missionary from Judah to Israel, giving them a final warning to repent before divine judgment was to destroy the nation. They refused, and two years later the nation was struck by a massive earthquake that destroyed their defenses and allowed the Assyrians to conquer them easily.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 18

The Day of the Lord

Amos 5:14, 15 says,

14 Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and thus may the Lord God of hosts be with you, just as you have said! 15 Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate! Perhaps the Lord God of hosts may be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

This is the third and final admonition where the prophet tells Israel to seek God. The three are:

Verse 4, “Seek Me that you may live.”
Verse 6, “Seek the Lord that you may live.”
Verse 14, “Seek good and not evil.”

Amos accepts the possibility that Israel might repent and yet avoid judgment, but he sees little hope that such repentance will actually take place before the end of the age. Hence, he moves directly into a continuing dialog of impending judgment upon the nation.

Amos 5:16, 17 says,

16 Therefore, thus says the Lord God of hosts, the Lord, “There is wailing in all the plazas, and in all the streets they say, ‘Alas! Alas!’ [Heb. “HO! HO!” Articulated in a drawn-out manner] They also call the farmer to mourning and professional mourners to lamentation. 17 And in all the vineyards there is wailing, because I will pass through [avar] the midst of you,” says the Lord.

In those days men used to hire professional mourners who knew how to make long cries on behalf of the living relatives at a funeral. Amos foresees Israel in such a state of public mourning on account of those killed in the coming war in which the nation is destroyed.

The wailing and lamentation, he says, comes not at the hand of the Assyrians. God takes the credit. The destruction is divine judgment.

When he says, “I will pass through the midst of you,” Amos also uses the same word (avar) that Moses used in Exodus 12:12 to show that God passed over (or through) the land of Egypt at the first Passover.

12 For I will go through [avar] the land of Egypt on that night and will strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord.

When God passes through the land of Israel, it is for the same reason. God will look for the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintels of the houses, and if He sees no blood, those houses will suffer loss. There will then be a great cry out of Israel, even as there was a great cry in Egypt in Exodus 12:30,

30 And Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead.

Hence, the great wailing that occurred in the land of Egypt was soon to be duplicated in the land of Israel. The God of Impartial Justice was to apply the law equally when He passed through the land of Israel.

God Judges Impartially

Amos 5:18 says,

18 Alas, you who are longing for the day of the Lord, for what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you? It will be darkness and not light.

The day of the Lord is the day in which the Lord Himself takes the stage and is clearly seen in control of world history. If the religious people of Israel think that the day of the Lord will work in their favor, they are ignorant of His ways.

If they think that it is a day of “light” for Israel and “darkness” only for other nations, they will be taken by surprise when God passes through the land of Israel. They have no right to think that darkness will be upon Egypt while the Israelites remained in the light, as what occurred in Exodus 11:22, 23.

Deut. 1:17 says, “You shall not show partiality in judgment.” Later, God condemned Judah for being partial in applying the law, telling them in Mal. 2:9, “you are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in the instruction [Torah].”

Those Israelites who thought the day of the Lord would favor them were soon to discover their error. As long as the Israelites were guilty of the same idolatry and rebellion that characterized the Egyptians in the days of Moses, God would treat Israel by the same impartial laws that he treated Egypt.

Amos 5:19, 20 continues,

19 As when a man flees from a lion, and a bear meets him, or goes home, leans his hand against the wall, and a snake bites him. 20 Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it?

In other words, there will be no place to hide, for if you are fortunate enough to escape one enemy, you will simply meet another, and if you are able to find refuge in your own home, a snake will bite you in your home. The day of the Lord is a day of darkness, not light.

Joel 2:1, 2 speaks of the day of the Lord as well,

1 Blow a trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm on My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near, 2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness…

The prophets do not treat the day of the Lord as a day of rejoicing. When God comes, He comes in judgment upon the land. So the second coming of Christ, too, is not a day of rejoicing per se, but a day of divine judgment—except for the remnant of grace who are protected.

Paul says in 1 Thess. 5:2 that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” In those days, robber bands often swept down upon a town just before dawn when men slept most soundly and peacefully. Suddenly, the thieves might descend upon a town, bringing sudden destruction.

So also will it be at the coming of Christ. He will not come as a cat-burglar to snatch believers to heaven in a rapture. Instead, He will come like a Mideastern thief in the night to bring destruction upon the existing order.

I believe that the day of the Lord is to be equated to the feast of Trumpets, or Rosh Hoshana. It is the opening scene of the second set of feast days in which is portrayed the sequence of events surrounding the second coming of Christ.

But one must know the lawful way to keep a feast, and one ought to know the prophetic meaning of those feasts as well. The problem is that few throughout history have understood those feasts, and so even most religious people are inadequately prepared for that which is to come.

Amos deals with this problem next.

God Rejects Israel’s Feast Days

Amos 5:21-24 says,

21 I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer up to Me burn offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. 23 Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. 24 But let justice roll down like an ever-flowing stream.

Though God had indeed commanded Israel to keep these festivals, they were unacceptable as long as the nation continued to violate the law of God and remain in rebellion against Him. It is not likely that the people would have understood Amos’ denunciations, for most of the religious people thought they were doing quite well with their rituals.

Human nature changes little over the centuries, and we only have to look at the condition of the church today to understand the words of Amos. Most religious ceremonies continue unabated, while at the same time the church gives itself the right to cast aside the divine law. Having been taught that this is acceptable to God, the people do not even realize that they are part of a system of rebellion—the very kind of problem that brought about Israel’s disaster.

Isaiah’s Double Witness

Isaiah, too, received the same revelation as Amos in regard to the feast days. Isaiah 1:13, 14 says,

13 Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me; new moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. 14 I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me. I am weary of bearing them.

God is not impressed with rituals. Rituals are designed only for our benefit. Rituals are God’s teaching tool, but if we do not learn those lessons, the rituals lose purpose and are an abomination to God.

The feast days teach us first of Israel’s history and the manner of divine deliverance on those days. Secondly, the feast days are instructive in prophecy. The first set of days from Passover to Pentecost prophesy of the first work of Christ; the second set of days from Trumpets to Tabernacles prophesy of the second work of Christ in His second coming. But if we remain ignorant of these prophecies, then the rituals themselves remain an abomination in God’s eyes. Those who refuse to learn are as bad the ancient Israelites.

God says, “take away from Me the noise of your songs.” God gets tired of all the talented music when the people’s hearts are full of lawlessness and rebellion. Music to God’s ears is “justice” and “righteousness.” In other words, God wants people to know the principles of justice found in His law. His desire is that men live according to those principles so that they do not violate the rights of their neighbors.

When they learn to love God first and their neighbors as themselves, then is God pleased and will bless their land. But the unfortunate pattern through the church has been a lack of understanding, due to a heart of rebellion that rejects His law.

Israel’s Wilderness Example

Amos 5:25 says,

25 Did you present Me with sacrifices and grain offerings in the wilderness for forty years, O house of Israel?

The answer is YES. Throughout the forty years in the wilderness, Israel’s priests presented offerings twice daily. The implication is that in spite of their offerings, most of the people died in the wilderness not having received the promises. This shows the inadequacy of those offerings.

What made them inadequate? The answer is found in the next verse. Amos 5:26 says,

26 You also carried along Sikkuth your king and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves.

Sikkuth and Kiyyun were two images of false gods which were apparently popular among the Israelites during their wilderness wandering. Sikkuth literally means “tents, booths” and is virtually identical in meaning to the feast of Sukkoth, or “booths,” the third main feast of Israel.

Perhaps Sikkuth was meant to represent prophetically a false feast of Tabernacles.

Kiyyun (or Chiun in Greek) meant an image of some sort, which was a representation of some star. Translations vary. The KJV reads “Molech and Chiun.” The Greek translation (Septuagint) reads:

26 Yes, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Raephan, the images of them which ye made for yourselves.

This is quoted in Acts 7:43 (NASB), which reads,

43 You also took along the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Rompha, the images which you made to worship them. I also will remove you beyond Babylon.

We see that Sikkuth is called “the tabernacle of Moloch,” and Kiyyun is called “the star of the god Rompha.” The text implies that these were the names of the golden calf that the people made for themselves in the wilderness.

The golden calf itself was derived from the constellation Taurus, in whose shoulder resided the Pleiades, the seven stars among which was Al Cyone, called in Hebrew Sukkot. Hence, when Aaron built the golden calf, the people understood that it was Taurus.

And “the star of the god Rompha” (that is, Kiyyun, or Kaiwan) was probably Saturn, because Kevan or Kaivan was the Persian name for Saturn. In modern Arabic, too, Kaiwan is Saturn. In ancient cosmology, Saturn used to rule the heavens until chased away by Jupiter, who became the king of heaven.

Whatever the case, the Israelites had adopted the Egyptian view of the meaning of the stars, having long forgotten the original prophetic meaning that revealed the divine plan in the names of the stars.

Idolatry does not always worship an entirely different God but is a perverted understanding (image) of the true God. Any time men create icons which they say represent God, they inevitably fail to portray the precise truth of God’s character. Hence, they become perversions of truth, which men soon adopt as actual truth.

So God forbids making such counterfeit images, for they are only man’s image of God and not God Himself. Idols are gods created in the image of man. While we may appreciate good art (sculpture), such images always fall short of reality and invariably lead to idolatry.

Amos concludes this section, telling us that all of Israel’s religious activity would not prevent disaster from coming upon the nation. Amos 5:27 says,

27 “Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus,” says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.

In other words, God says that He will make them go into exile to the far north in the land of Assyria. That, of course, occurred a few years later.