In Amos 8:5, 6 the prophet shows the lawlessness of society in Israel during his time. Then he says in Amos 8:7,
7 The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob, “Indeed, I will never forget any of their deeds.”
What is “the pride of Jacob?” The KJV renders it, “The Excellency of Jacob,” which is a reference to God Himself. The title “His Excellency” is a well-known title of respect that is used even today.
The fact that this title is used of God is clear from the fact that God “has sworn” an oath in this matter. Since He can swear on nothing and no one higher than Himself, it is often said that He has sworn by Himself, as in Amos 6:8.
What did God swear? “I will never forget any of their deeds.” In other words, He swore not to overlook their deeds but to judge them by His law.
The wording of this verse gives the impression that the sins of Israel would “never” be forgotten. That is actually not quite true, because the New Covenant states, “and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:34). Hence, Amos 8:7 must be understood in a more limited context. Holding their sin against them was not a permanent condition.
Amos 8:8 continues,
8 Because of this will not the land quake and everyone who dwells in it mourn? Indeed, all of it will rise up like the Nile [yehore], and it will be tossed about, and subside like the Nile of Egypt.
This metaphor referred to the rise and fall of the Nile River every year when it flooded and then subsided. The word yehore is an Egyptian word that means “river, canal,” but is usually a reference to the Nile itself.
Even as the Nile’s flood disrupted life in Egypt, so also will God disrupt the land of Israel when struck by a flood of divine judgment. The good news is that the flood subsides later, implying that Israel’s judgment was to end at some point in the future. We might also note that yehore also means “light,” because its root is ore (ur), which is “light.” The Nile was figuratively the “light of Egypt,” making the land fertile as the flood deposited rich silt from upstream.
But the immediate threat was divine judgment that was to cover the land and cause the land to “quake.” Perhaps this was the immediate fulfillment of the earthquake mentioned in Amos 1:1. There we read that Amos began to prophesy “two years before the earthquake.” After that quake, the prophet may have considered this to be the fulfillment of his prophecy. If so, it probably marked the start of judgment.
Not only at that time, but also at the end of the present age will both the heavens and the earth quake in judgment, as ungodly governments are cast down to make room for the Kingdom of God. (See Haggai 2:6,7 and Heb. 12:26, 27.)
The latter-day quake results in the Kingdom of God, which is left standing in the midst of Babylon’s rubble. So once again we see something positive being implied in the background.
Amos 8:9 says,
9 “And it will come about in that day,” declares the Lord God, “that I will make the sun go down at noon and make the earth dark in broad daylight.”
We have no record of a solar eclipse that can be taken as a sign of Israel’s judgment. However, many years later in the land of Judah, the sun went down at noon while Jesus was on the cross. Matt. 27:45 says,
45 Now from the sixth hour [noon] darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour [3 p.m.].
The rejection and crucifixion of Jesus ensured that the city of Jerusalem would soon be destroyed (in 70 A.D.).
The Festival of Mourning
Amos 8:10 continues the thought, saying,
10 Then I will turn your festivals into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring sackcloth on everyone’s loins and baldness on every head. And I will make it like a time of mourning for an only son, and the end of it will be like a bitter day.
These were all customary signs of mourning at funerals in those days. So Jeremiah wrote his Lamentations after the destruction of Jerusalem. Sackcloth, dust, and ashes were signs of mourning (1 Kings 21:27).
Many shaved their heads. In the law, the priests were not allowed to shave their heads in mourning for the dead. Lev. 21:5 says,
5 They shall not make any baldness on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts in their flesh.
This shows that shaving the head was customary, though not mandatory, for others.
Passover as a Day of Mourning
Amos likens this time of mourning to the loss of one’s “only son,” which seems to allude to the death of the only-begotten Son of God. This ties the threat of judgment to the feast of Passover, a time when the first-born sons of Egypt were killed, throwing the entire nation into mourning.
When Jesus was crucified as the Passover Lamb, God’s requirement was to use His blood to cover one’s “house.” By the law of sacrifice in Lev. 17:3-5, the animal sacrifice could be killed anywhere, but its blood had to be brought to the place where God had placed His name in order to apply the blood to the soul of the one offering it.
The law said that if someone did not apply the blood, then that person would be guilty of bloodshed. Jesus was crucified outside the camp (Heb. 13:11, 12) on the Mount of Olives, but only those who treated His blood with respect, applying it to their “house,” could avoid being guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
The Lord’s name used to be at Shiloh (Jer. 7:12) and later at the temple of Solomon, but today His name is in our foreheads (Rev. 22:4). Hence, to fulfill the law, His blood must be applied spiritually to our own foreheads, which serve as the lintels of today’s “house” (Exodus 12:7).
To refuse to do this is the equivalent of the Egyptians refusing or neglecting to put the blood of the lamb on the lintels of their houses in the days of Moses. The result is the death of the first-born, which means that such people are not begotten by God. Without a New Creation Man, they are yet ineligible as sons of God.
The Day of Atonement as a Day of Mourning
There are two sets of festivals, one in the Spring and the other in the Autumn (northern hemisphere). The two sets parallel each other, and the second builds upon the first.
Passover is similar to the Day of Atonement. The wave-sheaf offering is similar to Trumpets. The seven days of Unleavened Bread run parallel to the seven days of the feast of Tabernacles.
Hence, just as Amos speaks of Passover being turned into a day of mourning, so also was the Day of Atonement known as a day of mourning. Mourning was a euphemism for fasting, and Atonement was a day of fasting.
The Day of Atonement was instituted when the 12 spies gave an evil report after spying out the land of Canaan for 40 days. They returned from their spying trip carrying the first-fruits of the grapes (Num. 13:20). A study of timing shows that this was the year 2450 from Adam, that is, the 50th Jubilee (50 x 49 years).
The people were supposed to celebrate the Jubilee of Jubilees that day, but their lack of faith turned the day from jubilation to mourning. This lack of faith is similar to what we have already shown in regard to Passover. Those who did not have faith in the blood of Christ as their Sacrifice for sin would remain guilty of bloodshed.
So the day of mourning was both Passover and the Day of Atonement insofar as judgment is concerned. The root cause of judgment on both days is lack of faith in Christ. Such a lack of faith turns the feast into “a bitter day.”
Famine of Hearing the Word
Whenever a person rejects the word of the Lord, or any portion of it, that person blinds himself to the revelation of that rejected word. For example, believing the evil report of the 12 spies blinded Israel to the revelation of the Jubilee. By rejecting Jesus as the Lamb of God, people become blind to the New Covenant which reveals the purpose of Jubilee.
All spiritual blindness, of course, really began with Adam’s sin in the garden. For this reason, blindness is a world-wide condition, not limited to Israel and Judah. So Isaiah 25:7 speaks of “the veil which is stretched over all nations.”
The Apostle Paul tells us that this veil is the Old Covenant (2 Cor. 3:14, 15). Those who put their faith in the Old Covenant method of salvation (by the will of man, man’s vows, or by works) show evidence of such blindness.
In the Law of Tribulation (Lev. 26 and Deut. 28), we read how God vowed to judge Israel’s lawlessness by famine, sickness, and the sword. “The trees of the land will not yield their fruit” (Lev. 26:20). “You will eat and not be satisfied” (Lev. 26:26).
In the Song of Moses, which deals largely with divine judgment upon the disobedient nation, we read in Deut. 32:24, “they will be wasted by famine.”
The actual outworking of this judgment has turned out to be more than just a lack of food. The prophet Amos tells us in Amos 8:11, 12,
11 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord. 12 And people will stagger from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.”
It is bad enough to live through a famine, which comes and goes relatively quickly. Amos, however, spoke of a long-term famine of “hearing the words of the Lord.”
The Slow Eradication of Famine
When the house of Israel was deported far north to be resettled in the area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, the famine of the word truly began. Separated from the temple, few of them had access to any portion of Scripture. Teaching was reduced to a minimum.
As time passed, this famine only increased. When Assyria fell to the revolting Babylonians, the Israelites began to migrate west into the northern part of Asia Minor (now Turkey). Many went north through the Caucasus Mountain passes into Europe. The farther they moved, the less chance they had of hearing the word of God.
At some point in His ministry, Jesus sent His disciples to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5, 6). It appears that Peter went north to “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” where he made friends with some of the Israelites in that region, for we find him writing to them later. (1 Peter 1:1, 2).
Peter reminded them of the promises to them that were written by the prophet Hosea. 1 Peter 2:9, 10 says,
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession… 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
These prophetic promises were given to Israel in Hosea 2:23. Though they certainly apply to others as well, we cannot exclude the lost Israelites among them. The point is that after the death and resurrection of Christ, the famine of hearing the word began to abate. When the Jews began to seriously persecute the early church in Jerusalem, the church was scattered (Acts 8:1). This was how God sent the word to others, including the Israelites of the dispersion.
A few centuries later, the Emperor Constantine put an end to the persecutions, and by the end of the fourth century, Rome officially became a Christian Republic.
The famine of the word seemed to be ending. But many of the dispersed Israelites remained outside the boundaries of the Roman Empire. By the time the gospel reached them, Rome was already in decline, and corruption was spreading fast within the church itself.
By the time the gospel spread throughout Europe, where most of the Israelites had immigrated, the church had long since lost the understanding of the New Covenant. The church had degenerated into just another religion ruled by men, rather than by Jesus Christ. It was, by then, a full-blown manifestation of the reign of King Saul, whom the people had crowned in place of God Himself (1 Sam. 8:7).
As the Roman Empire declined and was invaded by wave after wave of so-called “barbarian tribes,” education and literacy declined, fewer and fewer people were able to read the Scriptures, and the church descended into the Dark Ages. The famine increased further when the church began to forbid people to read the Scriptures for themselves. Even priests were illiterate, having memorized only the liturgy by which they might perform the rituals of religion.
After a thousand years of this, the printing press was introduced to Europe from China. The Gutenberg Bible (in German) was printed and published in 1452. This new and inexpensive way of reproducing the Bible began to bring the famine of the word to an end.
When the common people were able to read the Bible for themselves, they soon saw the huge discrepancy between church teaching and the revelation of God. The church then became alarmed and issued numerous threats of excommunication against anyone caught reading the Bible without the “aid” of a priest.
But the Protestant movement survived, and the various Bible Societies sprang up in the late 1700’s to propagate the word of God. Out of this came the missionary movements of the 1800’s, and it seemed that the famine of hearing the words of the Lord had ended.
Unfortunately, there was still a lot of blindness in the people, caused by the Old Covenant mindset which acted as a veil upon their minds and hearts. This was most apparent in the New World in the treatment of the native populations. To be fair, there were many good Christians who kept their word and treated the Native Americans with respect. However, they were outnumbered by those who were more carnally minded, and the US government, while claiming to be Christian, broke most of their treaties with no remorse.
The Sin of Saul
Saul reigned 40 years, and David reigned another 40 years after him. Toward the end of David’s reign, long after Saul was dead, God sent a famine upon Israel for three years (2 Sam. 21:1). David finally enquired of the Lord to see why his nation was under divine judgment.
God told him that “It is for Saul and his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.”
Years earlier, Joshua had made a covenant with the Gibeonites. Joshua 9:15 says,
15 And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live; and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them.
When anyone obligates himself by oath or covenant, the law of God holds him to his word. Hence, when Saul broke that covenant and put some Gibeonites to death, God sent a famine upon the land of Israel.
Yet God withheld judgment until the end of David’s reign. I believe this was because David had the heart to resolve the problem, whereas Saul did not. The Gibeonites demanded that seven of the sons (family) of Saul be turned over to them for execution (2 Sam. 21:7). That implies that Saul had killed seven of the Gibeonites earlier.
David complied with their demand, and the famine ended. This story shows how important it is to honor national commitments and treaties. The US government failed to honor most of its treaties, and so the famine of the word continued to the present time.
That famine, I believe, had the potential of being broken in the early 1900’s when the outpouring of the Holy Spirit took place. These were the early days of the revival of the feast of Pentecost. They had an opportunity to repent of the sin of rejecting the direct rule of God, the same sin that brought Saul to the throne many years ago.
But the Pentecostal movements denominationalized in 1909-1912, and so the sin of Saul was perpetuated. The famine of the word continued for another century, so that it could be resolved by the overcomers (“David”).
It is only now that the famine, prophesied in Amos 8:11, 12, is being lifted. The Old Covenant veil is now being removed. Blindness is being healed. The legalism in the church is being replaced by lawfulness. The lawlessness (anomia) so common among Christian miracle workers, is being exposed. Jesus warned in Matt. 7:21-23,
21 Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (anomia).
God is far less impressed with miracles than we are. God does not measure our spiritual maturity by the number of miracles we do, but by our obedience.
Two Types of Obedience
There is only one God and one law, but there are two types of obedience. Old Covenant obedience comes from fulfilling the vows of men, particularly the vow in Exodus 19:8, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” The law will hold all Old Covenant believers accountable to their vows if they fail to obey all of God’s commandments.
The other type of obedience is that which is of faith. This is New Covenant faith, where men place their faith in God’s vow to men. The law holds God accountable to fulfill His vows, and our faith is in His ability to keep His promises. The great example is seen in Abraham, who was “fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform.”
A New Covenant mindset sees The Ten Commandments as the Ten Promises of God. When God says, “You will not covet,” we see this as a promise of God, for He has obligated Himself to work in our hearts so that we will not covet.
In other words, New Covenant obedience is seen as evidence of God’s ability to fulfill His vow, not as a man-made attempt to fulfill our own vows to God. It is just a different perspective, even if it is based upon the same law.
By rediscovering the meaning of the New Covenant, we may refine our faith and remove the veil of blindness and see His face, so that we can be transformed into His image.