When the Lord reveals his judgement against sin, will you cry to him for mercy or refuse to listen? This whole book is a warning.
Vision 1 – locusts (v1-3)
As the Lord speaks first, he says he’s preparing locusts. It’s not just a vision of an accident. The Lord intends it. When they come, there will be devastation. Amos cries out for forgiveness. He’s from the southern kingdom yet he is moved to compassion for people who don’t like him. The Lord listens and relents, not because they don’t deserve it but because he loves to listen to the prayers from his people. Keep on praying.
Vision 2 – fire (v4-6)
Once again, the Lord is calling for judgement, this time by fire. The land is devoured. Land after fire or locusts look similar. There’s nothing left. Again, Amos responds and cries out. Israel had taken their name from Jacob. Jacob, without God’s blessing and grace, would’ve been nothing. The Lord had shown him kindness. Again, the Lord relents. He is teaching Amos and us that he does listen when we pray.
Vision 3 – plumb line (v7-9)
This is a different vision to the previous two. The Lord is saying Israel is the wall. They were built as they were made to be. Although we’re not told explicitly, they are no longer the straight wall they once were. This time, Amos doesn’t plead on their behalf. They aren’t what they should be. When Jesus came, he is the only person who kept God’s law perfectly. We can look at the life of Jesus and see how far we are from that life. He is the plumb line and we all fall short.
Response 1 – Amaziah (v10-13)
Amaziah doesn’t want to listen to Amos. He’s a priest but doesn’t want to listen to God’s word. Are there things that our community doesn’t want to hear? Amaziah cares more about the king’s sanctuary than the Lord’s.
Response 2 – Amos (v14-15)
Back in 3:8 Amos states the sovereign Lord has spoken. He listens. As the Lord has been revealing his judgement, he listens and cries out to the Lord for mercy. We should speak up. The Lord has called all Christians to speak about him.
A judgement against the priest (v16-17)
Everyone is guilty. God’s judgement against sin is fair. On the cross, God showed his judgement in the clearest way that he could. The full anger of God poured out, the sky darkened. Will we cry out to him for mercy or refuse to listen and face judgement ourselves?
The Israelites are looking forward to the Lord’s coming (5:18). They’re looking forward to the day when God’s people will have a wonderful future. It’s a good thing to long for. This will be a day of judgment against them (5:18-20). There is no escape. Appearances can be deceiving. For the Israelites in Amos’ time they thought they were doing pretty well. Amos is here to reveal the truth underneath. They instead have a false hope in themselves.
A false hope in themselves (5:21-6:7)
They might look fine but on the inside, they’re dead. Hypocrisy, wickedness. They’re hoping in themselves through their religious acts (5:21-27). Their acts are rituals, superstitions. They’re whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27). They’re trusting in military success (6:1-3) and their material wealth (6:4-7). They’ve got everything they could possibly ever need. Amos reminds us that a false hope leads to judgment.
A false hope leads to a true judgment against sin (6:8-14)
God’s judgment will be complete. Whole cities will be destroyed. There is an appropriate fear of the power and might of the sovereign Lord. It’s a picture of God’s complete judgment against sin. It’s just. It’s what the people deserve. These people have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness. God’s judgment is fair. God’s people will face judgment and exile for rejecting him. We can think we’re better than them, that we wouldn’t do the same.
We need a true hope in the Lord’s rescue
We need to realise we can’t do it by ourselves. We need to throw ourselves on Jesus’ mercy. It’s only through his death that God can be just and be merciful. A false hope in ourselves, whatever that may be, will bring judgment, but a true hope in Jesus will bring rescue. Whatever good things we do will never be enough because we all fail. This passage is a reminder to look to Jesus. In Jesus, each and every person is valued. Success is measured by seeking Jesus and clinging to him day by day.
Amos seems to be stirring our hearts to ask if we’re actually at peace with God. We are in danger if we fool ourselves, but God says to Amos “Come with me if you want to live.” (Terminator reference). This passage was often quoted in the American civil rights movement in the 50s. Amos announces he’s on the side of the vulnerable.
The troubling announcement of God’s wrath in this chapter begins with a lament. A lament is a song for the brokenhearted, or a song for when you’re at your lowest. God views his people in the OT as a coming marriage. He’s grieving in v2. Israel was meant to be a nation of blessing but they’ll be brought to almost nothing. Why has Israel become a depleted nation? They weren’t seeking God himself (v5). These are significant places. The people would’ve been appalled. They forgot the Lord himself. So often we want the benefits of a relationship with God but not God himself. We want what God can give us, but not God. What happens when God’s people do this? Nothing good.
Our default setting is to worry about ourselves instead of others. When we seek what we can get from God, we put our own selfish wants first. God’s beloved people are brought to almost nothing. They hate justice or do nothing about injustice. Do we know what peace even is? Amos shows peace is a right relationship with God and a right relationship with our neighbour. We’re only at peace with God when we seek him as he has revealed himself to us.
God directly appeals to his people when he says “seek” (v4, v6, v14). God’s people had forgotten who he was. They’d forgotten that he was good. He reminds us exactly who he is (v8-9). God call us to live (v14-15). Seek the God who champions the weak. He invites us back into peace with him. The passage ends with wailing in the streets (v16-17). God calls us to seek him as he reveals himself. He points us outwards to the whole city.
Amos reveals to us the severity and intensity of God’s justice. God is the hero of the brokenhearted. He won’t allow the oppressed to remain oppressed. God isn’t done with us. When we turn to God, he turns us to our neighbours. He reveals himself to be ultimately the God who is with us.
In Jesus, we have every spiritual blessing. He’s the morning light that dawns in our darkness. Jesus is God with us and shows us mercy. In Jesus we are called out of our old way of living to be able to truly love our neighbour. We are freed from the oppression of our sin. Each of us is invited to seek God and live for him.
The kingdom was split in two (northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah). They were pretty strong and prospering. Amos was a shepherd, a farmer. God called him as a prophet. He sends him a message. Amos was sent from the south to the north. The words aren’t too pleasant – the Lord roars from Zion (1:1-2). Jerusalem is the place of God’s temple and the Lord roars (Revelation).
The Lord roars in judgement against the sins of the nations (1:3-2:3)
The Lord is to be feared. He roars in judgement against the sins of the nations.
The pattern of the judgements:
- The Lord speaks
- The serious nature of sin
- An example of their sin
- The judgement of the Lord
- The Lord speaks
You don’t have to be a Christian to know that some things are bad. That’s what these nations are doing (1:3). Nothing is left standing. These are horrific sins. They are all against other people. No one should read this and think God’s judgement is unfair. When he comes to judge sin, nothing will stand in his way. Just as these nations have destroyed others, they will be destroyed.
Imagine being an Israelite hearing this. Thank God that he is going to judge this evil. What God says will happen, happens. He does still see the evil around us and he will judge it. The Lord roars against the sins of the nations. It’s a warning. It’s easy to point at the sins of others. We are just as bad. We have hurt others and we know we’ve done wrong. As Christians we can’t sit back smugly.
The Lord roars in judgement especially against the sins of those who claim to be his people (2:4-16)
Judah is judged because they’ve rejected the law of the Lord. They’ve broken the laws that God himself gave to them. Israel doesn’t escape this judgement. The root of their sin is the same as Judah’s. They were supposed to be a light to the nations. God has acted again and again to rescue and bless Israel but they’ve thrown it back in his face. Israel has no defence. It seems not a single person will get away. They’re stuck. This is certain. Amos was speaking at around 760BC. By 722BC the nations had been conquered. This is a warning. We are no better than the Israelites. To be a Christian is to know that you deserve God’s judgement.
We can be comforted in Jesus. It should make us more dependent on him and his gracious rescue, but we need to be warned. Being one of God’s people isn’t just a label. It’s an internal change that’s shown by an outward way of life enabled by the Holy Spirit. If we deny the truth with our actions, are we really Christians? The Lord sees and will judge all of our sin. Our only refuge is found in Christ. Let’s cast ourselves on his mercy.
A summary of Genesis could be that God is gathering a people for himself. People are rubbish but God doesn’t reject people. God made promises of people, land and blessing. Abraham and Isaac tried to prostitute their own wives to save their skin. Jacob cons his own father. His sons sell their own brother into slavery and leave him for dead. God is keeping his promises despite our sin and wickedness. He takes rubbish people and makes them his own.
Joseph knows the evil intent in the hearts of his brothers but he knows that God can use it for good. For Jacob that means fixing his eyes on Canaan. He’s come to the end of his life and with his final words he’s modelling what it looks like. He wants to make sure his sons act in line with God’s promises. The mourning for Jacob is extravagant. It’s testimony to who he is and who Jacob is. For the Egyptians their saviour’s grief becomes their own grief. Joseph speaks to the court, even as the second in command. He’s showing respect and humility.
Only Joseph and his brothers cross into Canaan. They turn and go back to Egypt. Even here we see this is about more than just Canaan. If we’re Christians we are to fix our eyes on heaven if we are to live for Jesus now. For Joseph it means completely forgiving his brothers. It means cancelling debt and absorbing a cost. It means no longer bringing up the issue. It moves towards the other person and is only possible when we trust God. Joseph knows that behind the hurt God was still doing good things. It doesn’t take away the hurt but it means knowing that this isn’t all there is. If we won’t forgive others we have no right to expect God to forgive us.
God is gathering a people for himself.
The Christian hope is of life after death. We live now for that future. Jesus came to pay the price for sin so that we can live forever. We can choose whether we follow him or not. What we see modelled by Jacob is how to die well.
Live now for God’s future kingdom
It’s easy to get distracted by the things around us. Jacob wants to make sure his sons don’t live for the now but for the future. He doesn’t give Joseph a list of tasks to achieve. He wants to remind him of God’s promises. He wants their lives to be shaped by that reality. Do we really believe it’s better to live for Jesus and lose everything?
Joseph notices that Jacob got the blessings the wrong way round, but Jacob knows he didn’t. He knows God blesses the weak. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Blessing is a gift and not a right. Jacob gathers the rest of the sons together and they all receive a blessing. It’s an encouragement because we know that God’s kingdom in Canaan was built.
The king of God’s kingdom comes from Judah. As God’s people there are still consequences for our actions now (1 Cor. 3). We shouldn’t get distracted by the comfort of Egypt. We are called to live for Canaan, to live for God’s future kingdom.
The slavery in this passage is different from the slavery we think of today.
The Lord cares for all people through his gracious leader (v13-26)
This is probably about four years into seven years of famine. Pharaoh gets all the money. The people go to Joseph and ask for food. They know they have a choice of either life or death. Joseph says he’ll buy their animals from them. The Egyptians know that losing their possessions and living is better. They’re at least fine for a time. When that year was over, they go to Joseph again. They offer themselves. The people make the suggestion this time to sell themselves and their land. They carry on living on the same land. It costs them a 20% tax. They get food, seeds to sow, and their land. They know it’s good.
God had brought Joseph to Egypt to save the lives of Jacob and his sons. Joseph was only ever a small picture of Jesus. When they were confronted with a choice the Egyptians would’ve been foolish to go it alone. We have the same choice. That way leads to death. We can give ourselves to Jesus. That way leads to life. We need to know the truth like the Egyptians did. We also need to show it.
The Lord cares uniquely for his people through his gracious leader (v27-28)
Every person has lots of blessings. It’s better to live as a Christian now than not to. There is comfort through suffering as the Holy Spirit is with us. We need to remind each other that this is true. The love, care and mercy that God expects us to show each other is wonderful.
The Lord’s people live now for his future promises (v29-31)
God’s future is far better. Jesus is going to remake the world and begin a new world of joy. Isn’t that what helps us to forgive? This life isn’t all there is. We need to keep encouraging each other not to live for the now but for the future promises.
Sometimes we want justice to be done and we want to take it into our own hands. Justice is good but what does it look like here? God is providing for his people. He knows there will be a seven year famine across the world and he makes sure his people will survive. Joseph has been betrayed and spent 13 years in slavery and prison and another seven in Egypt. Just because God is bringing good things out of this doesn’t mean his brothers aren’t guilty.
It’s been more than 20 years since Joseph’s brothers last saw Joseph. He recognised them but they didn’t recognise him. He had had dreams that his whole family would bow down before him. He sees that this is the fulfilment. Joseph tests them. He puts them in prison. He shows mercy and tells one of them to stay behind. He tells them to prove their innocence. They know they’re guilty. Joseph orders his servants to plant their money in their sacks. They see that this is God’s judgment on their sin for their treatment of Joseph.
Reuben is a bit different. He’d intended to free Joseph. He offers to take responsibility for Benjamin. The promise he makes is foolish at best. Losing two grandchildren for losing a son is hardly retribution. Judah steps up. He had only ever cared about himself. He takes his charge personally. He does it for his family.
Joseph is thrilled at seeing his younger brother and almost can’t hide it any more. He tells his servants to plant his own cup in their sacks. Joseph then tells his steward to go after them. Is God’s justice finally catching up with them? They all claim innocence. Each sack is opened until only Benjamin is left. There’s the cup but they’re all devastated. They all stay to become slaves. They’re not the same as who they were 20 years ago. We shouldn’t judge people by that. They are still guilty. It doesn’t undo what they’ve done in the past.
We don’t want people to get away with things. Joseph shows mercy. God isn’t only the God of justice but of mercy too. None of us are any better than Joseph’s brothers. Justice for us is condemnation. A true Christian shows mercy to others. It’s costly. It opens us up to being hurt or betrayed but it is the example of Jesus. It transforms people. Joseph is merciful because God has shown mercy to him. We can be merciful to others because Jesus been merciful to us.
This is a story of real hardship and pain. Even if we’re Christians we can question if we can trust God with this going on. When we say that we’re Christians that means we follow Jesus. We’re told he sustains all things (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus allows all things to happen. That means believing that somehow, for some reason, Jesus allows the hurt and pain and brokenness of this world to continue. Even as we face that, God is good. He is with us and for us.
Even while Joseph was a slave in a foreign land, God was with him. He doesn’t know why this has happened to him. It doesn’t stop him from making the most of the situation he is in. Whatever situation you find yourself in, God has put you there for a reason. By remaining faithful to God things actually go from bad to worse. His master’s wife twisted the story.
Joseph is clinging to God but is longing to be out of his situation. We don’t know why these things happen but God proves himself trustworthy again and again. In chapter 41, Pharaoh had dreams. Joseph is able to interpret. We are to cling to God’s promises. Jesus doesn’t promise a life free of suffering. Joseph received a blessing from God. In Jesus we have certain promises. Eternal life that is free from suffering and pain. Jesus gave himself up and faced the full anger of God the Father.
The change we see in Habakkuk is the result of encountering God.
At the start, he struggles to comprehend the world around him. He feels there’s no response to his prayers. He hasn’t lost his faith in God but is struggling to see the point.
Now there’s a change in tone. He’s no longer complaining. It appears he’s seen that God has done something. Why the sudden change? In chapter 2, God shows his true might and power. This prayer is a direct response to a personal encounter with God.
Pray and declare
He prays and proclaims the God he serves. We are charged with these two roles. Often we are left with the question of how. Habakkuk looks at the world around him and is awestruck at who God is (v2). Instead of anger, he is rejoicing in the Lord. He tells us God accepts us feeling angry but we shouldn’t stay that way. We can allow our attitudes to shift. We need to pray asking God to show us his glory.
Pray for mercy
Witnessing God’s power is no easy thing. It’s changed Habakkuk. He comes away feeling physically ill. If we meet with God this way it will also change us. He was so affected that he describes it as decay creeping into his bones. After seeing the wrath of God and what he’s capable of, we can only turn inwardly and look at our sin. We see ourselves for who we are. Habakkuk will wait patiently (v16).
Look to the cross and be joyful
Habakkuk sees the God who delivers his people and is joyful and is able to call him Saviour (v18). He’s now rejoicing. At the cross, this is where God says he is committed to justice. It’s the cross where Jesus took our punishment. It helps us to pray for a broken world. We know God will act in a final judgement. No matter what situations we face we can pray to God knowing he will act.
Rest in the sovereign Lord
We can be content like Habakkuk (v19). He finishes by ascribing the place where has arrived with feet like a deer walking on the heights. The danger is still real. Habakkuk is now resting in God as his source of strength. We can be changed when we see God’s glory.
We need God to break our apathetic hearts and lead us to trust in the grace of Jesus. Knowing God through Jesus can allow us to be joyful. God is enough.