Unit: Minor Prophets (Amos, Hosea, Micah)
Theme: I’ve Been Unfaithful
Lesson text: Amos 9:5-15
Supplemental texts: Isaiah 10:20-23; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Revelation 2:5-7; 3:19-20
Aim: Eat of God’s garden in wholeness.
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By Mark Scott
In C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lucy asked Mr. Beaver, “Is he [Aslan, the lion] safe?” Mr. Beaver said, “No, he’s not safe, but he’s good.” That line fits the content of Amos’s prophecy. God is not safe—he comes with a plumb line of judgment—but he is good. And when he judges, he also builds restoration into his judgment.
Amos was not from a priestly family. He was a farmer (fig nipper) from Tekoa, a town 10 miles south of Jerusalem. He prophesied around 755 BC. Uzziah, who was a pretty good king, was reigning in Judah, and Jeroboam, who was a pretty bad king, was reigning in Israel. Amos was from the south but carried on his prophetic ministry in the north—which did not sit well with the northerners. But the nations around Israel (Amos 1–2) and Israel herself were very broken (Amos 3–9). God addressed the brokenness through Amos’s oracles and visions.
The Brokenness Was Severe
How severe was the brokenness? Very! The people of Israel had majored in minors (Amos 5:21-24) and were experiencing the worst kind of famine—one from the Word of God (8:11). They would not be able to escape judgment from the Lord of Hosts.
Through Amos, God appealed to his people about this judgment by leaning back into creation (Amos 9:5-6), reminding them of their redemption (v. 7) and making them aware of his omniscience (vv. 8-10). The Lord Almighty is so powerful that when he judges, the earth melts and the people cry. The land goes topsy-turvy when God judges. The Nile River—i.e., the River of Egypt—rises for about one month during the spring. Then it falls (recedes) again. The lofty palace in the heavens (upper chambers of the firmament) stores up rain, and then, at God’s command, floods the face of the land. Creation seemed to know that God is in control, but the people of Israel seemed clueless.
God often reminded his people of their redemption when they were in Egypt. But God was not myopic about Israel. He was also aware of other nations. He brought the Philistines from Caphtor (Crete), and he brought the Arameans from Kir (East of the Persian Gulf). God spread his sovereignty over his redemptive purposes throughout the world (Acts 17:26-27).
No one can pull the wool over God’s eyes. Nothing catches God by surprise. His eyes search throughout the earth (2 Chronicles 16:9). The Sovereign Lord had his gaze fixed on the sinful kingdom. He would punish Israel severely. In fact, he would shake the people of Israel among the nations. This probably means cause them to be disrespected among the nations. They would be shaken like grain . . . in a sieve. Sinners and presumptuous people who thought disaster would not overtake them would die by the sword (by enemy armies).
But there is a glimmer of hope in this judgment. God would not totally destroy the descendants of Jacob but would have mercy on them because he so desires to mend their brokenness.
The Mending of the Brokenness Was Thorough
With God, mercy always triumphs over judgment (James 2:13). God wanted to restore David’s fallen shelter. King David had passed away 245 years earlier. Is the fallen shelter then the tabernacle or is it something else? Whatever it refers to, the restoration will be complete. Broken walls will be repaired, and even the neighboring nations will recognize that God was at work in it all.
God spoke of mending the brokenness in glorious terms. Food will be in abundance (described in terms of simultaneous harvesting and planting—in other words, crops will still be growing when new ones can be planted). Wine will also exist in abundance (John 2:1-12). And the people deported to exile will come home. Cities will be rebuilt. Vineyards and gardens will flourish. Israel will experience security in the land never to be uprooted again.
The question remains, “What is being envisioned here?” The first meaning surely includes Israel (and perhaps also Judah) returning from their literal and physical exiles in Assyria and Babylon (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:17-22). Some would suggest it refers to the time of the Jews’ return to the “Holy Land” before Christ returns. But in light of James’s use of the book of Amos in Acts 15:16-17, it seems it is spiritually (or metaphorically or typologically) referring to the church age where Jew and Gentile experience such goodness. The literalistic interpretation breaks down because God mends our lives in ways that exceed physical boundaries.