Amos 3-4, pt.1

This week we will be reading through the three judgment speeches against Israel in Amos 3:1-5:17.  Within these speeches, God sets forth the reasons for his anger and judgment against Israel and provides the solution.  As you read through these speeches think about not only the historical context of Amos’ prophecy but how it speaks to us today. 

Chapter 3 sets up the remainder of Amos’ prophesy. Amos begins with a description of the intimacy between the Lord and Israel by using that same word (yada) which describes that intimacy between a husband and a wife (Gen. 4:1) or that existed between God and Abraham (Gen. 16:19).  Because Israel has a greater privilege resulting from this intimacy, it has a greater responsibility to do what is right. See, Luke 12:48. This chapter also explains that Amos is prophesying because he has no choice – Israel’s sins necessarily lead to condemnation.

There may be no other chapter in all of Scripture that is as insulting, bitingly sarcastic, and haranguing as chapter 4 of Amos. This chapter has three major sections: 1) an insult against the wealthy women of Israel (vv.1-3), 2) a sarcastic attack against the worship of Israel (vv.4-5), and 3) the hollowness of Israel’s repentance (vv.6-13). Amos condemns the women of Israel for their insatiable appetites which cause their husbands to squeeze the last mite from the poor so that these women may be kept in the manner to which they wish to become accustomed.  Amos refers to them as “cows” and like cows, when God’s judgment comes, they will be pulled and prodded through the city walls as cattle are through a chute.  Think about people you may know who may qualify as “cows” and how you and they are similar.

The second part of this chapter is the biting sarcasm of Amos’ description of Israel’s worship which Amos summarizes as merely “doing what is proper” (Amos 4:5b (NEB)).  Look at how Amos uses Psalm 95 (the Venite) to craft his sarcastic praise of Israel’s worship.  There are two ways of looking at Amos’ critique of Israel’s worship. The first is that the worship was merely a ceremony which was a place to see and be seen as private free-will offerings were publically made.  A second way of looking at Amos’ criticism, is that the wealthy believed they could continue in their unjust conduct so long as they paid God off with their frequent sacrifices.  Think about how your type of worship can easily become a me-centric empty formalism where God is no longer the object of the service.

The final part of this chapter concerns the great patience of God which finally runs out. Amos details God’s continuous calling to Israel to return to him.  Within the context of Amos’ prophesy, think about what it means for Israel to return to God. What are they doing wrong that requires repentance? Amos ends this passage with his bold statement “Israel, prepare to meet your God” which Amos will later describe in 5:16-18 as a time of wailing and darkness.  

The final Judgment Speech in chapter 5 begins the process of specifically setting forth the sins of Israel – “they abhor the one who speaks the truth” and they “trample on the poor.”  It also provides the solution to the pending doom which is simply to return to God (not the worship centers), hate evil, love good, and establish justice.  Only then will Israel live.  Think about what is the “good” and the “justice” that should be sought.  What would Jesus say? Matt. 22:36-40.  And specifically to us, how are we to seek the good and to do justice in the world today?

Dinner is a 6. The menu is chicken mole with cilantro-lime rice. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here.

Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward!

Matthew 5:6

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