Let Me Introduce Myself—Again

I. A word of Judgment to the spoiled women of Samaria (4:1-3). He begins with “Hear this word.” Through the prophet, God now speaks to the well-fed, spoiled women of Samaria.

A. He calls them Cows of Bashan. They are on the mountain of Samaria, a particularly productive place for lush grass. They are well fed and live with a sense of privilege with no gratitude for the influences that have given them well-being. They take their luxury for granted and think it their due. While pampering themselves, they crush the needy, and seemingly live in plenty with little concern for the poor; in fact, they luxuriate on the paucity of the destitute. They instruct their husbands to bring wine, to pamper them even beyond their attempts at idolatrous luxury, worship at the temple of pleasure and idleness. A wife may indeed instruct her husband if it be done with a meek and quiet spirit with a view to godliness (1 Peter 3:1-6), but this aggressive work to make provision for the flesh to obey its lusts (Romans 13:14) reeked of selfish and unnatural dominance.

B. On the infinitely far end of the moral spectrum, God has sworn by his holiness (2). They have ignored God’s holiness, revealed in his law and in his many judgments through the generations, and substituted gods of perversity for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The holy God of David before whom he humbled himself in prostrate repentance has no regard in the affections of this elitist society. Their experience in the judgment will not increase their pleasure but will demonstrate how excruciating their judgment will be if they remain resistant to genuine repentance. They will not resist being led away for their compelling guidance will be with meat hooks and fish hooks.

C. Their exit from their place of luxury (3) into a place of scarcity and oppression will in itself show divine judgment. The safety of a walled city is destroyed and they go on a lonely path through breaches, no companionship of gaiety but left alone with no one to boss around, no one to rob, no one to oppress. A mournful, resentful, and distressed consciousness of present loss and future hardship constitutes their only companion.

II. Amos issues scathing and sarcastic admonition to continue their hypocritical actions of worship (4, 5).

A. God’s designation of Jerusalem in the temple with the priesthood of the Levitical line had been replaced by Bethel and Gilgal and a humanly contrived priesthood. Their very entrance into their places of sacrifice constituted transgression. Who cares about the place designated by the Lord; we will make our own convenience and will do it fervently.

B. They have mimicked the types of offerings required—morning sacrifices, tithes, thank-offerings, and freewill offerings. The falsity of the humanly contrived worship is seen in the very kind of bread that they bring. It is leavened. Their priests wanted something more tasty. How dull, heavy, and uninviting is divine requirement to a rebellious heart. They were exuberant for the form of religion but denied its power and the exclusivity of the claims of Yahweh on their lives. “According to their own desires, … they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3, 4). Paul predicted that it would happen in the church. It already had happened in Israel.

C. “For so you love, you sons of Israel’” (5). They did not love God or his revealed way, but their own contrivances pleased them very much for they fancied that it pleased their false gods very much. They enjoyed the thrill of religious devotion without the remorse of repentance or the confession of sin or the acknowledgement of utter dependence on the gracious provision of God.

III. God already has given a foretaste of judgments to come, but with no response of repentance (6-11).

A. Five times these verses repeat: “Yet you have not returned to me.” This phrase shows the intent of God in his chastening and the irrational hardness of the fallen human heart.

B. God lists the variety of judgments that he has brought, how they have targeted every aspect of Israel’s society and besmirched their pride, yet their sinful selfishness has resisted repentance at every judgment.

    1. Famine had come (6), but they resisted turning to the Lord. They did not have sufficient food even to cling to their teeth. The God of creation had withheld from them even the natural produce of the earth, and they would not supplicate him for their provision.
    2. Just when it appeared that the land might produce what they needed (7), God withheld rain three months before harvest, during the peak of the maturation period for the crops. Nor did they have sufficient water to drink, so that they would go to cities where God had allowed rain but the water was not sufficient to provide for this overflow of need. Their need was so desperate tat they would “stagger to another city to drink water.”
    3. The provisions that would come through perennial sources of food were overtaken by blight, mildew, and caterpillars. Gardens, olive trees, grape vines, fig trees all succumbed to the enemies God sent their way. This multiplication of plagues revealed that the hardness of their hearts was like that of the Egyptian pharaoh; the plague did not move them to repentance.
    4. Then as with the plagues of Egypt, a more severe plague came that resulted in the death of large numbers of horses that they had captured to use in battle (cf. Exodus 9:6). Also, young men were killed in invasions by enemy militia. The only opposition they mounted was the reprehensible stench of their camp from the putrefaction of dead bodies. Were they stirred by this to repentance? Did they realize that a God zealous for his own glory and the loyalty of his covenant people would see them dead rather fight in the service of preserving false worship, an oppressive society, and fleshly indulgence? It does not seem to have crossed their minds or affected their hearts.
    5. Raids from enemies had burned their cities as God had burned Sodom and Gomorrah. Like Lot driven from the city by an angel, they were preserved like a “a firebrand snatched from the burning” (11). Did they see both divine judgment and divine rescue, as at Sodom, in these events.
    6. Were they driven to recognize that the God of heaven and earth, the Creator of the ends of the earth, who had graciously dealt with them by covenant was using severe methods to draw them away from their self-destructive lives? Did all of these prophetic words through warnings and ridicule and all the judgments upon their sustenance and their safety shake them? Could they see that they stood in direct and gross violation of both tables of the moral law of God—the first toward God and the second toward neighbor—and thus had become like the tribes driven out by Joshua for their iniquity had come to full fruition? They were on the verge of experiencing the same thing.

IV. God will display his sovereign power so they will know who God is (12, 13).

A. The Lord warns now of judgmental declarations that they are about to hear – “Thus I will do to you, O Israel.” Now, having reviewed the various judgments already imposed, he will tell them of that judgment that will provide a consummation to all others. “Thus”—in the manner described in the following prophetic words, “I will deal with you.”

B. Because these strong judgments done throughout Israel in a selective manner did not break their resistance and bring them to repentance, God will now bring upon Israel a general judgment. The entire nation will be affected. She no longer will exist or function as a nation. Scattered throughout the former nation will be some people constituting a remnant (9:8). They will be the basis of God’s faithfulness in covenant fulfillment.

C. They have known God as a deliverer, a merciful provider, a protector, a covenant-maker, a law-giver, a stern disciplinarian—they now will meet him in a different way. “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel.” Having allowed prosperity and also having inserted devastation selectively, they will find their God to be thorough and relentless in the execution of his warnings.

D. They will know that nothing is outside his control, nothing escapes his power, nothing has any independent existence or present operation outside his immediate and infinite power (13). He will use everything to manifest both his power and his holy character.

    1. He forms mountains. Those aspects of earth that are most powerful and impressive, those peaks that men risk and ruin their lives to scale, the most immovable part of earth’s structure have been created by God. This mountain-forming God now will deal with Israel for their sin and unrepented-of rebellion.
    2. He created the wind. The air and all of its movement both mild and refreshing as well as fearsome and destructive he created. Who can grasp it in his hand though it is all around us? Who can harness its power like the Great God who brought it forth as a created thing. We must obey its rules or it will destroy us. If we use it according to its power carefully obey its properties, it can be of aid. But it can become furious in a way that no man can tame or resist. Prepare to meet the God who made a finite thing uncontrollable and unyielding to human power.
    3. God is a revealing God. Though his glory and the fullness of his plans and attributes do not find full expression (Exodus 33:19-23), God does graciously reveal them truly and sufficiently for his redemptive purposes. He sent his prophets to call Israel to repentance and to warn of impending judgment if they continued in their unfaithfulness. His declarations always are true, his warnings are intended to evoke repentance but will certainly be executed in its absence. The Israelites had responded neither to divine incursions on their comfort and stability nor the prophetic declarations. They should prepare to meet their God.
    4. At dawn, when the sun has just emerged at the horizon with the promise of a day of full light and warmth, God can interrupt that normal course of events with darkness. He plagued Egypt with darkness (Exodus 10: 21-23) for three days while the Israelites had light. These events of nature are so at his disposal that he may use the force of any as he sees fit, subduing the natural order to the moral order of God. They should prepare to meet their God.
    5. Even as God came down to see what this tower reaching into heaven was all about (Genesis 11:4, 5) so even upon the highest places of this earth he treads. The nature gods so feverishly worshiped by this increasingly-apostate people are nothing and the high places upon which their shrines are built will crumble when the Lord treads on them. Israel is on the verge of having everything taken away from them and of their being taken away from everything. They should prepare to meet their God.
    6. “The Lord God of hosts is his name.” This God is Yahweh, the self-existent one, who alone has being and who gives being to everything else. Also he has at his disposal all the living hosts of heaven, the mighty angels he has created as well as every force of nature. All of it is his. He puts in motion all of these things and manifests both power and wisdom in the redemption of those who find him to be “The Lord our Righteousness.” For those who seek another righteousness, they will find the Lord of Hosts in his majesty against them. Prepare to meet your God, O Israel.”
Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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