Saturday, 8 January 2022

The Visions of Amos – 2

Not one of us can claim to deserve God’s favour, only condemnation, but Jesus is pleading our case before the Father, and we receive mercy because of that relationship.
Amos 7:1-6

Sent by God to the apostate and arrogant elite of the north, Amos brings indictment and instruction to a people steeped in religious experience but devoid of its practical outworking in matters of justice, mercy and humility.

‘Seek the Lord and live,
lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph,
and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel,
O you who turn justice to wormwood
and cast down righteousness to the earth!’  (Amos 5:6-7)

The warnings are clear and their delivery explicit. Did they listen? Clearly not.  Bethel (whose name means ‘House of God’,) has become the ‘king’s sanctuary’, not of the real King but of pretender king Jereboam, now a temple of an earthly kingdom worshipping golden calves and so destined for desolation according to the word of the Lord. (7:12-13)

Now come the visions of chapter 7. Responding to the first vision (7:1-3) Amos pleads with God to forgive Israel. God relents and the threat of devastation by locusts recedes. Then comes a second vision with a yet worse threat – fire. The nature of this fire is not clear, but probably refers to heat and drought so severe that even the underground waters of the ‘great deep’ would dry out and the land itself would be rendered barren and uninhabitable desert. Amos understands that the nation is under divine and deserved judgement but he won’t give up. This time he doesn’t ask for forgiveness, knowing that it was not granted in the first vision.  Recognising their unrepentance he simply asks the Lord to cease, to refrain from sending this devastating fire.

What a picture of selfless intercession. Not one of us can claim to deserve God’s favour, only condemnation, but Jesus is pleading our case before the Father, and we receive mercy because of that relationship.
God’s response to Amos is the same as in the first vision. ‘This also shall not be.’  Once again God’s mind is changed as the result of a human prayer. The word ‘relent’ (heb: ‘nacham’) means a change of mind resulting from pity or compassion.  The verb structure (niphal form) implies that the subject, in this case God himself, initiates but is also intimately involved with the removal of the threat. Amos knows that the people are arrogant and unrepentant, but he also knows God to be full of compassion and mercy. How interesting that the prophet succeeds in changing God’s mind, but not that of the king (Jereboam) or his priest (Amaziah). 

All of this should remind us that at the heart of everything God does, or does not do, is relationship. This is why Jesus said: 

‘Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.’  (John 14:13-14)

Amos, this unassuming man of the field, had learned that God wanted a conversation with him, and he treasured that relationship above any comfort or reward that the world had to offer.  

The name Amos suggests carrying a burden, and we see that he carried the burden of the people he served to the God he loved, while he himself was being carried by God. In this Amos points forward to Jesus who carries us and our burdens before the One who is able to give us rest for our souls.

God chose the tribes of Israel to be a model for his world, both for blessing and for cursing. Despite many prophetic warnings they still refused to repent and later the nation was indeed destroyed, not by locusts, not by fire, but by defeat and deportation. If the Lord did this to his chosen people will he not also judge our own nation? May the Lord continue to raise up intercessors, burden-bearers who will come before the throne of the King on behalf our our nation until we repent and return to His authority.

“Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” (Amos 4:12)

“Amen, come Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20)

Author: John Plumb

May God bless and enrich your life

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