Summary: The entire ninth chapter of Amos helps us behold our God and live with hope rooted in His promises.
A young man in a wheel chair, discouraged by his condition, asked his physical therapist, "Do you think I have a future?" The therapist replied, "As a pole-vaulter, no! As a man, yes!"
In light of the dire predictions of the prophet Amos, the people of Israel and Judah might have asked, "Do we have a future?" Amos replied, "As a continuation of the way things are now, now! As a remnant, sifted by the judgment of God and purified into a new people, yes!"
That was the word of hope with which Amos concluded his prophecy. This word of hope may seem contradictory, in light of Amos' prophecies of utter destruction. (Especially in light of Amos 8:14). However, hope in the midst of despair was the common prophetic stance, because they spoke not from the perspective of man's problems but from the perspective of God's eternal plan. Man's sinfulness cannot thwart God's plan for man's redemption. In the darkest of times, the light of God's grace breaks through to give us hope for the future.
The Basis of Hope (9:5-7)
As Amos struck this positive note of hope, he firmly rooted this hope in God.
Israel could have hope, not because of who they were but because of who God is.
Hope rooted in the sovereignty and the providence of God.
Amos highlighted God's sovereignty by referring to Him as the "Lord God of hosts" (9:5). Then, he described God's control over all creation. Reading this description of God from the prophet Amos brings to mind the declaration of the Psalmist: "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands" (Ps. 19:1).
Earlier in his prophecy, Amos accented the sovereignty of God to confirm God's ability to seek out those who might try to escape His judgment (9:1-4). Now, Amos focused on the sovereignty of God to confirm God's ability to seek out those whom He wanted to preserve. Israel's faith had degenerated until God was little more than a cult deity. Their vision of God was too small, too limited, too constricted. Amos uses a familiar hymn of praise to God to soar in exaltation, extolling His power over nature and the events of history. He is the Commander of the armies of angels who carry out His plans.
The words, "The One who touches the land so that it melts" meant that God's power could be displayed in an earthquake that causes people to mourn. God controls His creation because He is builder and founder of both heaven and earth. Creation is said to be like a house or palace in which a kind of "upper room" is used for heaven, and "storeroom" is used for the earth. By God's power, water is drawn from the sea and is poured out on the earth in rain. Who is this mighty God? The hymn ends with the refrain, "The Lord is His name" (v. 6).
This hymn may not impress our sophisticated ears so used to seismographic calculations of earthquakes, refined predictions of the tide, and seeding of rainless clouds so they will burst in a rainstorm. And yet, the more we understand the more we should be motivated to praise the Creator and Sustainer of the earth and universe within universes. Most wondrous of all, He created us to know and love Him. And the greatest miracle of all is our transformation through Christ, His cross, the resurrection, and His indwelling presence. This should lead us to unfettered praise and not unbending pride.
We sense that Amos repeated this then familiar hymn to prepare his listener for the bracing truth that follows in verse 7. Amos highlighted God's providence by describing His guiding hand, not just in the history of Israel but in the history of other nations as well. God, who is Lord of all creation, is also the Lord of all nations. And Israel, having denied both its privilege and responsibility, will be judged more severely than other nations. Stuart comments decisively, "In effect Amos says, 'That hymn you love shows how God controls the universe and metes out His judgment among the nations. But you have wrongly assumed that this judgment would always benefit you and harm others. Now you must realize that you also deserve the wrath of which the hymn speaks.'"
Two rhetorical questions in verse 7 put Israel in her place. In essence, the Lord asks first, "Are you more important to Me, than the people of Ethiopia?"
The Nubians were a small, obscure nation in Africa. And second, "You are proud of your exodus from Egypt? Your enemies the Philistines and the Syrians each had one too." The Philistines came from Caphtor on Crete, and Kir is unknown. It must have been shocking for the Israelites to hear that God had been involved in the history of two nations they had categorized as their enemies. Perhaps they could not be so sure of God's protection. The questions were a carefully placed blow to the people's pride. Were they not the darlings of the Almighty?