Summary: Amos’ fifth vision encourages us to be prepared for the "Day of the Lord" by being saturated with God’s Word
Be Prepared. That’s the motto of the Boy Scouts. "Be prepared for what?" someone once asked Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, "Why, for any old thing." said Baden-Powell.
Perhaps Amos would have adopted the same motto – be prepared. But not just be prepared for any old thing, as we’ll see.
This morning we’ll wrap up our look at the Book of Amos. As we’ll be doing with most of the Old Testament prophets, we’ve limited our examination of Amos to those passages that reveal something about the “Day of the Lord”, so we haven’t covered the entire book. This morning we’ll be looking at chapter 9, so go ahead and open your Bibles to Amos 9.
Let me put this chapter in context by reviewing briefly what we’ve already covered in Amos. Remember that Amos is from the southern kingdom of Judah, but God calls him to go preach to the northern 10 tribes of Israel. The book itself is divided into two sections. The first six chapters contain a sermon, or more likely a series of sermons. We focused mostly on chapters 1 and 2 and the masterfully crafted sermon where Amos revealed that God was going to bring judgment on the northern 10 tribes of Israel as well as the surrounding nations. Last week, we also looked at Amos 5:18-20 where Amos asked the people why they were looking forward to the “Day of the Lord” since it was going to be a day of darkness and not a day of light as they were expecting.
The second part of the book- chapters 7-9 - contains a series of five visions. We’ve already looked at the first four and this morning we’ll cover the fifth and final one. Rather than read the entire chapter at once, we’ll read each section as we cover it this morning.
This fifth and final vision contains two distinct sections. The first continues with the message of certain judgment on Israel that has been the focus of the first four visions as well. But then Amos ends on a hopeful note as he describes the blessings that will come to the righteous. Overall, this is a pretty straightforward passage, so we’ll just examine it as it’s written.
GOD’S JUDGMENT IS…
• Inevitable (v. 1)
There is some question about exactly which altar the Lord is standing beside, or possibly even on. Although it is not really crucial to helping us understand the meaning of the passage, given the context, it seems likely that Amos is referring here to the places of worship that Israel had established in the northern kingdom that were referred to in the previous verse at the end of Chapter 8.
In any case, what really stands out here is that God is going to completely destroy the places where idolatrous worship is taking place and bring the ruins down on the heads of those who are there. And then any that are left will be killed by the sword.
This vision confirms what we already observed in the third and fourth visions where Amos was unable to intercede on behalf of the people because it was now too late to repent and God’s judgment was inevitable. But there is something ominously different that separates this vision from the two immediately before it. This time Amos has absolutely no interaction with God at all. God doesn’t even ask Amos what he sees this time. He just gives Amos the vision.
The last part of verse 1 also leads us directly to the second aspect of judgment that is revealed here. The judgment is not only inevitable, it is also…
• Inescapable (vv. 2-4)
At the end of verse 1, God makes it clear that no one is going to be able to flee or to escape the coming judgment. And then in verses 2 through 4, he paints a picture to emphasize that point. Amos uses a structure here known as a chiasm. He begins by describing those who attempt to flee by digging deep down into the earth, into Sheol, or the grave. He then takes them upward to the opposite extreme, those who think they can climb their way up to heaven to escape. He then stays up on the heights with those who try to ascend to the top of Mt. Carmel. And he finally returns to the depths – this time the depths of the ocean.
The pictures that are painted here just reinforce the futility of trying to escape God’s judgment. It’s not even possible to dig into Sheol or to climb up to heaven or to survive at the bottom of the sea. And even climbing to the top of Mt. Carmel is not something everyone is capable of doing. The point here is quite clear. God’s judgment is inescapable.