Summary: Sobering messages from the book of Amos that are relevant to modern America
Funeral for a Dead Nation
Dr. Russell K. Tardo
I. COULD AMOS’ PROPHECIES APPLY TO AMERICA?
Amos, chapter 5, addresses the entire house of Israel while chapter 4 addressed the women of ease in Israel. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 all begin with, Hear the word. It’s God’s Word that transforms lives. This isn’t just a word to Israel, but a word against Israel. It’s a lamentation or dirge, i.e., a funeral song.
A. A Lamentation for Israel
1Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation, O house of Israel. 2The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise: she is forsaken upon her land; there is none to raise her up. 3For thus saith the Lord God; The city that went out by a thousand shall leave an hundred, and that which went forth by an hundred shall leave ten, to the house of Israel. [Amos 5:1-3]
These dirges were chanted by hired mourners. This gives us a glimpse of the emphasis that Israel put on the external, i.e., on appearances. Internals didn’t mean a lot to them.
What’s unusual about this particular lamentation? Well, it seems that Israel is not yet dead. They are having a funeral over something that has not yet died. From all outward appearances, Israel was still healthy. Their economy was in good shape, the army strong, etc. Amos is talking about holding a funeral for a seemingly prosperous nation.
Amos compares Israel to a pure woman saying that the pure woman has fallen. She has fallen from preeminence as a nation and will not become a nation again, i.e., the Northern Kingdom. This is a prophecy that came to pass when the people went into the Assyrian captivity.
Amos speaks of Israel falling morally and spiritually for there were great social evils and perversion of justice taking place. Israel had resisted all of God’s calls to repentance and God sent His prophet to proclaim the nation’s death. In verse 3 above, Israel is told that the nation will be reduced by nine-tenths, i.e., nine out of ten people will be destroyed.
These verses should be seen as a prediction of God’s wrath and mercy. Israel was a privileged nation. We see His wrath in that nine-tenths of the population was destroyed, but we also see His mercy in that not all were destroyed. A remnant is left, a tenth are preserved. Here’s a picture of election. All deserve death, but mercy spares a remnant. Wrath smites many, but mercy spares a remnant.
B. Seeking the Right Thing
4For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live: 5But seek not Beth-el, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beersheba: for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Beth-el shall come to nought. 6Seek the Lord, and ye shall live; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel. 7Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth, 8Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his name: 9That strengthened the spoiled against the strong, so that the spoiled shall come against the fortress. 10They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly. 11Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of Hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them. 12For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right. 13Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time. 14Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken. 15Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the Lord God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph. 16Therefore the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord, saith thus; Wailing shall be in all streets; and they shall say in all the highways, Alas! alas! and they shall call the husbandman to mourning, and such as are skillful of lamentation to wailing. 17And in all vineyards shall be wailing: for I will pass through thee, saith the Lord. [Amos 5:4-17]