Mankind was always religious but somehow we needed our props and relics to have a sense of the divine.
– John King –
God, through Amos, writes the words to His dirge, [“lamentation” Amos 5:1], which we might be loathe to study because it is so grim. Israel is seen here as a wasteland, desolate and forsaken. “Professional mourners” [Amos 5:16] walked the devastation. There was no hoped for tomorrow described here.
Lying hidden within this sacred text is the message of a heartbroken God. Amos’ words have relevance to our time and should stir the soul and awaken us to consider its woeful cry.
Though dark and foreboding there is much in this prophecy that parallels the current age in a postmodern world; so, we do good to review this book with the heart not just the head, with a look at the pain Israel has caused God through their faithless wanderings into idol worship. We need to empathize with His efforts to win them back rather than only have an eschatological [book of Revelation] perspective.
God has feelings—deep feelings. He knows jealousy [Exodus 34:14]. And sinful man lacks the empathic understanding to discern the spiritual significance of this at their own peril. But God has shared His thoughts with those of faith who love Him.
Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan [in familiar and intimate converse] to his servants…. [Amos 3:7]
So when Amos asked, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” [Amos 3:3] God is alerting us to the appointment He has made with His church, as He once did with Abraham, to provide opportunity for us to intercede in prayer for those who are strolling cockily into His crosshairs. The commentator correctly calls this “more than a trivial truth” [Keil Commentary of the Old Testament, vol X. p260.]
In this ancient picture of Israel’s maverick indifference to an impassioned God we see in microcosm the direction and end of all humanity. Amos’ question, “Does a lion roar .. when it has no prey?” [Amos 3:4], is an aphoristic way, perhaps, of alerting all of us to God’s roar [Hosea 11:10].
Amos’ prophecy is a description of a spiritual darkness [Amos 5:20] deeper than the blackness of a sunless earth in the beginning [Genesis 1:2] Here is the record of a people who abhorred God’s correction [Amos 5:10] as though He had no right to His desire to have them back.
His longing after us would inevitably cost Him; for, no effort short of Calvary was sufficient to create a people capable of being faithful to Him.
Amos’ picture was bleak. Israel’s spiritual and political leaders were sprawled out on couches comfortably gorging themselves, banqueting [Amos 6:4].
Thinking themselves like David, who wrote many a psalm in praise of God’s faithfulness and mercy, the wealthy in Amos’ day were composing and singing “frivolous nonsense” tunes [Keil, p300], pure “noise” [Amos 5:23 KJV] as they bragged on about their religious commitments (to idols).
They boasted of their giving [Amos 4:4] and their attendance at the required festivals. They sacrificed leavened meal [Amos 4:5] in violation of the ceremonial law while the poor were dying of starvation [Amos 8:4].
The “cows,” the elite ladies of Israel, demanded of their husbands, “Bring us a tall, cool drink!” [Amos 4:1 MSG] in total disregard for what was happening in the real world outside. And justice could be purchased for a price [Amos 2:6]; she was not blind.
…And what was happening in the heart of God? God resists the proud, now [James 4:6] as then [Amos 6:8]. He lamented, “yet have you not returned unto me” [oft repeated, Amos 4:6, 8, 9, 10, 11]. Then God trumpeted the alarm, “Therefore this is what I will do to you, … Israel, prepare to meet your God.” [Amos 4:12]
How does Israel, or this present age, “prepare” to “meet” Him! I thought the church might have an answer but Amos seemed to discourage dialogue:
Those who are smart keep their mouths shut, for it is an evil time [Amos 5:13 NLT]
“Warnings are of no avail,” interprets the commentator [Keil, p. 284]. The time for talking, is past?
In a complete or final sense, historically, we are not there yet. But there are a few for whom our words are meaningless chatter and prayer is the only recourse.
If you think about it: The Bible is the story of God’s, how-be-it, broken relationship with His creation and the pain He carried through the centuries of human history because of it.
Mankind was always religious but somehow we needed our props and relics to have a sense of the divine. We were too tightly tied to the physical or natural world (and some through science still are) to understand that God could be accessible through faithful worship of Him and Him alone.
John H. King – United States
Reverend John King’s ministry as a pastor/teacher spanned the years 1969-1993. Pastor King was known in Western Pennsylvania for his knowledge of Koine Greek and Classical Hebrew, having taught in Western PA Bible Institute in Butler, The Lighthouse Ministry in Washington, and Faith Seminary in Bethel Park, PA in the 1970’s. He also taught at the Charismatic Conference in 1979 at Duquesne University. He graduated from a four year ministerial program at Northeast Bible College, which is now Valley Forge Christian College, and later returned to complete a course of study for a B.S. in Bible. In 1982, he received a Master of Bible Theology from the International Bible Institute & Seminary. Currently retired from the pastorate, he lives with his wife of 50 years in their townhouse in Massachusetts.