The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ
by Paul R. Van Gorder
During the time of great spiritual decline in Israel, God chose Elijah, an obscure man from the mountains of Gilead, and used him to turn the nation from its idolatry. One hundred fifty years later, Jeroboam II was on the throne. Great prosperity was in Israel, but also great wickedness prevailed. So, God put His hand upon another man of the outdoors, Amos. He was a herdsman of Tekoa, a village located about 5 miles south of Bethlehem. Although he lived in the Southern Kingdom, he prophesied primarily to the Northern Kingdom.
This is what he said of himself, ''I am no prophet, neither am I a prophet's son, but I am an herdsman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit; and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto My people, Israel'' (Amos 7:14,15).
Amos had a double-faceted message from God:
A striking verse of this prophecy sets the theme: ''And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumb line. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumb line in the midst of My people, Israel'' (Amos 7:8). God does not overlook sin. [Rather, He tests His people according to His standard of righteousness.]
  1. Predictions of Judgment on Surrounding Peoples (1:1- 2:3)
  2. Predictions of Judgment upon Jerusalem and Judah (2:4-16)
  3. The Sentence of Judgment against the ''House of Jacob'' (3:1- 9:7)
    Although Israel, the 10-tribe kingdom, is particularly in view, this foretelling takes in the whole family of Israel. Amos exposes the moral corruption and the apostasy of the people.
  4. Promise of Restoration and Glory (9:8-15)
    The house of Jacob would be preserved, the throne of David restored, and glory given to the kingdom. This will be fulfilled at the second coming of Christ.
Perhaps the greatest reason for the prophet's condemnation of Israel was that the people were ''at ease.'' They were indolent, sinful, and indifferent to the Lord. All of this was at a time when great unrighteousness marked the nation. It will help if we consider what characterized this unrighteousness.
  1. A dependence upon natural things (v.1).
    In effect, the people of Israel said, ''Look at our fortifications; these very mountains are our bulwarks.'' How often this is the attitude of God's heavenly people today, the church! We boast about our buildings, our great expenditures of money, our large staff, our growing prestige. But God says, ''Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit'' (Zechariah 4:6). God's work is not dependent upon our natural resources. The apostle Paul declared, ''And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence'' (1Corinthians 1:28,29).
  2. A false optimism (v.3).
    The prophets would often draw attention to coming calamities. But the people would say, ''The evil day is far off; it will not come in our generation.'' The attitude today parallels that of Amos' time. We are slow to accept what the Scripture explicitly declares-- that perilous times are ahead, that a religion will arise without power, that a departure from the faith will occur, and that Christians will reject sound doctrine. Yes, a false optimism prevails today, in spite of the clear teaching of the Word of God.
  3. They lived in luxury (v.4).
    The people were self-sufficient and had forgotten their need for God. High living characterized the lifestyle of Israel. And Jesus observed during His earthly ministry, ''So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God'' (Luke 12:21). [cp. Rev 3:16,17]
  4. They were absorbed in the culture of music (v.5).
    ''That chant to the sound of the harp, and invent to themselves instruments of music.'' What a marvelous gift music is! But sin has spoiled it, and the curse is clearly evident in that realm of human activity. All creation was once in tune in the major mode. The morning stars sang together. One day, this major mode will return, and the trees will burst forth in music. But Israel's music appealed to the flesh; it was sensual. The people said, in so many words, ''Our music must be all right; it is just like David's.''
The Holy Spirit, through the prophet Amos, announced a series of judgments upon seven nations (chapters 1,2). This was followed by three searching messages to Israel, each beginning with the phrase, ''Hear this Word'' (3:1; 4:1; 5:1).
These messages were followed be a series of five visions, culminating with a view of the Lord standing upon the altar, ready to strike destruction with His own hand (chapters 7-9).
Looking beyond the captivity of Israel and their restoration to the land, Amos described that glorious era when Christ will come the second time.
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and the hills shall melt.
And I will bring again the captivity of My people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink their wine; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.
And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord, thy God. (Amos 9:13-15)
The apostle James quoted a part of this passage [Amos 9:11,12] and revealed the divine purpose. God is now visiting the Gentiles ''to take out of them a people for His name.'' Read the account in Acts 15:13-18. After the church has been called out (not the conversion of all Gentiles, but only the gathering out of an elect number), Christ will return. He will ''build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down'' (Acts 15:16). This He will do, restoring Israel to their Land so ''that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all nations'' (Acts 15:17).
In the prophecy of Amos, as in the other books of the Old Testament, God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is reflected in His glory and power.

See the Book Notes on Amos for a verse by verse study of this book.

Return to table of contents for ''The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ,''
written by Paul R. Van Gorder, Copyright 1982 by RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.
Used by permission [within The Book from].
Further distribution is not allowed without permission from RBC.

For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in Christ in All the Scriptures, by A.M. Hodgkin.

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