The Days of Amos

Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey | Pastor
First Baptist Church, Spanish Fort, AL

The days of Amos are much like these days in the United States of America! Note the parallels between Amos’ day and ours. Let’s look at the prophet before we consider the prophecy that bears his name. Rev. Joseph S. Exell (1849-1910) cites the following Introduction of the Book of Amos in The Biblical Illustrator: “No better illustration of the perfect freeness with which the Holy Ghost selected the men who spoke in old time to the fathers could be desired that that which is furnished by the contrast between Joel and Amos. Not more than half a century separated the periods of their prophetic activity; and perhaps they had actually looked one another in the face. They were both men of GOD, both natives of the same little land, both commissioned to preach to one people—the people whom Jehovah had chosen for His own. Yet they were entirely distinct in temperament and in personal surroundings. Joel was tender and pitiful and Amos rigorous and severe. Joel’s words were those of a cultured citizen; Amos sprang from the poor of the people, and his language was simpler and stronger and more keen and cutting, coming forth from the heart of a man who had himself borne the yoke in his youth. Joel was a child of the busy town; Amos was a child of the quiet country-side, summoned from the spade and the goad to preach to the educated ranks of men. But the Holy Spirit shone through both alike, and spoke with the lips of both. For there are seasons when His light is the white light of the diamond, and other seasons when it is the ruddy glow of the ruby. His voice may be compassionate to-day, and full of awful solemnity to-morrow.”[1] This herdsman of flocks became a herald of justice (Amos 5:24). This harvester of fruit became a harbinger of judgment (Amos 7:14-15). Dr. Vance Havner (1901-1986) explains, “It is not surprising that such a prophet as Amos should encounter the court preacher Amaziah (Amos 7:10-14). This dignified clergyman objected to such plain preaching, saying to Amos, in effect, ‘Your rusticity is out of place here in the metropolis, you belong to the backwoods, not to the boulevards. This is the king’s chapel and the king’s court.’ Amos replied, ‘I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; . . . and the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel’ (vv. 14-15). This is sufficient authority for any man to preach. . . . We must choose today whether we shall listen to the Amos or the Amaziah type of preacher. Amaziah is still with us in the pulpit, Pollyannas who wear rose-colored glasses, paint the clouds with sunshine, and preach peace when there is no peace.”[2] Amos 3:7-8 reads, “Surely the Lord God does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.  A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?”

Note three things that marked the days of Amos.   

I.  The displeasing worship of God marked the days of Amos.
Amos 4:4-5 reads, “‘Come to Bethel and transgress, At Gilgal multiply transgression; Bring your sacrifices every morning, Your tithes every three days. Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, Proclaim and announce the freewill offerings; For this you love, You children of Israel!’ Says the Lord God.”  Amos 5:21-27 reads, “I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream. ‘Did you offer Me sacrifices and offerings In the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? You also carried Sikkuth your king And Chiun, your idols, The star of your gods, Which you made for yourselves. Therefore I will send you into captivity beyond Damascus,’ Says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.”

Amos 9:1-4 reads, “I saw the Lord standing by the altar, and He said: ‘Strike the doorposts, that the thresholds may shake, And break them on the heads of them all. I will slay the last of them with the sword. He who flees from them shall not get away, And he who escapes from them shall not be delivered. ‘Though they dig into hell, From there My hand shall take them; Though they climb up to heaven, From there I will bring them down; And though they hide themselves on top of Carmel, From there I will search and take them; Though they hide from My sight at the bottom of the sea, From there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them; Though they go into captivity before their enemies, From there I will command the sword, And it shall slay them. I will set My eyes on them for harm and not for good.”

Hebrews 11:6 reads, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Dr. Adrian Rogers, (1931-2005) explains, “. . . if we please God it doesn’t matter whom we displease and if we displease God it doesn’t matter whom we please. And the way to please God is to have faith in God.”[3] Dr. F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) declares, “Faith is the power of putting self aside that God may work unhindered.”[4] Dr. Vance Havner (1901-1986) writes in By the Still Waters, “Remember that faith is not a strange sensation that comes over you in rare moments, a magic thrill from something in the minister’s voice, a mystic trance to be reached once in a while, then lost for weeks or years. It is a sturdy confidence that God will keep His promises, confidence enough to walk out on them and live there, although the world expects them to crack and crumble under you any day.”[5]

Dr. W. Wayne VanHorn, Dean of the School of Christian Studies and the Arts at Mississippi College, warns, “We must be careful today not to equate religious activity with genuine revival. Daily conformity to the precepts of God’s Word is less spectacular than elaborate worship rituals, but believers draw closer to God through obedience. . . .Their practice of worshiping and praising God one day and living immorally the next indicates their spiritual insensitivity.” [6] Dr. VanHorn explains, “In Amos’ day the worship centers were ‘packed.’ The people were bringing sacrifices every day and tithes every three days. If the same conditions existed today, we would declare that the Holy Spirit had been pouring out upon our Church and that true revival was breaking out. We would ascribe this religious fervor to the presence of God and to the faithful devotion of His people. Amos 4 provides us with a caution. Unless our relational walk is in tune with the will of God, our religious talk, no matter how fervent, is meaningless and detrimental. Amos’ audience decided to live with the delusion of spiritual well-being rather than repent and seek true spiritual health. Will we settle for the same delusion?”[7]

In his book titled, I Never Thought I’d See the Day, Dr. David Jeremiah cites the following from Dr. Steven J. Lawson: “A new way of ‘doing’ church is emerging. In this radical paradigm shift, exposition [of the Bible] is being replaced with entertainment, preaching with performances, doctrine with drama, and theology with theatrics. The pulpit, once the focal point of the church, is now being overshadowed by a variety of church-growth techniques, everything from trendy worship styles to glitzy presentations to vaudeville-like pageantries. In seeking to capture the upper hand in church growth, a new wave of pastors is reinventing the church and repackaging the gospel into a product to be sold to ‘consumers’ . . . Admittedly pastors can learn from growing churches and successful ministries. Yet God’s work must be done God’s way if it is to know God’s blessing. He provides the power and He alone receives the glory only as His divinely prescribed plan for ministry is followed. When man-centered schemes are followed, often imitating the world’s schemes, the flesh provides the energy and man receives the glory.”[8]

Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) writes, “When the Church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first.”[9] Dr. A. W. Tozer (1897-1963) writes, “Worship is no longer worship when it reflects the culture around us more than the Christ within us.”[10]

II.  The disciplining work of God marked the days of Amos.
Dr. W. Wayne VanHorn refers to “The Unheeded Chastisments of God” recorded in Amos 4:6-11.[11] Amos 4:6-11 reads, “Also I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, And lack of bread in all your places; Yet you have not returned to Me,’ Says the Lord. ‘I also withheld rain from you, When there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, And where it did not rain the part withered. So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, But they were not satisfied; Yet you have not returned to Me,’ Says the Lord. ‘I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, Your vineyards, Your fig trees, And your olive trees, The locust devoured them; Yet you have not returned to Me,’ Says the Lord. ‘I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; Your young men I killed with a sword, Along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; Yet you have not returned to Me,’ Says the Lord. ‘I overthrew some of you, As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, And you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; Yet you have not returned to Me,’ Says the Lord.” (Emphasis mine)

Amos 6:1-2 reads, “Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, And trust in Mount Samaria, Notable persons in the chief nation, To whom the house of Israel comes! Go over to Calneh and see; And from there go to Hamath the great; Then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are you better than these kingdoms? Or is their territory greater than your territory?” These verses reveal a false confidence producing complacency. Someone explains, “They had a callous disregard for God’s disciplinary work.” We can disregard God’s disciplinary work and we can despise it! Hebrews 12:3-11 reads, “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.  You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.  And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.’ If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?  But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.  Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?  For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Dr. J. B. (Joseph Barber) Lightfoot (1828-1889) comments, “If adversity tried and sifted men, prosperity tried and sifted them much more. Where adversity slew its thousands, prosperity slew its tens of thousands. Poets and moralists had dwelt on the sweet uses of adversity: the misuses and abuses of prosperity would furnish a far more eloquent theme. Adversity was a bitter medicine, but it was in vain to think that health could be preserved unless it were administered at one time or another. And as it was with individuals, so was it also with large masses of men. The severest trial to the morality of a people was a long period of prosperity; the most efficient instrument in the purification of a people was the sharp attack of adversity. Such at least was the lesson enforced upon Israel in the days of Amos the prophet.”[12]  Dr. Lightfoot concludes, “Prosperity had carried away the hearts of Israel from the true religion of their God, and it needed the deep uses of desolation and captivity to chasten them and call them back. For, first, the worship of Israel had degenerated into a religion of political expediency, a religion of conventional life; it had adapted itself to the exigencies, ay, and to the vices, of the age. It looked complacently upon the luxury, the oppression, the indolence, the carelessness, the dishonesty which prevailed on all hands; it had no word of hope, no thought of remedy for the startling social evils of the time; the overflowing wealth here, the grinding poverty there. Secondly, the religion of Israel was formal and material; it was not thought of except in an outward and material sense in the days of prosperity; and when in their captivity and heavy trials their hearts turned to it seeking solace, instead of finding comfort and help, they saw only a vague and indistinct shadow. The experience of Israel was the experience of all who worshipped after Israel’s manner. In the moment of trial they sought the Word of God, and could not find it. They did not seek their Father’s presence when their course was smooth and even, and in their hour of danger it was withdrawn from their eyes.”[13] (Emphasis mine)

III.  The disappearing words of God marked the days of Amos.
Amos 8:11 reads, “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord God, ‘That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the Lord.’” Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., explains, “It is no secret that Christ’s Church is not in good health in many places of the world. She has been languishing because she has been fed, as the current line has it, ‘junk food;’ all kinds of artificial preservatives and all sorts of unnatural substitutes have been served up to her. As a result, theological and biblical malnutrition has afflicted the very generation that has taken such giant steps to make sure its physical health is not damaged by using foods or products that are harmful to their bodies. Simultaneously a worldwide spiritual famine resulting from the absence of any genuine publication of the Word of God (Amos 8:11) continues to run wild and almost unabated in most quarters of the Church.”[14] The Word of God is for our nourishment. Matthew 4:4 reads, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” 1 Peter 2:2 reads, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” 1 Corinthians 3:2 reads, “I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able.” Hebrews 5:12-14 reads, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

Dr. Walter Kaiser laments, “The famine of the Word continues in massive proportions in most places in North America.”[15] Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost (1915-2014), professor emeritus of Bible exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary, states, “The great need across evangelicalism is exposition of the Scriptures. I sense there is a departure from that, even amongst some of our own grads who are entertaining the people, giving the people what they want, whereas we are called to teach the Word. It is the Word that is the power of God to salvation; it is the Word that is the power for Christian living, and (the Word should be) the center of their ministry. It may not be popular, it may not build mega-churches, but it will fulfill that to which they are called upon to do in ministry.”[16]

Someone quipped: “Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. Yet those who do study history are doomed to stand by helplessly while everyone else repeats it.” Another observed, “The general population doesn’t know what’s happening, and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.”

Dr. Vance Havner explains, “Today, America faces judgment, and there is no reason to believe that she will fare better than the nations of the past. . . . America has had her glory, but the god of this age has blinded her eyes.”[17] Amos 5:4-14 reads, “For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: ‘Seek Me and live But do not seek Bethel, Nor enter Gilgal, Nor pass over to Beersheba; For Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, And Bethel shall come to nothing.  Seek the Lord and live, Lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph, And devour it, With no one to quench it in Bethel— You who turn justice to wormwood, And lay righteousness to rest in the earth!’  He made the Pleiades and Orion; He turns the shadow of death into morning And makes the day dark as night; He calls for the waters of the sea And pours them out on the face of the earth; The Lord is His name. He rains ruin upon the strong, So that fury comes upon the fortress. They hate the one who rebukes in the gate, And they abhor the one who speaks uprightly. Therefore, because you tread down the poor And take grain taxes from him, Though you have built houses of hewn stone, Yet you shall not dwell in them; You have planted pleasant vineyards, But you shall not drink wine from them. For I know your manifold transgressions And your mighty sins: Afflicting the just and taking bribes; Diverting the poor from justice at the gate. Therefore the prudent keep silent at that time, For it is an evil time.  Seek good and not evil, That you may live; So the Lord God of hosts will be with you, As you have spoken.” (Emphasis mine) As Amos issues God’s invitation to his people, Israel, to “seek the Lord and live,” God calls His people, the Church, in our time to seek Him and live. This is the essence of revival. Reading the Book of Amos with spiritual eyes and the newspaper with a discerning spirit; we readily find parallels between these days and the days of Amos.

 

 

[1]The Original Secession Magazine for 1885-86, January 1885, (Glasgow: J. Maclaren, 1886), 81. The Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Amos. Database © 2012 WORDsearch Corp.
[2]Vance Havner, When God Breaks Through: Sermons on Revival, ed. and comp. Dennis J. Hester, “A Modern Message for America”, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2003), 81.
[3]Adrian Rogers, “Faith To Walk With God,” Sermon Notes, (Hebrews 11:5-6).
[4]Michael Catt, Fireproof Your Life: Building a Faith that Survives the Flames, (Fort Washington, PA: CLC Ministries, 2008), 41-51. Database © 2010 WORDsearch Corp.
[5]Vance Havner, By the Still Waters, “According to Your Faith,” Chapter 6, (New York, NY: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1934), 27.
[6]W. Wayne VanHorn, The Lion Has Roared: Hearing God’s Voice in a Sinful Society, (Mukilteo, WA: Winepress Publishing, 1995), 83.
[7]VanHorn, Lion, 35.
[8]David Jeremiah, I Never Thought I’d See the Day, (Nashville, TN: FaithWords, 2011), 208-209.
[9]D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1959-60), 28.  [10]Aiden Wilson Tozer, A Disruptive Faith: Expect God to Interrupt Your Life, comp. & ed. James L. Snyder, Introduction, (Sydney, Australia: ReadHowYouWant.com, 2011 [originally published by Regal, Gospel Light, Ventura, CA), i.
[11]VanHorn, Lion, 28.
[12]Joseph S. Exell, The Biblical Illustrator,(Amos 8:11), (New York, NY: 1905-1909), Accessed: 01/05/15, http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/view.cgi?bk=am&ch=8
[13]Ibid.
[14]Walter C. Kaiser, Toward An Exegetical Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1981), 7-8.
[15]Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Revive Us Again, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1999), 166.
[16]Kelley M. Mathews, “An Interview with Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost,” Dallas Connection, Winter 2000, (Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, 2000), 2.
[17]Havner, God, 82.