Lessons From the Book of Amos, Part V

Perhaps you have never before studied the Book of Amos. I have chosen the Book of Amos in developing a series of articles to give us an understanding of the New Testament. You may wonder how Amos of the Old Testament is going to help us with the New Testament. You cannot understand the New Testament unless you understand the Old Testament.

In 1 Corinthians 10:11, we are told that the things that happened in the Old Testament were written for our admonition, for our instruction, and for examples to us upon whom the ends of the world are come. I find that statement very interesting, because it refers to Old Testament instances and says that those things are going to pertain to us for last day event understanding. I understand that to mean that those things found in the Old Testament, as far as principles are concerned, are last day concepts. History has an uncanny way of repeating itself.

As we read the Old Testament, we learn how God dealt with His people—how He tried to woo them, how He tried to lead them, and how He tried to help them. We learn what their reactions were to the way God was relating to them. It is all there. We also find that there were many times that God had to deal with distasteful situations and conditions. Many times God would extend His mercy and His love, only to meet with a stiff-necked people. They yearned after their own way, and they would have nothing whatsoever to do with God. That is basically the setting of the Book of Amos.

What was God going to do? There comes a time of finality when no remedy of any kind will rectify a problem. That is what Amos was called to reveal to God’s people. God said, “I have tried this, and I have tried that, and it did not work. So now I am going to call My prophet. He is going to be My spokesman. He is going to be My mouthpiece. I am going to send him with a message, Prepare to meet your God, O Israel.”

Woe Unto You

As we come to Amos 6, we find what is going to take place. ”Woe to them [that are] at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, [which are] named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came!” Verse 1.

This chapter starts out pronouncing a woe. When you are reading Scripture, and you come to the word woe, you want to pay special attention, because God is using this word to draw attention to what is going to follow. The meaning of the word woe has not changed over the years. We still use it today. When we talk about a bad situation, we may refer to it as a woe. It still carries with it the connotation of doom and disfavor, of calamity and misfortune. The prophet Amos is here attempting to let Israel know just where they stood in relation to their favor with God. To hear a woe coming from one of God’s prophets is no light matter. It needs to be taken to heart.

The Bible says, ”Believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper.” 11 Chronicles 20:20. When God speaks, He means exactly what He says. This principle is taught in the Old Testament. This is certainly the case here with the Northern kingdom of Israel and with Judah as well.

At Ease in Zion

“Woe to them [that are] at ease in Zion.” The word ease depicts a very meaningful picture of what was taking place. God had to pronounce a woe, because they were at ease in Zion. The Hebrew word sha’anan used here for ease means to be tranquil—but in a bad sense—that is, to be settled back when everything around you is wrong. When things were in a life-threatening condition, there was a settling back, with an attitude of, Why should I care? It is not affecting me. Things are going great, as far as life is concerned. I am quite secure from any danger.

That was the attitude of the people when Amos came on the scene, and he said, ”Woe to you that are at ease in Zion.” This was a direct statement to those who were at ease in Zion. It was one thing for the world to kick back and to take it easy, believing that there was no accounting for their indifference or ease. But for those who were in Zion—those who knew the Scriptures and God’s requirements—to kick back, it was altogether a different matter.

Parallel to Laodicea

There is a parallel here to the church of Laodicea, and this is why I believe that Old Testament prophetic utterances have last day applications. What is the message to the church of Laodicea? It is, “Woe unto you. You think that you are rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing, but I am here to tell you a different story. You need to look at where you are, because in actuality, you are poor, wretched, blind, miserable and naked.” (See Revelation 3:17.)

I do not know of any one of us who would like to hear those words spoken to us, do you? There is a sense of stiffening up, when we hear words like that. We think that certainly they cannot apply to us—we are not miserable; we are happy most of the time! Wretched? No, no, Lord, you have it all wrong. Poor and blind and naked—what do you mean? We are rich and increased with goods, and we have need of nothing. This is specifically what God was speaking to His people in the days of Amos. ”Woe unto you who are taking your ease.”

Hiding From God

Being at ease is caused by only one thing. Those to whom Amos is speaking believe that they have been entirely successful in hiding their true condition from God. They consider themselves to be right. There is nothing wrong, as far as they are concerned. They think that God is off on a vacation somewhere and does not know what is happening. This indeed is a masterful deception that the devil will pull off in every generation.

Sacred history tells us that this is a very easy deception on God’s people. This is precisely the reason why it is so difficult for the Gospel to be accepted when it is preached. There are people who are at ease, either in the world or in Zion, who think that everything is all right when indeed everything is all wrong. Those who could benefit from the Gospel are so deceived that they think God—nor anyone else—knows their situation. It is easy to fall into such a trap, when everything around you seems to be going right.

At this particular point of time in history, Israel was at its height of prosperity. The stock market was at 12,000, and they were buying and selling and having a good time. They were kicked back, at ease. Yet, all of this was leading to a deplorable condition. They were oppressing the poor; they were grinding down everyone they could so their stock prices would stay high. They were riding high!


As I studied about this, I mused to myself about what was really happening—what contributed to this deception, this kicking back at ease. I came across a very interesting quotation from pages 52 and 53 of the book Temperance: “The use of wine among the Israelites was one of the causes that finally resulted in their captivity.” We need to remember that the Book of Amos applies to last day conditions.

Ellen White continues, on page 53 of Temperance, to quote from Amos 6. Israel had problems with intemperance. Wine was blurring their thinking processes. We know that wine affects the mind in this manner, and I am convinced that this is one of the reasons we are in the condition that we are as a people today. “But,” someone protests, “Pastor, what are you saying? We are Seventh-day Adventists; we don’t use wine. What are you talking about?”

When I became a Seventh-day Adventist, I was taught that one of the foundational principles of Adventism was abstaining from alcoholic beverages. Let me ask you a question: When was the last time you heard a temperance crusade being promoted within the Adventist church? It used to be that temperance crusades came around as often as Ingathering. It was something that was promoted and upheld before the people. This is one of the things about preaching; we need to continually hold before the people the high ideals of God, or those principles seem to lose contact with our minds and are forgotten.

I have read how some Adventists today are now imbibing in alcoholic beverages, and they have no compunctions about doing so. If we want to be successful Seventh-day Adventist Christians, we will follow the counsels God has given for us. We will review them constantly, holding them up in our minds so we do not lose sight of what it is that God has for us. This will prepare us for the last days on this earth.

Like the World

Temperance crusades, unfortunately, have been relegated to the heap of old rubbish along with some of the other teachings that have made us distinct as a people. But God has not changed—we have changed. We, too, have been at ease in Zion for so long that we think we need to update things and do away with some of the old things we think hold us back as a people. But remember, God does not change, and neither should we.

We have the problem of doing the same things that the world does. We go to the same places that the world goes; we listen to the same music that the world listens to. So why should we not drink the same drink that the world drinks and have a “good time”? This was what was happening in the days of Amos. We need to learn the lessons that are there for us. The sad part is, in many Adventist churches, if we begin to touch on these areas of intemperance and how people ought to live, we will immediately be branded as mean-spirited, narrow-minded, bigoted, and meddlers into people’s lives.

When I was in conference work, I mentioned from the pulpit, one Sabbath during the 11 o’clock service, some of the concepts of temperance and stated that we should not imbibe certain beverages. That very week the conference president drove 175 miles to see me. After confirming things I had expressed in my sermon, he counseled, “Mike, you need to leave those things alone on Sabbath morning. Keep them for prayer meeting.” You know as well as I do what prayer meeting attendance is in comparison with the attendance at 11 o’clock on Sabbath morning!

False Security

Why not just sit back and relax? Maybe the world is not doing so badly. After all, the coming of Jesus is a long way away. These are the thoughts in many people’s minds. There is a danger in that kind of thinking; it causes us to lose the urgency of God’s message.

This is the very same kind of thinking that was in the minds of the children of Israel during the days of Amos when woe was brought upon them. “Woe to them [that are] at ease in Zion and trust in the mountain of Samaria.” Israel thought that they were going to be safe. They were perched upon a mountain where they could see the approach of any enemy. God told them that it did not make any difference where they were located. They may have believed they were safe, but they were not.

”Pass ye unto Calneh, and see; and from thence go ye to Hamath the great: then go down to Gath of the Philistines: [be they] better than these kingdoms? or their border greater than your border?” Amos 6:2.

The cities mentioned here were all very familiar to the Israelites. These cities had been overthrown and destroyed. If we were to bring this into a modern scenario and terminology, we would say, “Take a look at the Twin Towers [the former World Trade Center, New York City, New York] today. How much hope would there be for your security to look to the Twin Towers today? Thousands were killed on September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers came down.” That was the lesson that God was trying to bring to these people’s minds: “Look at these towns out here. You think you are doing just fine. Look at them; they are destroyed. You need to learn the lessons from those things.”

They were all aware of what had happened to these communities. They had thought these cities were safe, but they had fallen into the hands of their attackers, and Amos used the destroyed ruins as an illustration of what was going to happen to them. “You are no better than they are, and you are going to be just as vulnerable as they were,” he told them.

An Evil Day

“Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near. . . .” Verse 3. One of the greatest, fatal deceptions to come upon God’s people is to believe that the day of the Second Coming of Jesus is a long way off. When you begin to believe that all is well—you have money in the bank, your health is good, you think life will go on as it has for many more years, you are at ease while others are suffering around you, you think that the day the Lord can reach you is a long way away—the devil is speaking in your ear.

All the while you put off the evil day. All the while, you think that the Second Coming of Jesus is a far way off. Believe me, people who know about the Second Coming, and who know that their lives are not right with Jesus, see His Second Coming as an evil day. They do not welcome the Second Coming, because they know that ultimately it will destroy their lives.

The children of Israel viewed it in the same way. They knew that the day of the Lord was the Day of Judgment, and they looked at it as an evil day. So the seat of violence came near, involving the oppression of the poor for their own personal gain.

It is not unusual that, when people come into a lot of money, such as winning the lottery, for example, they suddenly consider themselves to be someone of great importance. Have you ever noticed that? Many, many of the people who have become big dollar winners end up living under a bridge, because they cannot handle the prosperity that comes to them. But they had thought themselves very important!

One of the first things people do, when they come into big money, is to bedeck their mortal bodies with all kinds of junk to make them appear attractive to other people. And they buy big, big houses and big, big cars, thinking that these will impress people around them.

Picture of Luxury

“Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near; That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall.” Verses 3, 4.

What a tremendous picture is given in these verses! Prophets of old were able to put together word pictures that conveyed things you could not say by typing out a flat sentence. What a picture! While most people were out working from sunrise to sunset, these people were lounging on beds of ivory.

Ivory, even today, is a very precious commodity, but these were bedsteads that were inlaid with ivory! A very luxurious picture. Most people were lucky to have a mat to sleep on, let alone a bed—and certainly not a bed that was inlaid with ivory. They would stretch out and take their rest in luxury. This is a picture of the society today.

Perverted Appetite

And then, when they finally climbed out of their beds of luxury, they ate lambs out of the flock and calves out of the midst of the stall. It does not say that they were eating sheep and cows. It says they were eating the delicate meat of lambs and calves. They were eating lambs and calves, not sheep and cows, because one of the greatest treats for meat eaters is the tenderest cut. Nobody wants tough meat.

Have you ever heard of veal cutlets? Do you know from where veal cutlets come? Veal cutlets come from calves that have been penned up in small crates, hardly able to move. They are raised there until they are a certain age, and then they are slaughtered. Their meat is harvested at its most tender stage, so it can go upon the plates and into the palates of those who desire tender cuts of meat.

It would make you sick to see how these animals are raised and how they are treated, yet we see this very thing taking place in the days of Amos. They were crating up these little animals so they would have tender cuts of meat that only the rich could afford. If you are poor, you may be able to buy hamburger, but you certainly cannot afford veal cutlets. They are expensive. But here the people were satisfying the cravings of perverted appetites. They wanted the choice cuts; they would not settle for second best. They wanted tender meat. They wanted the lambs and the calves.

From what I have been able to determine, as I have researched this series on Amos, most Israelites—not all but most—ate meat only three or four times a year. That was the norm! The three or four times they ate meat centered around the times of their festivals. The poor ate meat even less times than that.

So the picture given in Amos 6 is that the leading citizens were eating quite a bit of the choice cuts—they had the money to buy it. Their actions were causing some very baleful effects to come into the nation. History has recorded that for us, and if we fail to learn the lessons that God has for us, then we are destined to repeat the same mistakes and to face the same future that Israel faced.

Symptoms Developing

Remember the visions recorded in Ezekiel 8 and 9, where God took Ezekiel to the temple and showed him the priests there that were worshipping the sun, playing the harlot? The record shows that God took him even deeper into vision and showed him greater abominations that were taking place. We ask, how in the world could these things of old have taken place? How could they have gotten so far out of hand that those who were commissioned of God to perform a sacred service so prostituted it that it became immoral and was an abomination before God? How could they depart from God in that way?

We see a definite pattern that brought these things to pass. Is it not true that if we see symptoms developing regarding a certain situation, we know what the results are going to be? This is one of the requirements of a physician. A physician always looks for symptoms. A pastor is somewhat like a physician. He watches for spiritual symptoms, and when he sees these symptoms, it behooves him, under the direction of God, to point out the potential results, so the actions can be corrected and God’s glory can be manifested.

Ezekiel saw things that were very uncomfortable for him, and as we have been studying, in Amos, we see things coming out in the forefront that are disturbing for us. We see certain kinds of trends and symptoms developing within the body of Adventism and within the body of Christians at large. I state this from a standpoint that the majority of God’s people are in other churches. (See John 10:16; The Great Controversy, 1888, 383.)

Sound of Music

“That chant to the sound of the viol, [and] invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David.” Amos 6:5. This verse is very difficult to translate. The phrase, “chant to the sound of the viol,” is translated in other versions to read, “sing idle songs to the sound of the harp.” But even this translation does not really do justice to what is being said here. The words, “sing idle songs,” are used only once in the entirety of the Old Testament, so it is difficult to find a translation that will make sense to us. There is an Arabic equivalent, however, which has the meaning, “to talk immoderately or to babble or prattle to the sound of the harp.”

It seems that this would be the best translation to apply to the context of what was taking place in this text and to us in the times in which we live.

The same is true of the phrase, “inventing to themselves instruments of musick.” The alternate translation of this would be, “shouting, they imagine themselves to be singing.” If you watch the videotape Are You Ready for Church? you see an exact parallel of this taking place today. In reality, there is nothing new under the sun! People are shouting and prattling and talking and considering this music. I am sorry, but I still like melodious strains of music and not all the babbling and shouting that passes for music today.

But let me point out to you that this was taking place in the days of Amos, and this music was part of their downfall. It was part of what led them to do things they probably never would have done otherwise. Ellen White tells us that music was part of the problem for the children of Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai when they built the golden calf and just before they crossed over into Canaan, at Kadesh-Barnea, when they began to associate with the Midianitish women. They would never have succumbed to the temptations had it not been for the music. (See Patriarchs and Prophets, 319, 320, 454.)

Music pervades our entire society today. I am not bringing these things out to condemn anyone, but we need to elevate the standards once again. “If we do not receive the religion of Christ by feeding upon the word of God, we shall not be entitled to an entrance into the city of God. Having lived on earthly food, having educated our tastes to love worldly things, we would not be fitted for the heavenly courts; we could not appreciate the pure, heavenly current that circulates in heaven. The voices of the angels and the music of their harps would not satisfy us.” Review and Herald, May 4, 1897.

“That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.” Amos 6:6. The “affliction of Joseph” here means that the conditions in Israel were deplorable for most of the people, because most of the people were quite average people. They were getting by, but they were not happy, and they were not growing spiritually. They were not developing a character like God intended them to do. Those who were eating and drinking and laying and stretching themselves out on couches and beds thought life would never end. They had food, wine, and perfume. For what more could they ask?

Wrath of God

Verse 7 changes gears somewhat: “Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed. The Lord God hath sworn by himself, saith the Lord the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces; therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein. And it shall come to pass, if there remain ten men in one house, that they shall die. And a man’s uncle shall take him up, and he that burneth him, to bring out the bones out of the house, and shall say unto him that [is] by the sides of the house, [Is there] yet [any] with thee? and he shall say, No. Then shall he say, Hold thy tongue: for we may not make mention of the name of the Lord. For, behold, the Lord commandeth, and he will smite the great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts.” Amos 6:7–11.

Those who thought they were so blessed, living in luxury and letting the world go by, were to be the first to go into captivity. Do we dare make a comparison here? In the circumstances Amos described, he was speaking specifically of the leadership of that day. He asked, “Do you want the best places at the banquets? Do you want the most acknowledgement in the Synagogues? Then you are going to be the first to go into captivity.” And the reason was that they had departed from the plan that God had for His people.

All men are created equal. There is a value of the soul, and God looks upon all people the same, but there are certain areas of responsibility to which God has called people. He has equipped them for those responsibilities, but at the same time, they will have greater accountability when they are called before God in the Day of Judgment. That is the way that God works.

As He was trying to deal with the nation of Israel, God left no doubt regarding how He felt about the Northern kingdom. They would pay the price for their attitudes and their actions. God said, “I hate everything about you, and you are not going to escape; you are going to die.”

These verses give a very realistic account of the horrors of pestilence that would come after the seize of Jerusalem took place. So complete was the destruction to be that even where a large number gathered in a house to escape these dangers, not one of them would escape. There would be no place to hide.

Those who would give the burial message of them that had died did not even want to carry the bodies out, for fear that they would be attacked or sieged upon, so they would burn the bodies. When giving the burial message, they dared not even mention the name of the Lord. Why? Because they were fearful that a greater manifestation of wrath would come upon them by even mentioning the name of God.

This is one of the things that contributed to the loss of the name Yahweh. Many people have tried to re-capture the use of that name, and they have not succeeded. If someone comes to you saying that you need to call upon the name of the Lord in a certain way, do not listen. This is one of the things that contributed to the loss of the pronunciation of the name. The children of Israel did not dare call upon the name of the Lord because they were fearful that their sins would be raw and ripe before God and His wrath would come down upon them—even in a burial message. That is how far away from God that they had gone.

For Ensamples

Again I say, “All these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11. The books of the Old Testament, dear friend, point to last day happenings.

“Shall horses run upon the rock? will [one] plow [there] with oxen? for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock: Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength? But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, saith the Lord the God of hosts; and they shall afflict you from the entering in of Hemath unto the river of the wilderness.” Amos 6:12–14.

The general order of things at this time of judgment, this time of retribution, would be so far out of the order that it would be like horses running on rocks—something you do not do. If you have ever ridden a horse, you know you do not run a horse on rocks. People knew that back then too. And you do not take oxen and plow a rock field. God was trying to convey to them that these things were not things that would normally be done, but they would be done to deal with such a corrupt and poisonous situation.

Some things become so poisonous in God’s mind that they have to be dealt with in a very severe way—a way that normally would not be used.

Again, we have to learn the lessons of these things. God is longsuffering. God is merciful. Israel’s history was long. That is the principle that God has for us in dealing with situations. We, as human beings, do not have long periods of time to deal with situations like God does. God did not deal with individuals per se; He dealt with entire nations who had long, long lives. Sometimes He allowed them to go on for hundreds of years, and then finally, when the cup was full, God dealt with them.

Translate that down to us today and to how we are to relate to people and individuals in circumstances within the church. We do not have long periods of time, but we can apply the principles. We can extend the hand of mercy, but when a limit is reached and situations become poisonous, we have to deal with them in the same way that God dealt with them. That is the lesson we can gain from Amos 6. If we are going on the same path as the children of Israel, we will have to pay the same price. The price was a permanent one for Israel. The whole Northern kingdom was lost.

A Remnant Spared

In spite of that, God held out a light. He held out the fact that there was a remnant that would be spared, and that remnant was Judah. And even out of Judah there was another remnant that was to be saved. A smaller group even yet—a remnant of a remnant. The Spirit of Prophecy tells us that the majority will leave us. (See Patriarchs and Prophets, 102, 103.) We need to try to examine the reasons why the majority depart, and stay far away from the circumstances that would draw us, if we possibly can.

The children of Israel loved their wine so much that it blurred their thinking. They loved their fine cuts of meat so much that they had perverted appetites. They loved their celebration music and dance so much that it caused them to enter into temptation. They loved their money that provided for all of this, and the love of money is the root of all evil.

Friend, we dare not repeat the same history. Are we going to survive? We can survive by understanding. We can survive by drawing near to God. We can survive by not stiffening our necks against rebuke, when it comes from the Word. We can survive. It is possible. Amos 6 is a dark picture, but God has placed it there so we can survive. He has made all the provisions for us to survive, if we will just learn the lessons.

To be continued . . .

Pastor Mike Baugher is Associate Speaker for Steps to Life Ministry. He may be contacted by e-mail at: mikebaugher@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.