This article concludes our study of the Book of Amos. Amos was a prophet who had a burden to present and to make clear God’s cause and solution. The last chapter of any book usually consists of a conclusion, and that certainly is the case with the writings of Amos.
Amos is a difficult book to read. It was conceivably more difficult for Amos when he first gave his message to the Northern kingdom of Israel. Practically the whole book is composed of judgments—judgments that were to fall upon Israel as well as the sinful, surrounding nations and upon Judah, the Southern kingdom.
God Always Gives Hope
In the opening verses of Amos 9, we see that God is detailing the fact that no one is going to escape the judgments that are going to fall upon this people. One thing is certain, as I have read the words of Inspiration, and that is that God, even though He of necessity deals with people in a very severe way at times, never leaves them hopeless. He has to punish; He has to deal with sin, but through it all, there is hope. There is a light shining that says, “This can all change.” Where He pronounces woe, He pronounces mercy. Where He wounds, He heals. Where He pronounces judgment, He provides a way of escape.
This is what we find as we come to the close of the Book of Amos. Even though it begins with, and the majority of the book deals with, problems and trials and judgments and difficulties, God says, “There is a light at the end of the tunnel for you.”
This tells us something. It tells us, first of all, about the mercy of God. He is not only a God of judgment, but He is a God of mercy as well. He has to deal with all the issues, however, and that may take up more space than the solution does. There are nine chapters in the Book of Amos and eight and a half of those chapters deal with judgment! Just a final little portion deals with His mercy. But the book does end in hope—hope in spite of the doom that has been pronounced upon those who have departed from God.
Destruction is Coming
“I saw the Lord standing upon the altar: and he said, Smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake: and cut them in the head, all of them; and I will slay the last of them with the sword: he that fleeth of them shall not flee away, and he that escapeth of them shall not be delivered. Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down: And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them: And though they go into captivity before their enemies, thence will I command the sword, and it shall slay them: and I will set mine eyes upon them for evil, and not for good.” Amos 9:1–4.
If the Old Testament were printed like the New Testament, with the words of Divinity written in red, these verses would be written in red. As a matter of fact, every verse in this chapter would be written in red, except for two, indicating that God was speaking. Amos states that he saw the Lord standing on the altar and then records the words that come forth from that place. It is there where those words would begin to be written in red.
The altar that is referred to is not a lone altar but the whole of the sanctuary that was located in Bethel, where Amos was conducting his ministry. The people who went to this altar to worship thought that everything was just fine, that all was well between God and themselves. They did not realize that they were on the very verge of destruction.
The Lord standing with the altar under His feet signifies that everything in this world is in subjection to Him. This is something that we must realize also—everything in this world is subject to God. It may not seem that way right now, but it is so nonetheless. God has control over it all. But then, God gives the command that destruction is to take place.
If we reflect on other Old Testament history, we find stories of destroying angels that God dispatched to do a work of destruction. Here is one of those instances. There are those who believe that God does not destroy and that, ultimately, those who have died through the centuries will, through some universal act, all be purified and end up in the kingdom of heaven—including the devil and his angels. That is heresy! If there is anything that can be observed as we read Scripture, it is that God is sovereign over all; God judges all things; He judges righteously, and when righteous judgment is finished, destruction takes place.
This being the case, I want to take you on a little trip, back to what took place in Jerusalem in 70 a.d. The Jews of that time had not learned the lessons of history. They had been given the messages of the prophets, such as Amos. They knew what was required of them, but they changed the messages in such a way that they became smooth messages. As a result, the Jews paid a price for their disobedience. Their temple was destroyed, because they failed to learn from the past. There is a lesson in this for us as well.
Do we have a temple? Yes, we do. “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which [temple] ye are.” 1 Corinthians 3:17. We see these lessons come down through all the various eras of history to us, and we must learn from them. The Lord standing on the altar says, “Let everything shake itself down and fall on the heads of those who are seeking shelter there.” When the shaking begins, there will be no one who will escape. There will not be any place to hide where the Lord will not find them.
Where does the shaking begin? It begins in the house of God. God makes statements somewhat similar to what we have heard in recent newscasts concerning terrorists: You can run, but you cannot hide. That is what the Lord pronounces in Amos: “Mark it down. I will find you, and you will forfeit your lives.”
If the Jews of Jesus’ time would have read this material and understood it as it was to be understood, they would never have suffered the fate that they did. This is not recorded as just a history lesson for us, although there is history in it. These words have been inscribed so that we can make a spiritual application into our own lives from the events that have transpired in history. Ellen White wrote that “the ancient prophets spoke less for their own time than for ours, so that their prophesying is in force for us.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 338.
Lessons of Amos
We as Seventh-day Adventists have altogether too small of a view of what God plans to do in the end of time. There are some definite lessons for us, so I want to look at the whole picture that God has presented and that is being taught in Amos.
The nation of Israel is presented. We see that of this whole nation—all twelve tribes—the largest portion of the people abandoned the Lord and left His cause, never to be recovered again. The kingdom of Judah was left after this major apostasy of Israel took place. You would think that the ten tribes of the Northern kingdom would have served as an example to the two tribes of the Southern kingdom, but Judah did not learn, and as a result, they went into captivity. God wanted to redeem and preserve them, but most of them went into captivity in Babylon. Only a few who were vinedressers were left in Palestine. (See Jeremiah 52:12.) Only a small remnant of those taken came back to the Holy Land. We learn that of those who returned, the vast majority rejected the Messiah when He came. So this leaves, of the original number, a very, very small remnant. The whole scenario is repeated again with the Christian church!
The majority of the Christian church went into apostasy, but a smaller number of faithful few continued to maintain the faith. The Reformation breaks, the truth seems to be on track again, but then there is a turning back, and they begin to follow in mother’s footsteps and become harlots, just like her.
Out of the remnant is called those who would be faithful to the preaching of the Three Angels’ Messages. Yet, just like Judah of old, the majority of those who are called turn their backs and decide that the message given by God is no longer that important. That is why the servant of the Lord tells us that in the last days the majority of those who make up the church are going to go out of it. Is there a precedent? Is there history on which to base that conclusion? Absolutely! Over and over and over again, history has repeated itself.
Why is this happening? It is happening because the people have continued following the same thinking pattern as the Jews of old. No intervention has taken place in their lives. They have not experienced a dynamic conversion.
One thing we see as we study the last chapter of Amos is that there will be a remnant that will be saved. Ellen White says that it is a very small number. (See Testimonies, vol. 2, 445.)
So, here is God on the altar. He gives the command to destroy every vestige of worship that is conducted there; it is no longer acceptable. As a matter of fact, God says that it is an absolute stench in His nose. The words are, “Destroy it all. Search out those who are involved in Israel and destroy them also. Bring the pillars and the mantles down on their heads.”
As an interlude, Amos responds with an “Amen” to that which God declares. “And the Lord God of hosts [is] he that toucheth the land, and it shall melt, and all that dwell therein shall mourn: and it shall rise up wholly like a flood; and shall be drowned, as [by] the flood of Egypt. [It is] he that buildeth his stories in the heaven, and hath founded his troop in the earth; he that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord [is] his name.” Amos 9:5, 6. This is like saying, “Amen, amen,” to what is going to take place.
Blood Thicker than Water
The pace changes in verse 7. God asks a question: “[Are ye] not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the Lord.” What does He mean by this? Well, what is happening is a comparison between the heathen and those who are called His family. The Lord makes the point that, as far as He is concerned, there is no difference between those who compose the heathen nations and His own children. It is not, in the least, a racial issue or a racial distinction that is being made here. It is a spiritual distinction.
The children of Israel, as you know, were called and held by God in a special position. They had a rank, which was head and shoulders above all the other nations around the world. They were a special people. They were a “called” people. They were a people with distinction. But when they forfeited that distinction, God changed in how He viewed them. They then became as nobodies, as far as God was concerned. They had no status whatsoever. God used the Ethiopians because of their proximity to Israel, but the Ethiopians had no standing as far as a people whom God recognized. They were classified as heathen people. God says that those who were called at one point in time were no better than those who were not called, because they had forfeited their calling. They forfeited their calling because of their practices as His people. They had fallen out of favor with God, and now they were nobodies.
I do not quite understand how it can be that God calls His people and, should they forfeit their calling, says, “You are no longer My family. I do not want you anymore. I do not know you anymore. You are a nobody to Me.” God says, “My ways are not your ways, neither are your ways My ways.” As I thought about what transpired here, in light of that Scripture, the thought came to me, “We do not do that as family.” Many times our family members will fall out of favor with one another, but blood is thicker than water. Right? But with God, it is viewed differently.
We are all members of His family, if we stay within His family. If we choose to go a way different from God by going out on our own, He says, “You are no longer My family.” We, as human beings, cannot quite grasp this, because we have close blood ties to family. We have a tendency to view God in a different way and think, “I am really better than God, because I would not disown my own family.” But the reality of the whole thing is that God says, “You depart from My way and it is all over.”
When we are in Christ, we are somebody. When we are not in Christ, we are nobody. This is why the Lord tells us that there are “Many that will come to Me in that day, saying, Lord, Lord, I know You. Have not I preached in Your name? Have not I done many wonderful works in Your name?” And how does the Lord respond? He says, “You are a nobody. I do not even know you. Depart from Me.” (Matthew 7:21–23.)
Amos reminds the people who God is. In Amos 9:6, it says, “The Lord [is] his name.” His name, Jehovah, Yahweh—however you want to pronounce it, He is the Almighty God. He is the all-powerful One Who is able to save you, Who has gone to every possible length to save you. But if you depart from Him, He does not know you. That is the point Amos is trying to get the people to understand.
“[Are] ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the Lord. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir? Behold, the eyes of the Lord God [are] upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the Lord. For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as [corn] is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us.” Verses 7–10.
The Way God Is
In the first eight chapters of Amos, 131 verses are filled with woe, judgment, and destruction. It does not seem that God has any desire or compassion to bring about some kind of recovery. This is why I have stated that Amos is a difficult book to read and to study, because most of it is filled with woe and destruction. But God desires to get a message across.
Is this really the way God is? Better mark it down. This is the way God is. He will go to every possible length to bring about an understanding of our condition so there will be a change of heart for our redemption.
The last five verses of the last chapter of Amos have real lessons for us. They hold out to the sinner the hope of recovery. Even though we may have gone far from the path He would have us take, God holds out His hands and He makes an appeal. He says, “Come unto Me, please. Do not let the day come when I have to say, ‘Depart from Me, I never knew you.’ ”
This is the heart of the messages of the prophets who have seen in vision the plain plan of God. It can only be for a time—the pain and the discouragement and the anguish—and then a great determination should come to God’s people to challenge for the kingdom. What we see taking place in the lives of those who have been called to be a covenant-keeping people has caused some to write them off altogether. If this is done, it is not the revealed will of God. God is saying, “The day is going to come when revival and reformation are going to take place. The day is going to come when My Holy Spirit is going to be poured out on all flesh. Some, it will soften and subdue. Others, it will harden and cause them to be blown away.”
In and through it all is a call for us to have greater and more determination, as well as diligence. It is a call to see us through to the end. And this is what God revealed to Amos. This is what God revealed through the New Testament prophets; this is what God revealed through Ellen White to us today. The vision that these prophets of God had, we need to understand and apply to our own lives. If we do not, we are going to be lost.
Amos has been asleep for a long, long time, but his words live on. Others have fallen asleep also, but they have left us with words of hope and encouragement. Ellen White and our church pioneers have gone to their rest, but we have volumes of material of instruction. It is all because of God’s great mercy and longsuffering that we have these materials today. I pray that all the writings, all the paper, all the ink, have not been expended in vain. May the messages that have been penned find the right place in our hearts and help us to see ourselves as we are. May we fall upon the Rock and plead for forgiveness. May we plead for the blood of Jesus to be sprinkled upon our records so when our names come forth in the judgment time, we will be as kernels of wheat which remain in the sieve and do not fall to the ground. May God help us to be able to see beyond the things of this world to the clear picture of eternity that is presented in the writings of the prophets. By His grace, may we be determined to have a place with the redeemed of all ages who will be able to stand beneath the tree and cast their crowns at the feet of the Saviour and say, “Worthy, worthy is the Lamb who has made salvation possible for us.”
Pastor Mike Baugher is Associate Speaker for Steps to Life Ministry. He may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.