Amos chapters 7-9 make up the third and final major division in the book. These last three chapters contain 5 prophetic visions. They recount what Amos saw or what the LORD showed him. We have already looked at four of the five visions. In the final vision, Amos saw the Lord standing beside the altar (9:1). This final section, 8:4-9:15, gives us a vision of YHWH, the God of Israel, and what He intends to do. We have a vision of both His Person and His purpose. At the center of this text is a hymn about God (9:5-6). He is identified as the Sovereign LORD (Lord GOD) who touches, builds, founds, and calls and pours. His Name is YHWH. This is the third such hymn fragment in Amos (cf. 4:12-13; 5:8-9).
At the center of this text, then, is a description of the Sovereign Lord. Additionally, notice the repetition of the divine first person I will (21 times if you count the implied first person references in repair, raise, and rebuild of 9:11). We have a God who is, at the same time, majestic and intimately involved in the details of our lives. His is to be both feared and loved.
Amos confronts his listeners with the God of whom they sing. In light of the nature, character, and covenant of YHWH with Israel, Amos interprets Israel’s history and describes her future.
If the former prophets guided Israel in the conquest and possession of the land, the 8th century and later writing prophets guided Israel in the loss of the land in the exile. They uphold the covenant faithfulness of God in the exile and interpret the exile in terms of God’s wider redemptive purpose among the nations. The exile is a redemptive reckoning and purifying of the people of God.
God has a redemptive purpose in history that He will accomplish. Amos presents to us the God who is well able to accomplish His purpose.
God has a purpose of redemption among the nations. He brings His people to participate in His redemptive mission. Sometimes his people work against Him. God chose Israel to save the world, yet through covenant unfaithfulness they were working against the purpose for which they were redeemed.
Amos bookends verses 4-14 with quotations of the Israelites thoughts and words (5-6 and 14). Over and over in Amos, Israel’s own words condemned them (2:12; 4:1; 5:14; 6:13; 7:16; 9:10). In Amos’s day the economy was good, security was good, politically they were not only stable but strong. They were more able to participate meaningfully in God’s purpose for them than ever before, but all they could do was plan to cheat and enslave their brothers while they were worshiping God (5-6). Their Sabbath keeping was Sabbath breaking. Amazing are the plots that are hatched in church.
The LORD swears by the pride of Jacob that He will never forget any of their deeds (7). This is the third oath formula in Amos (cf. 4:2; 6:8). God has sworn by his holiness and by Himself. Now He swears by the pride of Jacob. This is the second time the phrase the pride of Jacob has appeared. In the first occurrence, the LORD abhorred the pride of Jacob (6:8). Now He swears by it. This phrase is a quote from Psalm 47:4, He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves.
The psalm is about God’s reign over the nations. Because God reigns the nations are the heritage of His people. The Psalm envisions the nations uniting with the Jews as the people of Abraham (Ps. 47:9 The princes of the people gather as the people of the God of Abraham.). It seems to me by swearing by the pride of Jacob, God is charging Israel with misrepresenting Him among the nations. Israel was to be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, representing God among the nations. Their election was to an attractional, representational mission. Yet, they represented God as one who reduced all of life to an ethic of self-interest and economic gain.
Using a simile about the flooding of the Nile from the hymn Amos uses in 9:5-6, He illustrates the sudden destructive power of diving judgment. Amos, from this point forward in the text, introduces details about divine judgment that will ultimately lead to the accomplishment of God’s redemptive purpose. He marks significant events and outlines this entire section of text with catch-phrases like on or in that day (8:9,13; 9:11) and behold, the days are coming (8:11, 9:13).
They resented the New Moon and Sabbath (5) because they got in the way of oppression. God will give them signs in the heavens that will turn their worship festivals on their heads (9-10). As goes the man so goes the earth. The earth groans awaiting our redemption. We will see later in this text what happens in creation when the sons of God are revealed and redemption completed (9:11-15).
Then God would send a famine of hearing the words of the LORD (11). They would search the width and length of the Land for a revelation from God, but they would not find it. After the days of Malachi, Israel heard from no prophet for 400 years until John the Baptist was in the wilderness preaching repentance for the KOG was at hand (Mt. 3:1).
Here the temptation for the preacher is to bemoan the famine of the Word in pulpits across the land, but I don’t think that is the application here. Israel told any truth telling prophets not to prophesy (2:12; 7:12-13). They would get their wish. Israel would fall and never rise again (14, c.f. 5:2) because they would not hear the Word.
The application for us is we must be truth tellers about God in the story of our lives. Friends, you have to ask yourselves, What does my life communicate about God? (in our living, giving, serving, marriage, business, singleness, friendships, postings on social media, church). God will make His Name great among the nations. Are you laboring for Him or against Him?
God will judge His people to save the world. He will accomplish His saving purpose. Instead of participating in God’s redemptive purpose, Israel was working against God. God will keep His promise to bless the nations through Abraham. This truth is clarifying for the mission and purpose of the church.
God has written a story of redemption that includes the nations. The nations were not part of the story that Israel had written for itself. The nations, however, were always figured into to God’s redemptive story. They are not simply a new chapter written in the New Covenant but were included in God’s promise to Abraham. God chose Israel to save the world.
Using Israel’s hymn of divine sovereignty to confront them with the truth of who God is (5-6), Amos argues the inescapable nature of divine judgment (1-4) and challenges their false security and misconception of what it means to be the people of God (7-10).
Chapter 9 begins with a vision of the Lord standing by the altar. Amos does not use God’s covenant name here. Rather than being present to save, the sovereign God is there to judge. In language reminiscent of Psalm 139:7-12 where the Psalmist recounts the inescapability of Gods’ saving presence, Amos goes in the opposite direction. If you write God out of your story a good ending is impossible.
The rulership of God includes all the nations not just Israel (7-10). The paragraph opens with two rhetorical questions that are shocking to us, so you can think how outlandish they sounded to the Israelites. These are not the only verses like this in the OT (cf. Isa. 19:24-25; Deut 2:10-12, 20-23; 10:17). These two questions (7) refute the popular belief that Israel occupied a place of superior status and privilege that gave them immunity and ensured judgment for their enemies. Popularly, they believed that because of the Exodus their status was such that Disaster would not overtake or meet them (10). The Sinai covenant assured Israel of God’s impartiality (Deut 10:17) and gave them the stipulations for staying in the Land (Deut 28:63b-64; 29:18b-19).
Israel had no more claim to superior status than any other people. Are you not like the Cushites to me? (7). God was the God of Israel, but He had wider interests. He is not only the God of Israel, He is the God, besides [Whom] there is no God (Isa 45:5). I am God and there is none like me (Isa. 46:9). Though the Cushites are a distant and far removed people, they are still accountable to God.
The Exodus was not unique to Israel (7). When Israel reflected on the Exodus, rather than seeing it as the self-revelation of the greatness of God, they saw it as the unveiling of their own greatness. Israel created a self-portrait with self at the center of divine glory.
Amos is objecting to the erroneous idea that the exodus was because of some quality that God saw in Israel. Amos asserts the impartiality of God. The exodus of Israel is comparable to the exodus of the Philistines and the Syrians. It was not unique to Israel and did not grant them special status, priority, or immunity. The Lord delivered the Philistines and the Syrians from their respective captivities, but that did not exempt them from accountability to God.
Israel was no different than the other nations, but God, for his own reasons, determined to be gracious to them not simply by delivering them physically from Egypt but by acting redemptively in forgiving their sin. While living by the stipulations of the covenant made them a distinct people among the nations, it did not follow that God made a distinction between them and the nations because of some quality in them. God chose Israel to further His redemptive interests among the nations. Amos argued that rather than the covenant granting immunity, it is the foundation of punishment (3:2). The covenant is more than simply the foundation of punishment but it is not less than that. For God to be faithful to His covenant promise, He must exile His people from the land and judge them for their sin (Deut. 28:63b-64; 2918b-19). God will accomplish His redemptive purpose among the nations.
This raises the question, Is God faithful to His promise? The Sinai covenant established Israel as a nation. It was a temporary reality to move the nation forward in God’s redemptive program. Sinai did not promise the Land; it gave the stipulations to live in the land. It didn’t annul or change God’s covenant with Abraham that promised land, offspring, and blessing for all nations.
Regarding offspring, however, the line of promise did not include absolutely every physical offspring Abraham (eg. Ishmael and Esau) but there was always a line of promise within Israel. This is the concept of the remnant. Joseph first used the term (Gen. 45:7). As God preserved the remnant in Egyptian bondage, He would preserve the remnant in exile (8). Earlier Amos has already mentioned the remnant (5:15) to whom the LORD would be gracious and, in the next, section there is a remnant among the nations to whom God will be gracious (9:12). In the exile, the remnant of faithful Israelites were shaken among the nations (9).
The exile of the remnant was God keeping His promise to Abraham (and to Israel). To save His people and to accomplish His redemptive purpose in history, God would shake His people out among the nations. Ultimately, out of the diaspora, the synagogue arose where the Scriptures were taught every Sabbath. Jews and god-fearing Gentiles would gather. This gathering became the epi-center of the restoration call of God’s people through the gospel to participation in the new covenant community.
The Sovereign LORD would scatter his people to save the world. We are not part of God’s story because of any quality He saw in us. He has very graciously reached into our lives and called us to be His New Covenant people through the Gospel of His Dear Son.
Amos saw the day of New Covenant restoration and described for us not only a multi-ethnic community of God’s new people but also an earth with the curse lifted that is unlike anything we have ever seen or experienced.
Amos saw the Day of the LORD (in that day, 11) not only in the present reality of exile, but in the future reality of an age to come that would include not only the restoration of Israelites in the a new community of faith, but the calling of the nations into full participation in the restoration community of God’s people (11-12). Amos began his book highlighting the judgment of the nations (chs. 1-2) and ends his book with the salvation of the nations.
Amos takes us from the start of the restoration to its completion (11-15). The restoration began with the raising up of David’s booth (11). We know that in Amos’s day David had long been dead. What could Amos possibly have meant? We also know that in Amos’s day a Davidic king was reigning in the SK. We also know that the kingdom had long been divided, and Amos had prophesied the downfall of the SK and Jerusalem (2:4-5; 3:1; 6:1).
I think the fallen booth of David is a reference to the whole complex of a divided Kingdom, the failure of the Davidic line to produce an obedient Son, and the coming exile, the loss of nationhood for both kingdoms. God’s promise to Abraham was extended to David in the establishment of David’s throne forever (2Sam 7:16).
We can search OT history for the raising up of David’s fallen tent and will not find it. We do not see David’s fallen booth raised up until we see Jesus born in the line of both Abraham and David (Matt. 1:1). He called 12 men to himself, not 4, 5, or 10 and called them Apostles to signal the restoration of Israel had begun in the church, the new covenant gathering of the people of God.
The unique signal of the restoration is the inclusion of the nations in the people of God. Edom in the OT represents the nations who do not know God. From among those nations, (here’s our term remnant again), God would call out a people who along with restored Israel would constitute the people of God. You know the restoration has begun when you see the multiethnic community of faith called together from the nations (12).
But am I reading this text correctly? Perhaps, someone could come up with another explanation that would be plausible. The early church took up this text to settle its first theological dispute, a dispute which centered around the nature of the community of God’s people. The Acts 15 question is not so much What is the Gospel?, although it answers that question. The question is, Is the church Scriptural? Some in the church were preaching that Gentiles had to become Jews to be Christians. They convened a council in Jerusalem to settle this theological dispute (15:1-17, esp. 13-17). James handed down the decision of the church using Amos 9:11-12 as his text. Amos prophesies of the gathering of Jews and Gentiles into one community of faith on the basis of faith in Christ alone.
Unlike the old covenant that became obsolete, the new covenant would be permanent. It would be the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. The promises to Abraham and his offspring are fulfilled in Christ (Gal. 3:15-18). All of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ (2Cor. 1:20).
Further, Amos saw a day when the restoration would give way to an Edenic type world. A day when the curse will be lifted. We have never seen a world like the world of which Amos speaks. A world where the sower and the reaper are in the same field at the same time (13), a world where the futility of work is gone (14 c.f. 5:11), and a world of permanent perfection where we will enjoy the gifts of God without disappointment (15).
Desperate times in any point in history do not mean that the KOG will not come in its fullness or that it’s not here now. God has written us into his story not because of anything He saw in us but because of His own determination to set His love and affection upon us. We cannot write a better story for ourselves than God has written for us.