In our study of Amos chapter four, we will look at the importance of remembering what God has done in the past. They say that history is the best teacher and, at least with God, we can say that it is true. He does not change and so we can study the past to understand the future. We will also see what happens when a nation ignores the hand of God.
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Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, 'Bring us some drinks!'
Bashan refers to an area that is what is called the Golan Heights today. It is one of the most beautiful parts of Israel. It was known for its fat cows because of the lush green grass that was plentiful for them to eat. It was also known for its oak trees as we see in Isaiah 2. Mount Samaria refers to Mt. Gerizim near Nablus. This was the site of the ancient city of Samaria which was named after Shemer who sold it to Omri the king of Israel (see 1 Kings 16:24). Amos goes on to explain that his words are for the wealthy women of Israel who were well taken care of just like the cows of Bashan. His charge against them is that they neglected the poor while they lived it up. In this, we are reminded that the women of a country are a kind of barometer of the health of any nation. As we see, in Ephesians 5, it is the husband's duty to lead a Christian family and the wife is a reflection of the spiritual health of that family. In the case of Israel, the men (especially the kings) had led the nation into idolatry. The people mistook their economic prosperity (the fat cows) as a sign of God's blessing upon them. The same type of thing is happening in many countries (especially America) today.
The Sovereign Lord has sworn by his holiness: 'The time will surely come when you will be taken away with hooks, the last of you with fishhooks.'
Amos tells the leading women of Israel that God's judgment is certain because of His holiness. They will be led away captives as it was common at the time to put hooks in the noses or lower lips of prisoners and lead them away with a rope.
'You will each go straight out through breaches in the wall, and you will be cast out toward Harmon,' declares the Lord.
Now, we see that God gives specifics about His judgment. "toward Harmon" probably refers to Mount Hermon and speaks of the fact that they were going to be led off in that direction which was towards Assyria.
'Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years. Burn leavened bread as a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings - boast about them, you Israelites, for this is what you love to do,' declares the Sovereign Lord.
Bethel speaks of their place of worship while Gilgal speaks to their place of remembrance (see Joshua 4). They were going through their religious motions which was bad enough but they had the stones of Gilgal to remind them of the truth. It was bad enough to be going through the motions but to forget what God had done on their behalf was even worse.
'I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town yet you have not returned to me,' declares the Lord.
God had brought drought and famine to the people to jog their memory about Him and the fact that He is Jehovah-Jireh their provider. Even in desperate times, they did not return to the Lord.
'I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away. I sent rain on one town but withheld it from another. One field had rain; another had none and dried up. People staggered from town to town for water but did not get enough to drink, yet you have not returned to me,' declares the Lord.
The Lord explains that He gave them extreme examples (one field would receive rain while the next would not) so that it could not be blamed on natural forces. The same type of thing is going to happen just before the tribulation described in Revelation. At that time, one man will be taken to be with the Lord while the one standing beside him is left to deal with the trials that are to come. This, too, is in hopes that those who are left will turn to the Lord and be saved.
'Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, destroying them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me,' declares the Lord.
Although it seems like Satan has control of things in this world, the devil still has to get authorization from God to do his work. God points out the fact that He had removed His hand of protection from the people and allowed their crops to be decimated. This is a reminder that the only restraint on evil in this world is the very hand of God. When He allows these things, it is for the purpose of drawing people to Him so that they can be saved from an eternal fate that is worse than this.
'I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me,' declares the Lord."
Here, the Israelites are reminded of what happens when the favor of God is removed from a nation. Their armies were not able to even keep what they had won in previous battles. It seems that, more than ever, nations are putting their trust in weapons of war without remembering that they are useless without the favor of God.
'I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire, yet you have not returned to me,' declares the Lord.
Just as with Lot and his family escaping from Sodom, God preserved a remnant through the judgment. The people knew of this story but even so did not repent. The same type of thing will happen again with the 144,00 witnesses in the tribulation.
'Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, Israel, prepare to meet your God.'
Israel was given a period of time where they had the opportunity to repent. Since they did not, they were told to prepare for the judgment of God. For those who do not repent and accept Jesus, the phrase "prepare to meet your God" are the most terrifying words that there can be. We all must ask ourselves if we are prepared and the only way to be ready is by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ.
He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth - The Lord God almighty is his name.
The prophet, Amos, goes on to describe who God is. In Hebrew, the name God Almighty is El Shaddai which describes an all sufficient God. El comes from the root word that means power or strength and Shad means breast in Hebrew. Like a nursing mother provides for her child, El Shaddai speaks of the fact that God is all powerful and able to provide for His people. He created all things and so is the rightful owner of all things. In this case, it also speaks of the fact that God controls the times and can decide when the time for repentance is past and judgment is to begin.