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Israel's Punishment for Failing to Heed (Amos 4-5) February 24

Amos again reminded Israel of the way God had dealt with them since they came out of Egypt and how they had ignored the warnings. God would now destroy Israel as a political power, saying, in effect, "enough is enough." God then lists six calamities to come upon Israel: famine (4:6); drought (verses 7-8); crop destruction (verse 9); plague (verse 10); defeat in war (verse 10) and fiery destruction of cities comparable to what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah (verse 11). This final calamity tells us that the prophecy is for the end time, as this did not happen in the destruction of ancient Israel by the Assyrians. Ezekiel 6:6 makes it even more plain: "In all your dwelling places the cities shall be laid waste." Referring to major cities of our day, this seems to signal nuclear devastation or some as yet unknown means of mass destruction.

God says, "Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" (verse 12). For some, this will be by death. But for the rest, it means God soon coming to earth—i.e., in the end-time return of Jesus Christ. "To be confronted—inescapably—by the God it had scorned and rejected would be a fate more terrible than Israel could imagine" (Nelson Study Bible, note on verse 12). In chapter 5, God lists a seventh calamity through Amos: captivity (5:3), a punishment mentioned in 4:2-3 and made clearer in 6:7. In 5:3, we are told that of those who go into captivity, only a tenth will survive (compare Isaiah 6:11-13, Living Bible).

God explains that He is the ultimate power to whom Israel should look—not their false gods. Interesting in His proclamations is a mention of the hydrological cycle of evaporation and rain, also referred to elsewhere in Scripture (compare Ecclesiastes 11:3; Job 36:27-29). One might wonder how this could have been so accurately understood by ancient authors—thus perhaps providing further evidence of God's inspiration of Scripture.

In Amos 5:18-20, God issues a warning through Amos to those desiring the Day of the Lord, for that Day will bring judgment on the disobedient—and they themselves were thoroughly disobedient, just as modern Israel is today. "The lesson for us is clear. Look eagerly for Christ's return—but not if you're living a life of sin" (Bible Reader's Companion, note on verses 18-20). It should be noted that while these prophecies are primarily for the end of this age, we can certainly see a secondary relevance for those to whom Amos preached—against whom an invasion by the Assyrian Empire was imminent. We can even envision the worshipers at Bethel cringing as Amos foretold its destruction, along with that of other centers of false worship in Gilgal and Beersheba (verses 5-6). In mentioning Beersheba, Judah is condemned along with Israel. These places of false worship serve as types of great houses of false worship in the end time. The true God is not to be found in them, but in seeking "good and not evil" (verse 14). And this, of course, is to be found in the revealed Word of God.

Israel of Amos' day had forsaken God and all His ways as found in His Word. For instance, since the days of Jeroboam I, Israel had her own feast days, which God utterly despised (compare verse 21). He had told them before that they should not look to the pagan nations and copy their modes of worship (Exodus 23:24, 33; Deuteronomy 12:29-32; Jeremiah 10:1-4), but that's just what they did. Likewise, today, the nations of modern Israel have forsaken God's biblically commanded Sabbaths and Holy Days for pagan celebrations such as Christmas and Easter (Astarte).

Furthermore, God did not and does not want any worship that is "hypocritical, dishonest, and meaningless" (Nelson, note on Amos 5:21-23)—whether offerings, music or anything else. "After dismissing Israel's empty worship as noisy and tumultuous, God called for the honest tumult of the rolling waters of justice and the perennial stream of righteousness, the only foundation for true praise and worship of the Lord" (note on verse 24). If Israel would only listen to God and heed, then He would not send the calamities (verses 14-15). But history shows that the Israelites failed to listen—and Israel, as a political entity, ceased to exist. Just so, history will repeat itself in the end time.

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