Seek and Live

 

Amos 5:1-17

1  Hear this word that I take up over you in lamentation, O house of Israel:

2  “Fallen, no more to rise,
is the virgin Israel;
forsaken on her land,
with none to raise her up.”

3  For thus says the Lord GOD:

“The city that went out a thousand
shall have a hundred left,
and that which went out a hundred
shall have ten left
to the house of Israel.”

4  For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel:

“Seek me and live;
5  but do not seek Bethel,
and do not enter into Gilgal
or cross over to Beersheba;
for Gilgal shall surely go into exile,
and Bethel shall come to nothing.”
6  Seek the LORD and live,
lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph,
and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel,
7  O you who turn justice to wormwood
and cast down righteousness to the earth!
8  He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
and turns deep darkness into the morning
and darkens the day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out on the surface of the earth,
the LORD is his name;
9  who makes destruction flash forth against the strong,
so that destruction comes upon the fortress.
10  They hate him who reproves in the gate,
and they abhor him who speaks the truth.
11  Therefore because you trample on the poor
and you exact taxes of grain from him,
you have built houses of hewn stone,
but you shall not dwell in them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
but you shall not drink their wine.
12  For I know how many are your transgressions
and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,
and turn aside the needy in the gate.
13  Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time,
for it is an evil time.
14  Seek good, and not evil,
that you may live;
and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you,
as you have said.
15  Hate evil, and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

16  Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the Lord:

“In all the squares there shall be wailing,
and in all the streets they shall say, ‘Alas! Alas!’
They shall call the farmers to mourning
and to wailing those who are skilled in lamentation,
17  and in all vineyards there shall be wailing,
for I will pass through your midst,”
says the LORD.

 
Introduction

This section is the start of the third proclamation. We need to remember that Israel (the northern kingdom) was at the height of its power when Amos prophesied these words. It would be like proclaiming that the USA was about to be overthrown. Who would listen to that message? “You’re being ridiculous,” or “you’re an alarmist”. But Amos was saying that Israel was already dead. This is a lament. Amos is telling dead Israel to listen to the poem he is reading at her funeral.
A more practical matter for us is this. Do we want to hear the word of the Lord? This should be one reason for attending public worship. We should be listening so that we can live closer to the Lord.
 
Exposition
I.    Amos prophesies weeping over Israel’s destruction (5:1-3, 16-17). It is a lament. What were they to grieve about?
A.    They should weep about the sad condition of Israel. She was a fallen virgin (5:1).

1.    Before the people were unsubdued—beautiful and separated to God.
2.    Now all is changed. God had deserted her. Her true and faithful husband had departed from her. God had withdrawn. It may be that the picture is like the one in Jer 9:22. So this is a picture of utter rejection.

B.    They should weep because there was no one to help Israel (5:2b).

1.    Contrast Ps 18:1ff.
2.    “If you understand, weep.” The great glory of God’s people is the presence of God to bless and sustain them; otherwise, we are nothing, because God’s people are the weak and foolish and despised of the world. Without our helper, where are we?

C.    They should weep because of the degree of destruction—ninety percent (5:3).

1.    Destruction is a recurring theme throughout this passage.
2.    Contrast Dt 28:7; 32:28-30 and the conquest of Canaan; compare Dt 28:26-26.

D.    They should weep because the Lord had come to judge (5:16-17).

1.    Notice that the whole community of Israel is involved: “in all the streets… in every public square… in all the vineyards”.
2.    The language is the same as in Ex 12:12. God was about to pass through their midst in judgment. Compare Rev 2:5.


II.    Amos describes God (5:8-9, 14-16). Who is this one who has come to judge?

A.    He describes God’s greatness by proclaiming God’s ability (5:8-9). Compare Job 9:9; 38:31.

1.    Creator
2.    Sustainer
3.    Ruler – able to bring human fortifications down (5:9)
Comment: We should observe how often the Bible emphasizes these truths about God. Yet it is these very teachings that the church has lost its grip on. Evolution, the belief in the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system, and the deep dislike of God’s sovereignty have consumed the faith of the church.

B.    He describes God by his names (5:14-16).

1.    God reveals himself by his names. We do not profit from this truth like we should, and we become formal and stale in our worship.
2.    Three times God is called “the Lord God Almighty”.
Comment: Perhaps we need to say more than just “God” to people, because the word “God” has little meaning to them. We worship the living God, the Lord God Almighty.


III.    Amos presents a way to avoid judgment (5:4-7, 10-15). Is there any hope?

A.    Amos urges them to seek the Lord.

1.    He does not tell them to seek religion (5:5). Israel should place no confidence in religious ritual and experience. We need, somehow, to make this plain to people.
Illustration: God is a husband who wants no rival for his affections.
2.    He tells them not to presume that God is with them (5:14b). A boast about God’s presence does not mean that God is really with that person. A person may give the appearance of “spirituality” when his or her heart and life are a denial of that pretense.
Comment: Religion can be man’s substitute for the reality of God’s presence. Human religion cultivates conditions (robes, bells, candles, prostrations, recitations, etc.) that strive to create a “feeling” that God is present. True Christianity trusts in God’s ability to reveal himself to the hearts of the worshipers without such cultivated condition. Approach God by faith in Jesus, and you will be found by him.
3.    He instructs them to seek God (“seek me”) and not merely the benefits that God gives to us (5:4). Are we truly interested in God? Do we have a heart or passion for God? This calls us to a personal relationship with God.
Apply: Later Habakkuk was to learn this truth (Hab 3:17-18). [Moen’s song “I Will Sing”]

B.    Amos urges them to seek what is good.

1.    They were not acting according to justice (5:7, 12, 15). So then they must repent of that way of life.
2.    They were despising those who told them the truth (5:10). We must avoid the trap of despising God’s messenger (cf. 1 Cor 1).

a.    Do not despise him because he is not a polished speaker.
b.    Do not despise him because you do not personally like him.
c.    Do not despise him because he tells you the truth. The most important fact about any ministry is “does it tell the truth?”

3.    They were, generally, overrun with sin (5:12a).

a.    They were seeking the wrong things (compare 5:5 with 5:14) and hating the wrong things (compare 5:10 with 5:15).
b.    Yet God still offers mercy (5:15b)! How great God’s grace is—far beyond our comprehension (cf. Is 1:10-18).

~ Dave
 
Pastor Dave Frampton
When push comes to shove there is usually nothing more satisfying than for a saint of God to have at his or her disposal a source of biblically sound instruction in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are here at CMC to be a blessing. Bible teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in the God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.
 

Heroes of the Faith

 

Athanasius, a hero of the faith

 
Hero of the faithDuring one of our Cor Deo meetings we spoke of Athanasius as one of the heroes of the faith.  As bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, (328-373) he was sent into exile by various Roman emperors five times, so that of his 45 years in office he was away more than he was at home.  Still he wrote boldly in defense of the orthodox views of the Trinity despite intense Arian opposition.
The dispute was stirred, in part, by sermons on the Trinity offered by Athanasius.  Arius, a Libyan priest, rejected his views, arguing that because the Son was born of God it only followed that “there was a time when the Son was not.”  According to Arius the Son was, indeed, the creator of the universe but he himself had first been created by God.
The controversy spread so that throughout the Roman empire Arian Christians could be heard singing a lively tune: “There was a time when the Son was not.” In every city, wrote one historian, “bishop was contending against bishop, and the people were contending against one another, like swarms of gnats fighting in the air.”
While the Arian views gained traction Athanasius dismissed their claims with scorn.  For him it was a matter of salvation: the Son must be wholly God and wholly man because only a fully human being can atone for human sin; and only a wholly divine being is big enough to swallow death.  To build his case against Arius Athanasius also pointed to the baptismal references to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Matthew 28:19 that treated the Triune equality as a core conviction of the New Testament church.  He scolded the Arians, too, for returning to a form of polytheism by making Christ out to be a second-tier deity.  There were other arguments as well, brought to bear with unique energy throughout his lifetime.
Others soon followed, including the three Cappadocian Fathers, and the Arian movement eventually declined to insignificance.  We still have a residue presence of modern day Arians knocking on doors around the world but the main work of meeting and dismissing their views was completed in the 4th and 5th centuries.
Today we have new challenges to confront and dismiss, and some of them have as much traction among Christians as the Arian views did in their heyday.  Readers may think of some of these.  Perhaps the myth of progress that treats nature as virtually divine.  Or an existentialism that seeks unrestrained sensual and mental stimulation as ends in themselves.
What concerns me most, however, is the portrayal of God as a disaffected and distant deity: an offspring of the unmoved-mover of Aristotle.  This power-centric God is presented among too many Christians through anthropopathic themes.  That is, in such circles God has only the appearance of human love, and his disaffected “love” is what he uses to shape human conduct by manipulating our human hunger for affection.  So, in this view, any presumptions that God is a real lover are distortions because divine vulnerability to us—the stuff of love—is excluded by logical necessity.
There have been some rallies against this movement but they offer solutions as destructive as the disease they seek to cure.  Both Process Theology and its more conservative cousin, the Openness of God effort, reduced God’s being in order to have room for the dynamic give-and-take of love.  But these are not answers supported by Scriptures.
Instead we find the Bible portraying the Triune communion as having embraced the human freedom of response to God’s love—to love or not to love him in return—as part of God’s eternal and creative plan for the creation: i.e. “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) as a function of divine love.  We may not be able to analyze the particulars but we are at least assured that the love of the Godhead is real and our love is birthed by his prior love for us.
We should, as a final note, comment on a common thread between the disaffected version of God in a gospel commonly promoted today and the God of Arius: both elevate God as a monad or singularity rather than the eternally relational Triune God of the Bible.  Christ, in turn, is reduced to an instrumental figure, used by God to do his will.
Both versions of God are literally dead ends.  Let us resist their claims, even if we may have to face a few years of social exile.  It is worth any disruptions we might face in order to get things right.
You are invited to comment on Ron’s article at Cor Deo
~ Ron
 
Dr. Ron Frost
Ron served on faculty for more than 20 years at Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary. At the seminary, from 1995-2007, he was professor of historical theology and ethics. He earned his PhD at King’s College of the University of London. His research featured Richard Sibbes (1577-1635). He now teaches internationally while serving as a pastoral care consultant to missionaries with Barnabas International. Ron authored Discover the Power of the Bible and writes on spreadinggoodness.org [See “Resources”].
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