Before we begin, let me acknowledge Dr. Vern Poythress for his help in my preparation to preach this passage. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to pick his brain over lunch this week. Although I won’t quote him directly, many of the pointers to Christ came directly from him. So, thank you Dr. Poythress. I pray there is a lasting evidence of the fruit of your ministry to me.
Amos is wrapping up his final words of judgment upon a people who have turned away from the Lord entirely. From the watching world, it might look as if they were faithfully practicing their religion. But the Lord knew their hearts. He knew they were only worshipping him for the gifts he might give them.
Amos declared words of judgment in the first six chapters followed by visions of judgment in chapters seven through nine. Words of relief have been sparse and subtle. But here, we get a hint of what the concluding paragraph will make absolutely clear.
Amos 9:7–10 ESV
As a prophet, Amos has served a role that is fairly typical. He comes on the scene as a covenant lawyer on God’s behalf. He declares the testimony of God to the people, accusing them of being covenant breakers.
Amos was possibly the first writing prophet. He warned Israel of the coming exile (within a few decades), when Assyria would ruthlessly conquer them and scatter them among the nations. About 130 years later, Judah would fall to Babylon.
Although Amos did not have all of the details, he knew God’s judgment was coming soon, he knew God’s patience was wearing thin. God’s people cannot go on ignoring his Word and expect his favor forever. So Amos, warns the people one last time,
He is hoping to prick the hearts of those who claim to follow God, but follow after their sin instead.
1. What Had Become of God’s People? (7)
2. What Would Become of God’s People? (8-10)
What Had Become of God’s People? (7)
Amos 9:7 ESV
7 “Are you not like the Cushites to me, O people of Israel?” declares the Lord. “Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir?
God is not just sovereign over Israel, but all nations. Clearly, he orchestrated the migration of Israel out of Egypt. But he was just as in charge of the migration of the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir. Truly, the Lord can be credited with overseeing the migration of every nation in history.
However, I think Amos is suggesting something beyond that even. The Israelites had become like the Cushites to God. There was no longer any distinction between them and the nations. They were not set apart in worship or lifestyle. Though God had brought them safely out of the land of Egypt, out of captivity and slave labor, you wouldn’t know them from Cush, or Philistia, or Syria.
Israel thinks they’re immune to judgment because of their past Exodus out of Egypt. But, that fact alone doesn’t make them special. God has done that countless times (Deut. 2).
Without a covenant relationship, the Exodus is just another migration.
Amos has declared something like this earlier:
Amos 2:9–10 ESV
9 “Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars and who was as strong as the oaks; I destroyed his fruit above and his roots beneath. 10 Also it was I who brought you up out of the land of Egypt and led you forty years in the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite.
Israel gladly accepted God’s gracious selection of them as his unique possession. But they stubbornly refused to consider the calling God had placed upon their lives. Clearly, God had blessed Israel so that they might be a blessing to the nations.
Genesis 12:1–3 ESV
1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Isaiah 42:6 ESV
6 “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations,
Unfortunately, Israel failed to honor their covenant agreement. In fact, Moses had already anticipated their failure. At Moab, during a covenant renewal ceremony, he details the history of God’s blessings and he also warns them of the consequences of departing from the Lord. With the knowledge that Israel would fail, Moses calls them to repentance (Deut. 30:1-10).
Later on, after declaring the faithfulness and justice of God their “Rock”, Moses summarizes Israel’s faithless response:
Deuteronomy 32:5 ESV
5 They have dealt corruptly with him; they are no longer his children because they are blemished; they are a crooked and twisted generation.
Amos is simply recognizing the fulfillment of Israel’s utter failure. They were no longer set apart, they had forfeited their distinct status as God’s people and adopted the gods of this world. In other words, their religion was fake.
However, where the sons of Israel failed, the True Son succeeded. Jesus dealt with this too. He ministered at a time when the Temple, the House of Prayer had become a Den of Thieves. It was a time where once again, the poor were taken advantage of and the sacrificial system had been turned into a money-making scheme.
But rather than compromising his mission and joining in with their wicked practices, Jesus was filled with a righteous zeal to clean house (John 2:17).
His overturning of the tables of the money changers foreshadows the judgment that will fall upon all hypocrites at his Second Coming.
Matthew 7:22–23 ESV
22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Deceitful religion isn’t simply a thing of the past. It is an ongoing challenge for the Church of God to maintain its purity. It isn’t pleasant or easy to admit our failure. Oftentimes, throughout history, Church leaders have made moral compromises and succumbed to the pressures of the world, the flesh, and the devil. And there have been far too few men with the holy zeal of our Savior, who would come and clean house.
We must hold fast to the Gospel! It is only the unblemished blood of Christ that will “purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14). It is only by the unblemished blood of Christ we can enter into this sanctuary with confidence (Heb. 10:19).
› The hypocritical state of Israel would lead to their judgment…
What Would Become of God’s People? (8-10)
Amos 9:8 ESV
8 Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground, except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,” declares the Lord.
Instead of “My people” Israel has been given the title of “sinful kingdom”. Their destruction is coming, although it will not be utter annihilation. God would preserve a remnant as he has always done.
Amos 9:9 ESV
9 “For behold, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall to the earth.
God will pick up the House of Israel as if sieving good soil. He will shake them out among the nations removing the worthless pebbles that remain trapped. Not one of them will escape (“fall to the earth”).
Amos 9:10 ESV
10 All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.’
All of the wicked hypocrites who are among God’s people will die by the sword. These are the same people confidently ignoring Amos. They spread a counter-word of optimism that is entirely baseless. They are so determined to keep the status quo, so they declare “Everything is fine. Don’t be alarmed by this lunatic.”
But as v.8 stated, the people are a mixed batch. Alec Motyer notes:
The metaphor of sieving implies that there are not only impurities to be purged out but good soil to be safeguarded.
And therein lies the subtle word of hope in this passage.
The language of destruction occurs most frequently in Deuteronomy, followed by Joshua. Deuteronomy literally means “second law”. We’ve already considered how Moses reiterated the covenant stipulations and curses to Israel at Moab (Deut. 29-30). The Book of Joshua details the first opportunity for Israel to fulfill their covenant obligations by entering the Promised Land and eliminating all enemies from its territory.
In response to Joshua, the people responded,
Joshua 1:16 ESV
16 And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.
However, shortly after defeating Jericho, Israel is defeated at Ai (Josh. 7). The sin of Achan was a foreshadowing of an even greater and more widespread compromise that was to follow. Their compromise would spiral out of control, as depicted in the book of Judges.
In their Introduction to the Old Testament, Longman and Dillard explain:
God’s holiness required that he respond in judgment on the sins of the nation, but his commitment to Israel meant that there would be a remnant, those who had undergone divine judgment and survived to become the nucleus for the continuation of the people of God.
God would not utterly destroy Israel, his steadfast love and compassion for them would not allow it. It isn’t because they were worthy, but because he is faithful:
Isaiah 43:25 ESV
25 “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
Remember, this is what Amos had said earlier. He was filled with compassion and intercedes for the nation after viewing the visions of locusts and fire (Amos 7:1-6). And what refrain did we see twice (v.3 & 6)?
Amos 7:3 ESV
3 The Lord relented concerning this: “It shall not be,” said the Lord.
And he directly mentioned “the remnant” in ch.5:
Amos 5:15 ESV
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.
That remains the hope of Amos. He realizes that some will indeed hear his message and repent. They will turn away from their sin and turn to God.
But, honestly, how could anyone survive the sweeping judgment prophesied here?
Obviously, no one was worthy to be included among the remnant. The chosen son of Israel had failed to keep the covenant.
But, again, their utter failure points forward to Christ’s achievement, which ensured they would not be utterly destroyed.
As Graeme Goldsworthy notes:
Covenant breaking and covenant keeping converge on the one who both kept the covenant and was content to be counted among the transgressors and to pay the full penalty for covenant breaking.
The remnant were not chosen for their giftedness. They were not chosen because they had something special to offer. They were the recipients of divine grace, because their Lord was the recipient of divine wrath.
Furthermore, just as Israel was brought out of Egypt, we are brought out of the kingdom of darkness (Col. 1:13-14). It is in response to Christ’s redemptive work that we now have a mission to accomplish:
Philippians 2:15 ESV
15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
› In summary…
So Amos, warns the people one last time, hoping to prick the hearts of those who claim to follow God, but follow after their sin instead.
We will always live among “a crooked and twisted generation.” And hypocritical Christians will remain among us until the Lord returns. There isn’t a generation that will escape this dilemma. Roughly 20 years after Christ’s ascension, Paul called the Corinthians to “purge”/“remove” the “evil person” that was among the congregation (1 Cor. 5:13). And we can expect to have to do the same thing in our own generation.
Chapter 18.1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith is helpful here:
Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation (which hope of theirs shall perish): yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.
Like Amos, we are called to declare God’s truth to a faithless generation recognizing that among their midst is a remnant chosen and sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption.