The Principle of Cause and Effect – Amos 3

Today is the first of five readings/writings this week from selected portions of the prophecy of Amos.

If you read these devotionals this week, by Friday you will know the message of Amos and understand his timeless applications to modern life. If you choose to not participate, you will not know what the biblical prophet Amos had to say that is any different from Amos Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

What I did in that paragraph above is lay out for you a cause and effect, and that is what we will see in today’s reading.

Background of Amos – Be sure to check on the web page on the bar at the top entitled “The Prophets” to see where our fellow for this week fits into the scheme of the Old Testament Prophets. Amos was from the Southern Kingdom of Judah, and his prophecies were largely to the Northern Kingdom of Israel (though there are prophetic utterances for a variety of nations, and even for his own land of Judah). So we would date Amos at about 760 B.C., which would mean that his prophecies of destruction would be fulfilled in Israel less than 40 years later – as the Assyrians plundered the nation and took them into captivity.

The Character Amos – This prophet was not from the sort of background you would expect. He was not from nobility or education, but was rather a shepherd and agriculturalist. We might see him as a sort of good ole boy, Duck Dynasty family member being used by God to deliver a message from God. His prophecies and pictures are very earthy and from a sort of working-man’s hands-on perspective.

As we go to chapter 3 today, let me simply summarize for you that the first two chapters included pronouncements of judgment on six different surrounding nations and Judah, and finally most specifically to the northern 10 tribes known at this time as “Israel.”  Chapters 3 through 6 give five “messages” from Amos that detail God’s reasons for the pending judgment. Our reading today is the first of these messages …

1. Judgment is coming because of God’s special relationship with Israel (1-2)

3:1,2 – Hear this word, people of Israel, the word the Lord has spoken against you—against the whole family I brought up out of Egypt: “You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.”

Numerous times in the Old Testament God points out to the nation of Israel that they were unique among the nations of the world – only they had been favored by God to be HIS people. One would expect that to produce a profound obedience arising from such a blessing … but such was not so. Even though God had done wondrous things – like delivering them from Egypt to a bountiful promised land – the people turned away from him into disobedience. In the same way that as parents we discipline our own children more than those of another family, so God had a right to discipline his own rebellious family.

2. Judgment was coming because of the law of cause and effect (3-8)

Here is a series of seven “if this, then that” statements …

3 Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?

4 Does a lion roar in the thicket when it has no prey? Does it growl in its den when it has caught nothing?

5 Does a bird swoop down to a trap on the ground when no bait is there? Does a trap spring up from the ground if it has not caught anything?

6 When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city,     has not the Lord caused it?

7 Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.

8 The lion has roared—who will not fear?  The Sovereign Lord has spoken—who can but prophesy?

None of these illustrations happen or eventuate without a cause. For example, the only reason a trap springs up from the ground is because something has triggered it to do so. It does not just do it on its own. And so, God’s judgment is certain to follow the disobedience of the people.

3. Judgment is coming because of unparalleled oppression and injustice (9-10)

9 Proclaim to the fortresses of Ashdod and to the fortresses of Egypt: “Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria; see the great unrest within her and the oppression among her people.”

10 “They do not know how to do right,” declares the Lord, “who store up in their fortresses what they have plundered and looted.”

Ashdod would speak of the Philistines. So the text here is saying that if emissaries from Philistia and Egypt – places notoriously dreadful for sinful oppression and injustice – were to come to Samaria (Israel), they would be shocked at a level of corrupt behavior beyond anything even seen at home!

4. The certainty of total destruction (11-15)

11 Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “An enemy will overrun your land, pull down your strongholds and plunder your fortresses.”

12 This is what the Lord says: “As a shepherd rescues from the lion’s mouth only two leg bones or a piece of an ear, so will the Israelites living in Samaria be rescued, with only the head of a bed and a piece of fabric from a couch.”

13 “Hear this and testify against the descendants of Jacob,” declares the Lord, the Lord God Almighty.

14 “On the day I punish Israel for her sins, I will destroy the altars of Bethel; the horns of the altar will be cut off and fall to the ground.

15 I will tear down the winter house along with the summer house; the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed and the mansions will be demolished,” declares the Lord.

A shepherd who arrives late upon the scene of a lion having captured and devoured a sheep from the flock may find only a few bones or a portion of an ear as visible proof of what happened. So completely and thoroughly would Israel be destroyed. The altars of Bethel refer to the location of a golden calf for worship erected by a king of an earlier era. These “wealthy” people who had accumulated their gain through evil practice would have both their winter and summer residences destroyed.

God is a good bookkeeper. And though there is grace and forgiveness in the gospel message that provides a deliverance for those who trust and believe, God does not suspend all the laws and principles of cause and effect … of obedience that leads to blessing, but disobedience and injustice that leads to destruction.

This sort of message was not popular in the time of Amos, nor is it popular today. In a portion we’ll not read this week in chapter 7, Amos is told to take his nasty message back home to the south where he came from … Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”

That is the message of our generation as well and the reaction to the objective truths of Scripture … essentially “get out of here with that old-fashioned and ridiculous message of fairytales about a god of judgment.” But ridiculing and rejecting a message and messenger from God does not make truth any less true – then or now.  #CauseAndEffect, #Timeless