Sermon Notes on Amos 5:1-17

Posted: March 23, 2010 by Rick Hogaboam in Amos, Biblical Studies
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Amos 5:1-17 “Seek the Lord and Live” by Pastor Rick Hogaboam

Preached at Sovereign Grace Fellowship (Nampa, ID) on 3/21/2010

This section is a call to reformation:

–          Spiritual Reformation “Seek me and live…” (Amos 5:4)  and “Seek the Lord and live” (Amos 5:6)

–          Social Reformation “Seek good ,and not evil…” (Amos 5:14) and “Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate…” (Amos 5:15)

The minor prophets blend beautifully a plotline of God’s oracles that seem like it is over, foregone conclusion, then a glimmer of hope, then over, then a glimmer, and then usually end with a declaration of God’s eschatological work of salvation for His people (Amos 9:11-15).

It might have seemed like Amos 4 was the end with the statement “Prepare to meet your God…” (Amos 4:12), but the story continues…

Amos 5:1–17 (ESV)

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.”

–          The structure of the following verses is a “lamentation”, a funeral lamentation. Israel is as good as dead, and thus God laments even while he people are still alive.

  • This has got to be frightening to hear a funeral lament while you are still alive, much like the “Christmas Carol” and Ebenezer Scrooge viewing the end of his life with the ghost of Christmas future.

–           The picture here is of a “virgin” (young girl) who is brideless, rejected, and left alone. There is nobody that wants her. Total rejection. God uses this affectionate term, but we have seen that Israel is anything but a “virgin”, they have committed adultery, gotten with other gods, and have made the rounds.

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.”

–          The means of the death will be military defeat. They will go out and suffer 90% casualties, only to go out again and yet suffer 90% casualties.

–          “ten left” leaves open the possibility of restoration with a remnant.

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.”

–          “Seek me” is personal. It is a bride shouting out to a wandering spouse.

–          “and live”: God is the only antidote to death. He alone gives life. You can find life in no other.  Here we can look to Jesus, who alone is life, eternal life:

  • John 1:4 (ESV) 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
  • John 3:14–21 (ESV) 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
  • John 3:36 (ESV) 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
    • Those who don’t believe are “condemned already”, meaning that Jesus came into an already condemned atmosphere offering eternal life. He doesn’t come to neutrality and assign life to those who believe and death to those who don’t. Jesus will sift all things out at the end, but we are already bitten by the serpent, we are already dead unless we look to Him and are made alive.
    • As God pleaded with dying Israel, so Jesus pleads with dying humanity “Seek me and LIVE!!!”

–          “ do not seek Bethel…Gilgal”, which were prominent sites for worship. It’s like Jesus telling the Samaritan woman (John 4) not to worry about worship at their place or the temple in Jerusalem, but rather worship in “Spirit and truth”.

  • God is not denouncing worshipping corporately together in an assigned place, for that is what we are doing right now. What He is saying is that if you think that by merely showing up to “Church” will fix you, you are wrong. You must seek HIM!!! We will see later on in the book that God is sick and tired of their worship because He is absent from it. The remedy isn’t more ostentatious worship, but Him Himself!!!
  • Ironically, Gilgal, which was the place of their entrance into the Promised Land (Jos 4:20), will become a site of their exile. Bethel, which has been the house of God (Gen. 28:17-19), became “Beth-aven” (Hos. 4:15), a “house of wickedness”.

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!

–          “fire” speaks here of judgement

–          the house of Joseph—the kingdom of Israel, of which the tribe of Ephraim, Joseph’s son, was the chief tribe (compare Ez 37:16).[1]

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.

–          Pleiades and Orion were seasonal markers; the rising and setting of the Pleiades marked, for sailors, the season of navigation and marked the seasons on nomad calendars. Blacknessdawndaynight, the regular transformations every twenty-four hours.[2]

–          God is Sovereign!!! Commentators say that this is a seemingly abrupt verse, but central to understanding everything. God’s sovereignty is the foundation from which He can even make such proclamations. His sovereignty is a necessity if He is truly able to bring blessing or spare some as a remnant.

–          God brings light from darkness, send water on the earth, these seemingly “natural” occurrences are entirely owed to His Sovereign control.

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.

–          Judgment over their sin. They hate the truth-bearer. Prophets have been despised.

–          They have made plans, but God will interrupt them.

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.

–          “I know” is yet another affirmation of God’s knowledge of all things

–          V. 13 has presented some challenges. I think that it is referring to those who have understanding in the face of judgment. Their mouths will be shut with no protests.

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.

–          The “good” here is referring to pleasing God. Within the context, it is referring to seeking justice. It is not a prooftext for salvation by “being good”.

–          Matter of life and death. If God is going to remain with them, as they presume, then they need to come back to life.

  • Funeral lament, they are as good as dead, however God is offering life!!!

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.

–          God may spare a remnant, which is better than nothing. We have seen what God will do with a remnant; in fact we are here this morning. God is good!!!

–          Micah 6:6–8 (ESV)

  • 6 “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

–          Obedience is Better than Sacrifice. King Saul disobeyed the Lord by not fully annihilating the Amalekites and not taking loot. He lost his kingdom:

–          1 Samuel 15:22–28 (ESV)

  • 22 And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.” 24 Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me that I may worship the Lord.” 26 And Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” 27 As Samuel turned to go away, Saul seized the skirt of his robe, and it tore. 28 And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.

–          David had his issues as well. I don’t want to undermine the necessity for seeking good, walking humbly, seeking justice, obeying God…but we need to be reminded only one person has done that, Our Lord and SAVIOR Jesus.

–          We are saved by grace because there is no other way, but we are to seek to grow in holiness. We want to “hallow” His name. We are saved by grace, but if you presume grace in way that undermines a zeal for holiness, then you are not being transformed.

–          Titus 2:11–14 (ESV)

  • 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

–          God wants to make us a special people, who glorify His name in this world. His grace “trains” us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. He not only “redeems” us from lawlessness judicially, but actually in our sanctification, which only only be perfected in our glorification.

–          Let us be zealous for good works BECAUSE He has saved us, not to get saved.

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.

[1] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Am 5:6). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Am 5:4–13). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.


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