Amos 8.7-8 – Time: The Great Healer?

Often nowadays we see and hear things like this a lot, don’t we?

 

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Open up your preferred social media and it’s awash with motivational, comforting, or inspirational quotes like that; time is a great healer. I’d tend to agree with British songstress Adele who said

‘They say that time’s supposed to heal ya

But I ain’t done much healing.’

Today we see in Amos the alternative to time being a healer,

7 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:

“Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

8 Shall not the land tremble on this account,

and everyone mourn who dwells in it,

and all of it rise like the Nile,

and be tossed about and sink again,

like the Nile of Egypt?”

So, time does not heal, God never forgets (Surely I will never forget any of their deeds), so just leaving something supposedly forgotten over time does not mean it will go away, time does not heal the problem sin causes in our lives.

Rather, we need to repent of it, turn from it, and seek genuine forgiveness and closure. That kind of process only comes from one place.

Under the Old Covenant that Amos and his readers lived, they were responsible for keeping the law, and the law kept a meticulous record of their shortcomings before the Lord and each other.

However, under the New Covenant that Jesus established, God still has the perfect memory (Hebrews 6.10), but only for the good we do under the banner of a believer in Jesus, so to speak (Jeremiah 31.31-33 cf. Hebrews 10.17).

Point to ponder today –

Under the New Covenant God remembers our lawless deeds no more, but does remember the good we do in love for Him and for others. If we reject this, His memory is as sharp as a tack and will include each and every time we distanced ourselves from Him through sin.

Amos 8.1-6 – Summer fruit

Today we see the Lord give Amos a vision of summer fruit, which Amos confirms (vv.1-2). This might not seem like a particularly bad thing for us, but we should remember that the Bible was not written in modern English. In the original Hebrew ‘summer fruit’ and ‘end’ sound alike, so this would have been a much more powerful illustration.

The point of the passage is that ripe fruit is thrown out, fruit at the end of it’s consumable life is not kept around (v.3). You know, don’t you, that when you reach for the fruit bowl and grab something that is all brown and mushy the only place you’re taking it is the bin. This, in principle, is what is happening here.

Through social injustice (v.4), outwardly keeping religious festivals with no inward commitment (v.5), falsifying measures (v.5), giving wrong change (v.5), oppressing the poor (v.6), and selling faulty goods (v.6), God’s people have, in essence, become bad summer fruit.

For us, as well as the specific examples given here in this passage, what can we take care of in our own lives to prevent ourselves becoming soft, mushy, and ready for the bin? The outward appearance of religious adherence and piety may fool some, but, God always knows what is really going on in the heart (v.5a, 1 Samuel 16.7).

It’s a big question with even bigger ramifications, but one that we should care about each and every day.

Point to ponder – Luke 10.25-28

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put [Jesus] to the test, saying,

“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said to him,

“What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

And he answered,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

And he said to him,

“You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

Amos 7.10-17 – Giving a hard word

Sometimes in life we are presented with situations wherein we need to tell people the truth, straight up, with no sugar coating, whether they like it or not. I’ve had to do this when working in schools, something like,

‘If you continue to A/B/C or don’t stop X/Y/Z you will fail this piece of work/quarter/semester, and that will be on you.’.

Not a particularly fun conversation to have, but sometimes we need to give someone the hard word. Today, Amos gives a hard word to Jeroboam, king of Israel.

First, a wicked prophet from a place of wicked worship stirs the pot by conspiring against Amos (vv.10-11), to which the king (who, by all accounts, was a bad king) responds by telling Amos to basically get gone (vv.12-13). Amos replies and says that he attended no prophet school, received no formal training, no on-the-job mentoring, but simply responded to God’s call (vv.14-15). Then, he gives the king a hard word, straight from the Lord,

17 Therefore thus says the LORD:

“‘Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city,

and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,

and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line;

you yourself shall die in an unclean land,

and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.'”

As the ruler in-charge, tragedy would befall Jeroboam (v.17a), and his nation would go away into exile (v.17b).


 This was a difficult word in difficult circumstances, but Amos was faithful and true in delivering it.


What is God calling you to do that is difficult?

Is He calling you to pastures new as He called Amos?

    Sometimes the hardest word is not ‘go’, but ‘stay’.

Is He calling you to be His messenger of truth to someone around you?

    Is He speaking a hard word of truth into your life right now?

Point to ponder – When God gives us a hard word, there is always something wonderful behind it, something for our ultimate benefit, because God works all things, both good and bad, together for the good of those who love Him, and for the good of those He has called for His purpose.

Amos 7.7-9 – A plumb line

A couple of years ago I was leading a Bible study through this chapter with the Youth Growth Group and I presented them with a box full of things that could be made into plumb lines. There were heavy objects, bundles of string, and things to join the two together. The concept of a physical plumb line was beyond all of them, and some of the things they ‘made’ were akin to something our youngest son Jesse could make…think bundling everything together and saying ‘done’.

Whilst the concept of making a plumb line was alien to them, the thought of having one, consistent, straight, narrow, absolute guide for building walls, or for life in general was not alien to them at all, much to my delight.

Today God speaks to Amos and tells him that He is going about the judgement of His people to a standard that is absolutely consistent, perfectly straight, impossibly narrow, and as absolute as can be,

‘This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand.

And the LORD said to me,

“Amos, what do you see?”

And I said,

“A plumb line.”

Then the Lord said, “

Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel;’

Living under the law, this is what is required; God holding us up to the impossible standard of His absolute perfection. When the inevitable happens – we don’t live up to the standard – God says,

‘I will never again pass by them;  

the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,

and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,

and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”’

How sad would it be if that were our lot; God sets the standard, we try to live up to it, but we never can. We would spend a lifetime trying to please Him but never even getting close.

God’s Word tells us that our own righteousness, our own natural efforts to please God, to live well, are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64.6). We try and try, but we were dead in transgressions and sin (Ephesians 2.1) and we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3.23), so it’s hopeless really…

But, there is One plumb line that measures up to God’s standards, and, by the grace of God alone, let’s us claim His perfect consistency and absolute straightness as our own when standing before the Father.

If we compare ourselves to others around us, we may look straight enough…but when God looks at our attempted plumb line of living it will never be straight enough…unless He looks at us through the lens of Christ, unless we confess with our mouth and believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord and God raised Him from the dead, then Christ as the perfectly straight plumb line will make sure we are seen as straight in the eyes of the Father.

Charles Spurgeon said this on plumb lines, a point to ponder today as we consider Jesus as our own plumb line,

“I would like you…to use the plumb line when you begin your spiritual life- building…

Use the plumb line to see whether it is all straight and square.

Try all the doctrines that are taught, and do not embrace that which is popular, but that which is Biblical.”

(August 27, 1876).

Amos 7.1-6 – Perspective

Recently I saw a really interesting video somewhere on the internet, and in it were sculptures that looked like one thing from one angle, but another from a different angle, like this; giraffes, or elephants?

Anyway, perspective is so important, isn’t it. When we have big decisions to make regarding our future, maybe you’re thinking of your next career move, or maybe you’ve been presented with two options at the job you’re at now, should we add more children/dogs/cats/horses/giraffes to our family (or whatever you like to fill your house with!)…whenever we have decisions to make, we should consider another perspective than ours.

We should consider God’s perspective.

Outside of time as we know and experience it, eternal, knowing all there is to know, God’s perspective is infinitely different and greater than ours.

Does He understand ours? Of course.

Do we understand God’s perspective? No!

Think of it like this; do you understand why your children shout/cry/meltdown? Of course.

Do they understand why that is the most frustrating thing in the world for you? No!

Our perspective, in that instance, is far greater than theirs. Multiply that by the biggest number you can think of and we still don’t come close to the difference between how we see things and how God sees things.

This is what the Lord God showed me: behold, he was forming locusts when the latter growth was just beginning to sprout, and behold, it was the latter growth after the king’s mowings. When they had finished eating the grass of the land, I said,

“O Lord God, please forgive!
    How can Jacob stand?
    He is so small!”
The Lord relented concerning this:
    “It shall not be,” said the Lord.

This is what the Lord God showed me: behold, the Lord God was calling for a judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land.Then I said,

“O Lord God, please cease!
    How can Jacob stand?
    He is so small!”
The Lord relented concerning this:
    “This also shall not be,” said the Lord God.

Here in Amos we see the different perspectives at play. Amos receives a vision (v.1) of locusts eating the grass of the land after the King had taken his royal tax, meaning Israel were left with nothing. His second vision was of judgement by fire (v.4). In both circumstances, Amos prayed fervently for the people of God (v.2, 5), and in both circumstances it seems as if God changes His mind (v.3, v.6).

So, does God change His mind?

The Word of God speaks to us about this in Malachi 3.6, James 1.17, and Numbers 23.19, and, simply, no, God does not change His mind. So what is happening here in Amos? “The Lord relented…”, Amos saw a vision, prayed, and then God relented…did He change His mind?

Again, no, this is an example of an anthropopathism, where in “…the feelings or thought processes of finite humanity are ascribed to the infinite God.”

So it appears to us, from our perspective, that God changed His mind, so that must be the case…it looks to us as if God changed His mind from our perspective.

From His?


I would offer that God was teaching Amos, Israel, and us by extension the power and importance of prayer.


In both instances, Amos sees the coming judgement, prays fervently, and then the Lord ‘relents’. What a boost to the prayer life of Amos, and what a testimony to share with people! Rather than get lost in endless debates about whether this was eternally predestined to actually happen or not, let us appreciate the key things here; prayer is powerful, prayer works, prayer is effective, and although it may seem like one thing from our perspective, remember, God’s perspective is far greater than ours, in the same way His ways are not our ways.

Point to ponder today – What in my life do I need to see from God’s perspective?