Pinpointing A Time (A Bible Study Tip)
The words of Amos, two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam was king of Israel... (Amos 1:1)
Today if we ask someone when something happened, we would be given a date such as July 23, 1945 or August 23, 2001. Such was not the case in Bible times. In pinpointing a date, one would indicate a major event that happened around that time or one would say who was king.
This served a two-fold purpose. (1) Major events and the period of kings were never forgotten. Since they were often referred to in pinpointing a time, they were always on the minds of people. (2) This method served as a link between the past and the present. It shows not only a timeline by pinpointing a date, but it also tells the conditions of the nation at the time. For example, looking at the above verse, one can see that the kingdom was divided. This is indicated by the naming of the two kings: one from Judah and one from Israel.
Today we lose a lot of history when we merely quote the date. How do you pinpoint a time? Who was president in the year you were born? What major event took place around the time of your birth? Most of us would have to look up that informaion in the encyclopedia.
Who's Walking With You? Who's Agreeing With You? (Amos 3:3)
Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (King James Version & New King James Version)
Do two walk together, unless they have made an appointment? (Revised Standard Version & New Revised Standard Version)
Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction? (New Living Translation)
Do two men walk together unless they have made an appointment? (New American Standard)
Do two people start traveling together without arranging to meet? (Good News Translation)
Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so? (New International Version)
We have often heard it asked, "How can two walk together unless they agree?" We have often misquoted and misunderstood this scripture. We have also quoted it out of context. This scripture doesn't say that two people have to agree on the same thing all the time.
This is one of several rhetorical questions in Amos 3. This question was asked to bring about conviction to the Israelites who were hearing the same thing from all the prophets. Amos asked them this question as a make-up call for them to realize that all of God's prophets were unanimous in prophesying the same thing against them because they had all received the same message from God. The people were turning a deaf ear to ALL the prophets. Amos tried to convince them that God's Spirit was joined with their spirit. That's why they could prophesy the truth. The two of them (Amos, the prophet) and (God, the giver of the prophecy) were indeed walking together.
There is nothing wrong with the concept of unity. There is nothing wrong with two people agreeing with each other. There is nothing wrong with our saying, "How can two walk together unless they agree." However, know that the original meaning did not and still does not mean what we might have thought it meant. From now on, let's be aware that "the two" are not you and someone else. It should be you and God. God and man cannot walk together, except they are agreed. God and man must be clear about the same direction. God and man must make an appointment to meet at the same place. God and man cannot walk together if man is walking contrary to God. You won't feel God's presence unless the two of you are walking in the same direction at the same time.
And yes, it does help if you are going in the same direction as your partner, spouse, boss, parents, or pastor. But remember God MUST be walking with you as well. Seek God's glory and include Him in your walks. If one is out of step, guess which one it is?
One Last Plea
This is what the Lord says to the house of Israel: "Seek me and live . . ." (Amos 5:4)
The minor prophet Amos preached three sermons to the house of Israel. In the first sermon, he reminds the nation that God treats them as a special nation (Amos 3:1-15).
In Amos' second sermon, he defends God by reminding Israel of repeated opportunities to repent and future punishment from God if repentance doesn't come soon (Amos 4:6-13).
In Amos' third sermon, he makes one final plea, urging the people to repent. He cries out three things:
- "Seek God and live."
- "Renounce your idolatry."
- "Do what is good."
In other words, do these three things because God is all powerful; it is a slap in God's face for you to continue in turning to other gods; and God is a helper to those who are obedient. (Amos 5:4-15)
Let the words of Amos speak to you today! Let his sermon be one last plea for repentance!
Going From Bad to Worse
It will be as though a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him! Or as though he went into the house, leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him! (Amos 5:19)
Have you ever tried to escape one bad calamity, but something worse happened to you? Before you could get your car repaired, your washing machine broke. Before you could get your washing machine repaired, your dryer broke. The cycle seemed to go on and on, and things appeared to be going from bad to worse.
Most of us have heard of "a bad hair day," but have you heard of "a bad bear day"? "A bad bear day" is when things go from bad to worse. On the outside, one escapes a lion by the skin of his teeth only to meet a bear; a beast of prey more cruel and ravenous. Perhaps by some miracle, one did escape the bear and goes into his own house. Thinking he was safe, he leans his hand on the wall. To his surprise, snakes come out of the wall and bite him. Talk about going from bad to worse!
Amos warned the sinners during his time about the coming day of the Lord when God would bring His wrath on those who did not repent. He told them it would be like escaping one calamity only to encounter something worse.
What is Amos telling us today? Amos is simply saying there is no escape for those who live in sin. There is a fight on the outside (lion and bear) and a struggle within their own house where people are supposed to be safe (snakes in the wall). Sin may bring pleasure; but sin can never bring peace.
So then, how do you avoid having a bad hair day...I mean a bad bear day? How do you prevent snakes from coming out of your own walls? Amos tells us in simple terms: "Seek good, not evil." (Amos 5:4; 6; 14) and "Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream." (Amos 5:24)
Justice and Righteousness
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream. (Amos 5:24)
What is the difference between justice and righteousness?
Justice is upholding what is right by being fair to others. Justice is displaying fair and honest treatment in accordance with set standards. Righteousness is doing what is morally right and proper. Righteousness is having a right relationship with God which comes about by being obedient and following His commandments.
Justice and righteousness are related, but the word "justice" is often associated with one's fairness with people; while "righteousness" is often associated with one's obedience and right relationship with God. Both should be prominent in all of our lives -- justice and righteousness.
What's Wrong With Being Complacent?
Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria. (Amos 6:1)
Complacency simply means being satisfied where you are and refusing to move to a better place. So, what wrong with complacency? Complacency is like being in prison without the possibility of parole. It means being so comfortable where you are that you refuse to move to a different location even if you know things will be better. One can be complacent in a good place (Zion) as well as in a despised place (Samaria). What's wrong with complacency?
When one is complacent, he closes his mind and heart to unexpected blessings. God might want to bless you in Nineveh, but you head in the opposite direction like Jonah. God might want to bless you on the Demascus Road, but you are stuck in your sorrows on the Emmaus Road. In order for God to bless us the way He wants to bless us, we might have to move from one locality to another. Why? So that we will not focus on the familiar. So that we may experience change. So that we may become unstuck. So that we may be forced to see and experience life from a different perspective.
What's wrong with being complacent? Being complacent indicates no growth. In order to move spiritually, oftentimes we have to move physically.
Let's follow the advice recorded in Amos 6. The first verse clearly says, "Woe to those who are complacent." The second verse gives the solution: "Go" (to places you haven't been) and collect your blessings that are waiting for you there.
What's A Plumb Line?
And the Lord asked me, "What do you see, Amos?" "A plumb line," I replied. Then the Lord said, "Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer." (Amos 7:8)
What's a plumb line? Why did God show Amos a plumb line? Why did God say He was setting a plumb line among His people? What would the plumb line do?
A plumb line is a line or cord that has at one end a weight (as a plumb bob) and is used especially to determine if a wall or building is straight. A plumb line would show if a wall or building is not completely vertical. Builders hold a plumb line beside a building or wall to make sure they are straight. When God put the plumb line to Israel, the people didn't meet God's standards. He had to tear them down and start over.
How do you measure up? Would a plumb line prove that you are straight or crooked? Learn from God's plumb line in the book of Amos. Know that if you don't meet God's standards, He might tear you down and start over.
The Plumb Line Test
And the Lord said to me, "Amos, what do you see?" And I said, "A plumb line." Then the Lord said, "See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by . . ." (Amos 7:8)
Do you know what a plumb line is? Have you ever used one or seen one used? A plumb line is a weight on the end of a string. It is a device used to measure the straightness of a wall. Builders use it to make sure the walls are absolutely straight. A wall could look right, but if it doesn't match a plumb line, it is out of kilter. It is always better for builders to take the extra time to make sure the wall is straight. This prevents many problems later.
God uses a plumb line to judge whether we are straight or not. God wants all crookedness removed immediately. We might look and even sound like we are genuine Christians, but are we out of proportion just a little? According to our standards and to others' evaluations, we might appear to be true Christians. But how do we measure up to God's plumb line? Would you be willing to take the plumb line test today to find out? God is the Master Builder, and His word is His plumb line. How do you measure up to God's word?
Overtaken With Blessings
"The days are coming," declares the Lord, when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. (Amos 9:13)
You might not have all that you desire at the moment. You might not even have any idea how you are going to get all the desires of your heart. One thing is for certain: If you have been faithful to God, He promised that the days are coming when blessings will overtake you.
In the above scripture, Amos assures us that the days are coming when crops will grow with amazing speed. The plowman (who is usually behind) will overtake the reaper with rapid planting. Before the harvest can be completed, the planting cycle will start again because of the fertile ground God has provided. Secondly, the one harvesting and preparing grapes for wine will be overtaken with haste of the one waiting to plant more grapes because of the ripe condition of the land.
The result of these blessings will be new wine in abundance. The new wine will be so plentiful that there is no lack. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills because of the prosperity in the land for those who have been faithful. [Wine in the Bible is symbolic of great joy. That's why Jesus' first miracle was changing water (an ordinary substance) to wine so the newly married couple at Cana could start their life with great joy and celebration].
If you have been faithful to God and have seen no visible results, remember the days are coming when you will have the desires of your heart . . . great joy that will cause you to celebrate!