July 2018

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Prophet Amos

Amos

Amos means “burden” or “burden – bearer”, he lived in the rugged region of Tekoa, which is located in the territory of Judah about 12 miles south of Jerusalem. He was a shepherd and tended to sycamore fig trees. Despite the fact that he lived in the southern kingdom of Judah, God sent him as His prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel during the reigns of Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel. Amos probably traveled to Bethel to give these prophecies a few years before Jeroboam II’s death.

It was a time of economic prosperity for the wealthy in both nations, which unfortunately led to their becoming morally and spiritually godless and corrupt. Specific warnings were also given to surrounding nations, explaining that their cruelty to Israel would not escape God’s notice and justice.

Amos, like many of the other prophets of God, prophesied of the Day of the Lord. A significant portion of biblical prophecy, including much of the book of Revelation, refers to this period of end-time events. After unsuccessfully pleading with nations to change their depraved ways. God will finally intervene in the affairs of this world to humble its citizens in order to bring them to genuine repentance. In Amos 5: 18-20 God declared that it will be a terrible time. People should not “desire the day of the Lord,” as “it will be darkness, and not light . . . with no brightness in it” ~ verse 18, 20.

The warning of punishment came true a few decades later when Shalmaneser and Sargon, kings of Assyria, invaded and destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel. The leaders and people of the land unfortunately refused to heed the advice and warning God gave through Amos and Hosea. Despite its predictions of punishment and destruction, the prophecy ends with a promise of a glorious future restoration ~ 9: 11-15.

Outline of the book of Amos.

1. Chapters 1:1-2:5 – Introduction and prophecies against Judah and the surrounding nations.
Syria ~ 1: 3-5
Philistines ~ 1: 6-8
Tyre ~ 1: 9-10
Edom ~ 1: 11-12
Ammon ~ 1: 13-15
Moab ~ 2: 1-3
Judah ~ 2: 4-5

2. Chapters 2: 6- 6: 14 – Judgment against the northern kingdom of Israel; “hear this word” introduces each judgment.
A. Sin is the reason for God’s judgment – chapter 3.
B. Destruction is the result – chapter 4.
C. Call for repentance – chapter 5 – 6.

3. Chapters 7-9 – Five visions of judgment; final restoration.
A. The vision of the locusts, fire and the plumb line – 7: 1-9; confrontation with Amaziah, priest of Bithel – 7: 10-17.
B. The vision of the summer fruit – 8: 1-14.
C. God standing by the altar; the utter destruction of Israel described – 9: 1-10.
D. Restoration of the tabernacle of David; blessings of the restored kingdom of Israel under the government and direction of Jesus Christ – 9: 11-15.

The Five Visions

1. The locusts: Destruction of the nations harvests. Amos begged for God’s’ mercy and God responded to Amos’ plea.
2. Fire: A fire that destroys not only vegetation but even underground water. Again, Amos prayed and God responded.
3. Plumb line: A weight attached to a string a builder uses to measure how straight a wall is. God was measuring how Israel’s religious conduct and behavior. The nation was falling far short of the standard God had set for them.
4. A basket of summer fruit: Israel was ripe for chastisement and discipline. One of the major problems was the lax and careless manner in which the people celebrated God’s holy Sabbath day. The people were desecrating the Sabbath by planning their business ventures even before the day had ended, thus profaning a period of time that God had declared holy from creation and in His Ten Commandments. They were also stealing from the poor with deceptive practices ~ Amos 8: 4-6.
5. The Lord standing at the altar: The altar is a symbol of worship. The meaning is not easily understood, but it may refer to the pagan altar and chief religious sanctuary in Bethel ~ 4:4, thus indicating punishment for false religious worship.

God’s accusations against Israel –

1. Despite God’s blessing them above all nations, they forgot him ~ 2:10; 3:2.
2. The greedy rich oppressed the poor ~ 2:6; 4:1; 5:11; 6:4-6; 8:4.
3. Their justice is corrupt and depraved ~ 5:10, 12-15.
4. They practiced dishonest business dealings ~ 8:5-6.
5 their religious worship and practices were superficial, empty ritual ~ 4:4-5; 5:21-27.
Years later Christ would state: “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” Matthew 15: 9.

God pronounces seven disasters that will bring Israel to its knees:

1. Famine ~ 4:6.
2. Drought ~ 4:7-8.
3. Destruction of the crops ~ 4:9.
4. Disease epidemics ~ 4:10.
5. Defeat in battle ~ 4:10.
6. Fiery devastation of the cities in a way similar to how Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed ~ 4:11; also see Ezekiel 6:6.
7. Large – scale captivity ~ 5:3.

Few people realized that dramatic future events implicating our modern western nations have already been accurately recorded by the ancient prophets. Amos is one of the prophets who documented what is ahead for the nations of the world. Some assume that the prophecies recorded by Amos and the other prophets were completely fulfilled by past events, such as the demise of Israel in 722 BC and Judah in 586 BC, or the destruction of the Jerusalem temple by the Roman armies in 70 AD. Amos mainly prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel. However, under God’s inspiration he also wrote to all 12 tribes of Israel, including the Jews who originated from one of the 12 tribes – Judah.

The nations of modern Israel will face sever and unprecedented national calamities during the period described in the Bible as the Great Tribulation. Amos provides a brief rundown of these events in 4: 6-12 and 5: 1-3. Years later, Jesus Christ in His famous Olivet prophecy also referred to this time in Matthew 24: 21: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” Also see Daniel 21:1.Amos predicted that after the nations had learned their lessons, Israel and all nations would be restored and abundantly blessed, both physically and spiritually ~ 9: 11-15. Among the many blessings:
1. The tabernacle of David will be raised up ~ 9: 11.
2. God’s presence on the earth will result in many benefits ~ 9: 12.
3. Farmers will reap bountiful crops ~ 9: 13-14.
4. Permanent peace will prevail ~ 9: 15.

As righteous judge, God says, “I will punish you for all your iniquities ~ 3:2, because the people refused to agree or walk together with God ~ 3:3. Furthermore, they
adamantly refused to acknowledge God or submit to His teachings and warnings: “They hate the one who rebukes in the gate, and the abhor the one who speaks uprightly: ~ 5:10. The people stubbornly refused to heed God’s correction and admonitions. Yet God pleads: “Seek good and not evil, that you may live: so the Lord God of host will be with you …. Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate. It may be that the Lord God of host will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph” ~ 5: 14-15. Unfortunately, God’s pleading for repentance fell on deaf ears.

The decision to accept or reject God’s offer for salvation is up to each human being. It is important to act before it is too late.

May the Peace of Jesus Christ be with You

Book of Romans Chapter 5

Romans Chapter 5

Part 2

Romans 5: 6-11
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.
8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.
10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.
11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Paul strengthens our certainty in God’s commitment to this plan of redemption through an examination of the circumstances from God’s perspective. Many times we look up from our sorry, sinful state and we assume God will expect us to do something in order to rectify our situation. Meanwhile, God looks down on men and recognizing the impossibility of men ever correcting their situation, He decides He must do something.

Seeing this problem from God’s perspective will give us even more reason to trust that God will see the plan through on our behalf. Paul first describes men from God’s perspective:
1. We were helpless ~ verse 6
2. And we ungodly ~ verse 6
3. We were sinners ~ verse 8
4. We were enemies ~ verse 10
We were all these things from God’s perspective.

But even while we stood on that unrepentant state, God took action at the right time. When the appointed time arrived, Christ came, God’s plan had appointed that day from the beginning, and when it arrived, everything fell into place. It didn’t happen because we had earned it. It didn’t happen because enough good people had been identified. Christ came when He came simply because this was God’s appointed time. So, God’s plan began based on His will and not because we initiated it or prompted it, except by our sin, nor did we even ask for it.

God took it upon Himself to die in order to correct our sin problem. Consider that for a moment. As Paul says, you might expect someone to die for the sake of someone truly deserving, someone good . . .maybe. But God showed His unconditional love for His children even in the fact that He was subjecting Himself to death – the sentence for sin – though he had no sin Himself. And He did this while we were still sinners. In other word, we still had done nothing to deserve such a selfless act.

Paul says in verse 9, much more than we can expect Him to save us from His wrath in the day to come. If God was willing to send His Son while men were ignorantly living in sin and without seeking for God. If God was willing to suffer through a torturous death on behalf of enemies who were in agreement with His death. Then now that we have received that payment for sin and have been justified . . . isn’t it all the more likely that God will see the plan through on our behalf and rescue us from His wrath? These are the final two benefits of our faith: we are no longer subject to God’s wrath, and we have a present reconciliation with God.

You can’t accept that God was willing to so all the work of justification and then worry that everything might fall apart while you wait for glory simply because you didn’t so the right things, or because you make mistakes, or because you have doubts or even periods where you turn your back on God in various ways. Paul says of course He will, having done the harder things already, God will certainly do the easier things as well. And not only this, but in the meantime Paul says in verse 8 that we exult, boast, take pride in our relationship with God through Christ. We are living out the blessing of our new life even now.

So question one is addressed – assuredly we have peace with God.

Question 2 was how can the process of justification by faith actually work simply on the basis of the life and death of one man?

Book of Romans Chapter 5

Romans Chapter 5

Part 1

Salvation from the penalty of sin is not gained by our efforts, it’s not by works. We are granted righteousness, we are credited as righteous – which is our salvation – through a faith in Jesus Christ, Abraham’s life proved it, David’s words proved it. – First, do we still have concerns about this new truth, can we really find peace in this gospel? Do we truly stand before Him without any condemnation? Is there no room for a little doubt here? – Second , is it even possible that the ransom paid by the death of one man, Christ, could affect such a comprehensive solution? So I’m told that if I believe in the death of that One Man, it saves me from all my sin. And not only me, but also all people who would believe the same? Can I and we really trust in and rely on such a gospel?

Paul answers these two questions. First, Paul addresses and concerns the reader might have that justification by faith leaves room for doubt and concerning our reconciliation with God. Secondly, Paul explains how one man’s righteousness could be credited to so many. Finally, we need to remember that this entire chapter presupposes justification by faith alone. Paul’s line of reasoning in this chapter makes absolutely no sense whatsoever if we still think works play some part in our salvation.

In fact, look how Paul opens the chapter …

Romans 5: 1-5
1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Therefore, Paul begins with a first appearance statement of fact – that we now agree that faith alone is the means to justification. So we now have peace with God through the saving work of Jesus Christ. Notice, Paul doesn’t say we have peace in this world or in our life. Paul is still talking about our relationship with God. Where before all men were under condemnation, and were enemies of God and did not seek Him, now we have peace with him. There is no longer any bitterness between us, we have peace with God. When we sin even after our salvation comes, we are no less justified than we were before. Remember, justification means acquitted of a charge. Once a judge declares you not guilty, there is nothing you can do to change that verdict or add to it. Paul continues in verse 2 by saying that it was through Jesus Christ that we obtained our introduction by faith into this grace.

Ephesians 2: 17-19
17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near;
18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,

So, God’s work in Christ’s life yields for us:
1. Justification
2. Peace with God
3. Access to God’s grace.

Paul says at the end of verse 2 that we can exult in glory of God. And what’s more, this is not joy that is situationally dependent. The world rejoices at many things, but worldly joy is hallow. Our joy is everlasting and not dependent on our circumstances or place in life.

We hope in the glory of God. We hope – look forward to God’s plan being fulfilled. We look forward to Christ’s return, to our own glorification with Him, to God’s name praised throughout the earth rather than ignored or cursed, to Christ ruling over men in perfect justice. Ultimately, to a world without sin and free from the curse. We hope in these things and do so regardless of what happens to us in this life.

Paul says we can now exult even in our tribulations. What greater proof that we have been charged by faith and our standing before God is changed. And as we endure suffering for His name sake, we persevere because of our hope. And as we persevere, our perseverance grows our spiritual character, and strengthens our resolve. The development of spiritual character through trials is a blessing to the believer, for the character growth is what last into eternity. As our character strengthens under trials, we come to rest all the more in our hope will not be disappointed, because it’s not without solid foundation. It is prompted in the first place from God’s work in our hearts, and it is made possible by the presence of the Holy Spirit in every believer.

Are we beginning to feel the confidence of our assurance of salvation? We were brought into peace with God because of Christ. We were brought into this grace by a faith, which itself is made possible by Christ working in our heart by His Spirit. And this work by the Spirit is the source of our hope even now. This is another benefit from our faith: the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This becomes power proof of God’s persistent, unchanging satisfaction with His work in us. He gave us His Spirit, as a seal ~Ephesians 4:30~, as a down payment on our inheritance ~2 Corinthians 1:22~. Our hope and perseverance will not result in disappointment, because it is the natural by product of God’s work in our heart.

This sounds encouraging, but how can we be sure that God intends to see this process through to the end?