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11th May

Amos 6-9; Psalm 126

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
11th May

Amos 6-9; Psalm 126

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in Amos we've read through Amos's oracles to the different nations and started his accusations towards Israel's leaders. Amos was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel during the time of Jeroboam II. He gave a short sermon to many different nations, speaking judgement over them. These sermons were organised in a way that circled around Israel, before we got Israel's sermon which was longer than all the rest.

Israel were accused of doing injustice by selling the poor into debt slavery. They would engage in illicit sexual acts and take the things God set as sacred and treated them cheaply. God had tried sending prophets to guide them, but they merely told the prophets not to speak and ignored them. Amos reminded the Israelites how God had called them out from Egypt and provided for them. Despite that, they have chosen violence and oppression like the nations around them. So now a foreign enemy will come and destroy them. Only a small remnant will remain, like a lion that leaves just the back hooves after consuming a sheep.

What makes it worse is that the Israelites pretend to be righteous. They bring their offerings. They observe the appropriate fasts and feasts. But it's all lip service while they turn round and oppress the poor and needy.

We saw God begin a poem of lament against Israel, where he mourns their behaviour and encourages them to pursue justice and righteousness.

Amos 6-9

God mourns those who are noble and in leadership. Those who the people of Israel come to for help and advice, and who avoid giving that help. He grieves those who are wealthy, with nice beds and couches, with plenty of food and music and wine. Those who enjoy themselves and are not grieved by the poverty of those around them. So God declares these groups will be the first to go into exile.

Then God declares the destruction of Israel. He will destroy their strongholds and deliver their cities to foreign nations. Even those that are left after the exile will die. Both great and small houses will be destroyed. The reason? Because the people have rejected justice and righteousness, and in their pride claim that all their victories came from their own strength, not from God. So God will oppress them.

Next comes a series of visions that Amos had that each start with "this is what the Lord showed me". Each of these visions represents Israel's future destruction that God has spoken about.

The destruction will be like locusts who come just as the fields have their final bit of growth ready for harvest. Then, when the locusts eat it all, there is no time or energy left in the ground to grow more. So Amos intercedes, praying to God to not do this. So God relents and decides not to destroy Israel with locust.

Then Amos sees a great fire that devours the land. Again, he pleas with God not to do this and God again relents and changes his mind.

Next Amos sees a plumb line. This was a measuring tool to see if a wall was straight. This time, God asks Amos what he sees, and Amos confirms that it is a plumb line. So God confirms that just as a builder will use a plumb line to see if a wall is straight, and if not will tear it down and start again, God will measure Israel with a plumb line to see if they are living according to his ways. He already knows the answer and declares Israel's destruction. 

We then step back from Amos' preaches and visions to a glimpse of Amos' life. Amos was preaching at the time of king Jeroboam. Amaziah, the priest, tells Jeroboam that Amos is preaching destruction against him, and then tells Amos to flee back to Judah before Jeroboam kills him. Amos points out that it is God that has called him here, not man. If Amaziah will try to challenge God's call, then it will end badly for him. The message is simple. Man is not in charge, God is in charge.

Next is Amos' fourth vision, and this one doesn't make too much sense in English, because it is built on some Hebrew word play. The Hebrew word for ‘summer fruit’ (qayish) sounds similar to the Hebrew word for ‘end’ (qesh). So just as Amos sees summer fruit, Israel's end is nearby. With it will come wailing, dead bodies, and then silence.

God then challenges greedy merchants who oppress the poor, always looking for the next thing to make a profit and cheat people. So God swears by their pride that he will punish them. If their wealth is their pride, he will make them walk around in sackcloths and shave off all their hair.

God declares a famine over the people. Not a famine of food, but a famine of his words and his presence. If the people want to live without them, he will give them what they want and let them suffer the consequences. 

Amos then has one last vision, but this one is different from the rest. It starts differently, and this time has no imagery attached to it. Amos just sees God as he makes his declaration against Israel. He speaks of their wickedness and their destruction.

But as God nears the end of his speech, he changes focus. He speaks of a future day where, instead of destroying his people, he will raise them up. He will restore the line of David. The royal line. And all nations will come and worship him.

In that day, they will rebuild their cities and reclaim their land. It will be a time of great abundance, with plenty of wine and fruit to enjoy. And God ends with a promise to his people. "I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,' says the Lord your God." (Amos 9:15).

Like Isaiah and Hosea, Amos is a warning to the Israelites of their oncoming judgement and exile. It names their oppression and injustice as the main reasons for this judgement. But then it also gives hope of a future time where God will restore his people and his kingdom, bringing all nations into it.

Psalm 126

This psalm isn’t attributed to anyone in particular and is named as a psalm of ascent. These psalms were sung by worshippers as they ascended to Jerusalem for the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Festival of Weeks, and Festival of Tabernacles) or possibly by the Levites as they ascended the steps of the Temple. Psalm 120-134 are all psalms of ascent.

Psalm 126:1-3 - Praise the Lord for the restoration of the city

Psalm 126:4-6 - Restore us further, O Lord

In this ascent journey we’ve gone from being far from God's presence (Psalm 120), to seeking God’s presence (Psalm 121), and then to reaching God’s presence (Psalm 122). From there, the psalmist has asked the Lord for help (Psalm 123) and then praised the Lord for his protection (Psalm 124).

From within Jerusalem, they reflected on the nature of righteousness and wickedness (Psalm 125). Now they thank God for how he has restored his city, but also ask for more. (Psalm 126).

The psalmist reflects on how the Lord restored Jerusalem. This potentially places this psalm after the exile when the people were allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild it. During that time, it was a period of celebration and laughter. Even the foreign nations recognised the goodness of God to his people.

But then the psalmist asks the Lord to restore their fortunes again. After the exile, while the people were able to restore the city of Jerusalem, there was a recognition that it wasn’t as great as had been before. The Israelites were living in what we often now call the ‘now but not yet’.

They had been allowed to come and restore Jerusalem in part, but they were still waiting for when God would fully restore Jerusalem. For the psalmist, they ask that the tears and prayers that they sow now might turn into a harvest of joy and celebration when God does restore them.

Like the Israelites, we live in a ‘now but not yet’. The kingdom of God came with Jesus, but we look forward to the day when it will come fully and all brokenness and mourning will be done away with. In the meantime, we can eagerly seek that more and more of the kingdom of God show itself and be established in our communities.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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