With this chapter begins a new section in the prophecy. So far Amos has passed on what he has heard from the LORD. Now he is going to speak about what the LORD has shown him. In this section, chapter 7:1-9:19, we have five visions: three in Amos 7, one in Amos 8 and one in Amos 9. In these visions we encounter three seasons: in the first vision we have spring, in the second the summer and in the fourth the autumn. This is how it has been with the people. It is now in the autumn of its history.
What Amos sees in the visions connects to Amos 3 (Amos 3:7 cf. Gen 18:17,23). In the visions 1, 2, 3 and 5 Amos sees the LORD Himself. The three visions in Amos 7 probably refer to the three invasions of Assyria in the land of Israel. The first raid takes place under Pul, where Assyria withdraws after Menahem has paid a fortune in taxes, which has ruined the land (2Kgs 15:16-21). The second invasion is when the same Pul, the king of Assyria, also called Tiglath-Pileser, invades Israel in the days of Pekah, takes possession of several cities and deports the inhabitants, but spares most of the land (2Kgs 15:29). At the third invasion, the final deportation of the ten tribes by Shalmaneser to Assyria takes place (2Kgs 17:6,22-23).
Visions 1 and 2 belong together because these visions are another discipline which God does not exercise after intercession. Visions 3 and 4 also belong together. It is no longer about discipline, but about no longer saving the people. The people will perish in the way shown in the fifth vision. That is a vision in which Amos sees the LORD Himself.
It is not clear whether the people have noticed anything of the impending disasters shown in visions 1 and 2. In any case, they get the background information that these disasters are judgments of God, but that they have been averted on the basis of the prayer of His servant. The Lord Jesus is the perfect Intercessor.
God has had patience for a long time. More than once He has been on the verge of judging Israel. The intercession of the prophet, that is the Spirit of Christ who works in the prophet, has stopped the scourge. But now the judgment is inevitable. The LORD stands with the plumb line in His hand and nothing can bring Him back from the execution of the judgment.
1 Mowing and Spring Crop
1 Thus the Lord GOD showed me, and behold, He was forming a locust-swarm when the spring crop began to sprout. And behold, the spring crop [was] after the king’s mowing.
The LORD shows Amos, and also us, what he is going to do. The question is: Do we have an eye for it, do we also see it (Amos 3:7)? Amos sees it and it brings him to intercession. God shows Amos what He is doing. He forms a locusts-swarm, not just as creatures, but as instruments of His wrath (Jer 8:11a). We can see a picture of the Assyrians in these locusts. In Joel 1-2 we also find the transition from the literal locusts in Joel 1 to the Assyrian army in Joel 2. Joel calls this army “His army”, i.e. the army of the LORD (Joel 2:11).
The locusts are formed to eat the spring crop. The first grass that came up and was already cut went to the royal stables. The Israelite kings seem to have claimed the right to take the first cut of the grass for their own stables (cf. 1Kgs 18:5). What reappears after this mowing is the spring crop. This serves as food for the livestock of the population. A plague of locusts that devours this spring crop causes an outright disaster, a famine for humans and animals.
We can make the following application of the mowing and the spring crop. Mowing the grass refers to life being cut off. The Lord Jesus must mow grass in our lives, that is, He must take away the flowers we cherish, our experiences of which we are proud. After mowing, the spring crop appears. It is said that the most beautiful and juiciest grass grows where it is mowed most often. There is no fear of God as great as that which follows a repeated mowing by God.
When our health, friends, money, and favorable circumstances are repeatedly taken from us, often afterwards the most beautiful times of love, prayer, and devotion arise. We are allowed to know: when the grass is mowed, after that, the spring crop emerges.
In the mowing and the spring crop we can see another picture. The mowing is a picture of the lost glory due to the invasions of enemies, but after that, glory arises again. And yet in the end that new glory is in danger of being lost again, as has happened in the history of Israel.
2 And it came about, when it had finished eating the vegetation of the land, that I said,
“Lord GOD, please pardon!
How can Jacob stand,
For he is small?”
Amos speaks to the LORD with the freedom of one who has a confidential relationship with Him. He points out to the “Lord GOD” (Adonai Yahweh) that the punishment is very heavy, for this “worm Jacob” (Isa 41:14). Here we see the other side of Amos. The fearless preacher, who speaks harshly to the people, lifts up his big herdsman’s hands here to God pleading for the benefit of his people to spare them. In the face of the people he roars, before the face of God he struggles and begs.
He does not see the people now in comparison with other peoples; then they feel themselves to be quite strong. He sees them in connection with God, and how small and sinful they are then. With the words “he is small” Amos speaks a completely different language than the prickly ones who boast on their own strength (Amos 6:13). He calls the people here “Jacob”, by which he indicates that they are a people of sinners, but also the people to whom God has wanted to connect His Name.
Prophets pray to God for those to whom they prophesy in God’s name. It is a great privilege that God shows us what He is planning. At the same time, it also gives us a great responsibility. It brings Amos to preach and intercede. This must also be the effect on us in everything we may know about God’s plans. We can learn a lot from those with whom we see this effect, such as Abraham (Gen 20:7), Moses (Exo 17:8-13; 32:30-31), Samuel (1Sam 7:8; 15:25), Jeremiah (Jer 15:1), Ezekiel (Eze 9:8) and Joel (Joel 1:19).
3 Effect of Intercession
3 The LORD changed His mind about this.
“It shall not be,” said the LORD.
In His sovereignty the LORD listens to the prayer of His servant and gives it a place in the progress of His work. He does not forgive – forgiveness is only possible after confession – but does not carry out this punishment. He ‘changes His mind about this’ or He ‘repents’ (Darby Translation). He is not the unrelenting God, the God of stone. Not that He changes His plans, but He changes the way He carries them out. God’s repentance has never to do with a wrong decision He would have made, but with a change in the way He works out His right and irrevocable decision.
What a blessing are intercessors for the people, possibly even without the people being aware of it. What an encouragement to intercede. Love for God and His people manifests itself especially in intercessory prayer. Intercession is not done by people who believe that everything is fixed and that God cannot change His mind after all. Real intercession is also not done by people who believe that you can manipulate God through prayer. Then we would get the impression that we, humans, know better than God.
God knows everything in advance. There are no surprises for Him. In His plans He takes into account the intercession of His people. God expects from His children the greatest possible involvement in what He is planning. That is why He has informed them extensively about this. All His information can be found in His Word. That is why reading and studying His Word is an absolute condition to become an intercessor.
4 Thus the Lord GOD showed me, and behold, the Lord GOD was calling to contend [with them] by fire, and it consumed the great deep and began to consume the farm land.
Vision 2 is an extension of vision 1. They both have to do with natural phenomena that are formed by God and called to attack the sources of Israel’s life. Behind the locusts and fire we see the hand of God.
In this second vision it appears that the people did not want to repent, despite the postponement of the previous vision. Amos sees that the fire is already raging. The fire here is the sun that consumes everything with its scorching heat. It represents Tiglath-Pileser, the Assyrian king (2Kgs 15:27-29; 1Chr 5:6,26; 2Chr 28:20). God has the power to summon everything He wants to use to discipline His people. He calls a fire, and what He calls, obeys.
“The great deep” represents the deep or extent of the judgment and “the farm land” [literally portion] the land of His people Israel. The fire is not an earthly fire, but the wrath of the LORD.
5 Then I said,
“Lord GOD, please stop!
How can Jacob stand, for he is small?”
In verse 2 Amos sees that judgment is about to be exercised. There he asks for forgiveness. Here he sees that the judgment has already begun. That is why he says: “Lord GOD, please stop!” Amos is the intercessor again, but he does not automatically repeat the prayer of the last time. He sees clearly what the LORD is doing and what is going on before his eyes. On that basis he appeals to Him again.
When we intercede, it is important to have an eye for the actual situation. Then we are able to pray in a focused way. God expects us to pray with insight in His actions. For the Christian this is one of the characteristics of sonship. A son is someone who acts with insight in his father’s plans.
6 Effect of Intercession
6 The LORD changed His mind about this.
“This too shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.
This second hearing is an extra encouragement to continue to intercede. We do not have to fear that God will get tired of listening to us. How could that be if He actually says that we will persevere in prayer (Eph 6:18; 1Thes 5:15; Col 4:2). Abraham experienced this in his intercession for Sodom (Gen 18:22-33). Up to six times he gets what he asks for.
The parable of the unjust judge shows the same (Lk 18:1-8). The Lord Jesus speaks this parable to His disciples, and to us, “that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (Lk 18:1). And in the application of the parable, He says: “Now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly” (Lk 18:7-8a).
7 God’s Work Is Perfect
7 Thus He showed me, and behold, the Lord was standing by a vertical wall with a plumb line in His hand.
In vision 1 and 2 the Lord GOD (Adonai Yahweh) shows to Amos what He is doing. He is in the process of preparing and even performing the judgment. This brings Amos to intercession. In this third vision Amos sees “the Lord” (Adonai) Himself as Judge. He gains insight into the absolute justice of the verdict, which has already been postponed twice on the basis of his intercession. When Amos has seen this, he no longer intercedes.
The Lord stands “upon a wall of a plumb line”, as it literally says. The wall is a picture of Israel as God intended it to be: a well-ordered and fixed structure (cf. Song 8:9-10). The fact that He stands upon it indicates that Israel is His perfect property and is subject to Him.
The plumb line shows the absolute order and lawfulness of God’s work in and with Israel. There are no deviations or imperfections in His work, they are not present in it (cf. Isa 5:1-4).
8 The Plumb Line
8 The LORD said to me, “What do you see, Amos?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,
“Behold I am about to put a plumb line
In the midst of My people Israel.
I will spare them no longer.
When the LORD asks questions, He does so to involve us in His actions. He wants to give us insight in this, so that we can see that He is acting righteously and we will agree with His actions. By involving us He can also include us in His plans. He wants us to understand Him in His actions. Asking questions forces the other person to observe attentively and often also to think.
Amos is not asked if he knows what it means. He gets the explanation, without us hearing his question. If someone looks attentively at God’s actions, he will certainly be curious about the reason for them. Jeremiah and Zechariah are also asked what they see (Jer 1:11,13; Zec 4:2; 5:2). After their answers the LORD also tells them the meaning of what they see.
To the question of what Amos sees, he could have answered: ‘You’, or: ‘A wall’. But he answers: “A plumb line.” That is what it is all about. The plumb line is a piece of plumb on a line that one hangs next to or in front of a structure to see if it is erected perpendicularly. In a figurative sense it is used here to demonstrate the precision, the exactness of the judgment of Israel (2Kgs 21:13; Isa 34:11).
The wall is perpendicular, the plumb line indicates that. God’s work on Israel is perfect. Now the plumb line is placed in the midst of Israel. The plumb line indicates that a perfectly straight measure is applied to show their iniquities, so that the deviation will have to be acknowledged by everyone. God has an unchangeable standard to test the spiritual sincerity of His people. The measure by which the life of the people is measured is the law. The plumb line is held next to everything the people do.
After demonstrating the deviations, further delay would give the impression that God does not take sin seriously. Amos sees that by placing the plumb line the Lord is cutting off the way to further intercession. The judgment is established and will now be carried out. God’s decision is certain: “I will spare them no longer”, literally “I will pass him by no longer” as He did in Egypt (cf. Amos 5:17). In Egypt God has passed by forgiving because of the blood on the doorposts (Exo 12:13). But now God’s patience has come to an end.
9 The Judgment Executed
9 “The high places of Isaac will be desolated
And the sanctuaries of Israel laid waste.
Then I will rise up against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”
With “the high places of Isaac” reference is made to Beersheba, where the LORD appeared to Isaac and where he built an altar and called upon the Name of the LORD (Gen 26:23-25). It has become a place where the people also go to fulfill their religious obligations (Amos 5:5).
In this judgment we find another reference to the actions of the Assyrians, this time under King Shalmaneser (2Kgs 17:1-6). The verdict on “the house of Jeroboam” was executed on the son of Jeroboam, Zechariah, who reigned for six months and was then murdered (2Kgs 15:10). After Zechariah, five more kings ruled Israel, together for forty-one years. Under the last of these five, King Hoshea, the people were taken away by the Assyrians. This happened in 722 BC (2Kgs 17:6).
10 - 11 The Resistance of Amaziah
10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent [word] to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is unable to endure all his words. 11 For thus Amos says, ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword and Israel will certainly go from its land into exile.’”
The section of verses 10-17 is an interlude that connects to the first three visions. The history with Amazia proves that the people persist in following evil and do not allow themselves to be distracted by any of it, not even by the message of Amos. That is why judgment can no longer be averted.
While Amos intercedes for the people, a false priest accuses him of conspiracy. This false priest, Amaziah, is called “the priest of Bethel” and not ‘the priest of the LORD’. Amaziah must have been the chief or high priest. The false accusation he makes is the first reaction to Amos’ preaching we hear. That reaction comes from a religious leader. Religious leaders always feel violated in their supposed spiritual rights when a true servant of God comes. They know themselves to be unmasked as people who claim a position that benefits them and which they therefore do not want to abandon.
This is how it is with every preacher who proclaims truths that condemn human religious institutions. It is just like in the days of the Lord Jesus, when also the opposition came from the religious leaders (cf. Acts 23:2; cf. Acts 6:13). A religion organized by the politics of man without any fear of God cannot bear the testimony of the truth.
Amaziah opposes God’s work. To do so, he makes use of a false accusation. False accusations have always been used by the devil to undermine God’s work (Jer 37:14-15).
The word “then” beginning with verse 10 seems to indicate that Amaziah has been informed or brought to know all that Amos has said, and that verse 9 fills the measure for him. In fact, it is likely that Amos has expressed his vision, because Amaziah quotes what is written in verse 9. In doing so, he inadvertently gives testimony to the words of the prophet.
After Amos has pronounced the final verdict, Amaziah can no longer bear it. He takes two actions, one to King Jeroboam and one to Amos. Towards King Jeroboam he twists the words of Amos. Amos has spoken of “the house of Jeroboam” (verse 9). Amazia turns it into “Jeroboam” in person.
If one’s own position, often assumed, is threatened, people will often defend it, not only with false accusations, but also by quoting half-truths or twisting words. In such cases we see that they always act selectively. Amaziah, for example, does not say a word about the intercession of Amos.
When it comes to going into exile, Amaziah quotes the words of Amos correctly. This is how Amos said it (Amos 5:27).
“The land is unable to endure all his words”, means that the peace of the land is disturbed by what Amos says. With this, he unconsciously testifies to the power of the words of Amos, which are in reality the words of God.
12 Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Go, you seer, flee away to the land of Judah and there eat bread and there do your prophesying!
Then the action to Amos follows. Amaziah will call Amos “seer” (cf. Isa 30:10; Mic 3:7) because of his visions and the announced judgments. It is possible that he uses this word in a mocking sense because he does not believe his words at all. Amaziah says to Amos that he should go to Judah, where he can earn his living undisturbed by prophesying. As if, with the removal of the messenger, the message no longer applies. As if with the death of a doctor who has said that you suffer from a serious illness, the illness is made undone.
Amaziah’s call also shows that he forgets, or ignores, that God knows no borders when it comes to His people. Likewise, there are no “district churches” where certain pastors are in charge and true servants of God are excluded – even though God gives each of His servants their own territory (2Cor 10:13-18). No one may speak of ‘my church’ except the Lord Jesus (Mt 16:18). And He has given His gifts to His church, which are all believers (Eph 4:7,11).
Amaziah considers Amos to be someone who earns his living as a prophet, certainly just as he does as a priest (Mic 3:5,11). He cannot understand that Amos does not exercise the “profession” of prophet, but prophesies as a servant called by the LORD.
People today do not understand that either. It is unthinkable for a materialistic man that someone who places himself in the service of the Lord Jesus will not be guided by money. Such a person does not go where he gets the most, but where God wants His Word to be preached. God knows the places where the preaching of His Word is needed, regardless of whether people are waiting for it or not.
The so-called good advice that Amaziah gives in anticipation of the king’s answer is purely in his own interest. He wants to get rid of Amos.
13 But no longer prophesy at Bethel, for it is a sanctuary of the king and a royal residence.”
In the designation “sanctuary of the king” and “royal residence” the mixture of politics and religion can be seen, as if religion were a political affair. This is reflected in the names of some denominations, such as Protestant Church in the Netherlands, Church of England and German Evangelical Church.
It is the sanctuary of the king because a king (Jeroboam I) founded it (1Kgs 12:28). He did so for political reasons. There is no more powerful political ‘binding factor’ than religion. From this point of view King Nebuchadnezzar had a great image erected in the valley of Dura. This image is the center around which he gathers all the rulers to worship it (Dan 3:1-7).
It does not work differently in the islamic countries. Unfortunately, Christianity is also permeated by it, with the Vatican as the clearest expression. When people replace God’s center of worship with their own invention and also pursue political goals, this results in what is described as ‘the woman on the beast’, the great harlot (Rev 17:1-6). The woman is the world church or roman catholic church with, as a result of ecumenism, under her wings the protestant churches. The beast is Europa that has become a unity.
In the striving of the world council of churches for ecumenism there is no place for the voice of God. God is from above, we are from below. All thinking is focused on living on earth. God is only given a place in so far as He fits into the plans of man’s striving. But where there is no place for the voice of God, there is no place for Him.
14 Amos, the Ordinary Boy
14 Then Amos replied to Amaziah, “I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet; for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs.
The ‘advice’ of Amaziah is ignored by Amos. Just as the Lord Jesus ignored the advice of the Pharisees when they said to leave because Herod wanted to kill Him (Lk 13:31-35). Amos is not a prophet by profession nor is he in training for it. He has had no theological training or bible school. In his family he cannot point to someone, for example his father or an ancestor, who has made a name for himself among God’s people (cf. Gal 1:1).
Thus, the first apostles were simple fishermen and illiterate people (Acts 4:13). In the book of Judges we see how God, in order to free His people from the power of the enemies, often makes use of people who have a certain weakness. It is said of the Lord Jesus: “How has this man become learned, having never been educated” [in schools recognized by Pharisees]? (Jn 7:15; Zec 13:5).
Amos is a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs. He testifies with great boldness to his ancestry and activities, because this is an additional proof that it is not he who is important, but his Sender and the message he brings on His behalf.
15 Amos, the Instrument of the LORD
15 But the LORD took me from following the flock and the LORD said to me, ‘Go prophesy to My people Israel.’
From the answer Amos gives to Amaziah, it appears that despite his humble origins and his low social status, he is not at all impressed by the words Amaziah utters. Why should he be? The LORD has done something to him and said something to him.
He had to let go of something. That is often the first exercise that anyone who wants to do something for the Lord gets. Exactly how it went with Amos is not communicated to us. As a caring farmer he must have wondered who had to look after his cattle when he left. The LORD gave him the peace that he should not worry about that. If He calls, He will also take care of his cattle (cf. Mt 4:22). Amos had to leave his cattle where they were, trusting that the LORD would take care of them, and go and do what the LORD commanded him to do.
The command was clear: “Go prophesy to My people Israel.” Short and powerful Amos tells Amazia that the only reason to speak is because the LORD called him. As mentioned before, this is not an easy task. Yet Amos knows himself supported by the LORD Himself, for He has spoken of “My people Israel”. In this the love of God for His people resounds. The fact that they are to be prophesied “against” them does not change that love, it is an expression of it. When His people no longer walk with Him, He has to confront them. Amos expresses the voice and feelings of God.
16 A Word to Amaziah
16 Now hear the word of the LORD: you are saying, ‘You shall not prophesy against Israel nor shall you speak against the house of Isaac.’
To malign the messenger is to malign his sender. To disdain an ambassador is to disdain his king. We see an example of this in what Hanun, the king of the Ammonites, is doing to the messengers of David (1Chr 19:1-6). The reaction of Amos against the man who is supposedly a minister is razor-sharp. Here the true religion clashes with the false one. Amos does not literally represent what Amaziah said, but it does exactly reflect its intention. The word “speak” is literally “flow”, which is a typical expression for prophecy (Eze 21:2; cf. Job 29:22).
The fact that the people apparently see themselves as “the house of Isaac” may indicate that they boast of their position as descendants of Abraham. Isaac is the son of promise. But such a profession is worthless if it does not include the faith and works of Abraham (Jn 8:39-40).
He speaks “the word of the LORD”. That is truth and does not tolerate contradiction. Amaziah could have said: ‘I did not say that.’ Many who speak in veiled language say: ‘I did not say that’ when they are confronted with what they said. A man of God knows how to take out the hidden undertone, by which the other is placed in the light. There are no escapes, there is no response from Amaziah.
17 Rejected by God
17 Therefore, thus says the LORD, ‘Your wife will become a harlot in the city, your sons and your daughters will fall by the sword, your land will be parceled up by a [measuring] line and you yourself will die upon unclean soil. Moreover, Israel will certainly go from its land into exile.’”
The judgment given by Amos on Amazia shows how serious it is to silence a prophet of God. We do not read that Amaziah has beaten Amos or thwarted him in any other way. Preventing the speaking of God’s Word is so bad, that Amaziah takes this terrible judgment upon himself and his house. Let it be a warning to all those who want to silence God, because that is what Amaziah actually wanted.
Amos here contrasts the word of the LORD, “thus saith the LORD”, with the word of Amazia, “you say” (verse 16). The priest who opposes the word of Amos, which is in fact that of the LORD, will personally have to bear the consequences of his opposition and Israel will surely go into captivity. What will happen to the priest and his family is symbolic of what will happen to the people.
His wife, after her husband has been taken away to die in exile – on “unclean soil”, that is, outside Israel – will start to earn her living as a harlot. Amaziah is primarily responsible for the judgment that affects his family. His wife will not have hindered him from exercising his presumed priesthood, perhaps even encouraged him to do so. His children share in the consequences of this bad parenthood. If they are lost, it is because of their own sins. Amaziah has a field and is apparently not excluded from land ownership (1Kgs 2:26), but he will also lose this property.
Stopping the mouth of the prophet will not stop the progress of God’s Word, for God continues to speak and His Word never returns empty.