Sunday, October 9, 2011

Scripture Sunday: The Book of Amos & the Book of Obadiah

Amos is a farmer/herdsman, but God gives him messages to preach to Israel. In chapter 1, God talks about the judgments he is going to pronounce on the nations and cities around Israel, including Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, and Ammon. These were all prosperous major cities and states at the time, but they had all done things deserving of punishment on a national scale. In chapter 2, God begins to pronounce judgment on the twin kingdoms of Judah and Israel, sort of lumping in their punishment with all the ungodly countries around them.

It seems that Israel and Judah are content with their current national prosperity, and they disdain or hush up the things that have to do with the Lord: "And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? saith the Lord. But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not" (2:11-12). Nazarites were people who made a special vow to dedicate themselves to the Lord (like Samson), and they had special rules governing their behavior, such as not cutting their hair and not drinking wine. So the Israelites are trying to keep anyone from devoting themselves to God or preaching his word, and they're opposed to hearing the Lord's messages.

Amos really doesn't pull any punches when he's talking to people who have done horrible things. He calls the rich women of Samaria cows because they "oppress the poor" and "crush the needy". The Lord's heart is always with the weak, the poor, and the innocent, and he does not take kindly to people who harm those that can't defend themselves. But as with every other book of judgment, God reminds his people that a day of redemption will eventually come: "In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old" (9:11).

The Book of Obadiah is just one chapter long, and it deals with a judgement on the nation of Edom, the descendants of Jacob's brother Esau. Their nation has an issue with pride, but God promises to humble them: "The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground? Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord (1: 3-4). This destruction is coming because Edom has gloated over the downfall of Israel, and taken joy in the suffering of God's people. The book of Obadiah doesn't hold out hope for the descendants of Esau; it just establishes the eventual dominance of Israel.

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