The name "Amos" means "burden." He was given a burden from God. Amos was from the area of Tekoa, located to the south of Jerusalem. However most of his prophecy is directed toward the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He tells us that he was not originally a prophet (1:1; 7:14).
Then Amos answered and said 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.
Amos was not a professional prophet. He had no string of degrees behind his name. He had not been to propheteering school. He had not graduated from seminary. Amos wasn't even a preacher's kid. He had a real job.
There is a principle here. It is that God delights in using unqualified people to do His work.
The fact that God uses unqualified people means that He can use me and He can use you.
DATE OF WRITING
The words of Amos, who was among the sheepherders from Tekoa, which he envisioned in visions concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake (Amos 1:1).
Amos tells us when this book was written. It was 2 years before the earthquake. This would give us an exact date if only we knew when the earthquake took place. We don't.
What we do know is that the Northern Kingdom of Israel had not yet been taken into captivity.
Amos tells us that he wrote during the reign of Jeroboam, son of Joash, king of Israel (1:1). This was Jeroboam II. His reign was one of great prosperity in Israel. During his reign, the borders of Israel were extended to their very greatest size.
This means that when Amos preached of the coming judgment of God, the circumstances of the made it appear as though such a prophecy was unwarranted.
MESSAGE OF THE BOOK
And he said, "The LORD roars from Zion, And from Jerusalem He utters His voice; And the shepherds' pasture grounds mourn, And the summit of Carmel dries up." (Amos 1:2).
The message of Amos begins on a loud note. It begins with the "roar" of the Lord. The Hebrew word used here is usually used in the context of a lion. This stands in contrast to the way in which God has been pictured elsewhere. The same God of whom David could say, "The Lord is my shepherd," is now seen to be playing the part of a hungry lion.
For three transgressions and for four...
Judgments against Israel
Signs of Judgment
Promise of Restoration
You were God's chosen people (3)
Against the Women (4)
Seek me that you may live (5)
Against the Men(6)
Ripe Fruit (8)
Lord by the Altar (9:1-10)
Interestingly, the book of Amos begins with the words with which the book of Joel ends. It is with this same reference to the roaring of the Lord from Zion.
And the LORD roars from Zion And utters His voice from Jerusalem….
And he said, "The LORD roars from Zion, And from Jerusalem He utters His voice…"
We are not entirely sure when the book of Joel was written, but it is possible that Amos picks up where Joel left off. It is for this reason that the books have this arrangement in our Bibles.
HISTORICAL SETTING FOR THE BOOK OF AMOS
Even though Amos was from the Southern Kingdom of Judah, he was sent to prophesy to the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
Israel in this day was at the height of her prosperity. There were several factors that contributed to this prosperity.
Jehoash, Jeroboam's father, had defeated Judah in battle, torn down a portion of the wall of Jerusalem and plundered the riches of the king's palace as well as the utensils of the Temple (2 Kings 14:13-14).
Aram (also known as Syria) and its capital city of Damascus, the ancient enemy of Israel, was invaded by the Assyrian army. When the Assyrians were done, they gathered up their plunder and returned to their mountain homeland on the other side of the Euphrates, leaving Israel to mop up the subdued lands.
Egypt during this period was led by a dynasty of very weak rulers. They posed no threat to the countries outside of their domain.
At the height of his power, Jeroboam II exercised nominal rule northward extending all the way to the Euphrates River.
With all enemies subdued, a time of great economic prosperity ensued. This was especially seen in the rise of a rich merchant class. This financial prosperity brought with it a corresponding social corruption.
Although there were many rich, there were also many poor. Instead of this great wealth being utilized to relieve their distress, the rich set about using their riches to buy up the lands of the poor and to dispossess them.
The Israelites continued to be a very religious people. They built up places of worship throughout their land and they held religious festivals and they gave offerings to the Lord. But there were two problems with their practice of religion.
Back in the days of Jeroboam I, places of worship had been established for Israel at Dan and Bethel. Golden calves had been erected at these locations. While it was argued that these was a precedent for this in Aaron's use of a golden calf, the obvious truth was that this led the Israelites into idolatry.
It was not that they stopped worshiping the Lord, but that they stopped worshiping ONLY the Lord. He became one God among several.
Even when the Israelites did worship the Lord, they did not allow their religion to affect their secular lives.
Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.
Take away from Me the noise of your songs;
I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:21-24).
There is a lesson here. It is that church attendance makes no points with God if it is not accompanied with personal justice and righteousness.
The Israelites had not abandoned their religious practices. They had merely watered them down. They said, "We want to follow God, but we don't want to be fanatical about it." This was the world to which Amos preached. It was a world that was enamored with financial success; a world that was intent on climbing the ladder of success.
If fifty years it would all be gone. The Assyrians had gone home for the time being, but within a few short years they would be back and they would completely obliterate the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
And he said, "The LORD roars from Zion,
And from Jerusalem He utters His voice;
And the shepherds' pasture grounds mourn,
And the summit of Carmel dries up." (Amos 1:2).
Amos was a shepherd by trade. He is using shepherd language. Shepherds usually protect their flocks from lions and things that go roar in the night. The Psalms present the Lord as the Shepherd of Israel. But this time it is the Lord who is doing the roaring. He is the Lion who is going to gobble up the straying sheep.
On eight consecutive occasions throughout the first two chapters, we read the refrain: "For three transgressions and for four…" One by one we see each of the enemy nations around Israel being condemned by the Lord. We can imagine the people of Israel nodding their heads in agreement over these various judgments.
Relation to Israel
Pagan nations of no relation to Israel
Cousins to the Israelites through Esau and the children of Lot
Part of the former nation
10 Northern Tribes
Closer and closer are the targets of each of these indictments until finally the condemnation of the prophet falls upon Israel.
ISRAEL'S UNIQUE RELATIONSHIP
Hear this word which the LORD has spoken against you, sons of Israel, against the entire family which He brought up from the land of Egypt,
One might be tempted to think that Israel would be able to get away with more because of her special position. Amos tells us that Israel's special position makes her more accountable before God. It is because Israel has been chosen by God that she will be punished.
There is a principle here. It is the principle that to whom much is given, much is required. I didn't say it -- Jesus did: And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more (Luke 12:48).
We live in a country where much has been given. There is a church on every street corner. You can walk into almost any bookstore and buy a Bible. Much has been given to us and we shall be judged accordingly.
Amos 3 contains a covenant lawsuit against the entire nation. It is presented in five points.
The judgment for Israel's sins will be seen in the form of an invader who will loot her citadels and snatch away her inhabitants.
Note verse 15 that speaks of how the houses of ivory will also perish. When we come to Amos 6:4 there is a reference to those who recline on beds of ivory. Ivory was a precious commodity in that day. You don't mine ivory from the ground or grow it in a field. It comes from the tusks of elephants. It takes a lot of elephants to build a house of ivory.
Archaeological digs in the ruins of ancient Samaria have found a number of ivory relics. This pointed to the great wealth of the city and its inhabitants. But the city that had become enamored with the collection of wealth would lose it all in the coming judgment.
CHARGE AGAINST THE WIVES OF ISRAEL: CHAPTER 4
As we begin in Amos 4, the prophet addresses himself to a new group: They are the cows of Bashan.
Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on the mountains of Samaria,
Who oppress the poor, who crush the needy,
Who say to your husbands, "Bring now, that we may drink?" (Amos 4:1).
Bashan was that portion of Israel's land that lay on the eastern banks of the Jordan River. When the Israelites had first approached the land under Joshua, two and a half of the tribes decided that they would take for their inheritance the land on the east of the Jordan. By doing so, they were accepting God's second-best.
This land was known for its cattle. But God is not actually addressing cattle. These cows are of the human kind. It is a reference to the women of Israel. They are pictured like cows, interested only in grazing.
They are charged with oppressing the poor and crushing the needy. It is not that they were out actively doing these things. But in feeding their appetites, they were encouraging their husbands to go to any lengths to get ahead.
American culture caters to this sort of thinking. Women are taught to idolize the man who has a well-paying job and who drives a fancy car and who is able to own a nice home. So what if his aggressive business dealings put his competition out of business. That is what capitalism is all about, isn't it?
I'm not saying that capitalism is bad, but I want to point out that it often feeds the love of money and we are told in the New Testament that the love of money is at the root of all sorts of evils (1 Timothy 6:10).
The Lord God has sworn by His holiness,
"Behold, the days are coming upon you
When they will take you away with meat hooks,
And the last of you with fish hooks." (Amos 4:2).
God swears an oath. This is more than a promise. This is a binding decree. When an oath was sworn, the implication was that the thing by which you swore would be forfeit for destruction if the oath did not come to pass.
God swore by His holiness. He was saying in effect, "If My promise in this matter does not come to pass, then may My very holiness be destroyed."
What is the subject of the oath? It is a promise of Israel's coming captivity. It is described in graphic terms.
"They will take you away with meat hooks,
And the last of you with fish hooks." (Amos 4:2b).
That this promise was literally fulfilled is graphically portrayed in the Assyrian inscriptions that show the Assyrian conquerors placing hooks through the lips of their conquered enemies.
"But I gave you also cleanness of teeth in all your cities
And lack of bread in all your places,
Yet you have not returned to Me," declares the LORD. (Amos 4:6).
The refrain, "Yet you have not returned to Me," is found five times in this chapter (4:6, 8, 9, 10, 11). The ever-increasing cycles of discipline are reminiscent of Leviticus 26 with its similar promise of increasing disciple.
There is a lesson here. When crops fail and when companies go out of business and when the stock market comes crashing down, God is in control.
Why does He allow these sorts of things to take place? It is to turn the hearts of His people back to Himself.
CALL TO RETURN: CHAPTER 5
Amos 5 begins with a funeral dirge.
Hear this word which I take up for you as a dirge,
O house of Israel.
She has fallen, she will not rise again--
The virgin Israel. She lies neglected on her land;
There is none to raise her up. (Amos 5:1-2).
This is not a dirge of how Israel was in the days of Amos, but rather a dirge of what she would become. At the same time, there is a promise of restoration if they will only repent.
Again the charge is given that the rich have unfairly oppressed the poor.
Therefore, because you impose heavy rent on the poor
And exact a tribute of grain from them,
Though you have built houses of well-hewn stone,
Yet you will not live in them;
You have planted pleasant vineyards, yet you will not drink their wine.
For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great,
You who distress the righteous and accept bribes,
And turn aside the poor in the gate. (Amos 5:11-12).
In today's society, we do not label such things as "bribes." Instead they are called "campaign contributions" and are even tax deductible, but the effect is often the same.
FIVE SIGNS OF JUDGMENT: CHAPTERS 7-9
In the last three chapters of his book, Amos is given five graphic representations of God's coming judgment against Israel.
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. 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?" 3 The LORD changed His mind about this. "It shall not be," said the LORD. (Amos 7:1-3).
There were few things more catastrophic in the economy of the ancient world than a locust swarm. You could fight an invading army, but you were helpless when a sea of locusts descended upon the crops eating everything in sight.
In view of such a vision, Amos intercedes with the Lord and, as a result, the Lord shows patience and forgiveness to Israel so that the plague does not come to pass.
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.
This time, the vision is one of a fire that consumes the farm lands. Again, Amos intercedes on behalf of Israel and again there is a promise of patience and mercy from the Lord.
The point that God is making in these first two visions is that Israel has for a long time been committing deeds that were worthy of punishment, but God has been graciously patient in waiting for a repentance that has not been forthcoming.
Thus He showed me, and behold, the Lord was standing by a vertical wall, with a plumb line in His hand.8 And the LORD said to me, "What do you see, Amos?" And I said, "A plumb line." Then the Lord said,
9The high places of Isaac will be desolated
A plumbline is a measuring device. It uses a weighted line to measure how straight is a vertical wall. The Lord is pictured holding a plumb line that He uses to measure His people.
Whereas in the previous two visions, we see God's patient withholding of the punishments that were deserved, this time the Lord says that they will no longer be spared the coming judgment.
Thus the Lord God showed me, and behold, there was a basket of summer fruit.2 And He said, "What do you see, Amos?" And I said, "A basket of summer fruit." Then the LORD said to me, "The end has come for My people Israel. I will spare them no longer. 3 The songs of the palace will turn to wailing in that day," declares the Lord God. "Many will be the corpses; in every place they will cast them forth in silence." (Amos 8:1-3).
This time, Israel is pictured as a basket of summer fruit. The point of the vision is that Israel is overly ripe for the plucking and that the end is closer than they think.
I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and He said,
"Smite the capitals so that the thresholds will shake,
And break them on the heads of them all!
Then I will slay the rest of them with the sword;
They will not have a fugitive who will flee,
Or a refugee who will escape. (Amos 9:1).
The altar is a place of sacrifice and forgiveness. But it is also a place of judgment. The altar is a place where a life is taken as a judgment against sin. Where there is no repentance and faith, there is no forgiveness.
A CONCLUDING PROMISE OF HOPE
"In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David,
And wall up its breaches;
I will also raise up its ruins,
And rebuild it as in the days of old;
That they may possess the remnant of Edom
And all the nations who are called by My name,"
Declares the LORD who does this.
"Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD,
"When the plowman will overtake the reaper
And the treader of grapes him who sows seed;
When the mountains will drip sweet wine,
And all the hills will be dissolved.
"Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel,
And they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them,
They will also plant vineyards and drink their wine,
And make gardens and eat their fruit.
"I will also plant them on their land,
And they will not again be rooted out from their land
Which I have given them," Says the LORD your God. (Amos 9:11-15).
Who is the "booth and tabernacle of David"? It is the same One who became flesh and "tabernacled" among us (John 1:14). It is a reference to Jesus. It is through His coming that we have a rebuilding of the tabernacle of David and a restoration of the people of God.
The name Micah means "who is like Ya?" He is introduced in Micah 1:1 as Micah of Moresheth. In verse 14 of the same chapter we read of Moresheth-gath. Evidently the town of Moresheth was located near the city of Gath in the land of the Philistines.
The word of the LORD which came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem. (Micah 1:1).
The ministry of Micah began at a time when the spiritual life of both Israel and Judah was at an all-time low. The eventual revival in the days of Hezekiah may well have been at least in part the result of Micah's ministry.
OUTLINE OF MICAH
Micah is composed in three oracles.
Judgment of idolatry
Promise of regathering
Judgment against Rulers
Promise of future glory
Judgment of disloyalty
Promise of restoration
Each of these oracles begins with the judgment of God against the rebellious nation and then goes on to give a promise of restoration for the future.
First Oracle:Promise of Judgment and Eventual Regathering
God coming to judge Israel and Judah because of idolatry
The Lord will eventually regather His people and be their Shepherd
Second Oracle:Judgment against leaders and Israel's future glory
Judgment against Rulers and False Prophets in the Land
Future glory of the Mountain of the House of the Lord
Third Oracle:God's Covenant Lawsuit against Israel and the Ultimate Triumph of the Kingdom
The Lord charges the nation with disloyalty to the Covenant
The Lord will restore the nation, judge the earth and forgive past iniquities
2Hear, O peoples, all of you;
Listen, O earth and all it contains,
And let the Lord God be a witness against you,
The Lord from His holy temple.
3For behold, the LORD is coming forth from His place.
He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth.
4The mountains will melt under Him,
And the valleys will be split,
Like wax before the fire,
Like water poured down a steep place. (Micah 1:2-4).
A number of years ago I recall seeing a bumper sticker that said, "Jesus is coming and, boy, is He ticked!" Micah begins his prophecy with a thundering proclamation. God is coming and His coming will shake the earth.
5All this is for the rebellion of Jacob
And for the sins of the house of Israel.
What is the rebellion of Jacob? Is it not Samaria?
What is the high place of Judah? Is it not Jerusalem?
6For I will make Samaria a heap of ruins in the open country,
Planting places for a vineyard.
I will pour her stones down into the valley,
And will lay bare her foundations.
7All of her idols will be smashed,
All of her earnings will be burned with fire,
And all of her images I will make desolate,
For she collected them from a harlot's earnings,
And to the earnings of a harlot they will return. (Micah 1:5-7).
Both Israel and Judah come under condemnation. He begins with the northern kingdom of Israel and its capital city of Samaria. You can go to Jerusalem today and you will find a thriving, bustling city. But if you go to Samaria, you will only find a ruined heap of scattered stones.
Beginning in verse 9, Micah turns his attention to Judah. Verses 10-16 mention a number of specific cities throughout the land of Judah. Each of these is a play on words.
The first is a reference to the ancient city of Gath.
Tell it not in Gath,
Weep not at all (Micah 1:10a).
This initial call hearkens back to the funeral dirge that David composed at the death of Saul and Jonathan.
19Your beauty, O Israel, is slain on your high places!
How have the mighty fallen!
Now again, we see a lament. This time, the lament is not just for a king and his son, but for all of Judah. What follows is a series of playing on words with the place-names of the cities of Judah.
10Tell it not in Gath,
Weep not at all.
At Beth-le-aphrah[literally, "house of dust"] roll yourself in the dust [Hebrew: Aphar].
11Go on your way, inhabitant of Shaphir [literally, "beauty"], in shameful nakedness.
The inhabitant of Zaanan does not escape [Hebrew, Lo-YaZah].
The lamentation of Bethezel: "He will take from you its support."
12For the inhabitant of Maroth [literally, "bitterness"]
Becomes weak waiting for good,
Because a calamity has come down from the LORD
To the gate of Jerusalem.
13Harness the chariot to the team [Laricesh] of horses,
O inhabitant of Lachish-
She was the beginning of sin
To the daughter of Zion--
Because in you were found
The rebellious acts of Israel.
14Therefore, you will give parting gifts
On behalf of Moresheth-gath;
The houses of Achzib will become a deception [Achzab.]
To the kings of Israel.
15Moreover, I will bring on you
The one who takes possession [Hayorash],
O inhabitant of Mareshah.
The glory of Israel will enter Adullam. (Micah 1:10-15).
Adullam, mentioned in verse 15, was the place where David had hidden himself in a cave when Saul was in pursuit of him. In such a manner, the glory of Israel is pictured as going into hiding.
Dillard and Longman's book, Introduction to the Old Testament, relate Moffatt's paraphrase of this passage to capture some of the wordplays:
Tell it not in Tellington!
Wail not in Wailing!
Dust Manor will eat dirt,
Dressy Town will flee naked.
Safefold will not save,
Allchester's walls are down,
A bitter dose drinks Bitterton.
Toward Jerusalem, City of Peace,
The Lord sends war.
Harness the war-steeds,
O men of Barstead!
Zion's beginning of sinnging,
Equal to Israel's crimes.
To Welfare a last farewell!
For Trapping trapped Israel's kings.
The reason for this coming judgment is set forth in chapter 2.
1Woe to those who scheme iniquity,
Who work out evil on their beds!
When morning comes, they do it,
For it is in the power of their hands.
2They covet fields and then seize them,
And houses, and take them away.
They rob a man and his house,
A man and his inheritance. (Micah 2:1-2).
This was vividly illustrated in the case of King Ahab who lay on his bed coveting after the field of Naboth. He allowed his wife Jezebel to arrange a trumped up charge against Naboth in which he was accused of cursing God and the king. Naboth was summarily executed and Ahab robbed the man's house and his inheritance (1 Kings 21).
What once had been the sin of a single king had now become characteristic throughout the entire nation. There is a lesson here. As go the leaders, so also will go the followers. As goes the national rulers, so will go the nation. As goes the clergy, so also will go the laity.
Therefore, thus says the LORD,
"Behold, I am planning against this family a calamity
From which you cannot remove your necks;
And you will not walk haughtily,
For it will be an evil time. (Micah 2:3).
Verse 1 gives a woe to those who scheme iniquity. This verse uses the same Hebrew word to speak of how God plans evil against those who have themselves planned to do evil.
Woe to those who scheme iniquity,
Who work out evilon their beds!
I am planningagainst this family a calamity
HOPE IN THE MIDST OF JUDGMENT
Micah is the prophet of judgment. In this midst of Micah's prophecy of judgment, he also offers a ray of hope.
I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob,
I will surely gather the remnant of Israel.
I will put them together like sheep in the fold;
Like a flock in the midst of its pasture
They will be noisy with men.
13The breaker goes up before them;
They break out, pass through the gate, and go out by it.
So their king goes on before them,
And the LORD at their head. (Micah 2:12-13).
There is always a remnant. That is a common theme throughout the Old Testament. No matter how bad things turn, there is always a promise of a remnant.
Throughout the first 200 years of the history of the United States, Christians in this country got used to being a majority. That has changed over the last generation. Christians are losing their majority status. But there is still a remnant and God can work through a remnant.
THE SECOND ORACLE: AN INDICTMENT AGAINST LEADERS
1And I said, "Hear now, heads of Jacob
And rulers of the house of Israel.
Is it not for you to know justice?
2You who hate good and love evil,
Who tear off their skin from them
And their flesh from their bones,
3And who eat the flesh of my people,
Strip off their skin from them,
Break their bones,
And chop them up as for the pot
And as meat in a kettle." (Micah 3:1-3).
Instead of protecting their flock from the invading wolf pack, these leaders were worse than the wolves -- they were eating their flocks alive.
Leaders are more liable. That is what James 3:1 tells us. Leaders incur a more stricter judgment. Why? Because as go the leaders, so goes the nation.
This is true of the church, too. As go the leaders, so will go the church. You are hard-pressed to find anything that ever moved the church that did not first move her leaders.
11Her leaders pronounce judgment for a bribe,
Her priests instruct for a price,
And her prophets divine for money.
Yet they lean on the LORD saying,
"Is not the LORD in our midst?
Calamity will not come upon us."
12Therefore, on account of you,
Zion will be plowed as a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins,
And the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest. (Micah 3:11-12).
The indictment is made against both the political leaders, the priests and even the prophets. The problem was that they had come to assume that God was on their side, even when they were disobedient to the commands of God.
As a result of this, there would be a coming judgment. The judgment would take place against Jerusalem and the Temple. Jerusalem would become a heap of ruins and the Temple would become a place where trees grew wild.
A PROMISE OF FUTURE HOPE
1And it will come about in the last days
That the mountain of the house of the LORD
Will be established as the chief of the mountains.
It will be raised above the hills,
And the peoples will stream to it.
2And many nations will come and say,
"Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD
And to the house of the God of Jacob,
That He may teach us about His ways
And that we may walk in His paths."
For from Zion will go forth the law,
Even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
3And He will judge between many peoples
And render decisions for mighty, distant nations.
Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they train for war.(Micah 4:1-3).
This passage is repeated nearly word for word in Isaiah 2:2-4. Did Micah quote from Isaiah or the other way around? We do not know and it is not really important.
Micah has just said at the end of the previous chapter that the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest (3:12). Not he calls it the "mountain of the house of the Lord" and says that it will be established. First the temple would be destroyed and become a place of bareness, but in the last days the temple would be restored as a place of blessing.
There is coming a day when, not only the Children of Israel, but many nations will come to the mountain of the house of the Lord.
The city of Jerusalem is surrounded upon all sides by mountains. Although it is itself upon a mountain ridge, it is not the highest. There are several surrounding mountains which are higher. But the picture here is of the mountain of the house of the Lord - the Temple Mount - being raised up above the surrounding mountains.
What does it all mean? How are we to understand this prophecy? There are some who would predict future geological changes to take place in the land of Palestine. But this is not geological language. It is figurative language.
When did the nations begin to come to the Temple? It was seen at the Pentecost incident when we are given in the Scriptures a listing of all of the nations that were gathered.
But that is not all. This is a Messianic prophecy. Christ is the House of God. He is the Temple which was destroyed and which was raised up again in three days. He is the One who said, "If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to Myself" (John 12:32).
This passage tells us that there is coming a day when all men would turn to God; when the throne of God would be recognized by all.
But that is not all. This also has a more immediate fulfillment. It is seen in the identity of the House of God as mentioned in verse 2. What is the house of God today? It is the CHURCH. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household (tou oikou tou Qeou) of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:17). Just in case there are some who would not wish to recognize Peter's words as having reference to the church, Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:15, I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.
What is the house of God today? It is the church. This means that the exhortation that is given to believers in the Old Testament will also apply to the church today.
And each of them will sit under his vine
And under his fig tree,
With no one to make them afraid,
For the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. (Micah 4:4).
The reference to sitting under one's own vine and under one's own fig tree is a picture of peace and prosperity. It pictures a return to the golden age under Solomon.
So Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon. (1 Kings 4:25).
This becomes a catch phrase to describe the blessings of God upon His people. The future blessings of God would continue to be described as a time when every man would be "under his vine and his fig tree" (Zechariah 3:10).
However, before the future time of restoration could come, there would first come a time of coming judgment. It is pictured in terms of a woman's labor pains.
9Now, why do you cry out loudly?
Is there no king among you,
Or has your counselor perished,
That agony has gripped you like a woman in childbirth?
10Writhe and labor to give birth,
Daughter of Zion,
Like a woman in childbirth,
For now you will go out of the city,
Dwell in the field,
And go to Babylon.
There you will be rescued;
There the LORD will redeem you
From the hand of your enemies. (Micah 4:9-10).
The exile to Babylon would be painful in the extreme. But it was a necessary part of the redemption, for it would be from there that the people of God would be rescued and redeemed.
It is in the context of this promise of exile and restoration that the coming of a future Davidic king is given.
1Now muster yourselves in troops, daughter of troops;
They have laid siege against us;
With a rod they will smite the judge of Israel on the cheek.
2But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity. (Micah 5:1-2).
The most insulting thing that one could do in the ancient world was to strike someone on the cheek. The description of a king being struck in such a fashion is tantamount to military defeat and subjugation.
Here is the point. Judah will be invaded and will suffer the ultimate insult and subjugation, but there will come from Bethlehem a promised redeemer who will return as the ruler of God's people.
Bethlehem was the city from which David had come. This was its primary claim to fame, as it was really only a small village. Ephrathah was the place name of the general area, a name that went all the way back to the days of the judges (Ruth 4:11).
Just as David had come from Bethlehem, so also the future ruler of Israel would also come from Bethlehem. He would be the One whose coming had been promised and described from ages past.
A CALL FOR JUSTICE
In the third Oracle, the prophet rails against the problem of religion without reality.
6With what shall I come to the LORD
And bow myself before the God on high?
Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings,
With yearling calves?
7Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams,
In ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I present my first-born for my rebellious acts,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8).
The multiplication of religious ordinances is no substitute for these qualities of justice, kindness and humility.
A CLOSING PROMISE
18Who is a God like Thee, who pardons iniquity
And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession?
He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in unchanging love.
19He will again have compassion on us;
He will tread our iniquities under foot.
Yes, Thou wilt cast all their sins Into the depths of the sea.
20Thou wilt give truth to Jacob
And unchanging love to Abraham,
Which Thou didst swear to our forefathers
From the days of old. (Micah 7:18-20).
The closing verses of Micah give hope for the future. They picture a God who pardons iniquity and who passes over rebellious acts. That is the message of the cross. It is that God sent His Son to pardon iniquity and to be our Passover Lamb so that God might forgive our rebellious acts.
This is seen in Micah 7:20 where Micah says, "Thou wilt give truth to Jacob and UNCHANGING LOVE to Abraham." The fascinating part is the play on words found in the term "unchanging."
It is a play on words with the name "Jacob" which literally means "heel-grabber" but carries the idea of "supplanter, switcher, trickster or changer." Literally, the prophet says, "You will give truth to Jacob and non-Jacob mercy to Abraham."
The book of Nahum is a prophecy directed at Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria. It is the sort of book that we can imagine Jonah to have penned. Indeed, the similarities between these two books are striking.
The name "Nahum" means "consolation" or "comfort." One form of this word is used in Nahum 3:7 where we read: And it will come about that all who see you Will shrink from you and say, "Nineveh is devastated! Who will grieve for her?" Where will I seek comforters [MeNahamim] for you?
We know virtually nothing of Nahum. Because the name Capernaum means "village of Nahum," some have supposed that he came from this Galilean village.
The Book of Nahum is organized in a large parallel known as a chiasm. The centerpoint of this chaism is the lament in which Nineveh is likened to a den of lions that had formerly gobbled up the nations and was now herself devoured.
The Lord takes vengeance against Nineveh (1:1-9)
The Lord will destroy Nineveh (1:11-15)
Vivid description of attack on Nineveh (2:1-10)
Lament over fall of Nineveh, the Lion's Den (2:11-13)
Vivid description of attack on Nineveh (3:1-7)
Nineveh will be destroyed (3:8-13)
The fall of Nineveh took place in 612 B.C. when a coalition of Chaldeans, Medes and Scythians attacked the city. Nahum's prophecy is vivid in its language and he utilizes a number of word pictures to describe the destruction of the city.
There are several lessons that we can learn from the book of Nahum.
One must be careful when applying the political statements that are addressed to Judah and to Israel to countries and nations today. We are not a theocracy. But Israel was.
At the same time, we must also recognize that God is concerned with politics and with the movings of nations. We may try to separate church and state, but God will not remain separate from anything in His creation.