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Some notes from the 2018 Bible conference
Reaping, Repentance, and Restoration
January 6, 2018
First study - Reaping | Second study - Repentance
Third study - Restoration
First Bible study: Reaping | Study 2: Repentance | Study 3: Restoration Top
Amos 1:1-2; 2:4-3:8; 7:14-15
Proverbs 3:11-12; Galatians 6:7-8; 1 Corinthians 11:27-33
We will be studying Godís principles of reaping, repentance, and restoration by reading passages from the book of Amos. Amos is among the books of the Bible called the minor prophets, and they are classified this way only because of their length, not their importance.
Amos may have been the very first of the minor prophets. He prophesied during the history of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah. After God divided those kingdoms, the kings of Israel had perpetuated an imitation of Godís true worship. They established convenient worship centers, different feast days, a different group of priests, and actually worshiped handmade idols while still calling on the name of the Lord.
Now, about 130 years after this division, Amos was sent from Judah to speak against these wayward practices and the immoral, self-centered behavior that had developed. He was a herdsman, not from a lineage of greatness or even from a family of prophets.
Our goal today is to apply his words to our own circumstances. We all should learn that there are consequences for our choices, and that fellowship with God is not possible if we live like unbelievers.
Israelís king at this time was Jereboam II. He appeared to be an effective king; in 2 Kings 14 we learn that he had several successful military campaigns, being used by the Lord to recover land that had been taken by foreign nations. With all that outward success, the people of Israel were probably glad to hear that God was condemning evil practices in the nations around them (Amos 1:3-2:3).
Then Amos even spoke words condemning Judah! No doubt Israel enjoyed hearing that as well. But we can notice that the Lordís words against the other nations and about Judah were short, general summaries. When He speaks against Israel, however, He gives very lengthy, detailed descriptions of their greed and immorality. If ever we are glad to hear the Lord condemn others, we must realize that He has a lot to say to us.
Amos was a humble man. His name may have meant "burden-bearer." He was from Tekoa, which might have meant "trumpet." Tekoa was a place identified in the Bible with wisdom (2 Samuel 14:2), might and bravery (2 Samuel 23:26), and building (Nehemiah 3:5, 27). He was a "herdsman," which implies someone who would mark the sheep to indicate their owner. It is important to have these characteristics if we are going to be used by the Lord to deliver His message.
In this passage we see the principle of sowing and reaping, of planting and harvesting. Itís an example of what is sometimes called "Godís government." Itís true that God is forgiving and merciful, yet He is also righteous. Godís government is the aspect of His character that desires to help us learn His righteous ways.
Often He does this through allowing us to experience our own sins and failures returning upon us. For example, Jacob deceived his father, and later his own sons deceived him; an Egyptian pharaoh wanted to drown the baby Hebrew boys, and the next pharaoh both lost his own son and had his own army drowned; Haman built a gallows for Mordecai but was hanged upon it himself.
The passage in Amos 2:4 shows that ignoring the word of God is the first step to failure. Godís government is based upon the amount of knowledge that people have. He accuses the nations based on morality and justice; He accuses the people of Judah based on the knowledge of His word that they should have had. Similarly, the northern kingdom of Israel was like the Christian church of Laodiceaó"rich and in need of nothing" (Rev. 3:17). They were successful and satisfied. They had a form of godliness but no power.
God had been patient with their sinfulness. "For three transgressions, and for four" (Amos 2:4) implies an overflow of their sin. His patience should not be interpreted as acceptance of wrongdoing.
Prosperity can be very dangerous, in fact. It makes us numb to the reality of time and judgment. Ecclesiastes 8:6-12 shows this in someoneís life: "He knows not his time."
The danger for Godís people is to assume that because we call on the name of the Lord that all will be well. Micah 3:11 quotes them as saying, "Is not the Lord among us? No evil can come upon us." They carried the name of the Lord around but had completely departed from His ways. And according to Amos 2:6-8, this attitude is first revealed in the areas of money and morality.
In our times, how does God carry out this aspect of His government? The people were so complacent (for example, Amos 6:1); but what will God do if we act this way? We know He disciplines because of love (Proverbs 3:12); and He may even allow us to become weak and sick, or even to die (1 Corinthians 11:30). He also allows us to feel a lack of fulfillment in our success (Haggai 1:6, 9). If there is a calamity in our lives, we should ask if the Lord is getting our attention through it, Amos 3:6. (However, we should not impose that standard on others, the way Jobís friends accused him of unrighteousness.)
The writings of Moses addressed all these sins. The people should have known. But doctrinal evil (going against the word of God) leads to moral evil. Selling the righteous for silver (Amos 2:6) can foreshadow and symbolize the rejection of Christ Himself. But God can judge His people correctly. Judgment is a severe step, God's "strange work" (Isaiah 28:21) which is employed when all the resources of love are exhausted.
The people forgot who the Lord was, Amos 2:9-10. Weíve been delivered from our sins, tooóand yet we want something else. The Lord allowed some of the people to be godly Nazirites, and He sent some of the people as prophets. But these influences were ignored. God wants to be known, but the prophets and Nazirites were rejected.
Proverbs 14:34 says that righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach. Sin today has often been renamed as something tolerable or good, whereas we should reprove sin and call it what it is, Ephesians 5:11.
Christianity is founded upon the person and work of Christ. If we donít have Him, it doesnít matter what doctrine we hold to.
Amos 3:2 says God will punish His people "for all their iniquities." How do we understand this? We can say that God does not allow sin to continue unchecked. He pleads for a response to His assessment. Itís true that we have a special enjoyment of Godís forgiveness after the death of Christ ; but "all their iniquities" are not overlooked in terms of His government. God does not act hastily, and He knows them all.
One more warning is to avoid convincing faithful people to compromise. The people encouraged the Nazirites to drink wine, which was against their oath. Letís not make others more like ourselves when we should heed their good examples and exhortation instead.
Second Bible study: Repentance | Study 1: Reaping | Study 3: Restoration Top
Amos 4:12-13; 5:4-24
2 Corinthians 7:10-12; James 5:14-16
After stirring up the peopleís awareness of their sin, God invites them to repent. "Return to Me," He says. His justice could have been satisfied by exposing unrighteousness. Also, we have to acknowledge that sin is "exceedingly sinful" (Romans 7:13). But God in these passages presents a warm-hearted call to cold-hearted people, desiring them to seek Him. These passages do not so much show that the people actually repented, but they contain the invitation to repent.
He says repeatedly in chapter 4, "You have not returned to Me." Therefore, He will be sure to meet us! Deuteronomy 4:29 predicts that the people would not remain faithful in their land; but when they suffer judgment, they could seek the Lord and find Him if they would seek Him with all their heart and soul.
Davidís sin was great, and he did repent. But he had to realize first of all that he had sinned against the Lord, Psalm 51:4.
God uses our circumstances to create the desire to seek Him. The prodigal son was far away and thought of returning only when he had no resources left. When we are at a distance from God and then brought back, we can see Godís hand in our past and be thankful for it.
Repenting represents changing the mind and the direction. Itís a change within first, and then we seek what is outside of ourselves.
The shepherd wants our ears, and we might just pretend to hear him. We need to repent so we can be walking together again, as in Amos 3:3.
Bethel and Gilgal are mentioned. They were significant cities in the past, but tradition is not enough. Whatís more, those places were no longer characterized by their historical significance, because in Amosís time they were centers of idol worship. Now they represented merely the idea of "getting religious." But to the Lord, that was not repentance. This is like the time when the Lord Jesus called the temple ďyour houseĒ instead of ďMy Fatherís houseĒ (Matthew 23; John 2). Godís presence could not be found there as it had been in the past.
Repentance occurs when we turn to God from idols (1 Thessalonians 1:9). It is a gift, according to Acts 5:31óGod gives repentance to us. It is His goodness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
God describes Himself to the people by presenting His creatorial power and transcendent greatness. The exalted Lord is calling! He knows our thoughts (Amos 4:13). He is the great creator (5:8-9), and Jehovah is His name. Let us seek Him (5:4-6).
Turning justice to wormwood (5:7) shows that the people had rejected the principle of righteousness. Even the feasts of the Lord and their songs of worship had become something stinking and odious. When repenting, reality would be evident because they would hate evil, love good, and establish justice (5:15); and the places that were now meaningless would come to nothing.
And now we are no longer attached to a place, as the Lord said in John 4. We are attached to a person, the Lord Himself.
Changed behavior (5:10-12) always addresses hypocritical behavior. We no longer defend ourselves (5:13). They had previously welcomed the promises about the day of the Lord, as if this would reveal their inherent goodness. The Lord says such a time would only bring judgment; and if they would realize that justice should flow freely (5:24), this would be evidence of repentance.
Godly sorrow about Godís honor shows that repentant hearts are active (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Third Bible study: Restoration | Study 1: Reaping | Study 2: Repentance Top
Godís desire is for restoration. After all the words in Amos to describe visions of judgment, there is almost a surprise in these words of grace. But God always desires a relationship. Notice the phrase "the Lord your God" in Amos 9:15. And restoration also impacts the community of Godís people. The Lord told Peter that when he would be restored he should strengthen his brethren (Lk. 22:32).
This passage also shows a picture of the future restoration to come in the time of Christís kingdom. The Lord Himself will be seen and honored. This illustrates that giving glory to the Lord is part of the steps to recovery.
In the midst of dark brushstrokes of sorrow, there emerge these streaks of brightnessó"yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob," verse 8.
Verse 11 speaks about "the tabernacle of David." This is not referring to the tabernacle that was constructed in the time of Moses. Rather, itís the word for a "booth" or a temporary shelter, like those constructed for the "Feast of Tabernacles" in Old Testament times. The meaning is that the glory of Davidís house had become like nothingóit was merely a crude booth, a hut. The glory days were long past, and there was only weakness remaining. But Godís grace would restore Davidís dynasty, like the "days of old."
Verse 8 identifies God as ďAdonai JehovahĒ (the meaning of "Lord God" when the name God is written with small capitals, as in many English Bibles). Adonai is Godís name of authority, and Amos uses the phrase "Lord God" in this way 21 times. God has the right to be the Judge, and this scene can remind us of the Lord Jesus walking among the candlesticks in Revelation 2 and 3. The Church of God now is like the house of David was in this passageóour great "David," the Lord Jesus, will be loved and honored, and we will share His glory.
We donít actually see the restoration taking place in the time of Amos. Itís something promised for the future, and itís the Lord who says, "I will do it." He restores our souls, and He leads us in paths of righteousness for His nameís sake.
Itís a mark of Godís love that He often presents us a picture of what restoration would look like if we would return to Him, even if itís not yet a reality. It shows us what He desires us to enjoy with Him.
All the sinners thought that the evil would not come to them. In their stubbornness, they are exposed. But those who are recovered and restored enjoy all the blessings of verses 11-15.
In the prophetic aspect of this book, this passage and others emphasize that God does indeed have a future plan for the nation of Israel. We do not take these promises away from Israel and substitute the Church today into those promises! Yet Godís principles are the same, and the applications of the truth of restoration will encourage us.
Would we ever suppose that God will not be able to accomplish His plans? Itís the grace of God, and that is revealed to us now through the Lord Jesus. Every work of restoration, whether for Israel, the Church, the Gentiles, individuals, all of creationóevery aspect of restoration is based on Godís grace and the work of Christ.
There is reference to this restoration being like the "days of old." We always want to go back to Godís ways and to His original plans. Christianity does not need new ideas.
First we appreciate that God is at work, verse 11; then we can enjoy the inheritance, verse 12. In Amos 7 there had been a vision of a builderís plumbline, used to indicate whether a wall is plumb, or vertical. What is Godís plumbline? It is the Lord Jesus Himself. When we are in the right alignment with Him, everything else is in the right alignment as well. And He is the heir, the one who deserves the throne.
The blessings described are very full. In chapter 5 the people were going to build houses but not be able to live in them; they would plant vineyards but not enjoy the fruit. But here, in Amos 9:14, there is complete enjoyment. Itís because they had the Lord, and now everything else could be enjoyed in its place.
Our sorrow can be replaced by extravagant blessings that overwhelm what has been lost. Itís like the words from Joel: "I will restore to you the years that the locusts have eaten" (Joel 2:25). Psalm 51:12 says, "Restore to me the joy of Your salvation." If we are away from the Lord, itís not that we can have those years replaced; but the joy of salvation overcomes the past. Another picture is the lame man in Acts 3 who was suddenly walking, leaping, and praising God.
Restoration has great effects. In the New Testament, John Mark had turned back from the Lordís work; but later he was profitable in that service. He worked with Paul and with Peter and wrote one of the four gospels! John Mark is a great example of what can happen in restoration.
God remains faithful. He always seeks to close up the breaches. Even our own relationships are restored. The passage in James 5:16 relates to this. The one who had committed wrong confesses, and the one who had been wronged prays. This is a beautiful example of forgiveness and restoration in our personal relationships with fellow believers.
The act of restoration begins with Godís Spirit of grace being poured out, as in Zechariah 12:10. In that passage we then see all the various families of Israel mourning for their sin. It is Godís work and then our response to it. Zechariah 13:1 describes a fountain that removes sin and uncleanness.
And our response leads to great activity. Amos 9:13-14 describe a great deal of work and activity in the restored kingdom! We will be active for the Lord when we are restored.
In addition, there is stability. The last verse of the chapter describes the people being planted and established with permanence. Finally there is peace. Hebrews 12:11 describes the ďpeaceable fruit of righteousnessĒ that grows in the lives of those who are exercised by Godís discipline. There will be peace in our fellowship with Him and peace in our relationships with others when restoration has its work in our lives.
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