Amos 1:1–4:5, Acts 8:26–9:19, Job 19:13–29
Amos was a farmer called to be a prophet. Judah and Israel (God’s people divided into two nations) were prospering, but had slid into idolatry and corrupt practices. Amos denounced this, but first he spoke about God’s punishment planned for the pagan nations around them.
This judgment on their neighbors concerned things that anyone would consider sin. The people of Damascus “threshed Gilead” and would be sent into exile. The people of Gaza had taken “a whole people” into exile and God would send fire; they would perish. The people of Tyre did something similar and would receive the same punishment. The Ammonites “ripped open pregnant women” so as to conquer more territory. Moab did other atrocities. Both would lose their leaders to exile and death.
As for Judah, the Lord said: “For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they have rejected the law of the Lord, and have not kept his statutes, but their lies have led them astray, those after which their fathers walked. So I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem.” (Amos 2:4–5)
Judah rejected God’s law, yet Israel’s sins are described in great detail, also contrary to the revealed will of God. For both nations, their punishment would be like the other nations, but their transgressions were described according to their relationship and obedience to God. All these nations broke the laws of God, but the Lord did not seem to expect pagan nations to obey them in the same way He held His own people accountable.
This reminds me of an error often made today; Christians expect unbelievers to do the will of God. Have we not learned that we ourselves cannot do anything apart from faith and an abiding personal relationship with Jesus Christ? I know I cannot. How could I expect others who do not have faith or Christ in their lives to behave in godly ways?
Job also had experience with judgment, not from God but from his family and friends. He said, “My breath is strange to my wife, and I am a stench to the children of my own mother. Even young children despise me; when I rise they talk against me. All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me. My bones stick to my skin and to my flesh, and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth. Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me!” (Job 19:17–21)
Job knew that God was involved in his dire circumstances, but he was positive he was not being punished. Even though he could not understand what was happening to him, he could say this: “Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:23–27)
Job was certain of his eternal destiny, and certain that God was doing all this for a reason. He told his judging ‘friends’ that they needed to watch out for themselves: “If you say, ‘How we will pursue him!’ and, ‘The root of the matter is found in him,’ be afraid of the sword, for wrath brings the punishment of the sword, that you may know there is a judgment.” (Job 19:28–29)
If this could happen to him without reason, then they should not judge him; God could easily judge them for what they were doing to him! This is another lesson for me. I must not be harsh and judgmental toward Christians who are in trouble. What do I know about the purpose of God for them?
The NT gives me even more to think about. Philip encountered a man reading from Isaiah who wondered about its meaning. Philip hopped into the man’s chariot, began with this Scripture and “told him the good news about Jesus.” They came to some water, and the man wanted to be baptized. This indicated that he believed what he had read and heard. From this, I see that using the OT to point to Jesus Christ is extremely helpful in bringing someone to faith in Him. (Acts 8:35–38)
The next chapter is about the conversion of Saul (Paul). He was on his way to Damascus. Suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” From this encounter with Jesus, he was told what to do and “for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” (Acts 9:3–9) Then a man named Ananias was sent to him. He laid his hands on him saying, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” With that, “something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened.” (Acts 9:17–19)
Even the great Apostle Paul was at one time blind to spiritual things, so blind that he though killing Christians was God’s will. But God closed his physical eyes and then opened them, showing that only by His power can anyone really see (or hear) what He is doing. Ananias could have tried to talk in into the truth, but he simple did what God told him to do and a persecutor was turned into a child of God.
From this, just one important truth for me: quit always trying to figure things out and simply trust God and do what He tells me to do.