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Book of Amos: Chapter 4

Chapter 4 continues to describe what was going on in Israel’s society. Amos again uses language akin to a farmer. The wealthy women of Samaria are described as “cows of Bashan.” All farmers in the region knew that Bashan was THE place to graze cattle. The cows there had it great. So did these wealthy women of Samaria who apparently pushed their husbands to support their extravagant lifestyle, not caring what they had to do in order to support it. Whether or not they knew their husbands were oppressing the underprivileged for gain, they were party to the oppression by demanding this lifestyle. God would make sure that they were punished accordingly. Paintings depicting Assyrian war show captives being led by a rope and hook at the jaw. Those who survived would end up knowing the opposite of a luxurious lifestyle on the northern side of Bashan.

In verses 4 and 5, God describes the emptiness of their worship. They would go to Bethel and Gilgal, places that once represented God’s presence. They would exaggerate the requirements of the Levitical law thinking that by doing so they were satisfying their religious requirements. Instead God says they were multiplying their transgressions. Didn’t it occur to them that they had long replaced God with idols? Can God continue to dwell in a place that is desecrated? These ‘fat cows’ of Bashan were only fooling themselves. Unlike the widow in Jesus’ story who gave out of her poverty, these gave God out of their surplus and dishonored God’s Law as though it were something to satisfy by throwing money at it and showing off to others what they had done. Their sacrifices, therefore, were no sacrifice. It meant nothing to them! It was just another part of their extravagant lifestyle. God says it meant nothing to Him either.

In verse 6 through 11, God describes to Israel the many times and ways that He tried to warn them and woo them back to Himself. He tried depriving them and He tried rescuing them. Neither His kindness nor His withdrawal of provisions got their attention. Were they blind? What made them not associate these things with God? Was it their new-found beliefs in their new gods or their disconnection between a God of creation and the God who brought them up from Egypt?

Since we began walking this earth, mankind has been uncovering and discovering all that God created before he made this our home. In the modern era, the scientific community has been given the charge to uncover and discover and to make known to the rest of the world their discoveries. We all know a little about planets, black holes, universes, the workings of earthquakes and volcanoes because of these discoveries. Over time, however, mankind has lost the connection between their discoveries and a God who is Creator. Discoveries today are looked upon as though they are new creations and men are lauded for them as though they created them themselves. But we forget, as we so often do, that God lives outside of time and space. He therefore can use creation to deliver any message He wants. That does not make the physics and geography of creation invalid. We only know the causal relationships on this side of space and time, i.e., from within it. But on the other side, where God lives, He still controls it all. Are we therefore also missing His cues as Israel did? In today’s society we are taught to consider that ridiculous. But as I always say, if we call Him God, then He is just that – having no limitations whatsoever!

Being able to recognize God seems to be a lost art in today’s world. But I don’t believe He has changed. We have. Perhaps if we could return to a place where we truly know Him, we would know how to recognize Him even behind the forces of nature. Always, He is trying to get our attention and woo us back to the safety and comfort of His presence before He must judge us. He really does have everything at His disposal to do so, but gave us His best in the person of Christ the Messiah on that blessed day at Golgotha. He came in person and we still did not recognize Him.

“You have not returned to Me,” says the Lord to Israel. In verses 12 and 13 God declares what He must now do. Israel must now “prepare to meet [her] God.” God reminds Israel who He is: the God of creation, the Creator of mankind who can hear ALL of our thoughts. “The Lord God of Hosts is His name.”

Key Verse:
“You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord. ~ Amos 4:11b

Questions to ponder:

  • What are your requirements for fulfilling worship? Do they align with God’s?
  • Is worship something that you do or something that you live?
  • Are you able to recognize God however He presents Himself to you? If not, how can you change that now?
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