“Zeal for God” (Religion) Falls Short!

World Wide Ignorance, A Substitute for God’s Righteousness?

(Israel as the rest of the World Needs the Gospel)

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.  For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”  (Romans 10:1-4)

CHAPTER 8     Listen Over Sacrifice {“Their Own Righteousness…”}

“zeal for God”, alias religion whether Hebrew religion or Christian religion will not cut it with God, our Heavenly Father.  Religion is primarily a thrust of “seeking to establish their own righteousness” with a corresponding failure that they “have not submitted to the righteousness of God”.  Hopefully the inadequacy of zeal for God is obvious in Romans 10:1-4 above; for not now, not ever has the legal moral majority been able to establish within their own lives a righteousness of God.  It is and always has been “by the grace of God, not of works lest any should boast”.  In the Old Testament times, in the New Testament times, and now as nothing has changed between God and Israel and Gentile Christians since Paul through the inspiration of God wrote Romans 10:1-4 above.  “For by grace are you saved through faith.”  Faith, faith, faith and grace, grace, grace; no enthusiasm of works and religious can ever replace the demand of the Heavenly Father for righteousness through faith, first a declared legal righteousness with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and then with the new birth and sanctification an actual inward becoming righteous.  (At least the germ is there, and the fulfillment will be complete when we, at the Second Coming, see Jesus as He is.)

Obvious works of the religious zeal of men are not sufficient as a substitute:  Messianic Judaism like Pastor James stated at the great Jerusalem Convention was a failure, then and now, to re-create law and works of law as a sub; speaking in unknow tongues (not the know tongues of the first day of Pentecost) is no sub for the inward sanctification of God’s righteous, and there is no way babbling emotional can show the righteousness of God; and as for the Scofield mites, particularly of the Scofield-like Study Bibles out of the graduate of DTS and dominating on study Bibles in the Lifeway Book stores of the SBC, the religious zeal of such feudamentalists starting with Darby and Scofield and largely carried on the SBC and the SRB, and not make a legal declaration true in 1909 that the Jews will experience a different salvation than the Gentiles, some kind of hocus pocus salvation in mass of all Jews living in the very last of the last days.

You get it clear from Romans 10 where Paul expresses his hearts desire for his brethren of the literal nation of Israel, “Brethren, my hearts desire for Israel is that they might be saved, for I bear them record that they have a zeal of God but not according to knowledge…”  Paul herein and for all time covered false religious zeal for the original people of God, the Hebrews; and then in II Timothy he took care of fake religious zeal among Gentile Christian that “have a zeal of God but deny the power thereof.”

 “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”  (II Timothy 3:5 KJV)

That will perhaps shock you that there are certain church members active in Christian churches that so bad is their “FORM” of godliness, that you must shun them and as much as possible stay away from them!  Well, worse than that is the total context of II Timothy 3, beginning and end in II Timothy 4.

Perilous Times and Perilous Men

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,  traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!  For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith;  but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.”  (II Timothy 3:1-9)

Paul has to be talking of how the follies of such fake religion will be revealed at the Second Coming, for now in Christian churches we see the growing influence of such religion, more like a social religion than any inward power of the Holy Spirit.  We are grateful to the influence of Jesus that such social institutions exist for the elderly and those in need, however they do not represent in these days of the obvious Falling Away the righteousness of Jesus Christ through faith.  The vocals of churches have created this great false religion in their own minds that wraps around themselves as works of righteousness.

And if you don’t get the folly and point of inadequate religious zeal in chapter 3, you must see it as the stages of the great apostasy called the Falling Away is laid out in II Timothy 4:3,4:

2 Timothy 4:3-4 New King James Version (NKJV)

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”

BOTTOM LINE of the Falling away in Christian churches:  You know the Falling Away had fully blossomed when you see all the Christian Fables created as substitutes for truth and real religion:  like the fable of  “baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in an unknown tongue”; like the newest form of the gospel of success and prosperity that Joel Osteen preaches; and like the gigantic study Bible of Scofield mites, graduate of DTS, create where there is false literal Bible in words not even in the Bible like “rapture”, “dispensationalism”, and “millennium”; and also where they create a third plan of salvation in these last days for the Hebrew nation.

It is stated often in the Old Testament that it is better to listen to the commands of God than it is to sacrifice; but like in all Bible teachings it comes to us in far more clarity in the New Testament, the book of Romans, where Paul had to say of His own formerly people of God, “they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God by faith.”  (Romans 10:3)  This characteristic of human nature persists today, especially among church members who think their little sacrifices of attendance, work for the denomination, and nominal commitments can establish themselves in the sight of God like they know they are established in the community and an established church.  Yet the people of God today, Jews or Gentiles, apart from both an initial righteousness by faith and a continued righteousness by faith, once again tend to sacrifice as a substitute for listening and heeding the clear teachings of God through the Lord Jesus Christ and recorded long ago in the Bible.  There just is no substitute for “listening” and heeding.  This “own righteousness” substitution was the downfall of the original people of God, the nation of Israel; and at least from Isaiah on, and especially in Jeremiah, do you see the completion of that downfall.  The wording in Jeremiah is a little different–”you have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out for yourselves broken cisterns that can hold no water”-but the trend is the same, don’t listen to God and Christ and the Bible, but make up your own mind on what is right and wrong, then establish that life style.

Right or wrong, we have chosen to place at least in our outline, Obadiah, Jonah, Joel, Amos, and Hosea as Pre-Isaiah Prophets.  The messages of these prophets as derived from their OT quotes and explanations of such quotes in the NT fit best there in the total subject outline.  We will see as we go along with these where the internal evidence other than the quotes would put them.  We know that Jeremiah of the last chapter-message quoted from Obadiah.  These are the Pre-Isaiah Prophets of Table 9 in Appendix A.  If you actually look at our subject outline below based on a sequencing of these historical books and the Prophets, you will find the sequence of Old Testament books as I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, Jonah, Joel, Amos, Hosea, and some of Isaiah included, Isaiah 1-39, which was more dictated by the commonality of subject more than historical sequencing.  {Remember our desire to look at the Bible as a “gradual revelation of God coming to a climax in Christ” and with a gradual revelation of the doctrines of God based on His character.}  If you look at the NT books where those quotes are found in the OT sequence, you have Mark, Luke, Matthew, John, Romans, Acts, I Corinthians, and II Thessalonians.

8-1:  Listen to God.

  1. Love of God and neighbor is and always was in the Old Testament more important than burnt offerings and sacrifices: I Samuel 15:22 and Mark 12:33.
  2. To listen to Christ as Lord is more important than the legal requirements of the sabbath day: I Samuel 21:1,6, Luke 6:3,4, Mark 2:25, and \Matthew 12:2,3.
  3. When you listen to God in the predictions of the Bible you have to listen twice as hard as the predictions often have double meaning–that is, a wider spectrum of meaning than immediately obvious as here where it applies to King Solomon and King Jesus: II Samuel 7:12,14 and John 7:42.
  4. Listen to God talk about His own remnant of Israel when He tells Elijah that He has reserved 7,000 for Himself that have not bowed the knee to Baal: I Kings 19:10-18 and Romans 11:4.

8-2:  Listening Signs from the Early Prophets and Jesus.

  1. The Listening Signs for This Generation is Both Solomon, Jonah and Jesus as recorded in the Bible while in Nineveh’s generation it was the Prophet Jonah and in Jesus time it was Him the Prophet Messiah: Jonah 3:1-4 and Luke 11:29.
  2. Listen to the Apostle Peter on the first day of Pentecost after Christ’s Ascension as he quotes from the Prophet Joel to explain both what happened on that day, and what would happen from this the beginning of the last days until the end of time: Joel 2:28-31 and Acts 2:16-21.
  3. Listen to the Prophet Joel start the ball rolling on the prime them of the Bible about eschatology, the One Day of the LORD: Joel 3:13, Mark 4:29, and Mark 13:24.

8-3:  To What Extent Israel Was and Was Not God’s Chosen People.

Listen to God Himself tell in the Bible to what extent the nation of Israel was and was not His chosen people.

  1. Immediately after rescue from Egyptian bondage God turned away from most of Israel, giving them up to worship the host of heaven; Amos 5:25-27 and Acts 7:42.
  2. God takes a people for His name from among the Gentiles:

{Please read Amos 9:11,12 and Acts 15:15-17.}

  1. These same Gentiles shall be called sons of the living God: Hosea 2:23 and Romans 9:25,26.

                                 Isaiah 1-39

  1. If God had not chosen a small remnant out of Israel they would have been like Sodom and Gomorrah: Isaiah 1:9 and Romans 9:29.

8-4:  Listen to God Himself in His book on matters or eschatology, or last things.

  1. You must first of all see the double nature of predictions as related to eschatology as when the Old Testament said,

“I will call my Son out of Egypt.” ( Hosea 11:1 and Matthew 2:15)

NOTE:  The Son has a double meaning:

(1).  First it is the nation of Israel as the Son; and          (2).  Then it is Christ as the Son.

  1. Immortality and the sting of death: { Read Hosea 13:14 and Isaiah 29:8.}
  2. Day of the LORD: {Please read references of Isaiah 2:3,12,18, and 19, and I Corinthians 14:36, II Thessalonians 2:2, and II Thessalonians 1:10.}
  3. Read Isaiah 35:51; 61:1 and Matthew 11:5.

8-5:  Jonah and What’s Happening in the City?

Rather than now considering the Prophet Jonah, since like Jonah we find that many of the OT Prophets delivered Messages to Cities, Nations, and  the Temple, we will consider those prophets under the headings of these institutions.  I think this helps us to see more of the relevance of the Prophets in our time.  They had a message for the civil institutions as well as the religious, a message and message from God Himself, and I believe we can easily relate them to our cities and other institutions today, especially our nation.  Jonah had a message for the city of Nineveh, also Nahum and Zephaniah wrote of the city of Nineveh.  {Genesis 10:8-11 tells us the building of the city in Assyria by Nimrod the “mighty hunter”.}  Also the Prophet Micah speaks of in Assyria, a city which is the entrance of the city of Nimrod.

What’s Happening in the City?

The complete title of this chapter would be:  “What’s Happening in the City That is Most Important to God?”  Recently I traveled from Tucson to LAX and Port Hueneme, California and later to the high desert in the city of Lancaster, California.  While waiting to visit a friend that I worked with years ago at Edwards AFB, the thought came to me, “I wonder what is happening in this city that is most important to God.”  Of course, God does not have the same value system as this world so that entertainment would, no doubt, not even be a factor.  God is always interested in His own people so we know that He would be keeping an eye on them.  Also we know that even a sparrow in the city can not fall to the ground without God’s knowledge.  That still does not answer the question as to what to God is the most important in thing happening in the city? We know that God is more interested in poor people than the well-to-do as the gospel is primarily given to the poor, and that may give us a clue; and of course we know especially from the Prophets that God is also interested in national and city leadership as often we are told that He puts leadership in those positions for His own purpose.  As I thought these thought, a vagrant with his cart, bedroll, etc. passed by, and I thought because of the uniqueness of God to always seek and save the lost, this could be what was happening in the city of Lancaster that was most important to God.  Recall the lesson Jesus gave us on the value-system of God when He told His disciples of the fame and place in the kingdom of the woman that gave the penny.

“Then He (Jesus) looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.  So He said, ‘Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty has put in all the livelihood that she had.’”  (Luke 21:1-4 NJKV)

Then I naturally thought of the Prophet Jonah who was sent to one particular city, the city of Nineveh, because God saw what was happening in the city and wanted Jonah to preach to it!  How Much Do We Know About the City of Nineveh?  Nineveh, of course, like Babylon and Bagdad are all cities of Iraq; and we know of the recent fighting nature of that nation.  Apparently it has always been so.  Layard in his book on NINEVEH AND BABYLON writes of the warlike nature of the nation.

“The annals of Assyria (same as Iraq) are nothing but a register of military campaigns, spoliations, and cruelties.  Their monuments display men of calm and unmoved ferocity, whose moral and mental qualities are overborne by the faculties of the lower, brutal nature.”

We think of Sudan Hussein and his recent unprovoked attack on Kuwait and the ensuing Persian Gulf War, and we can see the conclusion of this book written over 50 years ago.  Well, three books in the Old Testament Prophets tell us something about Nineveh.  First, there was the book of Jonah which tells us that God noticed the moral corruption in the city of Nineveh and sent Jonah to preach repentance to the city.  Maybe this alone gives us a clue to “What Is Happening in a City that is most Important to God?”  In this case, and perhaps in the case of many cities in our nation, it was the moral corruption that attracted the special attention of God.  “For their wickedness is come up before me…”  (Jonah 1:1)  Besides knowing all that goes on the earth to the extent of the sparrow falling, there seems to be a stench from “wickedness” that floats up to God from earth to heaven thus attracting His attention.  It irritates God.  He is tempted to wipe out a city whose stench becomes overwhelming; and long before God acts on any city or nation, or the whole world, in judgment, He sends Prophets to warn the city or nation.  Also the Prophet Nahum writes about Nineveh.  “Woe to the bloody city!  It is all full of lies and robbery.  Its victim never departs.  The noise of a whip and the noise of rattling wheels, of galloping horses, of clattering chariots!  Horsemen charge with bright sword and glittering spear.  There is a multitude of slain, a great number of bodies, countless corpses–they stumble over the corpses–because of the multitude of harlotries of the seductive harlot, the mistress of sorceries, who sells nations through her harlotries, and families through her sorceries.”  (Nahum 3:1-4)  Very figurative language here to describe the city:  the “seductive harlot” refers to a spiritual unfaithfulness of the city, and “mistress of sorceries” refers to a goodly charm that is bad. Since Assyria had plundered other countries she had captured unlike Greece and Rome who came later, the city of Nineveh was full of the loot.  Assyria literally lived by the plundering of other nations.  The Prophet Zephaniah also writes about the city of Nineveh.  “This is the rejoicing city that dwelt securely, that said in here heart, ‘I am it, and there is none beside me.’” (Zephaniah 2:15 NJKV)

There could, no doubt, be said of many cities in our world today.  The people say and think, “We are it.  All other cities are nothing compared to us.”  Perhaps Paris, Bagdad, New York, or even Tucson.  We never thought 50 years ago that we come to the point of seeing the growth of gambling establishments in our cities and nation; and we would never have conceived that gambling on the state lottery level would flourish under the excuse of providing for education. It has been an education alright:  it has taught us that our own cities of the United States come under the same indictment of the nations of the Prophets where the people “want to get something for nothing”!  From your Bible history background, you will recall that Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth that were born to him after the Great Flood that destroyed the whole earth with water.  Well, Ham had a grandson that was called Nimrod.  It was Nimrod, the great famous hunter, that was the founder of Nineveh.  We read in Genesis 10:8-11.  “Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth.  He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.’  And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.  From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh…”  (Genesis 10:8-11 NJKV)  Also the Prophet Micah speaks of the “sword (of) the land of Assyria, and the land of Nimrod at its entrances” (Micah 5:6 NKJV).  Numbers 24:22,24 also has an early historical reference to Assyria in the prophecy of Balaam of how that nations would carry Israel away into Captivity, and how later the ships from Greece would in turn afflict Assyria.  And Psalm 83:8 and II Chronicles 20:1-4 give the historical account of Assyria under Shalmaneser II who allied with Moab and Ammon against Israel under King Jehoshaphat.  The nation of Israel was victorious, but this was just the beginning of the real world power of Assyria.  We now come to the description of Nineveh in the book of Jonah.  B.H. Carroll gives us a summary of the description of Nineveh in Jonah.

“The record here in Jonah says that Nineveh was a ‘great city.’  It was located on the Tigris River and in the shape of a parallelogram, sixty miles around and three days’ journey on a straight line through it.  Its walls were sixty feet high, with 1,500 towers, 200 feet high.  The walls were broad enough on top to receive three chariots driving side by side.  It is almost certain that this city was larger than Babylon, especially if we include in the estimate of its suburbs.  Jonah calls it ‘an exceeding great city of three days’ journey’ and with 120,000 infants, all of which indicate that Nineveh was no ordinary city.”

8-6:   “What Is Most Important to God?”

We do not have the details about how Jonah preached in the city; but we do know that Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah and that God spared the city.  I think that Carroll is right that the story of Jonah and the whale, or large fish, got back to the city of Nineveh before Jonah, the king and the people deciding that the God that could do that could also destroy them.  I think you begin to see what is most important to God in the dialogue between Jonah and God as he built his hut on the hill and waited for the destruction of the city! “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.”  (Jonah 3:10 NKV)  It displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry.  (Jonah 4:1) Jonah started pouting, and he prayed.

“Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country?  Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.  Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

  1. What Was So Important to Jonah?

Before we come to some of the details about what was so important to God, let us figure out as a background what was so important to Job that he first got angry; then he protested to God that he had told Him so back his home country; then excused himself  for running off to Spain because he knew this would happen; and then the anger turned to despair of returning home where this news of the salvation of Nineveh would go ahead of him, asking God to take his life.

(1).  Jonah like all of the Jews had a hatred for the idolatrous Gentiles of Nineveh.

(2).  “Ah, didn’t I tell you so, God,”  Jonah prayed.  He had the fear that God would show mercy and the Great Preaching with the Prediction of Destruction that God told him would be discredited.  His life was over as a prophet and priest.  He had lost face!

(3).  Nineveh would grow in strength and if spared would become a terror to Israel.  Therein Jonah was also a prophet.  Nineveh with Babylon and the whole nation Assyria did become a powerful nation, and did take captives of Israel and Judah.

  1. What Was Important to God?

(1).  God is concerned about rightness of our attitudes, emotions, and conscience.  First of all it was important to God what was the attitude of Jonah on the matter of preaching, repentance, and as to God changing His mind about destructions.

“Then the LORD said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’”  (Jonah 4:4 NJV) God was saying in effect,  “I know your conscience tells us that these people should be destroyed, but is your conscience right!  Check the value system of your conscience.  Is it right for you to be angry?

(2).  God has a sense of humor, and that is important to Him.

“So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city.”  (He was still looking for and hopeful of destruction.)  There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city.  And the LORD God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant.  But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint.  Then he wished death for himself, and said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.’”  (Jonah 4:5-8 NJKV)

Don’t you see a sense of humor there.  Jonah’s emotions as he awaited for something to happen to the city were up and down.  He was satisfied that he had made a shelter from the sun; and then as it was enhanced by the blessing from God of additional shade from the hot desert sun as God make a large plant like a tree to provide additional relief from the desert.  And since God knew that the tired prophet was tired, and that he was make a decision while he was tired, never a good thing, thus provided a good night’s rest.  However, since it was time for the Prophet to move on back to Israel, and take up the work of God there, God sent a worm to fester the plant of shade and wither it up.  Not only did Jonah’s plant shade disappear, but then a violent wind came from the east that blew his shelter across the desert.  Jonah grew faint in the desert heat, and I know you can appreciate that.  Then again Jonah wished that it was better for him to die than to live.

(3).  God is concerned about our value system.  Jonah became just as angry about the loss of the plant that had provided shade as he did over God relenting over the destruction of Nineveh.  Jonah, Is it right for you to be angry?  Child of God today, is it right for you to be angry.  Is it right for you to be angry with a brother that has wronged you?  Is it right for you to be angry with that fellow member of the church, or that preacher?  Or you holding a grudge because things did not work out for you the way they were planned?

(4).  God like many of His servants are concerned about the plants like the lilies of the field and the sparrow, but God is more concerned about those who are lost.

“Then God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?’  (Jonah 4:9a NJKV)

    “And Jonah said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”  (Jonah 4:9b NJKV)

God is patiently working to change the value system and conscience of Jonah.  To change the concept of what is right and what is wrong.  Is it right for you to be angry?  Often our concepts of what is right is self-centered.  It is more a matter of what is right and wrong for us than what is right and wrong for a whole city, or even what is right and wrong to God!  But Jonah is still determined, and says, “Yes, it is right for me to be angry even unto death.”

(5).  It is important to God to be consistently what He is, gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.

  1. God is gracious and wants us to be gracious.
  2. God is merciful and wants us to be merciful
  3. God is slow to anger and wants us to be the same way. He was trying to get that message over to Jonah as He said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
  4. God is abundant in lovingkindness and expects the same from us.

(6).  God spells out what is important to Him now that He hopefully has the attention of Jonah.

“But the LORD said, ‘You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night.  And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left, and also much livestock?’”  (Jonah 4:10-11 NJKV)

  1. Your conscience has allowed you to have more concern about a plant that for 120,000 children that do not know the difference between right and wrong.
  2. You concerns are too short ranged rather than eternal. You are more concerned for a plant that grew up in one night and perished in one night.
  3. You are more concerned about the things for which you have not labored than those things for which you have labored.
  4. Think of the livestock if you can not think of the children.

The History of Nations in the Writing Prophets

You have noticed how that many of the Prophet mention the say nations so that you could almost write a history of the early world from the writings of the Prophets.  You noticed, for example, at the beginning of this book how that Edom and their destruction was not only mentioned in Obadiah but echoed and told in differing stages in other Prophets.  There is one thing that this allows us to clearly see and that is that God is interested in the people of all nations, and the nations of all peoples.  Also, that God never performs a judgment on any peoples without first giving those same people the message of judgment and the opportunity to repent.  This is especially true of the Final Judgment at the end of time, and this is one of the prime subjects of all 16 of the Writing Prophets.

8-7:  AMOS and What Is Happening in the Home Country?

Okay, Jonah is off touring the city of Nineveh in Assyria, so who is minding the store back in Judah and Israel.  Recall that Jonah was a prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel.  We see this in II Kings 14:25.  “He (Jeroboam II) restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath unto the sea of the Arabah, according to the word of Jehovah, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was of Gathhepher.”  (II Kings 14:25)  Jonah identifies himself as the son of Amittai (Jonah 1:1), and Joshua 19:3 describes Gathhepher as a town three miles northeast of Nazareth which places him in the northern kingdom.  Then obviously, Jeroboam II was a king of Israel, and his reign is called the “Indian Summer” of Israel’s history (II Kings 14:23-29).  While Jonah was off pouting in Assyria, Amos was preaching to the northern kingdom.  However he was from the southern kingdom, so he too was a missionary in a more limited sense of distance.  Tekoa, the home town of Amos, was 12 miles south of Jerusalem.  Actually while Jonah’s Judah ministry was at the beginning of Jeroboam’s ministry, approximately 800 B.C., Amos’ ministry was approximately 760 B.C. after Israel had started to prosper from the reign of Jeroboam and as always began to lapse into moral indulgences.  There was a big difference between the Prophetic work of Amos as compared to Jonah.  While Jonah was a priest and prophet, Amos was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees.

Amos on National Accountability

The subject of Amos prophetic book is judgment, or national accountability. First he denounces in the name of God and with the word of God that other nations surrounding Israel:  Syria (1:3-5), Philistia (1:6-8), Phoenicia (1:9-10), Edom (1:11-12), Ammon (1:13-15), Moab (2:1-3), Judah (2:4-5), his home country, and then lastly Israel (2:6-16).  I’m sure as Amos started preaching at Bethel, no doubt on a feast day, about the overthrow of Israel’s neighbors, it attracted the attention of Israel.  These heathen nations, according to the preaching of Amos, knew what was wrong in their practices of cruelty or inhumanity; and the God of the Universe was holding them accountable.  Judah and Israel since they possessed the law of Moses and the teachings of the Prophets were held to a higher standard of national accountability.  Amos denounces Israel for:  covetousness, injustice, lasciviousness, sacrilege, for forgetting Jehovah’s kindness, and for rejecting Jehovah’s messengers.  B.H. Carroll writes of the history of the times in Israel and Judah.  “It was when Israel and Judah both enjoyed great prosperity and there was much indulgence in the luxuries of wealth by the upper classes while the poor were suffering from their extreme poverty.  The moral condition of the people were terrible.  Crime was perverted, and almost every form of iniquity abounded in the land.  The nations round about were also corrupt and Judah had turned away from the law of Jehovah.”

What is Happening in Israel?

“Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth:  therefore  I will punish you for all your iniquities.”  (Amos 3:1,2 KJV)

  1. Judgment is on the way, and God first identified to Israel that He never has and never will do anything without first revealing it to His Prophets.

“Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”  (Amos 3:7 KJV)

We are going to find more and more as we progress through the Prophets that increasing temporal and isolated judgments on single nations turned to a great predicted judgment on the heavens and the earth at the end of time.  Always, however, in the case of limited judgments and the final judgment, there were and are ample warnings from the Prophets and later the Apostles as well as from Jesus Himself.  Much of these end-time judgments center around the key words “the day of the LORD” or the “One Day of the LORD and Lord.”

(1).  The Day of the LORD in Amos.

Amos as one of the early writing Prophets introduces this “day of the LORD”, although you have to read it carefully in Amos 5:16-20 to know that it is talking about more than just the immediate and temporal judgment on Israel. You see that in the passage with the emphasis on darkness instead of light; and when you take the messages from all the Writing Prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles you know that at the end of the last days the sun, moon, and stars will be turned into darkness.

(2).  The Day of the LORD in Isaiah.

You see also this One Day of the LORD judgment in Isaiah; and once again there is the more immediate threat to Israel and Babylon, but here is clearer that the larger meaning is an end-time judgment.

“Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.  Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man’s heart shall melt:  and they shall be afraid:  pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth:  they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames.”  (Isaiah 12:6-8)

  1. It doesn’t say that it is a destruction from the Almighty God, but it says that it will come “as a destruction from the Almighty”.
  2. Seems like we have navy terminology here as it states that first in Babylon, and then later in the world “all hands” shall be faint.
  3. The figurative language continues as it states as these events of judgment begin to unfold, that men’s hearts shall melt. It seems that this can be both figurative and literal; for we know from the teachings of the Apostle Peter later that the earth shall be melted with a fervent heat.
  4. Every man living on the earth during these end times will be afraid. Recall how Jesus said that men would cry for the rocks of the mountains to fall on them in order that they might be covered up.
  5. Although there may be a time of prosperity and luxury now, it will be a time of pain and sorrow then!
  6. Men and women will look at each other in amazement, like what are we going to do, what can we do.
  7. Their faces will look like flames. I’m sure the blood pressure goes up with what men will see and hear and feel, and from the fervent heat the faces will literally break into flames.

“Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.  For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light:  the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.  And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haugtiness of the terrible.”  (Isaiah 13:9-11 KJV)

  1. We read a lot in the Bible about the love and mercy of God; and part of that love and mercy is a warning through His Prophets and Apostles that there is an inevitable Judgment on sinners, evil doers, the iniquities of the wicked, the arrogancy of the proud, and the haughtiness of those in power and wealth. We read in Jonah about the patience and longsuffering of God toward the city of Nineveh; but here not only is coming judgement pronounced on the whole nation of Babylon, but also later at the end of time on the whole world.
  2. Notice clearly this time that the sun, the moon, and the stars will cease to give their light. We should look at the same thing re-echoed from Jesus Himself many years later.

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her lights, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken…”  (Matthew 24:29 KJV)

  1. Notice that God looks ahead past the people of Babylon to the people far in the future near the end of time, telling what they will be like, and what it is about them that displeases him. Can this apply to the people of our nation?

[1].  God will punish the world for its evil.  I am sure that Israel during prosperity and Babylon during prosperity and world domination thought they were getting away with evil, but mark these words, GOD IS GOING TO PUNISH THE WORLD OF EVIL.  Wicked nations and wicked people will be held accountable for their iniquities.

[2].  The arrogancy of the proud will cease.  I am sure that in Israel with prosperity and power, and more so in Babylon as a world ruler, the arrogancy of pride was increasing.  I am also sure that the increase we are now witnessing in pride and arrogancy will continue to increase right up to the time that God says, “No more”; and it will cease!

[3].   God will lay low the haughtiness of the powerful.  Those of status and wealth and position and power, especially those that take advantage of the poor, will be brought down from their high position to a low position.

  1. God says through Amos for the leaders who live in the palaces of Israel and Egypt to look at the great mass of the oppressed poor people, and then to look in their own palaces where violence and robbery is stored up (Amos 3:9,10).

8-8:  Contemporary City versus the Ultimate City.

The Prophet Isaiah in the city and the Prophet Micah in the country were delivering God’s message to Judah and the city of Jerusalem.  There is a contrast in the message of both Prophets, as they compare the characteristics of the ultimate city, the New Jerusalem of the New Age, with the Jerusalem that they see before them.  Isaiah and Micah, like the other Writing Prophets, are interesting in that they deal with the politics of the city and country.  Also they deal with social problems, government, and personal relations as well as religion.  The Prophets are very interdenominational.  You see, the God of the Universe that is speaking through these Prophets is aware that He is the only God, that He is the Creator of the whole world and all the people; and therefore He does not hesitate to speak to all peoples.  It amazes me the similarity of the book contents of the Writings of the Prophets to the writings of the authors on American Studies.  Both deal with politics, government, social relations, and international affairs.  The only difference is that while American studies authors deal with literature, the Prophets do not in the literal sense of the word, although as you noticed in the figurative language of Amos that they also create national literature.  Of course, in another sense the Prophets do deal with other literature in that they quote from each other.  Once again we should realize that there is a world of difference between the inspiration of other literature like the books in American Thought and the inspiration from God of the writings of the Prophets.

The Prosperity That Brought the Degradation

The reign of King Uzziah in Judah is considered to be the most prosperous era in the nation since that of King Solomon.  The year that Uzziah died is the year that the young Isaiah was called to be a Prophet.  Sampey describes the condition of the country and the city.  “The country had enjoyed an era of agricultural and commercial development under Uzziah.  Tribute flowed in from the Ammonites, and the avenue of trade through the Red Sea was open, as in the days of Solomon.  The country was at peace with its neighbors.  Wealth increased in the hands of the nobility and other landowners.  Luxury, with its attendant train of evils, entered Jerusalem.  There was sore need of a prophet to call the people to repentance and reformation.”

                                                   Isaiah Chapter 1, An Explosive Introduction

Only a message from God to His rebellious subjects could start as does the book of Isaiah in chapter 1.  The first verse is historical, then….

“The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jothan, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.”  (Isaiah 1:1 RSV)

Well, that is harmless enough, but stayed tuned.

“Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD hath spoken…”

It seems that Isaiah to talking to the stars and sky and to the earth itself as he is about to tell the nation to just keep on going as it has been, without listening and seeing!

“Sons have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand.”  (Isaiah 1:2,3 RSV)

We see the pathos of God as His love and care has been rejected, as a rebellious son would reject the care of a father; and of a people that do not know or understand the God who has adopted them!  Now, we come to the crux of the accusations that God has against the nations.

“Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who deal corruptly!  They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.”  (Isaiah 1:4 RSV)

If you are a wife and your husband says that you “are utterly estranged” you have better believe it, or at least listen; and if you are the chosen people of God, the chosen nation from among all the nations of the earth and that God says that you “are utterly estranged” you had best listen!

God is tired of their religious worship and practices, desiring rather to see them doing good.

“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?  says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of he-goats.  When you come to appear before me, who requires of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me.  New moon and sabbath and the calling of assemblies–I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.  Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.  Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:11-18 RSV)

  1. As a nation when God tells you that He is no longer interested in the sacrifices you make as part of your religious worship, you are in trouble!
  2. As a nation when God says your attendance at worship is no more than the stepping on His holy house, you are in trouble!
  3. As a nation when God says your religious activities His soul hates, you know you are in trouble!
  4. When God is weary of those religious activities and they become a bur-den to Him, all is lost!
  5. You can pray and fix your hands in a certain manner to pray, but God will not listen. He says it is because of the blood on your hands.

Rather than religious attendance and activities, this is what God expects of a nation.

  1. Making yourself clean by washing. Remember the previous chapter on baptism and the real meaning of baptism.  This is an inward cleansing that comes from repentance and renewed faith!
  2. Remove from before God the evil doings, and if they are removed from before God, who sees and knows all, then they are removed from the face of the earth.
  3. Stop doing evil and learn to do good.
  4. Seek justice and correct oppression.
  5. Defend the fatherless and plead for the widows.

It sounds much like the similar admonitions from the Apostle Peter much later on what it will take to live a long life.

“He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking guile; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.  For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.”  (I Peter 3:10-12 and Psalm 34:12-16 NJKV)

 

NOTE:  Free download of Literal Bible Book four.

http://www.sungrist.org/LiteralBibleBookFour.pdf

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