For an introduction to this series, click here.
Nov. 6, 2006
The prophet Amos begins with a pronouncement of judgment upon the heathen nations around Israel- Damascus (Syria), Gaza (the Philistines), Tyre, Edom, Ammon and Moab. I'm sure this pleased the Jews to hear these judgments.Then Amos turns to Israel, using the same combination of words: "For three transgressions and for four" for both Judah and Israel.
An interesting fact about this portion of scripture: the repeated phrase "For three transgressions and for four" was the basis for the teaching of the Pharisees in Jesus' day that they only had to forgive someone who sinned against them three or four times. Since God said He would punish Israel for three or four transgressions, then that was all they needed to forgive. Jesus blew that teaching out of the water when the disciples, feeling generous, asked if they should forgive up to seven times. Of course Jesus replied seventy times seven.
It should be noted that Amos tells us that he prophesied during the reign of Uzziah- remember that Isaiah saw his vision of Jesus Christ (see John 12 :39-41, an amazing portion of scripture and statement of Christ's deity) in the year after Uzziah died. So Amos wrote this prophecy a few years before Isaiah wrote his book.
Anyway, Amos is unflinching in his condemnation of Israel, listing lots of wicked things they had done and tolerated being done. Then Amos gives the reason for Israel's punishment:
"You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for your iniquities." (3:2)
God has a higher standard for those whom He has blessed with knowledge. He expects them to live based on the instruction they have been given. "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more." (Luke 12:48, ESV)