Pastor Randy’s Top 66 – Amos
Hear this word the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel – against the whole family I brought up out of Egypt: ‘You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.’ Amos 3:1-2
Oh boy, is this going stir up some questions! I hope it does, because if any of us hope to get moving forward with the Lord and start maturing in our faith, then we’re going to have to be willing to look at some of the hard questions of life and of our faith.
Amos was one of the ‘early’ prophets, who, although he lived in the southern kingdom of Judah, preached mostly to the northern kingdom of Israel about their impending dispersion by the Assyrians; but he didn’t forget about Judah – he had some things to say to them as well!
As I have stated in my some of my previous posts in this series, the prophets have been preaching to the divided kingdom of Israel because of their disobedience to the Lord and their refusal to worship the Lord with their whole hearts. They have forgotten that they have been specifically called by the Lord to be a people set apart – to be blessed of the Lord – and to show the world what a relationship with the Lord should look like. It has always been the intention of the Lord to have His chosen people – Israel – evangelize and spread the ‘Gospel’ to Jews and Gentiles alike, which we see happening now in the world since the birth of the Church after the resurrection, and ascension of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
So, here’s the thing about Amos 3:1-2 – Amos is reminding the Israelites that they belong to the Lord and that it was He who delivered them from the bondage of the Egyptians. But then Amos (quoting the Lord) says something every unusual that the average reader might gloss over. No, it’s not that the Lord is going to punish or discipline the Israelites because, as we know, ‘The Lord disciplines those He loves’ (Hebrews 12:6), but what He says at the start of verse two. Let’s look at it from a number of different Bible translations:
English Standard Version (ESV): “You only have I known of all the families of the earth;
Actually, the King James Version, the American Standard Version, the Revised Standard Version, and many others, all say basically the same thing the ESV does. So, if I understand that verse correctly, the Lord is saying that of all the people who were living on the planet Earth at that time, the Lord only knew or knew about the Israelites. Is that what it is saying? Does that mean that the Lord doesn’t know about the tribe of Apharsachites that lived on the other side of the Euphrates, or anyone else for that matter?
How can that be? The Lord God is omniscient – He knows all things and all people and all thoughts – there is nothing or no one that He doesn’t know! Then how could the Lord say that He only ‘knows’ Israel? Why would Amos quote the Lord in such a manner? Maybe it’s because we are only thinking of the word “know” in terms of our English language. The Hebrew word used here to “know” is ‘yada’ (No Seinfeld jokes please!), which means ‘loved, known, and/or chosen’.
We read in Genesis 4:1 from the ESV that “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived…”. Adam knew about Eve and that caused her to get pregnant? If that’s where babies come from, well…. Of course not, this ‘knowing’ is “yada” and it means that Adam had intimate sexual relations with Eve and thus she conceived and gave birth to Cain. This is obviously much more than the ‘knowing’ of someone cognitively. It implies intimacy, a special love, and a specific choice of one over another. So, ‘knowing’ this (cognitively!) we understand why these following Bible versions translate this second verse of Amos 3 in this correct manner:
The New Living Translation: “From among all the families on the earth, I have been intimate with you alone”
The Living Bible: “Of all the peoples of the earth, I have chosen you alone.”
The Amplified Version: “I have known [chosen, cared for, and loved] only you of all the families of the earth;”
The New International Version: “You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth;”
Okay, so that’s fine and dandy. Big deal! So now we know that there’s a difference between intimate love and cognitive awareness. Thank you Captain Obvious!
Ah, but hold on Master Linguistic Breath! There’s more to this than a simple difference in etymology! If the Lord is saying that out of all the peoples of the earth He has decided – before the foundations of the earth were formed (Ephesians 1:4) and according to His good pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:5), and purpose (Ephesians 1:9) – to choose, know intimately, select, elect, predestine, and/or love a particular group of people (Israel) over the pagan, idol worshiping, and God hating people around Israel, then is that fair to the others?
Well, remember these few things:
1. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
2. There is no one righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10)
3. There is no one who understands, nor is there anyone who seeks God (Romans 3:11)
4. There is no one who does good (the good of worshiping and loving the Lord on their own), not even one (Romans 3:12)
5. We do not deserve to be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9)
6. The Lord is not obligated to save anyone; mercy owed is not mercy (Ephesians 2:4-5)
7. There is no one who can come to Jesus unless the Father grants them the ability/right/privilege (John 6:65)
8. Only the Lord can open a spiritually dead heart to ‘receive’ or enable a sinner to come to Christ in faith (Acts 16:14)
9. Although once we have been spiritually transformed – born again – we ‘cognitively’ choose or believe on Christ (John 3:16) – the Lord is the One who does the choosing to begin with (John 15:16)
We can intimately know or love the Lord only AFTER He takes away our sinful nature (Romans 6:6; Ezekiel 36:26), and puts His Spirit – the Spirit of Christ within us. Or as 1 John 4:19 CLEARLY teaches: “We love because He first loved us”.
It is indeed a mystery why and how and when and where the Lord chooses to save sinners, and it isn’t for us to worry about whom He is saving. All we need to know is that the Gospel is freely dispersed to the world – and we are the ones who are to disperse that Gospel of love, mercy, grace, repentance, and justice to the world, and then we are to let the Holy Spirit do what HIS WORD says HE WILL DO: “….all who were appointed for eternal life believed”. (Acts 13:48)