In our last lesson, we learned about an army officer named Jehu [JAY-who] who began a bloodbath in Israel. Jehu exterminated all of Ahab’s friends and descendants, the prophets of Baal, and even the king of Judah (who was the nephew of Ahab’s son Joram). Now Jehu is reigning as king in the north, and he’s not the only new king around. To the east of Israel, the nation of Aram has also gained a new king: the scary Hazael [huh-ZAY-el], who Elisha predicted would one day brutally slaughter the people of Israel. Meanwhile, down in the south, we have a daughter of Ahab on the throne—Queen Athaliah [uh-THALE-ee-uh]. This is the first time either Israel or Judah has ever had a queen reigning solo. It’s not a welcome idea—especially when that queen is wicked Athaliah. Little does she know that there is one male with royal blood in his veins who escaped her butchering of the royal family. One year old Joash [JO-ash] has been hidden away in the Temple where he is being looked after by his nurse and the high priest. They will succeed in keeping his life a secret for six long years while Athaliah enjoys her reign of terror.
JEHOIADA OVERTHROWS ATHALIAH
Jehoiada [jeh-HOY-uh-duh] is the high priest in Judah at this time and he’s a man who really has his head on right. He reveres Yahweh and he is highly respected by all. So when he calls some army officers together in the sixth year of Athaliah’s [uh-THALE-ee-uh’s] reign and tells them that it’s time to stage a coup, they are all too happy to follow his lead. Going throughout Judah, these five army captains gather together all of the Levites and community leaders and they hold a large assembly in Jerusalem. There they vow that they are going to put little Joash on the throne, come hell or high water. By now Joash is all of seven years old. Suddenly this little boy finds himself surrounded by armed soldiers and a large mob of men who drizzle some oil on him, place a crown on his head, say a few formal words, and then announce that he is king. Everyone erupts in cheers and praise while Joash is standing there feeling rather overwhelmed.
Tootling around in her palace, evil Athaliah’s ears prick when she hears the sound of people running and shouting outside. Did someone say the word “king”? The queen hurries out to investigate and follows a large crowd that is racing towards the Temple. Her eyes widen in shock when she sees a little boy standing inside with a crown on his head. What is this?! How could she have possibly missed one?! And with everyone cheering for the little boy, it’s pretty obvious that Athaliah’s reign has come to an end. What does a queen in this much distress do? She tears her tunic, of course. Athaliah gives those seams a good rip. And then she screams, “Treason! Treason!” Well, that puts a damper on the festive mood, but Jehoiada is ready for this moment. He tells his captains to haul Athaliah outside and kill anyone who tries to follow her. Then he tells them to kill her as well, but to make sure all the murdering happens outside of Yahweh’s holy House. The officers do as he says and Athaliah is chopped down with a sword. Good riddance.
JOASH, King of Judah
Now when you’re only seven years old, what do you know about running a country? Nothing, so it’s a good thing Jehoiada is there to take the reins on little Joash’s behalf. The high priest makes all the people enter into a covenant (a serious promise) that they would honor Yahweh and obey all of His Laws. Then everyone troops over to Jerusalem and tears down a temple to Baal that is located there. Jehoiada gets the sacrificial system back on track and little Joash is placed on the royal throne.
As Joash grows up, he becomes his own man and stops relying on Jehoiada for everything. In fact, he even accuses the high priest of slacking in the care of the Temple, which is in need of some major repairs. Joash tells the priests to hop to it with the maintenance tasks. The priests stall around. So Joash outsources the work and finally the Temple is spruced up.
When high priest Jehoiada dies at the ripe old age of 130, the people decide that since he was such a great fellow, he deserves to buried in the tomb of the kings. So Jehoiada goes out with honor, but in his absence, things quickly start to deteriorate. Joash surrounds himself with a new group of advisers and everyone stops caring about Yahweh. The next thing we know, those dumb poles for the goddess Asherah [ASH-er-uh] are being built again.
They decided to abandon the Temple of Yahweh, the God of their ancestors, and they worshiped Asherah poles and idols instead! Because of this sin, Divine anger fell on Judah and Jerusalem. Yet Yahweh sent prophets to bring the people back to Him. The prophets warned the people, but still the people would not listen. (2 Chron. 24:18-19)
What does God do when He’s mad and no one is listening to Him? He sends prophets to convict people of their sins and show them how to return to obedience. What happens if no one listens to the prophets? Well, then He has to come up with some other form of motivation, doesn’t He? Life in Judah starts feeling very unblessed. After Joash has had enough time to notice how rotten things are going, Yahweh raises up yet another prophet to explain the obvious.
Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, “This is what God says: Why do you disobey Yahweh’s commands and keep yourselves from prospering? You have abandoned Yahweh, and now He has abandoned you!” (2 Chron. 24:20)
Communicating with God can be a very frustrating affair. He often doesn’t respond to us when and how we want Him to. Yet while we’re waiting for Him to give us those warm and fuzzy attaboys, there is one thing we can count on: God will never fail to let us know if we’re doing something that upsets Him. So many Christians today panic when life starts going wrong and they start trying to brainstorm why God is mad at them. When things go bad, we’re taught to start confessing sins. But firing out random confessions like buckshot and hoping we happen to hit on the one sin God is holding a grudge over is a complete waste of time. We learn in the Bible that if God becomes upset with us, He will not only tell us what the specific problem is, He will also supply a doable solution. God always makes a way for us to immediately return to a right relationship with Him. He never leaves us in the dark. He never plays “read My mind” games. When He convicts us, He makes sure that we don’t miss His message. So we never have to worry about waking up one morning and finding out that our relationship with God has been irreparably damaged, or that He’s been nursing a grudge for years without telling us. God will always tell us. If we don’t listen to Him telling us privately, He will often find someone with skin on to come and get in our faces. God puts a lot of effort into communicating His convictions to us because He cares so much about us staying in a right relationship with Him. It’s really a major compliment. But unfortunately we often fail to appreciate the compliment, and that’s what happens here in 2 Chronicles. Joash orders Zechariah to be stoned to death inside the Temple court. Wow, that was vicious. And as he dies, Zechariah cries out, “May Yahweh see this and avenge!” No worries there—Yahweh definitely saw it and He is none too pleased with this rebel king.
ARAM INVADES JUDAH
But for some reason they suddenly decide it’s worth the long walk to try and conquer a nation that they don’t even share a border with. What’s the reason for this strange move? Yahweh is exacting His revenge on the little tyke of a king who thinks it’s just fine to go butchering Yahweh’s messengers while he continues worshiping other gods in Yahweh’s face.
The Aramean army is particularly small on this occasion. The odds are majorly against them, but Yahweh couldn’t care less about statistics. He hands the Jews over to the Arameans for a major spanking. People are massacred, Jerusalem is robbed, and all of its treasures are shipped back to Aram’s capital city of Damascus. Joash himself is assaulted and left in very poor health. But seeing the king sick and miserable isn’t good enough for Yahweh: He wants the little rat exterminated. So He riles up Joash’s servants against him, making them remember how their master so cruelly butchered poor Zechariah. The servants murder the king on his sickbed, and they hate him so much that he isn’t even buried in the tomb of the kings. So there.
JEHOAHAZ, King of Israel
While Joash is turning sour down in the south, Jehu dies in the north. His kingdom has grown smaller during his reign, for Yahweh has been handing pieces of it to wicked Hazael [huh-ZAY-el] of Aram who just keeps on attacking. Let’s remember that the people of Israel are still insisting on worshiping those stupid gold cows that Jeroboam set up. Why should Yahweh bless such a nation?
Jehu is succeeded by his son Jehoahaz [jeh-HO-uh-haz]. Jehoahaz is another cow lover, and we’re told he does much evil in the sight of the Lord. How tiresome.
So Yahweh was very angry with Israel, and He caused King Hazael of Aram and his son Ben-hadad to defeat them repeatedly.
Then Jehoahaz prayed for Yahweh’s help, and Yahweh listened to him, for He could see how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel. (2 Ki. 13:3-4)
We’re going to find a theme of “and then Yahweh finally listened to the cries of His desperate people” coming up a lot in the Bible, and it has led to some very erroneous theories about how God communicates with us. The image of God plugging His ears and literally not hearing certain human voices is complete rubbish. God doesn’t ever stop listening to us, so whenever we find biblical authors implying otherwise, we need to realize that they are simply passing on their wrong ideas about how God operates.
If you get into a fight with your friend and she suddenly turns her back towards you, you might say she has stopped listening to you. But of course what you really mean is that she is upset with you and harboring hostile feelings towards you. You don’t mean that her ears have become physically deaf to the sound of your voice. This is the kind of “not listening” God describes Himself doing in the Bible. When He speaks of not listening to people and turning His back on them, He is talking about harboring hostile feelings towards them. He’s not saying that He has a mute button in Heaven which He presses whenever people commit certain sins. When He talks about turning His back on people, He doesn’t mean that He literally stops looking at them. If God ever looked away from any of us, this whole universe would collapse. He is the One keeping every molecule in place and coordinating all of our lives. This earth isn’t running on some kind of autopilot. God makes His active involvement in our lives exceptionally clear all throughout the Bible.
Well, now we’re starting to understand why God wanted a bloodthirsty creep like Hazael to become king in Aram. He wanted a weapon to spank Israel and Judah with, and Hazael is loving life as God gives him victory after victory. But because Yahweh is so nice, He shoves Hazael back into his own country once the people of Israel show the slightest sign of repentance. But of course it doesn’t last. As soon as the crisis is over, they go back to worshiping their dumb cows and that irritating goddess Asherah.
JEHOASH, King of Israel
Joash is still on the throne down south when Jehoahaz dies in the north and is succeeded by his son Jehoash (we’re on a roll with J names right now). Jehoash [jeh-HO-ash] is another cow worshiping irritant to Yahweh and our author doesn’t even want to spend time on all of his idiocy. But he does tell us about one exchange that Jehoash has with Elisha.
THE DEATH OF ELISHA
By now our loyal prophet is old and ill and ready to die. Jehoash comes down to visit Elisha in his sickbed and works up some phony tears.
Jehoash king of Israel went down to see Elisha and wept over him. “My father! My father!” he cried. “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” (2 Ki. 13:14)
These are the same words Elisha cried out when Elijah was taken from him in a whirlwind to Heaven. It’s a complimentary title which tries to acknowledge how essential and influential a man has been to his nation. But coming from idol worshiping Jehoash, it sounds like a bunch of hogwash. If he’s sorry to see Elisha go, it’s only because he was hoping to milk a few miracles out of the old man. Jehoash doesn’t really care about Yahweh or His prophets.
There’s time for one more prophetic word, so Elisha tells the king to get a bow and some arrows and then shoot one arrow out of a window. It sounds strange, but Jehoash has nothing else to do, so he does it.
“Open the east window,” he said, and the king opened it. “Shoot!” Elisha said, and the king shot. “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” Elisha declared. “You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek [A-feck].” (2 Ki. 13:17)
Well, that was a profitable little exercise. Now Elisha tells the king to take a handful of arrows and start hitting them on the ground. Jehoash gives them three good whacks. Then Elisha gets mad at him.
“You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.” (2 Ki. 13:19)
Alrighty then. If Jehoash had known all the rules of the game up front, he would have kept on whacking. But prophets are known for being hard to track and now the arrow games are over. Elisha dies and is buried and we feel like a really bright light has just been snuffed out.
But then, as if trying to perk us up a bit, the Kings author tells us a little side story about Elisha’s bones. One time some Israelites are heading out to bury someone when they spot a band of raiders. In a hurry to duck out of sight, they throw their dead friend into Elisha’s tomb. As soon as the corpse comes in contact with the prophet’s bones, the man comes back to life and stands up. Well. Here we find the dead raising the dead. That’s pretty hard to top. Yahweh loves showing off.
Hazael king of Aram oppressed Israel throughout the reign of Jehoahaz. But Yahweh was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of His Covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day He has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from His Presence. (2 Ki. 13:22-23)
The author of Kings is compiling his list of records from the far and distant future. He lives long after both Israel and Judah have been destroyed by Yahweh and all the Jews have been dispersed to many other nations. As he reflects back over Israel’s unceasing rebellion against God, he concludes that it’s only because Yahweh is so gracious that there are any Jews left. Well, that and the fact that Yahweh loves exalting Himself by fulfilling prophecies centuries after giving them. Back in Period 1 (Genesis), God promised an old and childless Abraham that one day his descendants (the Jews) would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. He also promised that the whole world would be blessed through Abraham. It will be Christ who figuratively fulfills that promise. As an apparent descendant of Abraham, Christ will atone for the sins of the whole world, establish the New Covenant, and give people the opportunity to receive eternal salvation long before they die. Wow. We can’t get much more blessed than that.
At last wicked Hazael dies in Aram and we’re told that his son Ben-Hadad [BEN-huh-dad] succeeds him. Ben-Hadad was also the name of the king who lived before Hazael—the one that Hazael smothered to death so that he could seize the throne. What kind of a man names his son after a guy that he murdered? Creepy. We’re glad to see Hazael go.
As soon as Hazael is dead, Jehoash gets out his chariot and reclaims much of the land he had lost. He wages war three times and wins three times—just as Yahweh said he would do through the mouth of His prophet Elisha.
AMAZIAH, King of Judah
While Jehoash is worshiping golden cows in the north, Joash’s son Amaziah [am-uh-ZI-uh] takes the throne in the south. Joash was only seven years old when someone plunked him down on the throne, but his son has had a chance to grow up a little more before taking on regal responsibilities. Amaziah is twenty-five years old and he starts off good. He really cares about pleasing Yahweh…sort of. He doesn’t care enough to rip down all the idol shrines that are peppering his kingdom. He doesn’t care enough to stop the people from bringing their sacrifices to these places and paying homage to a bunch of ugly statues. Are you picking up on the theme of fickle devotion? It’s the old “I’ll serve You as long as it’s not too inconvenient and it doesn’t require too much work. But don’t expect me to really make You first in my life.” Sound familiar? It should, because the Bride of Christ is giving God the same guff today. Keep the Church in the back of your mind as you read through the Old Testament because you’re going to find many similarities between how Christians treat their Gods today and how Yahweh’s chosen people treated Him before the revelation of Christ. Yahweh changed His Covenant with us, but unfortunately we haven’t done much to improve our treatment of Him. So as much as we like to pretend that God’s wrath just isn’t “relevant” for Christians today—yes, it is. We’re just as bad as ancient Israel was, and God still uses the same methods of discipline.
WAR WITH EDOM
By now, we’ve read about many occasions in which the kings of Judah and Israel joined forces to help each other out against a common enemy. Wanting to beat up the troublesome Edomites [E-doe-mites], Amaziah fears his army isn’t big enough, so he hires 100,000 buff warriors from Israel to help him. The men troop down, receive their payment, and just when everyone’s amped up to fight, along comes a prophet who tells Amaziah to send the hired men home because Yahweh isn’t with Israel.
But a man of God came to him and said, “Your Majesty, these troops from Israel must not march with you, for Yahweh is not with Israel—He’s not with any of the people of Ephraim [EH-frum]. Even if you go and fight courageously in battle, God will overthrow you before the enemy, for God has the power to help or to overthrow.”
Amaziah asked the man of God, “But what about the hundred talents I paid for these Israelite troops?”
The man of God replied, “Yahweh can give you much more than that.” (2 Chron. 25:7-9)
Well, Amaziah doesn’t want to lose, so he sends the Israelite warriors packing. How insulting! The Israelite soldiers are furious. Storming home, they wait until Amaziah is caught up in his war and then they start raiding small towns and villages in Judah just to make themselves feel better. It’s all about pride.
Marching off to battle with just his own army, Amaziah chops down 10,000 Edomites, then leads 10,000 more of them up to the top of a cliff where his men shove them over one by one to get dashed apart on the rocks below. Yuck. Is it really necessary to drag things out like this? It takes more than a few minutes to shove 10,000 men over the edge of a cliff. The people in the Bible are such barbarians! Oh, but wait, so are we. Today we spend countless hours of our lives filming violent movies and writing sick war games just so we can all sit around enjoying the thrill of vicariously beating people up and killing them in slow, torturous ways. So when we read about barbaric acts in the Bible, we’re really just looking into a mirror that is reflecting right back at us the sick desires that lurk in every human being. Turn the clock back a few millennia, give us a sword, inject us with some fierce patriotism, and we’d be shoving those Edomites off the cliff too and being darn proud of it. How desperately we need God to save us from ourselves.
Returning from war with Edom, Amaziah is excited about the spoils he’s brought back with him. Since he has just experienced an up close and personal demonstration of how totally superior Yahweh is over the idols of Edom, it makes perfect sense for him to bring Edomite idols back from the war with him, set them up in Jerusalem, and bow down to worship them, right? What is wrong with this man??
Then the anger of Yahweh burned against Amaziah, and He sent him a prophet who said to him, “Why do you turn to gods who could not even save their own people from you?”
But the king interrupted him and said, “Since when have I made you the king’s counselor? Be quiet now before I have you killed!”
So the prophet stopped with this warning: “I know that God has determined to destroy you because you have done this and have refused to accept my counsel.” (2 Chron. 25:15-16)
Well, Amaziah might have started off alright, but look at how he’s turned against Yahweh–what a yuck!
JUDAH ATTACKS ISRAEL
Feeling quite cocky after his massive victory over Edom, Amaziah sends a provoking message to Jehoash in Israel that says:
“Come, let us face each other in battle.”
But Jehoash king of Israel replied to Amaziah king of Judah: “A thistle in Lebanon sent a message to a cedar in Lebanon, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage.’ Then a wild beast in Lebanon came along and trampled the thistle underfoot. You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant. Glory in your victory, but stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?” (2 Ki. 14:8-10)
What does this little tyke in the south think he’s doing? First he publicly humiliates Jehoash’s warriors, and now he has the audacity to think he can beat Jehoash’s whole army. Well Jehoash isn’t going to play his stupid games. But when Amaziah won’t take no for an answer and marches his army into Israel’s territory, Jehoash has no choice but to fight back. Much to his delight, Yahweh gives Israel a sweeping victory and Jehoash even captures his rival alive. Then, just to teach the punk a lesson, Jehoash goes to Jerusalem, smashes down a large section of its protective wall, then he cleans out both the Temple and the royal palace of all its treasures and hauls the booty back to Samaria. He also takes a bunch of Judeans hostage. So there. Care to mess with Israel again, Amaziah?
The people of Judah don’t appreciate some of the poor decisions their cocky king is making, so they conspire to kill him in Jerusalem. Amaziah finds out and flees. The people hunt him down and kill him. Exit Amaziah.
JEROBOAM II, King of Israel
Before Amaziah is murdered in Judah, Jehoash dies in the north and his son Jeroboam II [JAIR-ro-BO-um] succeeds him. Well, here’s a name that doesn’t inspire confidence, and our author really has nothing good to say about this new king. Jeroboam II worships the golden cow gods, he’s a wicked jerk, and the only good thing that happens during his reign is that Yahweh allows him to drive out some of Israel’s oppressors. We’re told that the people of Israel were suffering greatly, so God in His mercy allowed Jeroboam II to reclaim some of his territory and restore some of Israel’s original boundaries. Then we’re told that this reclaiming of territory fulfilled a prediction that the prophet Jonah had made in Yahweh’s Name. This is the same Jonah we learned about in our previous lesson—the one who threw a hissy fit when God decided to have mercy and not wipe Nineveh off the map. Jonah is hanging around Israel giving prophecies there as well, but we don’t hear any more about him after this brief mention in 2 Kings 14.
AMOS, God’s Prophet
It’s during the reign of Jeroboam II that a new prophet rises up in Judah and travels up into Israel preaching messages of doom. His name is Amos, and he was just minding his own business as a shepherd when he started getting some wild visions from Yahweh. The visions and their accompanying messages are so intense, that Amos has to speak out. And so he does—with great boldness.
“Yahweh roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds dry up, and the top of Mount Carmel withers.” (Amos 1:2)
We soon learn that Yahweh is ticked at more nations than just Israel and Judah. Aram is first on His verbal hit list. Aram is Israel’s northern neighbor which is now being ruled by Hazael’s son Ben-Hadad. Although God used Hazael as His weapon of discipline against Israel, the wicked Hazael was not at all trying to assist God in furthering His Divine plan. Hazael and his son butchered Israelites for their own selfish gain, and it is their foul heart attitudes that have gotten them in trouble with Yahweh.
Remember that in these times, every war was a god war. So by attacking Israel, the Arameans have consciously been attacking Yahweh Himself—and winning, as far as they are concerned. As they force chunks of Israel’s territory to live under their oppressive rule, they treat the Israelites barbarically. Now Yahweh is telling Aram that He is going to use their own methods against them. He will bring in another nation—Assyria—to defeat their capital city of Damascus [duh-MASS-cuss] and haul the Arameans [AIR-uh-ME-ins] off into exile.
“So I will send a fire of war, conquest, and destruction upon the house of Hazael which will devour the palaces and strongholds of Ben-hadad. I will break down the gate of Damascus; I will destroy the king who is in the Valley of Aven [“Wickedness”] and the one who holds the scepter in Beth-Eden. The people of Aram will be exiled to Kir,” says Yahweh. (Amos 1:4-5)
We’ll learn later on in Amos that Kir [KURR] to the Arameans is like Egypt to the Israelites—it was an oppressive place that God once brought their people out of, and now He’s going to send them back there. This prophecy will be fulfilled in 2 Kings 16 when King Tiglath-pileser [TIGG-lath-pill-EE-zer] of Assyria will sack Damascus as a favor to the king of Judah…but that’s still a few kings away.
The next nation God speaks against through Amos is Philistia [fill-IS-tee-uh]. He charges her with attacking villages along Judah’s border and hauling people off to be sold as slaves. As a reward for this cruelty, God is going to drive the Philistines into extinction.
The city of Tyre [TIRE] is also in trouble for selling captives to Edom as slaves. Yahweh says that He will burn that city with fire.
Edom is in trouble for ruthlessly attacking Judah and showing no mercy. Yahweh will burn Edom’s cities as well and destroy the whole nation.
Ammon [AM-on] is in trouble for ripping open pregnant women during raids into Israel’s eastern territory (a region known as Gilead). Yahweh says He will crush Ammon using foreign invaders who will drag her king off to exile.
And that’s just Chapter 1. The book of Amos is nine chapters long. With all the bloodshed that’s been happening in Israel and Judah, it’s easy to feel like Yahweh isn’t noticing or caring about what is happening to the regular people in these nations. It’s the nobodies who are getting plundered, assaulted, killed, and dragged off into slavery while kings wage wars with each other. Who is going to come to their defense? Through the mouth of His prophet Amos, Yahweh confirms that He’s been keeping track of the injustices in both large cities and small border villages. The wrongs will be avenged.
While the main focus of the Bible is on Israel and Judah, we need to remember that God loves all people, so of course He cares about the crimes being done between other nations as well. The Moabites, for example, attacked the Edomites and burned the king of Edom’s bones to ashes. This was considered a highly insulting and hateful act in these times—the superstitious ancient peoples frowned on cremation.
“Because he burned the bones of Edom’s king to ashes, I will send fire on Moab that will consume the fortresses of Kerioth [CARE-ee-oth]. Moab will go down in great tumult amid war cries and the blast of the trumpet. I will destroy her ruler and kill all of his officials,” says Yahweh. (Amos 2:1-3)
And now, God hones in on Judah. Judah is in really big trouble. Judah knows better.
“They have despised and rejected the law of Yahweh and have not kept His commandments. They have been led astray by false gods, the gods their ancestors followed. Therefore I will send fire on Judah that will consume the fortresses of Jerusalem.” (Amos 2:4-5)
And as for Israel—she’s just as bad.
“They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. A man and his father have sexual relations with the same maiden and so profane My holy Name. They lay themselves down beside every pagan altar upon clothes that they have taken in pledge for indebtedness, and in the House of their God they frivolously drink wine which has been exacted from those unjustly fined.” (Amos 2:6-8)
Now God reminds all of the little jerks who it was that freed them from slavery and brought them to the land they now have.
“It was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt, and I led you in the wilderness forty years so that you could take possession of the land of the Amorites. Then I raised up some of your sons to be prophets and some of your young men to be Nazirites. Is this not so, O sons of Israel?” declares Yahweh. “But you made the Nazirites drink wine, and you told the prophets, ‘You shall not prophesy!’” (Amos 2:10-12)
Nazirites were people who made special vows to be set apart as Yahweh’s. They had to abide by extra rules, one of which was to never drink wine. A modern parallel here would be taking a Christian who has made a vow not to drink in order to honor God and then forcing him to guzzle beer. The Jews in both the north and the south have intentionally attacked, harassed, and prohibited God’s most dedicated people from honoring Him in public ways. They tell the prophets to stuff it, they force the Nazirites to break their vows, and for what reason? Because they hate Yahweh.
“I will crush you like a cart that crushes when it’s loaded with grain. The swift will not escape, the strong will not muster their strength, and the warrior will not save his life. The archer will not stand his ground, the fleet-footed soldier will not get away, and the horseman will not save his life. Even the bravest warriors will flee naked on that day,” declares Yahweh. (Amos 2:13-16)
Remember that God has already prophesied that one day the northern kingdom of Israel would be destroyed because of Jeroboam’s outrageous act of creating two golden calf gods and then giving those lifeless lumps of metal the glory for things that Yahweh had done.
“As a shepherd rescues from the lion’s mouth only two leg bones of his sheep or only a piece of an ear, so will the Israelites living in Samaria be rescued, with only the head of a bed and a piece of fabric from a couch.”
“Hear this and testify against the descendants of Jacob,” declares Yahweh, the Lord God Almighty.
“On the day I punish Israel for her sins, I will destroy the altars of Bethel; the horns of the altar will be cut off and fall to the ground.” (Amos 3:12-14)
Bethel was one of Israel’s main centers of worship–and also the home of one of those hideous golden cows. This total destruction language might sound harsh, but let’s be fair: Yahweh has tried everything to reach these people.
“I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to Me,” declares Yahweh. “I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away. I sent rain on one town, but withheld it from another. One field had rain; another had none and dried up. People staggered from town to town for water but did not get enough to drink, yet you have not returned to Me. I smote you with scorching wind and mildew; and the palmerworm was devouring your many gardens and vineyards, fig trees and olive trees; yet you have not returned to Me.” (Amos 4:6-9)
Why are nations today struck with severe famines and droughts? Why do plagues of insects form and wreak havoc on a nation’s food supply? Yahweh tells us why in the Bible. He creates these hardships to get our attention—to make us so desperate that we’ll stop with the games and start sincerely seeking Him.
“I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of bodies in your camps, yet you have not returned to Me,” declares Yahweh. “I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire, yet you have not returned to Me. Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.”
For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind, He who reveals His thoughts to mankind, He who makes dawn into darkness and treads on the high places of the earth, Yahweh, God Almighty, is His Name. (Amos 4:10-13)
We can just picture Amos roaming through the land, preaching God’s messages of doom and attracting large crowds of listeners.
Like many prophets, Amos urges the people to repent while there is still time.
“Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then Yahweh, God Almighty, will be with you, just as you say He is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps Yahweh, God Almighty, will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.” (Amos 5:14-15)
Notice how the people are already claiming that Yahweh is for them, even though in reality He is utterly disgusted with their behavior. How often we Christians do this today as well—claiming the support and favor of God while we go through hypocritical religious motions and embrace rebellion in our hearts.
“I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to Me. Even though you bring Me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:21-24)
It’s better not to worship God at all than to give Him a bunch of lip service. God despises it when we sit around trying to butter Him up with our songs and offerings. They are a putrid stench to Him—a revolting show. God wants sincerity.
“I loathe and despise the pride and false, futile glory of Jacob. I hate his palaces and strongholds. I will deliver up the idol-worshiping city of Samaria with all that is in it.” (Amos 6:8)
When God speaks through human lips, His words pierce deep into the soul. The people are getting very upset by this shepherd-turned-prophet. Someone needs to stifle him. A priest named Amaziah who works in Bethel is particularly irritated by all the ruckus Amos is stirring up in his city so he sends a message to King Jeroboam II saying that Amos is a dirty conspirator:
“Amos is saying: ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword and Israel will certainly go from its land into exile.’” (Amos 7:11)
While he’s waiting for his nastygram to get some attention, Amaziah confronts the prophet directly and tells him to shut up and get out.
Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”
Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I took care of sycamore-fig trees. But Yahweh took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.’ Now then, hear the word of Yahweh:
You say, “‘Do not prophesy against Israel, and stop preaching against the descendants of Isaac.’
Therefore this is what Yahweh says to you: “‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword. Your land will be measured and divided up, and you yourself will die in a pagan country. And Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.’” (Amos 7:12-17)
By running his mouth, Amaziah has brought a curse against himself and his family. Attack God’s prophets, and you are attacking God Himself. Now let’s be very clear: this principle only applies when you’re attacking God’s legitimate prophets—not the pompous windbags who go around calling themselves His prophets when in reality they’re just speaking for Satan.
UZZIAH, King of Judah
While Jeroboam II is conquering land and worshiping cows in the north and Amos is going around preaching imminent disaster, Amaziah’s son Uzziah [yu-ZYE-uh] (aka Azariah [azz-uh-RYE-uh]) takes the throne in the south. Uzziah is another young one—only sixteen years old when the people chop down his father and place a crown on his head. He will be our longest reigning king yet—a whole fifty-two years. We’re told that he starts off well just as his father had, doing what was right in Yahweh’s eyes. We’re told that he continues to do well as long as his mentor—a reverent man named Zechariah—is around to keep him on the straight and narrow.
Whew! We’ve been talking about a lot of kings in this lesson. Let’s review where we’re at:
So what will happen when Zechariah dies? Will Uzziah turn evil? Will we ever get a decent king in the north (and maybe even one whose name doesn’t start with J)? And what’s with these rumors that are circulating about some guy named Hosea who married a prostitute and is now giving his children weird names? Is there another prophet in our midst?
Click here for all the lessons in this series.