“Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil [calamities, disasters] in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:6-7)
Through Amos the Lord foretold a speedy coming doomsday, a time of trouble and retribution, upon Judah, Israel and the adjoining nations. The principal focus of the prophecy, however, is against Israel, the ten tribes, and Judah, the two tribes, collectively the Lord’s covenanted people, the seed of Abraham.
Amos, whose home was in Judah, went under the Lord’s direction into the territory occupied by the ten tribes to deliver to them the Lord’s message. Among other things, the message pointed out that the families of Israel (all twelve tribes) constituted God’s peculiar people; that He had brought them out of Egypt; and that He had overseen their affairs to their favor. He even declares of them, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:2-3)
The Lord had made Himself known to no other nation, had recognized no other nation, had made a covenant with no other nation, had given His laws to no other nation. Consequently, this nation, Israel (in its two parts), had a special responsibility. Nevertheless, instead of God’s favor making them loyal of heart to Him, they had continually resisted His favor, and were not even faithful as eye-servants. The reason for this was because they were not in harmony with the Lord; their hearts were really in harmony with sin and wickedness.
The Lord wished them to see clearly that the judgments about to come upon them, like their previous judgments, were not by chance but of divine providence. Consequently, the message of Amos is likened to a trumpet of alarm, announcing the dire catastrophes that shortly would come. The announcement was not made with the objective of bringing about repentance, but so the people might know that the things coming were judgments and not accidents, that His people might know and profit by the chastisements and experiences and recognize them as coming from the Lord’s hand.
Not all disasters which afflict mankind from time to time are of divine providence; that is, they are not judgments sent by the Lord. On the contrary, we believe that, so far as the world of mankind in general is concerned, natural disasters, epidemics etc. are merely a matter of chance. We do not consider these beyond divine control or foreknowledge; however, we do consider that in general they are the natural operations of the divine laws and regulations, which at the present time are not under special regulation for man’s comfort and welfare.
Yet there are marked instances in which the Lord has evidently interceded to bring calamities upon certain nations as chastisements, for their correction. The United States Civil War, which resulted in the freeing of millions of slaves, is such an instance. Without question, God has made use of wars and human selfishness to awaken certain nations at various times, and to let in the light of civilization. All this does not prove that war is right, any more than it proves that pestilence and famine are desirable; but these things show us how God is able and willing to use even the wrath and the selfishness of man in the present time, and to overrule the effects indirectly for good, in harmony with His plan.
God dealt differently with fleshly Israel, the natural seed of Abraham. His special covenant with this one particular nation ensured that nothing would happen to them by chance. Under the Law Covenant (Lev. 26), the seed of Abraham was to be God’s peculiar people, devoted to His service and He was to be peculiarly their God, careful of their interests. As long as they would be faithful to God, no calamity could befall them personally or nationally; they would be spared from wars and disasters, spared from famines and pestilences. They would prosper in proportion to their faithfulness to their covenant. If unfaithful, they would not only be subject to the same accidents of nature as the remainder of the world, God would also assuredly bring upon them special judgments, chastisements, and calamities of every kind, both as individuals and as a nation.
This is clearly stated to be the Lord’s rule for dealing with them, and it was to this covenant that they gave their assent at Sinai. Consequently, their failure to keep that covenant made it to them a curse, a greater burden and disadvantage than rested upon the other nations of the world, with whom God had made no covenant, and to whom He had extended no promises, they being “strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” (Eph. 2:12)
Whatever calamities, disasters, troubles (evils, pestilences, etc.), they suffered were to be sure proof to them that God was again chastising them for violation of their covenant with Him. He names various chastisements visited upon them: hunger, lack of rain, blights of mildew and palmer worms in their gardens and vineyards, plagues of pestilence such as He visited upon Egypt, loss of men’s lives in war. Despite this, “Yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.” (Amos 4:6-10)
Many in Israel were in a very ease-loving and self-satisfied condition. Many of them abounded in wealth, and drank excessively of the wine of earthly pleasure and extravagance. They were not anxious to praise and worship God, nor were they anxious to assist the poor. They were intemperately selfish, and hence hastened the judgments to come upon them, the evil days of their captivity and overthrow as a nation. Their sin of intemperance did not consist solely of literal drunkenness, but rather a drunkenness of greed, by which many of the influential were inclined to swallow up the poor and needy. This is evident from the Lord’s words of reproof:
“Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them. For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right. Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.” (Amos 5:11-13)
“Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah [measure] small, and the shekel [price] great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat? The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works. Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwelleth therein?” (Amos 8:4-6)
PARALLELS TO CURRENT CONDITIONS
While this prophecy evidently applied specifically to natural Israel, the Prophets, the Apostles and our Lord Jesus applied similar statements to nominal antitypical Israel, Christendom. The prophecy brings to mind the judgments pronounced upon Christendom, “Babylon the Great,” which are to come in the end of this age. And as we compare the conditions, now and then, it strengthens the thought that the words of Amos have to some extent a double application.
We find conditions today similar to those described by the Prophet: “Woe to them that are at ease in [nominal] Zion…. That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches…” (Amos 6:1,4) Many are boasting of their prosperity, symbolically resting upon beds of ivory. They are at ease, trusting that the nominal church is being carried forward along a new pathway unknown to the Master and the Apostles, a pathway that is neither narrow nor difficult, but broad and pleasant and leading to the conquest of the world.
The wealthy are often members of nominal Zion, or at least liberal supporters of her arrangements, services, etc., and she in turn boasts of her wealth: “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” Yet, the Lord says, “Knowest not that thou are wretched, and miserable and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Rev. 3:17) Nominal spiritual Zion of today does not believe the announcement of calamities coming upon her in the “day of vengeance” just as those who were prospering and at ease in nominal fleshly Zion did not believe the message of Amos.
The Bible record indicates how unacceptable the message of Amos was to the priests of Israel: “Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words [he is disturbing the peace of those who are at ease in Zion]… Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there: But prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court.” (Amos 7:10-13)
But Amos was faithful in declaring God’s message and was not deterred into silence. Likewise, those today who understand God’s Word are instructed regarding the things that are shortly to come to pass upon nominal spiritual Israel and are not to hold their peace. “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.” (Prov. 29:25)
In this prophecy of Amos, the Lord points out that the wrath He was about to permit to come upon Israel as chastisements would nevertheless work out for them a blessing, and that in His due time He would bring them back again into harmony with Himself, under more favorable conditions than in the past. We are not only to believe the portion of this prophecy foretelling calamity, which we see has already been executed upon Israel in fullest measure. We are also to believe the features of it which are favorable to Israel – the future blessings. For instance, we see how literally this prediction has been fulfilled:
“Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the Lord. For lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.” (Amos 9:8-9) While Israel was to be destroyed as a nation, the people of the nation were to be preserved as a separate people from others.
The Lord God thus shows His continued supervision of Israel, according to the covenant made with them. And how accurately this has been fulfilled: the Israelites as a people have been scattered throughout the whole earth, yet they have not lost their identity; as a nation they were utterly destroyed, yet unlike every other nation, they have preserved their national identity, and have not been mixed and blended with the world in general.
And if this feature of the prophecy has been accurately fulfilled today before our eyes, we certainly have every reason to believe that the remainder of the prophecy, the portion that applies to the times of restitution, will be just as accurately fulfilled. After the true spiritual Israel has been selected, natural Israel will be brought back into covenant relationship with God, becoming the earthly agent of the spiritual Kingdom for blessing, instructing and restoring the families of the earth, under the terms of the New Covenant. This is set forth in the closing words of the prophecy, and we can clearly see signs that its fulfillment has begun:
“In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this… And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.” (Amos 9:11-15)
In the New Testament this prophecy is quoted by the Apostle James. (Acts 15:16-17) It is also in full accord with the words of the Apostle Paul, who shows that divine favor will return to natural Israel after spiritual Israel has been developed as the true seed of Abraham, through Christ. (Rom. 11:1-32)
THE FALL OF THE TEN TRIBES RECORDED IN KINGS
While Amos prophesied of Israel’s fall, giving some of the reasons for it, in Kings we find an historical account of its fall and further details on its causes. (2 Kings 17) At the divinely appointed time, the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel was utterly overwhelmed by the kingdom of Assyria and deported to the lands under Assyrian control, while other peoples conquered by the Assyrians were settled in their place in the land of Israel.
For many centuries Israel, the ten-tribe kingdom, was extremely perverse. Their perversion was considered more reprehensible than that of the surrounding nations because of the greater privileges, blessings, knowledge and opportunities which the Lord had granted to them as the inheritors of the great Oath-bound Covenant made to Abraham and confirmed to Isaac and Jacob. Other nations (the heathen) were not specially chastised for idolatry as was Israel, but were allowed to take practically whatever course they chose. The Apostle Paul explains that because the people of these other nations did not wish to retain God in their minds, He gave them over to “a reprobate mind,” to do improper things. (Rom. 1:28)
The captivity of Israel should be viewed from this same standpoint: it was God’s abandonment of the ten-tribe kingdom, His permission for them to have their way and henceforth be treated as the heathen, without special chastisement. It was in this sense and in this sense only that those tribes were “lost.” Relocated in various parts of Assyria, they gradually assimilated with the population surrounding them, and lost their identity as Israelites, intermarrying with their neighbors.
The Israelites recognized that God had chosen them to be His special and peculiar people. While they were quite willing to be His special people, and to have His special favor, they seemingly did not wish to be His peculiar people. They were willing to be peculiar only in the sense of having a peculiar or special deliverance from Egypt, and peculiar or special manifestations of divine favor. They were willing for God to subdue their enemies; they were willing for Him to bring them into the land of promise, dividing the land among the tribes. They were willing to be His peculiar people as long as they had the hope that God would continue to marvelously and miraculously lead them, as long they were satisfied with their condition.
They did not realize that if they were as a people to be fit to be used of the Lord as His Kingdom, through whom He would operate to bring the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant to all the families of the earth, they must not only be peculiarly or specially treated by the Lord, but they must also be peculiarly responsive to His commandments and statutes.
Because Israel had a tendency to copy after the nations around them, when they found themselves restricted and restrained as God’s people they did not relish this peculiarity, this difference from the world. When they found that deviations from God’s commandments were punished, they rebelled. They looked for an excuse for their rebellion, becoming skeptical, doubting that their experiences were in any sense or degree under the supervision of the Lord. Their unbelieving evil hearts looked at the nations around them and saw that those who worshiped pagan gods had greater national prosperity than Israel, for whom God had declared special care.
The Israelites began to feel that there were other, different gods. While they still believed that their God must indeed be respected and placated, they evidently hoped to gain something of national greatness by the worship of the heathen deities, which they believed blessed other nations. While their God, Yahweh, had charge of them, commanded their obedience, and punished them for disobedience, nevertheless His promised blessings upon their nation were largely yet to be fulfilled.
First they were dissatisfied with the divinely arranged government. While they had liberty, more than the other nations surrounding them, the very fact that this liberty was not common or general, but rather unusual, caused them to desire that they might have a king like the other nations around them. (1 Sam. 8:5) God pointed out to them the advantages of the peculiar condition under which He had placed them, but nevertheless granted their request, and gave them kings, Saul being the first, followed by David, then Solomon.
With King Solomon’s reign came a spirit of broadmindedness or public policy. Solomon desired to be popular with neighboring kings and to be considered broadminded in religious matters. This led him to establish, for the benefit of foreigners at his court and his foreign wives, the religious customs and ceremonies common to foreign nations. This spread among the people and led to a laxness of views on the worship of the true God. It led to the thought that everyone should have some kind of a religion, but that each should be at liberty to choose for himself, or to blend elements of the various religions.
Later, after the split off of the ten tribes from Judah, Jeroboam, king of the ten tribes, took advantage of the liberal religious views to thoroughly engraft upon the people a false worship. This false worship was the cause of Israel’s further decline, and its ultimate fall: “And they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made them molten images… Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight…” (2 Kings 17:16-18)
Israel favored the false religions, and practiced them secretly, hypocritically building the altars of sacrifice to the false gods, and establishing the false worship in all their cities and villages, under the pretense that they were doing this in the service of the true God. (2 Kings 17:9) They were claiming, and probably to some extent deceiving themselves with the thought, that they were becoming more religious, more zealous, more holy. While formerly only the one city of Jerusalem was set apart for divine worship, where the sin-offerings and sacrifices for sin were made, these various altars of worship in every city were seen as evidence of increased religious zeal.
FURTHER PARALLELS TO TODAY
Israel’s tendency to secretly or hypocritically introduce false worship corresponds with the tendency of Christendom today. There are many today who persuade themselves that in multiplying programs and ceremonies, in building elegant churches, and in engaging finer choirs and other musical entertainment, in multiplying meetings, and in publicly showing an outward display, they are increasing in godliness, holiness, and becoming more religious. How important that we learn the lesson that “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22); that is, we are not brought near to God by outward show, but by strict heed of His Word. These attempts on the part of humanity do not produce a sweet fragrance of incense to the Lord, but rather an offence. Every step taken contrary to the divine leading is a step away from the Lord, no matter how we may deceive ourselves or others with false arguments.
Israel’s worship of idols also finds its counterpart today. The idols of the present time are known by different names from those of olden times. Some of the idols most worshiped today are popularity, wealth, fame, self, our denomination, and our church. There are very few indeed who have no other gods than the one true God.
The Lord sent repeated warnings and reproofs to Israel through Elijah, Elisha, Amos and others. To us He speaks by a still higher authority, and in still more forceful language: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.” (Heb. 1:1-2) Nevertheless, just as many who heard the Prophets of old were careless, so today many are careless of the voice of the Son of God, and of His special messengers, the Apostles, and are failing to receive the blessing now due.
Natural Israel succumbed to seductions which hindered them from receiving divine instructions. (2 Kings 17:15-17) They loved the present rewards of unrighteousness more than they loved the rewards of righteousness promised for the future. They sold themselves to do evil by seeking and accepting the rewards of evil acts; as for instance, when King Ahab was pleased to receive the vineyard of Naboth, although it came to him as the result of dishonesty and murder. (1 Kings 21) The Prophet Elijah said to Ahab, “Thou hast sold thyself to work evil.” (1 Kings 21:20) He temporarily possessed the thing he desired, but it brought with it a curse which rested not only upon himself but upon his throne.
And so it was also with the rank and file Israelites. Their general desire for self-gratification, with its unsatisfactory fruits, caused them the loss of divine favor. We are also told they used divination and enchantments; they communicated with the fallen angels (“familiar spirits”), operating through mediums, witches, wizards, necromancers, who pretended to impersonate the dead and to reveal the secrets of the future. All of this was in violation of God’s statues. (Deu. 18:10-11)
A willful disposition and dissatisfaction with God’s arrangements naturally leads people into these delusions; it leads them to seek knowledge of the future from some other source, that they might override, if possible, the operations of God’s providence in favor of their own self-will. This same spirit is present today, and in many instances leads people in the same direction, to consult through spiritualist mediums the same fallen angels, demons, who now, as then, attempt to impersonate the dead. The result now, as then, is that those who are discontented with God’s arrangements and thus seeking in a wrong direction for light and leading are in danger of being led further and further away from God’s Word, the only true revelation, the only true prophecy.
We are told that in the fervor of their misplaced religious zeal the Israelites caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, as sacrifices to Moloch. (2 Kings 17:17) It was not that they were devoid of parental love; rather they esteemed such “religious” sacrifices a duty. Many today are likewise misled by false teachings, and by the mixture of paganism with the divine revelation. They have gotten to the place where they have similarly perverted ideas respecting the Lord and the sacrifice which would be pleasing to Him. They have come to think of the Almighty as a ferocious deity, who would take pleasure in the everlasting torture of the children of men.
The modern Moloch, ignorantly worshiped by many professed spiritual Israelites today, is far more terrible than was the Moloch of olden times, for the children who were then burned did have an end of tortures, while according to the theories prevalent today in Christendom, they worship a Moloch who will hopelessly torture his victims to all eternity. Just as the worship of Moloch in olden times tended to lead to degradation, toward brutality and heartlessness, so the tendency of the modern Moloch worship is in the same direction. He who thinks of God as brutal, unjust, and lacking compassion is unlikely to act and feel directly the opposite of this. The tendency of all is to copy after the character and disposition of their ideal God.
We see evidence that civilized people are becoming more compassionate and merciful, more sensitive to human rights. This can only be accounted for by the realization that the orthodox teachings of nominal Christianity, the teachings of modern day Moloch, are losing their power. Superstition and priest-craft are losing their influence. The Bible is also losing its power with many – because of its association in so many minds with the distasteful creeds of Christendom, and because of the modern day philosophy of “higher criticism.” Nevertheless, the spirit of its teachings – mercy, forgiveness, love – is widely recognized by both believers and unbelievers.
The reasons for Israel’s downward course are enumerated: (1) they rejected God’s statutes, His Law, His Word; (2) they lost sight of and neglected the covenant which He made with their fathers, losing faith in His promises; (3) they lost sight of His testimony as to what would be the result of forsaking His counsel; (4) they followed “vanity” (they acted foolishly rather than wisely), and as a result “went after” (copied) the heathen around them, desiring to be popular rather than “peculiar,” contrary to the Lord’s instructions. (2 Kings 17:15)
Today we find to the extent that antitypical nominal Israel has gone from the Lord, in theory and in practice, it has generally been as the result of not heeding the Lord’s Word, of being negligent of the promises which were set before spiritual Israel (the high calling, etc.), becoming foolish, in attempting to serve God and at the same time be popular with the world. The tendency to “do like them,” to do like the world in general, is the seductive point at which the great Adversary would divert us from being the Lord’s consecrated people.
Let us remember, in this connection, the Master’s words: “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” (John 15:19) The course of the consecrated is to be along wholly different lines from the course of the world.
The reasons for the fall of the Ten Tribes of Israel are similar to the reasons for Papacy’s fall. The faithful Israelites were sifted out and gathered into Judah; likewise God’s faithful people were generally gathered out of Papacy into Protestantism during the Reformation. But as Judah subsequently became similarly idolatrous and instituted Moloch worship, so Protestantism has failed to be faithful to God and is to fall as Judah fell.
(The above is based on Reprints 2356-59 and 3463)
 Israel (composed of all twelve tribes) was a unified kingdom under the reigns of Saul, David and Solomon, a period of 120 years (around 1050-930 BC). Because Solomon caused the people to worship pagan gods, the Lord warned him that the kingdom would be split. After the death of Solomon, the kingdom divided into two kingdoms, Israel (sometimes called Ephraim), composed of ten tribes, and Judah, composed of two tribes.
 Around 722 BC.