Amos 6:1-14
Return to True Security

Copyright 2013 (c) American Journal of Biblical Theology 
www.biblicaltheology.com     Scripture quotes from KJV


Amos was a prophet who preached prior to the destruction of the Northern kingdom of Israel prior to its destruction by Assyria.  At the time he writes, Jeroboam II is king, and the country is in a period of relative peace and prosperity.   The nation had expanded its boundaries to the limits set by the conquest of Canaan in the time of Joshua.  Though they were not a military power, and tiny compared with their militant neighbors, they thought they were the world’s superpower.  They were no immediate threat to their neighbors who were also little threat to them as their interests were elsewhere during this period of history.  During this time of peace the rich got richer and the poor got poorer as the wealthy exploited the less-powerful and poor in their quest for power, position, and property.  During this time they also failed to see their need for God as they depended upon themselves for their needs.  They moved further and further from God until they were at the point of no return.  The leaders of the nation were not intending on turning the nation back to God, so God determined to judge them in the manner similar to the past:  military defeat.  However, in this case, God determined that Israel would not survive as a nation.  Unlike the southern Kingdom of Judah that returned after exile under the reign of Cyrus, Israel did not get an opportunity to return.   God would scatter Israel.

This scenario does not sound much different than the greater population and governance of the United States of America at this time.  The U.S. originated as “One nation under God,” with freedom of religious expression at its core, and faith in God as its foundation.  Over the years liberal and godless politics have redefined the interpretation of the United States Constitution to allow the systematic persecution of religious expression in any area where there is any possibility of government influence.  A nation that once stood firmly for human rights in a world where rights were systematically violated now leads the world in the killing of unborn babies.  Like ancient Israel, the rich and powerful find their security in their power and possessions, despising the defenseless and ridiculing those who take an uncompromised stand for faith in the LORD, Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Israel turned its back on its faith in, and dependence upon God as the source of their security, much as the United States of America has done so today.  American federal government, and most state governments, no longer give much thought of, and certainly little to no dependence upon the LORD when decisions are made that effect the people and the principles that define our states and the nation.  Our coins still state, “In God We Trust,”[1] though many groups in America are trying to have that statement removed.[2],[3]  This is not a nation that trusts in God.  It trusts in its own prosperity, property, and strength.  Like Israel, many in the United States think of America as the world’s only superpower, one who cannot be challenged or seriously threatened from any source.

FALSE SECURITY FOUND IN STATUS

Amos 6:1. Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came!

Where is Zion? Though Amos is prophesying a warning that is specific to Israel, he also includes Judah in this argument, as he did once in chapter five.  Zion is the name of the mountain in Jerusalem where upon the Temple was built.  Consequently, those who seek to rebuild the temple on that hill are referred to today as “Zionists.”  Mount Samaria is in the northern nation of Israel.  Consequently, the indictment of complacency is directed at both the northern and southern nations. 

Those who are “at ease” are the leaders, the movers, and shakers of the nation.  How does Amos describe them?  It is obvious that Amos does not consider them notable, so his referring to them as such is a play on words that is a not-so-veiled insult.  He is stating that they are notable only in their own eyes, sincerely believing that they are better than everyone else and that they lead a sovereign nation that is better than every other.  Israel and Judah became to despise anyone who wasn’t them, harboring egregious prejudice against all others, eventually referring to them as “unclean” or untouchable.  Their prejudice was so much a part of their religious culture today that many Jews today are still aware of a policy within Israel that discourages “fraternization” with those outside of Judaism.  They became, not just the center of their own world, but considered themselves to be the center of the world.

These people are placing all of their confidence and security in the believed power and stability of their nation, Israel.  What will be the result of such a choice?  How much of our personal security do we get from our own country?  We may like to think that our government is so bloated and our judicial system is so slow that significant change is not possible.  However there are many different and quite possible types of events that could bring chaos to this, or any nation.  People feel secure when they are receiving their basic needs.  However, when those are taken away, chaos always ensues. 

This complacency-based arrogance is characteristic of our own nation where our security is wrapped up on our definition of who we are, believing that nothing will change our current state of comfort.  Recent economic events have been a humbling experience for many who place their confident security in their financial holdings.  Overvalued technology stocks swelled the financial markets to soaring heights, making many investors rich, only to quickly fall to their real value, creating a market that lost money.  This bubble burst was repeated in several instances over the years since as the same form of greed overestimated the value of real estate and understated the risks of borrowing.  Many investors lost great sums of money; many people lost their homes.

Amos 6:2. Pass ye unto Calneh, and see; and from thence go ye to Hamath the great: then go down to Gath of the Philistines: be they better than these kingdoms? or their border greater than your border?

The cities of Calneh, Hamath, and Gath were all large and prosperous pagan cities with powerful and historically successful armies that maintained the security of their own borders.  The first two were Aramaic cities on the far northern borders of Israel, and Gath was a city of Philistia, south of Judah.  Each had experienced their glory days when their strength was unchallenged.  Each later came to ruin as they faced God’s judgment upon them when they came against Israel many years before.  Amos shows that the national security of secular Israel was now no less tenuous than those other cities. 

This generation has seen the fall of major communist and socialist governments around the world, governments that criminalized the free expression of faith in God, and disallowed the use of the name of the LORD in any government activity.  This dissolution of socialism also left America as the most powerful military power on the globe.  Just as Israel thought they were the only power left, we often think the same in America.  Is our security better?  Because of their apostasy, God ordained the fall of Israel.  If God ordains the fall of this nation, nothing will stop it.

Placing our security upon our current status in this culture is a tenuous gamble at best, as that status can dramatically change, and can do so quite quickly.

FALSE SECURITY FOUND IN PROSPERITY

Amos 6:3. Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near;

What does it mean to “put off the evil day?”  The complacent Israelites have forgotten that there will be a day of judgment upon which they will all be subject.  The threat of eternal separation from God is not a part of their understanding, so it is not a part of their culture.  They do not feel that there is any accountability to the LORD for their behavior since they consider themselves fully righteous by their heritage and by their religious activities and status.  They believe that their continued peace and prosperity is a specific blessing from God, one that has been given to them as a testimony to their supposed righteousness.  They see calamity coming to somebody else, not them.  They are ignoring the warnings that God has given them and continue to live in disobedience to Him.  Such ignorance will bring about their destruction.

Their apathy, arrogance, and complacency resulted in their abandoning the protection of the LORD from the dynamics of their culture as they traded His Lordship over them for the intrigue that transpired between their surrounding nations.  This fallen world is a violent place where satan leads a reign of destruction, both temporal and eternal.  By leaving the LORD, they have invited into their lives the consequences of the sins that are expressed by this fallen world that they so fully embrace.  They have invited sin and violence into their lives, and are receiving the consequences of it.  The fulfilled expression of that sin will ultimately overthrow them. 

Amos 6:4.  That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall;

They sleep on opulent ivory-inlaid beds while the poor sleep on the hard and cold ground.  They have amassed their fortunes, and are fully engaged in the purchase of luxurious possessions, articles that have no real or eternal value, while those around them from whom they withhold their largess languish in poverty.  They have hoarded the best possessions for themselves. 

They eat the most expensive foods, meat from calves and lambs.  With the poor and hungry all around them, they kill the calves and lambs for their tender meat, instead of allowing the calves and lambs to grow to maturity, producing enough meat to provide for the needs of many people.  They have hoarded the best consumables for themselves.

Amos 6:5-6.  That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David; 6That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.

Rather than work, they spend their time in leisure, playing musical instruments and making up songs.  They consume wine to excess and adorn themselves with the most expensive cosmetics, jewelry, and clothing. 

Finding comfort, pleasure, and security in their possessions, they do not care at all for those around them who are suffering, nor do they concern themselves about the consequences that their godlessness will have on the future of their nation.  What have we replaced the ivory beds and harps with?  Most likely, lazy-boy recliners and a TV remote.  For the most rich it may be mansions, yachts, and expensive cars. 

Just like the degradation in spiritual focus that was characteristic of Israel, the last century has witnessed a similar, and dynamic, degradation.  We have seen a reduction in moral values, attacks upon religious freedom, a loss of respect for human life, and seen these values replaced with greed, consumerism, hedonism, and the continued destruction of the nuclear family as the foundation of our society.  Many behaviors that were “taboo” fifty years ago because of their egregious sinfulness are now, not only considered acceptable, but are being advanced to being “the new normal” and even heralded.  Just like ancient Israel, most of this world is either ignorant of the decline in the morals of our society, or supports it, denying any accountability for their arrogance.  Just as God preserved a remnant of Israel and Judah, there is a remnant in America that does grieve its ruination, with the predominant representation coming from the Christian church, a voice that is despised by most of the pagan and secular elite in our country.

The self-security of ancient Israel is also demonstrated in the overindulgence of its leadership.  Drinking wine by the bowlful is excessive, wasteful, and self-destructive.  They were becoming a society of alcoholics.  Anointing themselves with the finest and expensive lotions was simply another demonstration of opulence, much as is displayed by the rich elite in our world, often the targets of the “rich and famous” media coverage.  Overindulgence, and the worship of overindulgence, that is demonstrated by the success of the paparazzi, has become a pandemic in our nation.  Overindulgence at a personal level is particularly evident in the consumption of comforts that include entertainment and, of course, food.  Even this personal overindulgence is an indicator of one’s loss of focus upon the LORD.  A sincere desire for the LORD is replaced with a desire for the fulfillment of base desires without wise consideration of the consequences of that satiation.

DIVINE JUDGMENT

Amos 6:7. Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed.

Amos’ prophecy is quite accurate here.  When Assyria subsequently overran Israel it first took the wealthy and influential people into captivity, taking from them all of their precious possessions as spoils, and removing the leaders from influence so that it would be easier to control the remaining population.  Assyria did not take the poor into captivity or otherwise persecute them unless they were resisting Assyrian control.  The feasting and lounging of the complacent would be replaced by violence, destitution, prison, and cultural re-training.  Assyria would attempt to retrain them in the ways of their own nation so that they could return home and better represent the Assyrian empire.  Refusal to comply with retraining was met with torture and death.  Resistance was futile.

Amos 6:8-11. The Lord GOD hath sworn by himself, saith the LORD the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces: therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein. 9And it shall come to pass, if there remain ten men in one house, that they shall die. 10And a man’s uncle shall take him up, and he that burneth him, to bring out the bones out of the house, and shall say unto him that is by the sides of the house, Is there yet any with thee? and he shall say, No. Then shall he say, Hold thy tongue: for we may not make mention of the name of the LORD. 11For, behold, the LORD commandeth, and he will smite the great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts.

These verses picture the wrath of God and the total annihilation of Israel, the pride of Jacob.  There will be a tremendous amount of death, and those who survive will face the tortuous task of removing the piled corpses of their families.  Fear will be so widespread that the people will be reduced to silence, afraid that their simple mention of the Sovereign LORD will bring upon them a return of the wrath that they will then know they deserve.  Amos implies that the time for repentance is too late, that the LORD has already given the command.  We know that God does not destroy the faithful repentant, so it is clear that Amos’ prophecy is secure in the knowledge that the nation is not going to repent.

Where does our nation stand when placed before the throne of just judgment?  Is there a possibility that we are remaining to stand, only under a final judgment of destruction because our repentance, as a nation, will never occur?  We are not yet at the point where Christians cower, afraid to mention the name of the LORD for fear of torture and death.  However, even recent years have seen the systematic dissolution of opportunities to mention the name of the LORD in public places through laws that have been enacted by godless leadership, laws that are openly intended to stifle the message of grace, the message of who truly is the LORD of this land.  America has a very large Christian remnant that is praying and working to turn the nation back to God.  We should continue to pray for our leaders and support those public servants who maintain Christian values without compromise.

FALSE SECURITY FOUND IN ACCOMPLISHMENT

Amos 6:12. Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plow there with oxen? for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock:

Amos uses the metaphor of two absurd situations that describe the irrationality of their behavior.  The first refers to deliberately running horses over rocky crags, referring to rocky terrain with very deep crevasses.  To do so is quite impossible, and would serve only to kill the horses and destroy their load.  Likewise, it is also unreasonable to try to plow such a place.  Some translations interpret the place being plowed as the sea, likewise impossible.  By abusing what God has given them, Israel is making a mockery of justice and righteousness.  They used their courts to oppress the poor, bringing judgments that favor their own profit.  They defined righteousness as their legalistic adherence to temple law, without any regard to the attitude of their own heart, without regard to its impact on others, and without any regard for God.  Their righteousness, intended by God to be a savored sacrifice, became a poison that would condemn them to sure and utter destruction.

These two errors can serve to remind us to avoid being swept into error by the misapplication of justice and righteousness that is so well-defined in this sinful world, and to remain faithful to God, applying justice and righteousness in the manner that He intends:  in obedience to Him as His Word and the Holy Spirit leads, dispensing justice in unconditional love.  When we do so, we find that the basis for the application of justice and righteousness is love, agape love.  When either justice or righteousness is applied free of the influence of agape love, it is an error that is tantamount to poison.

Amos 6:13. Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength?

Using a play on words in the Hebrew, Amos describes how they have taken great pride in accomplishing nothing.  The “thing of naught” is the rendering of a Hebrew term that refers to a small city or region, LoDebar, that was conquered without any resistance.  No work or sacrifice was needed to accomplish the task, and nothing of value was obtained in the process, yet its destruction was lauded with great pride and pomp.  LoDebar, means, “of no value,” or “of nothing.”  The Israelites found great pride in the conquering a place of no value that took no effort of their own. 

Karnaim meant “horn,” such as a ram’s horn.  The horn symbolized strength.  However, horns were also used as trumpets to signal groups of people.  In this regard, Amos may be referring to the noise of a horn that signals power, but intrinsically has none.  Gideon won a battle by fooling his opponents into thinking he had a mighty army when each member of his 300-man “army” blew trumpets (horns).  The noise has no power; it is only a lot of noise.

Amos is stating that the arrogant pride of Israel is based on no real accomplishments at all.  They are fools, thinking that they have accomplished anything in their own power and strength.  When they point to their “righteousness” and their great accomplishments, there is nothing of real intrinsic value there.   It has the substance of a loud noise that echoes into nothing.  We know that anything that we accomplish for God’s kingdom comes from His power, not our own, and with His power we can accomplish anything He commands.  Without His power we will never accomplish anything bigger than ourselves.

Amos 6:14.  But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, saith the LORD the God of hosts; and they shall afflict you from the entering in of Hemath unto the river of the wilderness.

God declares to Israel that all they have can and will be destroyed.  Lebo Hamath is on the northern border, and the valley of Arabah, the river of the wilderness, is their border to the south.  This is a metaphor that identifies the entire land of Israel.  The defeat that they are about to experience will overwhelm the entire nation in a manner far greater than any of their own accomplishments.  They had placed all of their security in their nation, a nation that had wandered far from God, had failed to look to God for any purpose, and could not stand on its own against the judgment that was to come, much less against the power of the Assyrian invasion that the LORD allowed.  They had desired separation from God, and were going to receive it.

What actually provides your deepest sense of security?  Is it in retirement investments?  Recent world-wide economic decline has illustrated the folly of this position.  Is it investment in real estate?  We have watched property values tumble in recent years.  Is our security placed in the nation and its army that protects you against other nations?  Is your security founded in a person or persons who are close to you?  There is no real security found in any of this world’s people or peoples.   There is no real security found in any property of this world. 

The only true source of security must transcend this temporal world and its “treasures” that will only be left behind when we leave this world.  Our true source of security comes from God’s grace in the form of His promise to the faithful that their future with Him is secure.  The only rational response to the knowledge of such security is to seek to obey God, and turn from those worldly sources of security that are baseless, and a waste of our time and resources.

If your security is in money, how much is enough?  When do you reach the point of financial security?  How much are you willing to rob God by failing to tithe in order to build your own nest egg of possessions?  This may be one area that deserves prayer and repentance.

Israel was experiencing tremendous moral and spiritual decay, a condition that seemed to continue unabated until the nation was ultimately destroyed.  How far can we allow our culture to continue its moral and spiritual decay?  What is our response to such destruction of moral and spiritual values?  Again, this may be another area that requires prayer and attention.

True security is found only in a right relationship with God.  Let us not be distracted from this truth by the messages that flood our senses that come from this fallen world.  Let us not seek security in the things of this world, but seek to find our security in the One who can and will provide it:  The LORD, Yahweh, Jesus Christ.

We must approach God with humility, recognizing all He has done for us.  We should be praying for our home nation, that God will raise up leadership that is obedient to Him, and where possible we should take a stand for Christ in our fellowship, in our community, and in our government.  This might mean that God is calling you to public service where your light and salt can be applied to a nation that is desperately in need of it.  Whatever our calling, if it is from the LORD it will be one that seeks national repentance, and the salvation of those who, ignorant of God’s loving grace, are leading the nation away from Him.  This change will come from sincere and directed prayer, by living a life that demonstrates the wisdom and love of God among all whom we meet, and by proclaiming the truth of the gospel in this dark and decaying world.


[1] “In God We Trust” is the official motto of the United States, signed into law in 1956 under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, establishing what had become a de-facto motto from one of the lines of the National Anthem, written by Frances Scott Key, “… and this be our motto: In God is our trust.” 

[2] The constitutionality of the modern national motto has been questioned with relationship to the separation of church and state outlined in the First Amendment. In 1970, in Aronow v. United States, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the motto does not violate the First Amendment to the Constitution. The United States Supreme Court has not ruled on the issue.

[3] While traveling in China, I was told by a Chinese citizen her opinion that the United States will always be great because of the motto on our coins.  The motto is a testimony to people of faith around the world.  I did not inform this individual that there are many in the US who are trying to get that motto removed from everything that is under government control.