For the Love of God, Volume 2/November 20
From Gospel Translations
1 Chronicles 15; James 2; Amos 9; Luke 4
ALTHOUGH AMOS 9 CONTAINS some pretty dreadful threats of judgment, it ends on a positive chord in three-part harmony.
(1) The judgment will not be total, but partial. “I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,” the Lord declares (9:8). The sifting will be very thorough (9:9- 10), but God will spare a remnant. From about the time of Elijah on, the remnant theme gets stronger with each passing century. Thoughtful people receive it and are greatly encouraged: God always preserves some faithful people.
(2) “In that day”—a prophetic formula that is exceedingly flexible in its referent— God “will restore David’s fallen tent” (9:11). God will restore the Davidic dynasty to its former splendor—indeed, to something even greater, as the next verse suggests. Amos was warning the northern kingdom; at this point the Davidic dynasty, however reduced, was still intact in the south. This prophecy does not envisage the restoration of the dynasty after it has ceased for a time to exist (which is the way the later prophets speak, a century and a half after Amos). Rather, it foresees the restoration of the dynasty to its former glory, and more.
(3) The final verses of the chapter (9:13-15) portray such a time of fertility in the land that the reaper is overtaken by the plowman—a wonderful picture of almost magical fertility. The ruined cities will be rebuilt, and never again will Israel be uprooted from the land.
When are these prophecies fulfilled? The first is surely fulfilled in the events surrounding the exile, but similar events have happened many times since. God preserved a remnant then, and he has done so since. Some think that once the extravagant language of the closing verses is taken with a grain of salt, these promises were fulfilled when the people returned to the land after the exile. But the text says they would “never again” be uprooted, and of course they were. So one must conclude either that Amos goofed or that this promise was not fulfilled in the postexilic period. Certainly that period did not witness the restoration of the Davidic empire. So some foresee a literal fulfillment in the future. But Christians will remember how 9:11-12 is applied by James at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:16-17). He insists that Jesus is the Davidic king, that his reign fulfills this promise, that the blessings to the Gentiles hinted at here are being fulfilled in the extension of the Gospel to the Gentiles. This suggests a typological fulfillment of some Old Testament prophecies—an approach that has a bearing on how we read some other Old Testament prophecies as well.