- Conference Media
- New City Catechism
- Read the Bible
Here I reflect on two themes from Amos 3:
(1) “You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins” (Amos 3:2). The basic premise is simple: privilege brings responsibility. But the matter runs deeper, along at least two lines. (a) The peculiar privilege here is being chosen to know God, being known by him—and all knowledge of this God entails proximity to holiness. Small wonder, then, that this privilege brings punishment for sins. (b) But this is in any case itself a privilege. Nurtured sin eventually brings condemnation and destruction; sin punished may bring repentance and contrition, which the Lord seeks. Certainly this text excludes the view that being chosen by God means one is exempt from obedience and faithfulness to him, or that God is a big sugar daddy in the sky. As J. A. Motyer has put it: “Special privileges, special obligations; special grace, special holiness; special revelation, special scrutiny; special love, special responsiveness … the church of God cannot ever escape the perils of its uniqueness.”
(2) The sequence of rhetorical questions in verses 3–5 may initially seem irrelevant to Western eyes. But doubtless they were Amos’s way of getting his message across to hearers who were hostile both to him and to his message. In a culture that loved riddles and proverbs, his questions drew them into his thought before they realized what was up. The point becomes clearer with each new question: events have causes. If people meet and walk together, it is because they have agreed to do so. If a lion roars, it is because it has killed its prey. If a trap is sprung, it is because some bird or animal has triggered it. If a warning trumpet sounds, it is because a dangerous enemy has been sighted. Events have causes. So Amos drives home two points. (a) If disaster strikes a city, God must be behind it (Amos 3:6). Of course, there may be many secondary causes, but ultimately God himself is behind it. Amos does not believe in coincidence, bad luck, or a finite God who slips up now and then. He believes in providence—and believing in providence means believing that in disasters God is speaking the language of warning or judgment. (b) The warnings God gives correspond with real dangers. The trumpet blows to warn of a real enemy. God may provide gracious warning through his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7)—and such warnings are not hot air, mere religious mouthings, but flags that correspond with imminent danger. So repent: “The lion has roared—who will not fear?” And don’t shoot the messenger: “The Sovereign LORD has spoken—who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8).
The rich argument of Hebrews 9 would take us beyond the limits of this meditation. Here I shall make clear some of the contrasts the author draws between the countless deaths of sacrificial animals in the Old Testament, and the death of Jesus that lies at the heart of the new covenant.
First, part of his argument depends on what he has said so far. If the tabernacle and the Levitical priesthood were from the beginning meant to be only temporary institutions that taught the covenant people some important lessons and pointed forward to the reality that would come with Christ, then the same thing applies to the sacrifices. So the author sums up his position to this point: the entire system was “an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order” (Heb. 9:9–10).
Second, the very repetition of the sacrifices—for example, those offered on the Day of Atonement—demonstrates that none of these sacrifices provides a final accounting for sin. There will always be more sin, demanding yet more sacrifice, with the priest still standing to kill one more animal and offer yet more blood. Contrast Christ’s sacrifice, offered once (Heb. 9:6, 9, 25–26; 10:1ff).
But the third and most important point is the nature of the sacrifice. How could the blood of bulls and goats really deal with sin? The animals themselves were not volunteering for this slaughter; they were dragged to the altar by their owners. The animals lost their lives, but they were scarcely willing victims. So far as “willingness” went, it was the people who owned the sacrificed animals who were losing something. Of course, this sacrificial system was appointed by God himself. He taught thereby that sin demands death—and in the sweep of the Bible’s storyline, that a better “lamb” would be needed. The sins of the people were thus covered over until such a sacrifice should appear. But the blood and ashes of animals provided no final answer.
How different the sacrifice of Jesus Christ! He “through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God”—that is, not “by the Holy Spirit,” but “through [his own] eternal Spirit,” an act of will, a supreme act of voluntary sacrifice, the Son acquiescing to the Father’s plan. There indeed was a sacrifice of untold merit, of incalculable significance. That is why his blood, his life violently and sacrificially offered up, is able to “cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Heb. 9:14).
3:1 These are the sons of David who were born to him in Hebron: the firstborn, Amnon, by Ahinoam the Jezreelite; the second, Daniel, by Abigail the Carmelite, 2 the third, Absalom, whose mother was Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith; 3 the fifth, Shephatiah, by Abital; the sixth, Ithream, by his wife Eglah; 4 six were born to him in Hebron, where he reigned for seven years and six months. And he reigned thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 5 These were born to him in Jerusalem: Shimea, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon, four by Bath-shua, the daughter of Ammiel; 6 then Ibhar, Elishama, Eliphelet, 7 Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, 8 Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet, nine. 9 All these were David's sons, besides the sons of the concubines, and Tamar was their sister.
10 The son of Solomon was Rehoboam, Abijah his son, Asa his son, Jehoshaphat his son, 11 Joram his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, 12 Amaziah his son, Azariah his son, Jotham his son, 13 Ahaz his son, Hezekiah his son, Manasseh his son, 14 Amon his son, Josiah his son. 15 The sons of Josiah: Johanan the firstborn, the second Jehoiakim, the third Zedekiah, the fourth Shallum. 16 The descendants of Jehoiakim: Jeconiah his son, Zedekiah his son; 17 and the sons of Jeconiah, the captive: Shealtiel his son, 18 Malchiram, Pedaiah, Shenazzar, Jekamiah, Hoshama and Nedabiah; 19 and the sons of Pedaiah: Zerubbabel and Shimei; and the sons of Zerubbabel: Meshullam and Hananiah, and Shelomith was their sister; 20 and Hashubah, Ohel, Berechiah, Hasadiah, and Jushab-hesed, five. 21 The sons of Hananiah: Pelatiah and Jeshaiah, his son1 Rephaiah, his son Arnan, his son Obadiah, his son Shecaniah. 22 The son2 of Shecaniah: Shemaiah. And the sons of Shemaiah: Hattush, Igal, Bariah, Neariah, and Shaphat, six. 23 The sons of Neariah: Elioenai, Hizkiah, and Azrikam, three. 24 The sons of Elioenai: Hodaviah, Eliashib, Pelaiah, Akkub, Johanan, Delaiah, and Anani, seven.
4:1 The sons of Judah: Perez, Hezron, Carmi, Hur, and Shobal. 2 Reaiah the son of Shobal fathered Jahath, and Jahath fathered Ahumai and Lahad. These were the clans of the Zorathites. 3 These were the sons3 of Etam: Jezreel, Ishma, and Idbash; and the name of their sister was Hazzelelponi, 4 and Penuel fathered Gedor, and Ezer fathered Hushah. These were the sons of Hur, the firstborn of Ephrathah, the father of Bethlehem. 5 Ashhur, the father of Tekoa, had two wives, Helah and Naarah; 6 Naarah bore him Ahuzzam, Hepher, Temeni, and Haahashtari. These were the sons of Naarah. 7 The sons of Helah: Zereth, Izhar, and Ethnan. 8 Koz fathered Anub, Zobebah, and the clans of Aharhel, the son of Harum. 9 Jabez was more honorable than his brothers; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.”4 10 Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm5 so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked. 11 Chelub, the brother of Shuhah, fathered Mehir, who fathered Eshton. 12 Eshton fathered Beth-rapha, Paseah, and Tehinnah, the father of Ir-nahash. These are the men of Recah. 13 The sons of Kenaz: Othniel and Seraiah; and the sons of Othniel: Hathath and Meonothai.6 14 Meonothai fathered Ophrah; and Seraiah fathered Joab, the father of Ge-harashim,7 so-called because they were craftsmen. 15 The sons of Caleb the son of Jephunneh: Iru, Elah, and Naam; and the son8 of Elah: Kenaz. 16 The sons of Jehallelel: Ziph, Ziphah, Tiria, and Asarel. 17 The sons of Ezrah: Jether, Mered, Epher, and Jalon. These are the sons of Bithiah, the daughter of Pharaoh, whom Mered married;9 and she conceived and bore10 Miriam, Shammai, and Ishbah, the father of Eshtemoa. 18 And his Judahite wife bore Jered the father of Gedor, Heber the father of Soco, and Jekuthiel the father of Zanoah. 19 The sons of the wife of Hodiah, the sister of Naham, were the fathers of Keilah the Garmite and Eshtemoa the Maacathite. 20 The sons of Shimon: Amnon, Rinnah, Ben-hanan, and Tilon. The sons of Ishi: Zoheth and Ben-zoheth. 21 The sons of Shelah the son of Judah: Er the father of Lecah, Laadah the father of Mareshah, and the clans of the house of linen workers at Beth-ashbea; 22 and Jokim, and the men of Cozeba, and Joash, and Saraph, who ruled in Moab and returned to Lehem11 (now the records12 are ancient). 23 These were the potters who were inhabitants of Netaim and Gederah. They lived there in the king's service.
24 The sons of Simeon: Nemuel, Jamin, Jarib, Zerah, Shaul; 25 Shallum was his son, Mibsam his son, Mishma his son. 26 The sons of Mishma: Hammuel his son, Zaccur his son, Shimei his son. 27 Shimei had sixteen sons and six daughters; but his brothers did not have many children, nor did all their clan multiply like the men of Judah. 28 They lived in Beersheba, Moladah, Hazar-shual, 29 Bilhah, Ezem, Tolad, 30 Bethuel, Hormah, Ziklag, 31 Beth-marcaboth, Hazar-susim, Beth-biri, and Shaaraim. These were their cities until David reigned. 32 And their villages were Etam, Ain, Rimmon, Tochen, and Ashan, five cities, 33 along with all their villages that were around these cities as far as Baal. These were their settlements, and they kept a genealogical record.
34 Meshobab, Jamlech, Joshah the son of Amaziah, 35 Joel, Jehu the son of Joshibiah, son of Seraiah, son of Asiel, 36 Elioenai, Jaakobah, Jeshohaiah, Asaiah, Adiel, Jesimiel, Benaiah, 37 Ziza the son of Shiphi, son of Allon, son of Jedaiah, son of Shimri, son of Shemaiah—38 these mentioned by name were princes in their clans, and their fathers' houses increased greatly. 39 They journeyed to the entrance of Gedor, to the east side of the valley, to seek pasture for their flocks, 40 where they found rich, good pasture, and the land was very broad, quiet, and peaceful, for the former inhabitants there belonged to Ham. 41 These, registered by name, came in the days of Hezekiah, king of Judah, and destroyed their tents and the Meunites who were found there, and marked them for destruction to this day, and settled in their place, because there was pasture there for their flocks. 42 And some of them, five hundred men of the Simeonites, went to Mount Seir, having as their leaders Pelatiah, Neariah, Rephaiah, and Uzziel, the sons of Ishi. 43 And they defeated the remnant of the Amalekites who had escaped, and they have lived there to this day.
9:1 Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. 2 For a tent1 was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence.2 It is called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a second section3 called the Most Holy Place, 4 having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron's staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. 5 Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. 8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing 9 (which is symbolic for the present age).4 According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come,5 then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify6 for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our7 conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.8 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
3:1 Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt:
2 “You only have I known
of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you
for all your iniquities.
3 “Do two walk together,
unless they have agreed to meet?
4 Does a lion roar in the forest,
when he has no prey?
Does a young lion cry out from his den,
if he has taken nothing?
5 Does a bird fall in a snare on the earth,
when there is no trap for it?
Does a snare spring up from the ground,
when it has taken nothing?
6 Is a trumpet blown in a city,
and the people are not afraid?
Does disaster come to a city,
unless the LORD has done it?
7 “For the Lord GOD does nothing
without revealing his secret
to his servants the prophets.
8 The lion has roared;
who will not fear?
The Lord GOD has spoken;
who can but prophesy?”
9 Proclaim to the strongholds in Ashdod
and to the strongholds in the land of Egypt,
and say, “Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria,
and see the great tumults within her,
and the oppressed in her midst.”
10 “They do not know how to do right,” declares the LORD,
“those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.”
11 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:
“An adversary shall surround the land
and bring down1 your defenses from you,
and your strongholds shall be plundered.”
12 Thus says the LORD: “As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who dwell in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part2 of a bed.
13 “Hear, and testify against the house of Jacob,”
declares the Lord GOD, the God of hosts,
14 “that on the day I punish Israel for his transgressions,
I will punish the altars of Bethel,
and the horns of the altar shall be cut off
and fall to the ground.
15 I will strike the winter house along with the summer house,
and the houses of ivory shall perish,
and the great houses3 shall come to an end,”
declares the LORD.
146:1 Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
2 I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
3 Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
4 When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10 The LORD will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!
147:1 Praise the LORD!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant,1 and a song of praise is fitting.
2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The LORD lifts up the humble;2
he casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre!
8 He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the beasts their food,
and to the young ravens that cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11 but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
12 Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
14 He makes peace in your borders;
he fills you with the finest of the wheat.
15 He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
16 He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold?
18 He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
19 He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and rules3 to Israel.
20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his rules.4
Praise the LORD!