Today’s Chocolate: Vosges Black Salt Chocolate with Caramel
Today’s Passage: Amos 9
Remember Psalm 139, the “birthday psalm,” so called because it’s about God creating King David in his mother’s womb? I’m pretty sure Amos 9, the final chapter of the book of Amos, directly refers to it. As the chapter begins, Amos sees the Lord standing next to an altar. Perhaps Amos is still in Vision Mode, or perhaps this constitutes a full-blown theophany in the vein of Genesis 18. But more important than how the Lord appears to Amos is what he has to say to the prophet.
God declares that he will strike the capitals of Israel and slay their citizens with the sword; there will be no escapees. He declares: “Though they dig into Sheol, from there will My hand take them, and though they ascend to heaven, from there will I bring them down” (2). Sounding familiar? You might remember David’s words, “If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there” (Psalm 139:8). I wouldn’t be surprised if Amos himself had them in mind as he wrote down God’s message to Israel. Amos’ prophecy and the psalm each use a different Hebrew word for “ascend,” and in Amos’ verses, God isn’t simply present if the fugitives of Israel attempt to flee to the realm of the dead or God’s lofty abode; he’s ready to drag them back to earth to face their judgment. But there are only four verses in the Old Testament that mention both heaven and Sheol, and none of the others follow the construction of Psalm 139:8 anywhere near as closely as Amos 9:2. I think it’s pretty clear that this is a callback to the words of David, written centuries before the crises of Amos’s time.
So why is Amos recalling them? I think he’s turning them on their head. David’s psalm stands in wonder of God’s intimate knowledge of the Psalmist, who takes comfort in God’s sovereign supervision of his life. In contrast, the fugitives see the flip-side of the coin that is God’s plan for justice: an impending judgment that they couldn’t escape even by digging into the underworld itself. God adds, “Though they conceal themselves from My sight on the floor of the sea, from there I will command the serpent and it will bite them” (3). It’s a dark echo of David’s confidence in God’s ultimate control: “If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me” (Psalm 139:9-10). In the depths, not divine guidance but the wrath of sea monsters awaits would-be fugitives, like Job’s Leviathan or the creature that swallowed Jonah. The unrepentant citizens of Israel’s great cities–the wealth-hoarders, the greedy, those who trample the poor for a buck–can’t hope to escape retribution for their cruelty to their countrymen and Creator.
But the book of Amos ends on a note of hope. God promises: “I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel, and they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; they will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardens and eat their fruit” (14). The current corrupt populace may have to face judgment, but God won’t forget his people. Future generations will come back to their cities, repair and rebuild them, and enjoy the fruit of the land once again.
There’s hope for God’s people–not hope in their own strength or goodness, but in God’s faithfulness and mercy.