For the last few weeks, I have been focusing on either the Epistle or the Old Testament text. Now the Epistle text will continue with 1 Timothy. But a sentence from the Old Testament text for this Sunday may catch your attention. It is from the Old Testament ‘minor’ prophet who is the most frequently used of those twelve prophets in the three-year series, the prophet Amos.
This is the last verse of the text from Amos 8: ‘The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds (verse 7).”’ Now what did he just say? What about those verses that say that LORD will NOT remember sins? Jeremiah 31:34 is a good example of this: “And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
The context is almost always important. In fact, the book of Jeremiah is not chronologically ordered, but all the ‘good news’ parts are close to the center of the work. That is the main reason that the book of Jeremiah is treated so highly in the Gospel according to Matthew; basically, that same ‘Hebrew’ structure is followed.
With the prophet Amos, you basically have to wait for the very end of the book to get to the good news. But it is a significant amount of good news and definitely worth the wait. Near the very end of the book is even a verse that has an appearance in Acts 15, when the early Christian leaders are trying to figure what the gospel is. Should it involve some laws, such as circumcision? Or should it be an entirely free gift? In the words of the apostle Peter, ‘we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus…(Acts 15:11).’ In other words, the gospel is TRULY good news. Amos 9:11-12 is quoted, but with some slight differences. The one thing that is clear in both places is that the LORD is interested in saving ALL people.
So, what would make the LORD never forget some things? It is important to note that the sin of pride is involved—the ‘pride of Jacob’. Pride is like being thankful to yourself and not to God. And pride often does go before a fall.
Something similar could be said about the word ‘never’—basically ‘forever’—in the Amos text. I hope I am not getting too technical, but this word can be connected to five basic meanings: gleam, distinguish, conquer, be permanent, and supervise—this is basically the word that comes up at the beginning of over fifty Psalms when it talks about the ‘director of music’ or ‘choirmaster’ (Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, volume 5, page 530). There are essentially two themes that come together with this word: the temple and permanence.
How would you feel if you lived near the place where God had his temple? If God was living forever, you might start to think that his temple would be around forever. I can see how pride would be a significant problem with the people of Israel. I can also see why Jesus talked about his temple being destroyed.
Jesus was destroyed and rebuilt in three days for us and for our salvation. This keeps our perspective regarding those important words like ‘forever’. There is a much better gleam to that temple.