by Francis Foulkes ©


'I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and he said: "Smite the capitals until the thresholds shake, and shatter them on the heads of all the people; and what are left of them I will slay with the sword; not one of them shall flee away, not one of them shall escape. Though they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down. Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, from there I will search out and take them; and though they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent, and it shall bite them. And though they go into captivity before their enemies, there I will command the sword, and it shall slay them; and I will set my eyes upon them for evil and not for good." The Lord, God of hosts, he who touches the earth and it melts, and all who dwell in it mourn, and all of it rises like the Nile, and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt; who builds his upper chambers in the heavens, and founds his vault upon the earth; who calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out upon the surface of the earth the Lord is his name" (9:1-6)

We have come to the last of the visions of Amos. Earlier Amos has seen a plague of locusts (7:1-3), a mighty fire (7:4-6), a man with a plumb line (7:7-9) and a basket of summer fruit (8:1-3). Each time God spoke to him through what he saw. Now he sees in his vision the Lord himself standing beside (or perhaps 'above' or ',upon') the altar where men profess to worship God and to offer sacrifices to Him. He stands as Judge, and His word is that the sanctuary, the holy place of worship itself is to be struck down. 'Smite the capitals until the thresholds shake.' The tops of the pillars where the roof was held up were to be struck with such force that the `whole porch', and 'roof' or the very 'foundations' would shake (these are different translations of a word whose meaning is not certain). The building would fall on the heads of the people. Their empty, useless worship would be their judgment, and then the Lord's word was, 'What are left of them I will slay with the sword; and not one of them shall flee away, not one of them shall escape'.

a. No place to hide

The next few verses picture the people vainly trying to hide from God's judgment. In imagination Amos sees them trying to 'dig into Sheol', the place of the dead, but God's hand reaches them there. He imagines them trying to climb up to heaven, but if they did, from there God would bring them down. They might try Mt. Carmel and hope to hide in its forests or in its 2000 caves, but God would only 'search out and take them' from there. They might think of going to the bottom of the sea to hide, but God controls the sea and all the creatures in it, and He could send the sea-serpent to bite them (compare 5:19). They might feel that in captivity in a foreign land they could escape from the hand of God. But what folly! There is no place to hide from God. He is God! His eyes are upon every place, and every person, every hour of day and night. God is not like man! He sets His eyes for good on those who trust Him and seek to obey and serve Him (see Jeremiah 24:6). But He 'will set' (His) eyes 'for evil and not for good' on those who try to turn away from Him, and who think they can hide from Him and believe that they will never have to give Him account of their lives (see again Psalm 10: 11).

b. God of creation

How can a person hide from Him who is God of all creation? He made sea and land, earth and sky. Every part of the universe is under His control. You might think of Him, if you lived in the time of Amos, as a great Builder, `who builds his upper chambers in the heavens, and founds his vault upon the earth' ; or, as the New English Bible puts this, 'who builds his stair up to the heavens and arches his ceiling over the earth'. He is able just to 'touch the earth and it melts'. Men may feast and enjoy themselves in rich palaces as if there were no God, but He is able to change their circumstances and bring sorrow and mourning suddenly on them (with verse 5 compare 5:16-17, 6:3-10 and 8:3, 8-10). He is able, as 8:8 also has said, to cause such an earthquake that the land rises up and falls again like the Nile in Egypt. This great God gives the rain to bless the earth, but in judgment He is able also to 'call for the waters of the sea, and pour them out upon the surface of the earth'. 'The Lord is his name' (compare 4:13 and 5:8). He is Lord indeed. Foolish man boasts and thinks of his greatness, and imagines that he is master of his own life and lord of his future. Modern man thinks of his great scientific knowledge and abilities, but a very wise scientist said that men of science in all their discoveries are only 'thinking God's thoughts after Him'. He alone created all things. He alone controls all things. He was there at the beginning, and He will be there at the end, while our lives are like 'a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes' (James 4:14). Our only wisdom is to humble our foolish pride before Him, turn from our sins that His word exposes, and instead of trying to escape from Him, come to Him and find His mercy, and in His mercy life and peace, and strength and purpose in living.


Read Psalm 139 and make that your prayer as you think of these words of Amos,

For further thought and study. 1. Look back to earlier parts of the book of Amos where the prophet has spoken of the judgment of God as something from which people will not be able to escape: 2:14-16, 3:11-12, 5:18-20, 6:9-14, 7:7-9 and 8:1-3. Then think of New Testament passages that show that all men will have to stand before the judgment of God. For example, see Matthew 25:31-46, Acts 17:30-31 and 2 Corinthians 5:9-10.

2. Consider further passages in the Bible which speak of God's 'eyes' being on us all the time (or His 'face' turned towards us), and the fact that they may be on us for good or for evil, depending on whether or not we trust Him and seek to do His will. See Genesis 16:13, 2 Chronicles 16:9, Psalm 34:15-16, Jeremiah 24:6, and then Leviticus 20:3, 5, Jeremiah 21:10 and 44:11.

Notes. 1. To the Jew 'Sheol' was the place of the dead, thought of as under the earth. We have to realise in this, and in so much that the Old Testament says about death, that the time had not yet come when 'our Saviour Jesus Christ ... brought life and immortality to light through the gospel' , as 2 Timothy 1:10 puts it. Man at this stage had been given to know very little about life after death.

2. Verse 6 shows us the way in which a person in the days of Amos thought of earth and the heavens above. With the knowledge of modern science we think of the universe differently. Greater knowledge that men have in the future may lead them to think and speak in different ways from the ways we think and speak. What is important in verse 6, and for all our thinking, is that God is Creator and Lord. All modern scientific knowledge, without this faith, is worth very little.