God’s Call to Ethical Living

MEMORY VERSE: “Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you.” —Amos 5:14

AMOS 5:10-15, 21-24

“THEY hate him that rebuketh in the gate.” Most ancient cities were crowded. The streets were narrow, but despite this crowding and lack of room, often a space was left between the inner and outer city gates, and benches of stone were built into the wall to be used by judges in hearing cases. It is perhaps from this ancient custom that we still speak of judges’ benches.

It would seem that trials were conducted “at the gate” to make the proceedings public, and to give whoever might be interested a chance to participate in the proceedings. The condition of Israel was so evil, however, that even though Amos tried to correct those who oppressed the poor, they still abhorred judges who spoke uprightly.

Those who trod upon the poor became wealthy, and built houses for themselves “of hewn stone.” Many of the people of the time lived in tents, and others in mud huts, but these oppressors could build expensive homes. But, as the Lord declared, they would not be permitted to live in them; at least not for long.

However, statements of this kind can be understood only in the light of God’s plan as a whole. It well may be that many individual oppressors of the poor in the days of Amos lived in their expensive homes for a considerable time, but we know that eventually the nation was taken into captivity, and the rich suffered together with the poor.

It is interesting in this connection to note God’s promise to those who will become his people during the messianic kingdom reign. That kingdom of Messiah is symbolized in the prophecies as “new heavens and a new earth.” We quote:

“Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.”

And we read concerning conditions in this blessed kingdom arrangement, “They shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.”—Isa. 65:17-19,21,22

These blessings of the kingdom will be permanent for those who obey its laws. Even at the best, those in the days of Amos who could afford to build houses, and who served the Lord as best they could, could enjoy their nice homes only until they grew old and died. But in the new heavens and new earth, which also will be the promised New Jerusalem, there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor sighing, for the “former things” shall have passed away.—Rev. 21:4

Our memory verse expresses a truth concerning God’s dealings with Israel under the Law. God did promise that those who would and could keep that Law inviolate would continue to live; that they would not grow feeble and die. No doubt many individuals did earnestly endeavor to live up to the terms of the Law. But all were fallen and imperfect, and the Law was the full measure of a perfect man’s ability to keep, so none got life by their endeavors to keep it.

However, if they sought to do good, and abhorred evil, certain blessings of life did accrue to them, although they did not thereby attain eternal life. Eternal life is available only through the shed blood of Christ; and all the Israelites, as well as the people of other nations, will in due time become aware of this, and will rejoice in the wonderful provision of life which the Heavenly Father has made through the gift of his Son.


What is implied by “rebuking in the gate”?

When will people “build houses and inhabit them”?

When will those who obey God’s law obtain eternal life?

Why did the Lord despise the offerings of his people in the days of Amos?

Dawn Bible Students Association
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