The Divine Council
After scheduling a divine appointment for a meeting, Amos 3:7 speaks of the “secret counsel,” which is the venue for that meeting.
7 Surely the Lord God [Adonai Yahweh] does nothing, unless He reveals [gala, “uncovers”] His secret counsel [sode] to His servants the prophets.
The Assyrian captivity, by which God was threatening Israel, could not come unless God first revealed it to His servants, the prophets. The prophets were sent to give warning, so that this great disaster would not come unexpectedly or without warning.
Amos 3:8 then pictures the warning as a lion’s roar, saying,
8 A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?
In this case, Amos was picturing himself as the roaring lion. But this is more than a warning, because, as we have already seen, lions do not roar when they go out to hunt. They roar only after they have caught their prey. Hence, Amos was telling them that in the eyes of God, this captivity was already an accomplished fact. So repentance might defer the captivity, but it was already a certainty in the end.
In fact, the Hebrew word in verse 7 translated “reveals” is gala, which means both “uncover” and “to carry away into exile.” Amos chose his words carefully to express what that secret counsel had determined. The secret counsel coming from the Heavenly Council was the verdict that Israel would be carried away into exile. Many of them were later called Gauls and Galatians, probably from the word gala.
The Secret Counsel of the Council
All things happen in the spiritual dimension before they happen in the earth. In fact, our entire work here on earth is really about bringing to the earth that which has already been established in heaven.
Amos had received the revelation of the impending Assyrian captivity of Israel. His reference to the “secret counsel” (Heb., sode) tells us that he was familiar with this counsel (or Council) and implies that he himself had been invited to participate in that heavenly Council meeting when they discussed and determined the fate of Israel. Amos had had a divine encounter where he received the mandate to convey the counsel (verdict) of the Council to the house of Israel.
The NASB translators who rendered it “counsel” may not have had a clear understanding of this. The word “counsel” means “an exchanging of opinions and ideas.” The word “council” means “an assembly called together for consultation, deliberation, an administrative, legislative, or advisory body.”
The Hebrew word sode includes both ideas, because they are closely related. Amos was speaking about the counsel of the Council. So we should understand Amos 3:7 to mean that God does nothing in the earth unless He first reveals to someone on earth that which has been decided in the Heavenly Council.
Because so few have been taught about the Council, I think it would be helpful to pause our study briefly in order to comment further on this.
The Heavenly Council is one of three courts that God has seen fit to establish in heaven. Each has an earthly counterpart. The Jews set up their Sanhedrin, known also as “The Council” (Luke 23:50) that was supposed to be the earthly representation of the Heavenly Council. If the Sanhedrin members had truly known God, theoretically, they would have been as Amos, being privy to the heavenly verdicts.
The problem was that most of them did not really know God, being educated but carnal, and so the Council rejected Jesus and condemned Him to death. Only Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, both members of the Council, knew the mind of God and defended Jesus.
The Council of 70 was foreshadowed by the 70 elders in the time of Moses, when it was established in Num. 11:24, 25,
24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord. Also, he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and stationed them around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him; and He took of the Spirit who was upon him and placed Him upon the seventy elders. And it came about that when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do it again.
The seventy elders prophesied when they were filled with the Spirit, but they apparently “did not do it again.” Why? We are not told, but years later God raised up spiritually-minded men like Amos to prophesy as members of the Council.
Hence, the prophets did what the elders failed to do. The elders were given their position mostly by their genealogy and because they were the first-born sons in the family. They were not necessarily the most righteous or spiritual. Their genealogy alone could never really qualify them as members of the Council (sode).
The Council is mentioned in Psalm 89:6, 7, which says,
6 For who in the skies is comparable to the Lord? Who among the sons of the mighty is like the Lord, 7 a God greatly feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all those who are around Him?
The “Council of the holy ones” consist of “all those who are around Him.” This is also the scene we see in Rev. 4, where Christ sits on a throne, and 24 elders are sitting around him on thrones of their own (Rev. 4:4). They are part of the Council.
When John himself was called to “come up here” (Rev. 4:1), he saw this Council and was soon asked to participate in its decrees and works (Rev. 10:8-11; 11:1, 2). Hence, John too was an earthly member of the heavenly Council.
The Council (sode) is mentioned again in Psalm 111:1,
1 Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart, in the company [sode, “council”] of the upright and in the assembly [edah, “gathering”].
David may have had an earthly Council in his time, where he gave thanks. If so, it too was patterned after the heavenly Council. In either case, David refers to it first as the “Council of the holy ones” and the “Council of the upright” (yashar, or Jasher).
In the time of Jeremiah, when Jerusalem was being threatened by the Babylonian army, God condemned the prophets of the day for prophesying things that they had not heard from the Council in heaven. Instead, they were prophesying from their own carnal dreams and visions. Jer. 23:18-22 says,
18 But who has stood in the council of the Lord, that he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened?... 21 I did not send these prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied. 22 But if they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people…
Recall from Num. 11:24, 25 that the original 70 elders under Moses established the pattern for the Council. Since they ceased to prophesy, we see from Jer. 23 that in later centuries the true prophets were given access to the Council. For this reason, God chides the prophets in Jeremiah’s day for running when they were not sent, and for prophesying things that God had not decreed in the heavenly Council.
In Ezekiel 13:9 the prophet adds to this, saying,
9 So my hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter false divinations. They will have no place in the council of My people, nor will they be written down in the register of the house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel, that you may know that I am the Lord God.
Ezekiel gives us additional information, saying they will be fired from the Council and lose their standing in this court. Further, they will lose their citizenship as Israelites. One’s status as an Israelite was always subordinate to the law of God. For example, in the laws of sacrifice and blood, Lev. 17:4, 9, 10, and 14 tell us that if a person violates certain laws and does not repent, he could be “cut off from among his people.”
Being an Israelite, then, is not merely a matter of one’s genealogy. Even genealogical Israelites could lose their citizenship by violating the law. Such people were no longer recognized by God as Israelites.
In Jesus’ day, the earthly Council was the Sanhedrin, which largely rejected Jesus as the Messiah. They sentenced Him to death on a charge of blasphemy, contrary to the will of God. They violated the law of sacrifice by not treating His blood as a sacrifice (as per Lev. 17:3, 4). His blood was not sprinkled upon the altars of their heart, and so they were “cut off from among their people,” as the law demanded.
Their place was taken by those who remained true to Jesus and who believed that He was indeed the Messiah. Those with faith in Him remained as citizens of Judah, as Rom. 2:28 and 29 says, and other ethnic people who came under the New Covenant also became citizens of Judah.
The Throne of Grace
Whereas the first court was known as the Council, the second court was what Heb. 4:16 calls “the throne of grace.” This was a reference to the Ark of the Covenant within the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle of Moses and (later) in the temple of Solomon. The Ark was God’s throne in which were stored the tables of the law and the pot of manna.
These were covered by the mercy seat upon which the presence of God “sat.” Hence came the saying that “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). The word for mercy is katakauchaomai, “to glory over, exult, be positioned over.” Hence, the meaning of the saying is that mercy takes precedence over justice. In the mind of God, mercy is more important than executing justice.
Jesus’ death on the cross tore the veil (Matt. 27:51), giving us direct access to God “by a new and living way, which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh” (Heb. 10:20). All men now have access to God at the throne of grace, even if they are not members of the Council.
The Divine Court
The third court in earth (as in heaven) was set up outside the camp of Israel in the wilderness in Exodus 33:7, after Israel worshiped the golden calf.
7 Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And it came about, that everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp.
This was the first earthly pattern of the divine court in heaven. It was set up “outside the camp,” and many years later, this pattern was used to set up the priestly court at the community known as Bethphage on the Mount of Olives near the bridge leading to the East Gate of the temple in Jerusalem. (Bethphage is mentioned in Matt. 21:1.)
The main purpose of this court was to cleanse those who had been healed of leprosy, or those who had touched a dead body. Unclean people were not supposed to enter the city, although the priests would have found it impossible to distinguish the clean from the unclean apart from spiritual discernment. Their carnality was a big impediment, but this will be remedied in the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:25-27).
At the court at Bethphage was the Miphkad altar, where the ashes of the red heifer were burned and stored near a cistern of water. This cistern was a square chiseled in the rock that resembled a winepress. Today it is under the courtyard of the Catholic Church called Dominus Plevit.
The ashes of the red heifer were to be stored “outside the camp” (Num. 19:3). After Jesus was condemned by the Sanhedrin and whipped, He was led “outside the camp” (Heb. 13:12) to be condemned by the court and crucified near that same spot overlooking the temple.
Jesus was taken there so that the priests at the Bethphage court could ratify the decision of the Council (Sanhedrin), pronouncing Him unclean before crucifying Him.
This court at Bephphage was supposed to be the earthly manifestation of the divine court in heaven. One had to be a priest to minister at that court. Its heavenly counterpart is the place where most of the legal work is done by those who are called and recognized by the court.
As we see with the Council, not everyone has legal standing to do this specialized work. It is only the throne of grace where all are invited to come before God Himself with their petitions.
The divine court is also the place where war is declared. Bethphage was located at the base of the Mount of Olives near both the East Gate and the Horse Gate. The Horse Gate speaks of war, or spiritual warfare. When troops came back from war, they had to be purified for a full week at Bethphage (after touching dead bodies in time of war) before they could lawfully enter Jerusalem.
So the divine court is where verdicts are decreed and war is declared. The divine court governs spiritual warfare, and for this reason we have utilized the divine court most of the time in our own prayer campaigns. We have also discovered the close connection between spiritual warfare and court battles in the divine court.
Robert Henderson explains it in his book, Operating in the Courts of Heaven, pages 17, 18,
“The main thing I want to point out in Revelation 19:11 is that Jesus, Who is faithful and true, judges in righteousness and makes war. Notice the order of this wording. This is very important. Jesus judges, then makes war. When the Bible speaks of ‘judging,’ it is speaking of judicial activity. There is a decision and a verdict being rendered concerning a situation, petition and request. That activity is being judged and there is a legal precedent that is being established concerning it. Out of that judicial activity which is flowing from the courts of Heaven, war is made. We must learn to only make war based on judgments, decisions and verdicts that are received out of the courts of Heaven. To try to make war without a verdict and judgment from the court of Heaven is to suffer defeat and even satanic backlash because we have no legal footing to be here or be engaging in such activity. On the other hand, if we can get legal renderings concerning a situation in place, then we can march onto the battlefield and win every time. The problem has been that we have tried to win on the battlefield without legal verdicts from Heaven backing us up. We must learn how to get these verdicts and judgments in place so answers can come to our prayers and the Kingdom cause of Christ can land on the earth.”
Henderson adds later on page 21,
“I have watched and witnessed that when I moved off the battlefield and into the courtroom of Heaven, answers came for me that I had prayed years for. All my warring, crying, yelling and petitioning had not brought answers from Heaven. But, when I began to learn how to navigate the courts of Heaven, what had never happened before, happened immediately and quickly. My adversaries were silenced, and I was avenged ‘speedily’.”
In my own experience, I was trained in spiritual warfare by tutors during the 1980’s with limited success. Only when God set me apart and called me to take the lead in 1993 did I come to see the value of the courtroom. When we finished our first prayer campaign on Nov. 29, 1993, the revelation came to me that this had been a court battle. I marveled at how easy the battle had been won. That revolutionized my understanding and set the pace for many other court battles in the following years.
The Council’s Verdict Fulfilled
Amos was called to the Council in heaven, where he received a message to deliver to Israel. Amos 3:8 says, “The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?”
The Council had rendered its verdict that Israel was to be carried into captivity, and God had raised up the Assyrians to do this work. The Israelite priests did not appreciate this message, nor did they have ears to hear it. So they persisted in their idolatry and rebellion against God in Bethel until they were deported to Assyria, never to return again to the old land. 2 Kings 18:11 says,
11 Then the king of Assyria carried Israel away into exile to Assyria, and put them in Halah and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes, 12 because they did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, but transgressed His covenant…
By this time, Amos had returned to his home in Judah. If he was still alive 50-60 years later when the Assyrians overran Judah, he may have been among the refugees in the crowded city of Jerusalem. If so, he certainly witnessed God’s deliverance at that time (2 Kings 19:35, 36) through the ministry of Isaiah, who was a next-generation prophet.
Most of the people of Judah were carried into captivity along with the Israelites (2 Kings 18:13). The Assyrian king recorded on a clay monument that he had captured 46 walled cities of Judah and deported 200,150 Judahites. Yet his official record left out two important details. He did not capture Jerusalem, and his army was destroyed by the angel of the Lord (2 Kings 19:35).
History tells us that the king of Assyria returned home in disgrace and was soon assassinated by his own son.