Equal Justice for All
It appears that the idolatrous Israelites entertained the notion that they were “chosen” and therefore privileged or exempt from judgment. Whereas God might judge and even destroy other nations, He would never treat Israel in the same manner. They were mistaken.
Amos 9:7 says,
7 “Are you not as the sons of Ethiopia to Me, O sons of Israel?” declares the Lord. “Have I not brought up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor [Crete] and the Arameans from Kir?
In other words, God’s law is impartial. It applies equally to all men, for the law judges all sin. God’s judgments are modified only by such factors as ignorance, for most of the nations were not present when the law was given, nor did they have anyone to teach them. Yet all nations had an original knowledge of God and thus had some liability.
Yet God held Israel more liable than the other nations. God did not give Israel a free pass or a license to sin. They had received the law at Horeb, where their forefathers had agreed to abide by the terms of that covenant. But they had forsaken God by refusing to conform to His nature as expressed in the law.
God declares that the Israelites were “as the sons of Ethiopia to Me.” In other words, the Israelites ought not to think of themselves as privileged people. As descendants of Abraham, they were chosen to be a blessing to all families (and nations) of the earth (Gen. 12:3). To be “chosen” means that they were to be ambassadors of the Kingdom. Paul expressed it best in 2 Cor. 5:20, saying
20 Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
To be chosen is to have a calling as an ambassador with “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18), designed to benefit all nations. Hence, the law of impartiality gives equal justice to all, whether they are Israelites or not, as we read in Num. 15:15, 16,
15 As for the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the alien who sojourns with you, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the alien be before the Lord. 16 There is to be one law and one ordinance for you and for the alien who sojourns with you.
Not only were the Israelites to give foreigners equal justice but they were also commanded to love them. So we read in Lev. 19:34,
34 The foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.
It is clear, then, that when Amos says that the Israelites were “as the sons of Ethiopia to Me,” He was setting forth His will and His nature as revealed in His law. Yet God found it necessary to remind the Israelites of this, because they had cast aside His law and had thus rejected the Lawgiver, God Himself.
Because of their lawlessness, God said in Amos 9:8,
8 Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth; nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,” declares the Lord.
God intended to destroy the house of Israel and send the survivors into a lengthy captivity. Though the nation itself was destroyed, there were individual people who survived. From then on, Israel as a nation ceased to exist. Individuals became captives (and later citizens) of foreign nations.
Israel Sifted by God
Amos 9:9 says,
9 For behold, I am commanding, and I will shake the house of Israel among all nations as grain is shaken in a sieve [kebarah], but not a kernel will fall to the ground.
The captives of Israel were to be “shaken in a sieve.” Today, a sieve is normally used to strain liquids to remove solid material. But a kebarah was obviously a woven basket that was used to separate chaff from dry grain.
God is the One doing the work of sifting, as he separates the chaff from the edible kernels of grain. This shaking took place as the Israelites wandered “among all nations.” The purpose of this work was to separate that which was edible from the chaff that was fit only for burning.
There are two ways to look at this. First, we can view this as a separation of good people from evil people. But on a more personal level, we can see it as God’s way of removing spiritual “chaff” from all men in order to make them His people.
This second viewpoint is seen in a prophecy about the Holy Spirit, for John the Baptist said in Matt. 3:11, 12,
11 As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
The purpose of the Holy Spirit is to “burn up the chaff.” In other words, it is to cleanse and purify, so that people may become good barley or wheat that is fit for God’s table.
So we should view Amos 9:9 as a prophecy that God would send the Holy Spirit upon those Israelites as they wandered throughout the nations. This was fulfilled, of course, after the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 and throughout history. Peter visited them and wrote to them later (1 Peter 1:1, 2; 2:9, 10). The Concordant New Testament reads,
1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the chosen expatriates of the dispersion of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, the province of Asia, and Bithynia, 2 according to the foreknowledge of God, the Father….
In chapter 2, verses 9 and 10, Peter further identifies his audience, saying (NASB),
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were “not a people,” but now you are “the people of God;” you had “not received mercy,” but now you have “received mercy.”
Peter was referring to the prophecy in Hosea 2:23, which was directed at the Israelites that were to be sent into exile as “expatriates,” as the CV calls them. Hosea 1:9 says,
9 And the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people, and I am not your God.”
But later, after prophesying of the coming of Christ to redeem and restore them, Hosea 2:23 says,
23 … And I will say to those who were not My people, “You are My people!” And they will say, “Thou art my God!”
Keep in mind also that “others” were to be regathered with the original Israelites, for Isaiah 56:8 speaks of foreigners who would come under the covenant of Christ,
8 The Lord God who gathers the dispersed of Israel declares, “Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.”
Such is the plan of the impartial God, who considers and views Israel and Ethiopia impartially (Amos 9:7). The restoration of Israel is the restoration of all nations, for in the end, God has called the seed of Abraham to be a blessing to all nations. Psalm 67:1, 2 says,
1 God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us—2 that Thy way may be known on the earth, Thy salvation [Yeshua-Jesus] among all nations.
Again, the psalmist says in verse 4,
4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; for Thou wilt judge the peoples with uprightness and guide the nations on the earth.
He closes in Psalm 66:7, saying,
7 God blesses us, that all the ends of the earth may fear Him.
Such “fear” is not an unhealthy fear, nor does it imply that other nations will be afraid of Jesus Christ. The biblical concept of “fear,” when used to describe the final relationship with Christ, is that all will recognize Him as the King and His word as the law of the land.
James too wrote his epistle “to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad” (James 1:1). Peter and James were very interested in their lost brethren of the house of Israel, many of whom were living in the provinces named in 1 Peter 1:1.
The Holy Spirit was promised to dispersed Israel, but this outpouring of the Holy Spirit was also to benefit all nations, as Philip discovered in his missionary trip to Samaria (Acts 8:15) and as Peter discovered at the house of Cornelius, the Roman centurion (Acts 10:45).
Obviously, Paul, the apostle of the ethnos, also interpreted these prophecies as a mandate to bring the gospel of Christ to all nations. They understood that the blessing given to Abraham and his seed was to be shared with all nations, not hoarded among themselves.
Hence, we see that the impartial God of Israel and Ethiopia judges all nations by the same law, and likewise, He dispenses His blessings to all nations as well. He only withheld blessings from other nations in order to motivate those nations to desire to come under the same covenant, so that they could obtain the same blessings that God had given to Israel.
The Death of Israel
Amos 9:10 says of Israel,
9 All the sinners of My people will die by the sword, those who say, “The calamity will not overtake us or confront us.”
These “sinners” were not mere idolaters. They also had an attitude problem. They did not believe that God would judge them. But the “calamity” did overtake them, as Amos had warned. The judgment did come, and the nation was destroyed.
When God says, “all the sinners of My people will die by the sword,” it does not mean that all the sinners actually died in the war when Assyria invaded Israel. Many survivors were taken captive. Yet eventually, they all died without receiving the promises of God, much like their faithless forefathers under Moses had died in the wilderness.
The force of God’s statement is to let us know that none of them would live long enough to see the reinstatement of Israel as a nation. The captivity would be far too long.
Yet in spite of this national destruction, there would be many individuals who would survive (Hosea 1:10). More than that, these individuals were to be sifted and separated over a period of many generations. The kernels (believers) would be sifted and purified further by the fire of the Holy Spirit after the day of Pentecost.
In other words, God intended to bring the gospel to those dispersed Israelites in captivity. Other ethnic groups would then join them in the family of God, as their ears were opened to hear the Word and respond with Abrahamic faith. In this manner, the household of faith was to increase until the divine plan was complete.