Chapter 7 of Amos’ prophecy begins a new section of the book. In part one of this prophecy, Amos exposed the shallowness of Israel’s claim to be “the people of God.” In part two, he exposes their sin in order to demonstrate that their security as “the people of God,” is tenuous. Now here in part three the judgment is announced upon the “people of God.” As it is, we find God working simultaneously to judge a professing nation, while at the same time standing by His promise to defend and preserve the elect – His invisible people, the Israel of God (see Ps 145:13).
Our text opens with two visions of destruction of such magnitude that national survival is impossible. In each case, however, after the intercessory prayer of Amos, the Sovereign Yahweh “repents,” promising that such things would not happen. The total destruction of all of the people of God is overruled, demonstrating that even in the midst of judgment, nothing threatens the security of those who are His own.
Our text touches on two mysteries: first, the mystery of prayer. It is through the agency of human prayer that the eternal, unchangeable, infallible will of God is brought to pass. Prayer that begins with God’s perspective and looks up to divine mercy is effectual because there is in the nature of God something to which an appeal to pardoning mercy can be effectively made. There belongs to God the power and willingness to forgive (Ps 103:8-13).
The second mystery is the concept of the repentance of God. Think about this; if repentance suggests the changing of one’s mind, how is it possible that, and in what way does, the Lord who changeth not, change His mind? The answer is found in the Hebrew word nacham, which translated repent, but really means to comfort oneself. The wrath of God is the perpetual and natural reaction of a holy God in the face of unholiness and sin. Yet equally eternal and natural is His determination to save a people for Himself (Read God’s description of Himself in Ex 34:6-7). Despite this there is no strain, but rather only harmony in the divine mind. Love does not beat wrath out of existence, but rather the blood of Jesus, satisfies divine wrath, so that as the Father looks upon His children, though they be sinners deserving of judgment, mercy triumphs over judgment. So we find the repentance of God beautifully demonstrated in the cross, where justice and mercy meet.
Read the following verses where the repentance (nacham) of God is stressed. As you do consider the tension and how repentance is manifested in resolving that tension. Consider the possibility that repentance, rather than a changing of God’s mind, is a release of emotional tension involved in performing or retracting a declared act, whether it be executing wrath or blessing.
Cross-Refs: Gen 6:6, Ex 32:11-14, Is 12:1, 51:17-23, 61:1-3, Jer 18:7-11, Ez 5:13, Joel 2:12-14, Zech 1:14-17
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