Amos – Chapter 8 – Mourning not Morning
You may remember in Amos 8:5 the people of the Northern Kingdom were expressing they couldn’t wait for the religious feasts to be done so they could return to their wicked ways. They couldn’t wait to cheat and abuse the poor among them as they had always done. Remember, their wickedness was a direct sin against God, and against mankind made in the image of God. This was pure rebellion. We talked about verse nine “in that day” referring to the future day of the Lord’s judgment. God responds to the wicked desires of their hearts in verse ten, by declaring what He will do.
10 I will turn your feasts into mourning,
And all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth on every waist,
And baldness on every head;
I will make it like mourning for an only son,
And its end like a bitter day.
Let’s examine this verse phrase by phrase. God declared he would “turn their feasts into mourning”. Their feasts were supposed to be held in obedience to God’s command. They should have been observing them as a means of obedient worship to Yahweh, but instead, they had become drunken forms of merriment that had long since lost any religious significance. The feasts for this rebellious nation had become form without substance. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 immediately comes to mind.
3:1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:
2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,
4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,
5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
Because they had only a form of godliness but refused the real power of godliness, God will turn their feasts into mourning. Mourning is what you enter into when someone has died. The phrase in verse ten sets the stage for the detail that follows. This verse reminds me of, and very well could be the Hebrew poetic form known as synthetic parallelism. In synthetic parallelism, the first phrase is general with each subsequent phrase giving additional detail.
Verse ten could be as concise as, “I will turn your feasts into mourning, and its end [feast’s end] like a bitter day”, without affecting the meaning of the verse, but the author chose to give additional detail with each passing phrase.
“And all your songs [will be turned] into lamentation”, their songs, the expression of their hearts would be the mournful lament of losing loved ones.
“I will bring sackcloth on every waist”, furthers the concept of mourning over the loss of loved ones. Though sackcloth was often used as an expression of repentance toward God in the Old Testament, here it is referring to mourning. One example of sackcloth used in mourning is found in 2 Samuel 3:31.
31 Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, “Tear your clothes, gird yourselves with sackcloth, and mourn for Abner.” And King David followed the coffin.
Just like the use of sackcloth does not indicate repentance, we need to realize sorrow does not indicate repentance. It is important for us to realize that being sorry we sinned does not mean we have necessarily repented of that sin. Sorrow is an emotion, repentance is an act of the will.
What could the phrase, “And baldness on every head” possibly have to do with mourning? Consider the following excerpt from the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible.
There are many biblical references to the non-Israelite custom of shaving the head as a sign of mourning or anguish (Jer 16:6; 48:37; Ez 27:31; Mi 1:16). Most of these passages speak of God’s judgment against pagan cities or nations
Hearn, Walter R. “Baldness.” Baker encyclopedia of the Bible 1988 : 254. Print.
By referencing baldness here, It’s almost as if God is saying to Israel “since you want to worship like the pagans I will cause you to mourn like the pagans”.
“I will make it like mourning for an only son” speaks of the most intense mourning an individual could experience. In their culture, it was considered a curse from God if a family did not have at least one son. The curse would seem twice a bad to have an only son taken from you in death.
The natural result of this intense mourning is depicted in the last phrase of the verse which says, “And its end like a bitter day”.
The Nation of Israel snubbed their nose at a privilege God extended to no other nation throughout the course of time. He offered them covenant relationship with Himself, but Israel chose to depart Yahweh’s gracious offer and worship idols instead.
I fear for our nation. As a collective people group, we too have snubbed our nose at the New covenant relationship offered through the death, burial, and resurrection of God’s only Son Jesus Christ. As a nation, we have condoned what God has clearly called sin while pushing God out of every area of our national life. Just like the Old Testament book of Amos demonstrates, God will not be mocked, and He will not withhold His judgment forever.
All Scripture Quotations from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.