November 1, 2021
“Look, the eyes of the Lord God are on the sinful kingdom and I will destroy it from the face of the earth. However, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob...”
“Look, the eyes of the Lord God are on the sinful kingdom and I will destroy it from the face of the earth. However, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob – the Lord’s declaration – for I am about to give the command, and I will shake the house of Israel among the nations, as one shakes a sieve, but not a grain will fall to the ground. All the sinners from among My people, who say, ‘Disaster will not overtake or confront us,’ will die by the sword.’” Amos 9:8-10
This final chapter of Amos’ prophecy divides into two parts. Verses 1-10 give the last of the five visions and the Lord’s telling of the afflictions awaiting Israel in the lands of their wanderings, but with the assurance that not a grain of his wheat will be lost. Then, in verses 11-15, as is customary with the prophets, Amos looks toward Israel’s restoration to glory and blessing in the last days, when their tribulations will pass forever, and the nation will be saved in the recovered remnant.
For today’s passage, I chose to focus on the “sifting” of God’s people. The reason being that it is essential to remember that Amos was prophesying to Israel. And that means that within the community of Israel - the chosen people - were those who chose God and those who didn’t. God was communicating that His massive “shakedown” of the Jewish community had a revealing and redemptive purpose: To separate the devoted of Israel from those who were born of Jewish families, yet rejected the Lord. Jesus warned Peter of a similar “sifting”:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32
The Apostle Paul spoke of the division within the Jewish community:
“But it is not as though the Word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” Romans 9:6
Paul’s point was that there had been a long-standing delusion among the Jewish community that salvation was automatic simply because they were Jewish. That so-called “theology” leads to complacency and, ultimately, idolatry. Yes, latter generations profited from their forefathers’ faithfulness to God, but faith in Messiah brings salvation, not Jewish DNA or works of the law.
This is not exclusively a New Testament idea. It is rooted in the prophets. God is not sifting the nations and keeping the Jews, in this instance. He is sifting Jerusalem and keeping those who believe in Him, rightly. Furthermore, there is a “sifting” yet awaiting the greater Messianic community (The Church). Just because a person does good works does not ensure their salvation. They must first believe in their hearts that Jesus is Messiah. When the sifting comes, true believers stand on faith instead of retreating to the World. As we learned from Job: FAITH isn’t FACT until it’s tested…i.e., “sifted.”