Woe to the Complacent
6 Alas for those being at ease in Zion, and those who feel secure on Mount Samaria, the notables of the best of the nations! The house of Israel resorts to them. 2 Cross over to Calneh and see, and go from there to Hamath Rabbah and go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are you better than these kingdoms, or is their territory greater than your territory? 3 You that put off the day of disaster and bring near a reign of violence! 4 Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory and lounge on their couches, and those eating young rams from the sheep and goats, and bull-calves from the middle of the animal stall. 5 Alas for those who sing to the tune of the harp; like David they improvise on instruments of music. 6 Alas for those who drink from sprinkling bowls of wine and anoint themselves with the best of olive oils and are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph. 7 Therefore, they shall now go into exile at the head of the exiles and the feast of lounging shall pass away.
Yahweh Abhors Israel’s Pride
8 My Lord Yahweh has sworn by himself, declares Yahweh, the God of hosts: “I abhor the pride of Jacob and I hate his citadel fortresses and I will deliver the city and its fullness!” 9 And then if ten people remain in one house, they too will die. 10 And if one’s relative, who burns the body, lifts it up and brings the body out of the house and he will say to someone in the innermost part of the house, “Are there any more with you?” and he will say, “None,” then he will say, “Silence,” because we must not invoke the name of Yahweh. 11 Look, Yahweh is going to command and the great house will be destroyed to bits and the little house to pieces. 12 Do horses run on rocks, or does one plow the sea with oxen? But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood! 13 You who rejoice over Lo-Debar, who say, “Have we not taken Karnaim for ourselves by our strength?” 14 Indeed, I am going to raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, declares Yahweh, the God of hosts. And they shall oppress you from Lebo-hamath up to the wadi of the Arabah.
7 This is what my Lord Yahweh showed me, and look, he is going to form locusts at the beginning of the sprouting of the second crop, and look, after the mowings of the king. 2 And then when they finished eating the vegetation of the land, I said, “O Lord Yahweh, please forgive! How can Jacob stand, because he is small?” 3 Yahweh relented concerning this. “It will not be,” said Yahweh. 4 This is what my Lord Yahweh showed me, and look, my Lord Yahweh was going to call for a legal case with fire, and it devoured the great deep and it ate up the plots of ground. 5 Then I said, “O Lord Yahweh, please stop! How can Jacob stand, because he is small?” 6 Yahweh also relented concerning this. “This also will not be,” said my Lord Yahweh. 7 This is what he showed me: Behold, my Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plummet, and a plummet was in his hand. 8 And Yahweh said to me, “What do you see, Amos?” And I said, “A plummet.” And my Lord said, “Look, I am going to set a plummet in the midst of my people, Israel. I will not pass them by again. 9 The high places of Isaac shall become desolate and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste. And I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”
10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam the king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to endure all of his words. 11 For this Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword and Israel will certainly go into exile away from his land.’ ” 12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee to the land of Judah and earn food there and prophesy there!” 13 But do not prophesy again at Bethel, because this is a sanctuary of a king and this is a temple of a kingdom.” 14 And Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I am not a prophet and I am not a son of a prophet, but I am a herdsman and I am one taking care of sycamore trees. 15 And Yahweh took me from following behind the sheep and goats and Yahweh said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel! 16 And so then, hear the word of Yahweh! You are saying, ‘You must not prophesy against Israel and you must not preach against the house of Isaac!’ 17 Therefore, thus says Yahweh, ‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city and your sons and your daughters will fall by the sword and your land will be divided with a line, and you will die in an unclean land and Israel will surely go into exile from this land.’ ”
Cornelius Has a Vision
10 Now there was a certain man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Cohort, 2 devout and fearing God together with all his household, doing many charitable deeds for the people and praying to God continually. 3 About the ninth hour of the day, he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming to him and saying to him, “Cornelius.” 4 And he stared at him and became terrified and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your charitable deeds have gone up for a memorial offering before God. 5 And now, send men to Joppa and summon a certain Simon, who is also called Peter. 6 This man is staying as a guest with a certain Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” 7 And when the angel who spoke to him departed, he summoned two of the household slaves and a devout soldier from those who attended him, 8 and after he had explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
Peter Has a Vision
9 And the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray at about the sixth hour. 10 And he became hungry and wanted to eat. But while they were preparing the food, a trance came over him. 11 And he saw heaven opened and an object something like a large sheet coming down, being let down to the earth by its four corners, 12 in which were all the four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth and birds of the sky. 13 And a voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, slaughter and eat!” 14 But Peter said, “Certainly not, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common and unclean!” 15 And the voice came again to him for the second time: “The things which God has made clean, you must not consider unclean!” 16 And this happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into heaven.
17 Now while Peter was greatly perplexed within himself as to what the vision that he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having found the house of Simon by asking around, stood at the gate. 18 And they called out and asked if Simon who was also called Peter was staying there as a guest. 19 And while Peter was reflecting about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, men are looking for you. 20 But get up, go down, and go with them—not hesitating at all, because I have sent them.” 21 So Peter went down to the men and said, “Behold, I am he whom you are looking for! What is the reason for which you have come?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man—and well spoken of by the whole nation of the Jews—was directed by a holy angel to summon you to his house and to hear words from you.” 23 So he invited them in and entertained them as guests, and on the next day he got up and went away with them. And some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. 24 And on the next day he entered into Caesarea.
Peter Visits Cornelius
Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 So it happened that when Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell at his feet, and worshiped him. 26 But Peter helped him up, saying, “Get up! I myself am also a man!” 27 And as he conversed with him, he went in and found many people gathered. 28 And he said to them, “You know that it is forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or to approach a foreigner. And to me God has shown that I should call no man common or unclean. 29 Therefore—and without raising any objection—I came when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you sent for me.”
30 And Cornelius said, “Four days ago at this hour, the ninth, I was praying in my house. And behold, a man in shining clothing stood before me 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your charitable deeds have been remembered before God. 32 Therefore send to Joppa and summon Simon who is also called Peter. This man is staying as a guest in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. 33 Therefore I sent for you at once, and you were kind enough to come. So now we all are present before God to hear all the things that have been commanded to you by the Lord.”
12 “Though wickedness tastes sweet in his mouth,
and he hides it under his tongue,
13 though he spares it and does not let it go
and holds it back in the midst of his palate,
14 in his bowels his food is turned,
the venom of horned vipers is within him.
15 He swallows riches, but he vomits them up;
God drives them out from his stomach.
16 He will suck the poison of horned vipers;
the viper’s tongue will kill him.
17 He will not enjoy the streams,
the torrents of honey and curds.
18 Returning the products of his toil, he will not swallow;
according to the profit of his trade, he will not enjoy,
19 for he has oppressed; he has abandoned the poor;
he has seized a house but did not build it.
20 Because he has not known satisfaction in his stomach,
he lets nothing escape that he desires.
21 There is nothing left after he has eaten;
therefore his prosperity will not endure.
22 In the fullness of his excess he will be in distress;
all of misery’s power will come upon him.
23 When his stomach fills up, God will send his burning anger upon him,
and he will let it rain down upon him as his food.
24 “He will flee from an iron weapon,
but an arrow of bronze will pierce him.
25 He draws it forth, and it comes out from his body,
and the glittering point comes from his gall-bladder;
terrors come upon him.
26 Total darkness is hidden for his treasures;
an unfanned fire will devour him;
the remnant will be consumed in his tent.
27 The heavens will reveal his guilt,
and the earth will rise up against him.
28 The products of his house will be carried away
like gushing waters on the day of his wrath.
29 This is a wicked human being’s portion from God
and the inheritance of his decree from God.”
We often wonder why God allows bad things to happen. We’re not unique in this; people have asked this same question since the beginning of time. Job struggled with this question after he lost everything. Job’s friends strove to answer it as they sought to prove that Job had somehow sinned against God and brought his terrible fate upon himself.
At one point, Job’s friend Zophar offers up the common wisdom of the time: “Did you know this from of old, since the setting of the human being on earth, that the rejoicing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless lasts only a moment?… [The wicked man] will suck the poison of horned vipers; the viper’s tongue will kill [the wicked man]” (Job 20:4–5, 16). Zophar is right about one thing: Eventually the wicked will be punished.
The rest of Zophar’s words prove his short-sightedness. The wicked are not always punished immediately. And God does not allow evil to continue without end. Instead, He chooses to intercede at certain times to ensure that His plan stays on course. Furthermore, bad things happen because people are bad—not because God allows or causes evil to happen, and not necessarily because the afflicted people are somehow evil. Evil powers are at work in the world, seeking to thwart God’s plan. We, as humanity, chose our fate when we went against God’s will that first time and every time since.
God has good news for us. As Peter tells his Gentile audience in Acts, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.… They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day … [and] everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:38–40, 42 esv). There is redemption to be found in His Son, who will return to earth to make all things right. Every moment between now and then is a moment of grace.
How are your beliefs about evil closer to Zophar’s than to the truth? How can you find a new perspective?
Author: John D. Barry & Rebecca Van Noord
Publisher: Lexham Press
Publication Date: 2012
This 365-day devotional walks you through the Bible in a year, following a custom reading plan that delves into the stories of the Bible from five unique perspectives.