Sermon preached on Amos 9:11-12 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 1/28/2018 in Novato, CA.
“I Will Raise up the Tabernacle of David”
We finally made it! We’ve gone through a book that’s largely been about judgment. It’s resulted in sermons that have brought a lot of fire and brimstone type language. But now we’ve made it to the part of the book that is about the gospel. This is a fairly common approach by the prophets in the Old Testament. They bring first and primarily a message of condemnation and judgment on how God’s people were sinning and violating the terms of the old covenant. But, then they end with a message of hope. And that hope is gospel. Good news. It’s somewhat similar to how I tend to structure my sermons. If there is bad news to give, I tend to put that at the start of the sermon. If there is general teaching, I put that in the bulk of the sermon. But I like to have us end with the gospel. Well, after more than 8 chapters of judgment language, we have come to the end of Amos, and the end is full of gospel. My plan is to look at this passage over two sermons. Today we’ll look at verses 11-12, and next week we’ll consider verses 13-15. To clarify, I don’t want to treat these verses in isolation as if they are two unrelated passages. That’s why I had us read them all today, and will do the same next week. But in wanting to observe in detail this gospel passage, this is the natural place to divide the passage in two.
So then, focusing today on verses 11-12, we notice right away something a bit surprising about how this gospel passage starts out. Notice in verses 11-12 the people that are mentioned. Amos had been a prophet sent to the northern kingdom of Israel. The judgment passages ended in the last passage with a glimmer of hope. The hope was that God would preserve a remnant of Israelites that he would sprinkle all over the world. So, you would think when we turn to the good news it would focus first and foremost on gathering back up these scattered Israelites. Well, this gospel passage will get there. That’s next week’s passage, where we see in verse 14 that explicit gospel hope. God will gather back up this remnant of Israel which has been scattered everywhere as a result of its destruction and captivity. Yet, that’s not where this gospel passage begins. In verses 11-12, Israel is not named, but two other groups are. First, David is mentioned, and by extension the tribe of Judah, which was the southern kingdom of God’s people at that time. And second, Gentiles are mentioned, in other words the nations. It is not entirely surprising that these two other groups are mentioned, because Amos has spoken about them prior in this prophecy. Yet, certainly they’ve not been his focus. But when he comes now to start talking about the good news of hope that Israel will one day be gathered back and restored, he begins with David and the nations. Israel’s restoration and future glory will be connected in some way with David’s house and even the Gentiles! That’s what we get a chance to explore today.
So, let’s begin in verse 11. Verse 11 begins with the reference to the day that this gospel will happen. It says “on that day”. In context, this looks back to the previous passage which spoke of the day of God’s judgment on Israel. This is surely an example of how the word day in Hebrew sometimes can be used to refer a general time period. Surely the judgment described in last passage will not take place in a single 24-hour period. Israel surely wasn’t conquered, deported, and scattered all over the nations in a single day. Yet, that seems to be the point. The period of this judgment that comes upon Israel begins the need for this gospel mentioned here. In fact, that’s when this period of judgment essentially ends. It’s when the gospel begins. So, the period of judgment that comes upon Israel is coordinate with the period of grace that immediately comes after that, and out of that. So, when we see the word “day” here, we should think a specific period of time. The period of time that was Israel’ judgment was immediately followed by this great period of grace. If we think of Israel’s judgment including not only their destruction but also their captivity and dispersion, then it is precisely when Jesus returns and begins to gather them back to himself that this transition from judgment to grace really happens.
And so, in verse 11 then, we see that point being made. It is when the fallen tabernacle of David is rebuilt and resurrected that we can see this gospel era beginning. So then, thinking about this fallen tabernacle of David, we would be helpful to ask a question here. What does Amos refer to when he talked about David’s tabernacle being fallen? When did David’s kingdom and house fall in the way described here? Verse 11 speaks of it having fallen down which is language that could be applied to a tent or another temporary structure collapsing. The language of ruins are imagery of a structure like a building or wall being destroyed and left in rubble. When Amos talks of Judah being destroyed like this, what might he have specifically in mind? Two options come to my mind. First, when the kingdom of Israel was divided in two. When they split between north and south, between Israel and Judah, it was essentially the rest of the tribes besides Judah abandoning the house of David. They were rejecting the kingship and dominion of David and his dynasty. Though that dynasty continued to have dominion over the tribe of Judah, the reality is that it suffered a big fall from glory and power when that split happened. It was not what was supposed to be the case. A descendant of David was supposed to the be the king over all of God’s people. So, that was certainly one fall for David’s house that Amos may have had in mind here. A second option that comes to my mind is when the tribe of Judah would themselves later be destroyed by the Babylonians and then the king from David’s lineage would stop having an earthly throne to sit upon. The challenge with thinking Amos had that in mind here in verse 11 is that such a destruction of Judah had not yet occurred. That being said, Amos may be speaking of this destruction in a prophetic, predictive sense. Remember back in chapter 2 and 6, Amos had already spoken against Judah and declared judgment coming upon them. It’s very possible that Amos here in verse 11 assumes the inevitable outcome that Judah will ultimately be destroyed as God had spoken through him and other prophets. Thus, in verse 11, Amos may simply assume the certainty of that fall in the future because God had already said it would happen. So, which did Amos have in mind here? That initial kingdom split where David’s house lost much authority? Or the later fall of Judah to Babylon? Well, I don’t want to pick. I think they are all related and surely in some sense all part of what is implied in verse 11. David’s house had become weak and fallen. But Amos declares there would be a restoration.
So then, with that understanding, let’s comment on the tabernacle language here. The word for tabernacle might best be translated from the Hebrew as a booth. Like in the Feast of Booths, sukkot, in the Hebrew. That feast commemorated that time when Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and had to live in booths, temporary shelters. This is a different word in Hebrew that is used most commonly to refer to the Tabernacle or Tent of Meeting. That word most specifically referred to the idea of a tent. Whereas the word here for booth, could include a temporary structure like a tent made with fabric, but could also include other temporary structures made with other things like sticks and leaves, etc. So, these are closely related words and sometimes used interchangeably. Like, for example, Uriah in 2 Samuel 11:11 refers to the Tabernacle as being in a booth. What’s the point? When we hear of David’s tabernacle here, we understandably might think of a place of worship, like the Old Testament tabernacle and later the temple. Certainly, with the theme in Amos of how Israel worshipped in the wrong location, there’s a reason to have that thought. This especially comes to mind with the language in the previous passage of how Israel’s illegitimate place of worship would come crashing down upon them. So, I think a good case could be made to see at least some allusion to that. This might allude to the fact that not only would David’s house be restored but the right place of worship might be restored too. That would seem to address two main concerns given in this book.
That being said, the language used here only alludes to that at best. I think the allusion is there, but seems to purposely subdue the imagery. What is most explicitly there is about how David’s dynasty and kingship will be restored. Recall that when we talk of a family lineage and a royal dynasty, the language of a house is used. The house of David had once reigned over God’s people. But it doesn’t use the word house, it uses the word booth. Or you might even translate it as “hut”. This glorious house of David had degraded to simply a hut, and even then it fell over. Yet, out of such weakness, God would restore and rebuild and raise up again this “hut”. To show that we shouldn’t overly emphasize the tabernacle idea, Amos then suddenly changes the imagery away from a temporary house to something more permanent. When it says in verse 11 that God will “raise up its ruins”, it literally is about “walling up its breaches”. The language of walling up, refers to the practice of piling up stones to solve some breach, like a hole in a wall or in a palace or fortress. So, here the imagery changes from a temporary structure to some more substantive physical structure. This verse declares in these terms as well, that David’s fallen kingdom will be restored and rebuilt. As a side note, the word for breaches here is the Hebrew word for Perez, as in the name of one the two sons of the patriarch Judah. I can’t help but see a little allusion here as well of the fact that not just David’s house will be rebuilt, but the whole tribe of Judah will be rebuilt through the one who would come through David’s line and establish his kingdom and dominion.
So, again, realize the significance here. After talking about how Israel would be destroyed and a remnant scattered all over the world, there is this hope given of a restoration. But this restoration will be in David’s kingdom. Israel will not be restored in its own separate kingdom. There won’t be a rebuilt house of Jeroboam that will rule Israel. It won’t be the return of Samaria. It will be the return of Jerusalem. It will be the return of the king that had long been promised to David. God had promised that through David’s line there would come a king for God’s people that would rule over an everlasting kingdom. Amos still remembers that promise. God still remembers that promise. God still declares through Amos that it will come to pass. It will be in a renewed and restored house of David that Israel would find its future hope. Again, let me say it one more time. This began to be fulfilled with the coming of Jesus. Jesus, son of David, came in that fallen line to bring a grand and glorious kingdom for his people, where he would sit as king forever. It’s amazing to think of how Jesus’ life even reflected this past history of David’s house and the future promise of its glory and power. In multiple ways, Jesus came in apparent outward weakness. He even referred to himself as a temple to be destroyed, yet that he would then raise up and rebuild. And that’s exactly what happened. Jesus seemingly was defeated on the cross, or at least his enemies thought they had won. Again, Israel had rejected the heir of King David. Yet God rose up Jesus from the dead in great glory and power. And in that victory, Jesus rightly declared that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to him. Jesus then called for his people to be gathered to himself, not only as kingdom subjects, but as disciples. The promise of verse 11 has begun to be fulfilled in the coming of King Jesus.
Let’s now turn in our last point to verse 12 and see the reference to a Gentile inclusion in this kingdom. Again, this is amazing. So far, this gospel passage hasn’t explicitly referenced Israel themselves. It’s mentioned David and by implication the Messiah and even Judah. But now in verse 12 it mentions Gentiles. We find in verse 12 that Gentiles will be a part of this restored Davidic kingdom, and that there will be Gentiles who even are people of God – they’ll be Gentiles that are called by God’s name! What a grand and glorious prophecy here in the Old Testament.
Well, Acts 15 quotes verses 11-12. They are quoted in that Jerusalem council in Acts when all the elders and apostles get together to discuss the matter of the Gentiles at that time. At that time, God had begun a work among Gentiles. Gentiles had begun to turn to the Davidic Messiah in faith. The gifts of the Holy Spirit had been manifested in them. They were baptized into the church. God had clearly taken the initiative in making this happen. And so, in Acts 15 they were trying to determine how the Jewish followers of Christ were supposed to interact with the new Gentile followers of Christ. Before, the old covenant laws of ceremonial cleanliness had kept Jews and Gentiles separated. That separation wasn’t possible if they were to be one church, which is what everyone saw that God was making. The question became if these Gentiles then should start following all these ceremonial laws of the old covenant. They ultimately conclude that they didn’t need to keep all those old covenant provisions. But part of the way they came to that conclusion was by quoting these verses from Amos. In fact, they quote these verses but mention that this was what the prophets, plural, foretold. So, these verses from Amos reflect a truth taught by other prophets as well. That truth was basically that God was going to bring in Gentiles as a part of his people and renewed kingdom. So, when James quotes this in Acts 15, he basically is saying that what they have experienced in their day is confirmed by what God had already predicted would happen. Thus, James concluded they should not add other road blocks to the Gentile inclusion if God had not added such roadblocks when he poured out his Spirit upon these Gentiles. (I could add that part of what they should have recognized here is that Jesus had instituted a new covenant and what they were starting to realize is that not all of laws of the old covenant would apply to the new covenant; the ceremonial laws were the most obvious example of such laws that didn’t apply).
As a side note, I would point out to you that there are clearly some minor but noticeable differences in what James quotes in Acts 15 from what we have here in Amos. The initial short reason is that James seems to be quoting from the LXX, which was the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible and often quoted by the New Testament authors who wrote in Greek. The differences include that the Hebrew references Edom instead of mankind, and the Hebrew says that this remnant will be possessed by the Davidic kingdom, whereas the LXX says that this remnant will seek after the Lord. Why the differences? Well, again the short answer is that it’s related to some combination of spelling issues and/or possibly text transcription issues. The word for Edom versus mankind arguably is about a vowel difference, in Hebrew is it adom or adam? In terms of seeking versus possessing, that too is one different letter in Hebrew. So, did the LXX translate off of a miscopied text or misread the spelling? Or did the LXX get it right, and the later Hebrew manuscripts that we have preserved from the Masoretes not handle the spelling right or miscopy a letter? A similar question becomes with the book of Acts. Did James just quote the Greek translation without intending to comment on this transcription or translation issue? Or did his quoting of the Greek translation serve as his inspired affirmation of that reading? It’s hard to be dogmatic. I lean toward the notion that the LXX preserves the right reading from earlier correct Hebrew manuscripts, and thus James’ quote reflects the accurate Hebrew text, and that the later Masorete manuscripts have these minor transmission and/or vowel pointing errors. But I can’t be dogmatic. The comforting thing is that James’ point is not lost regardless of these variants, because the main part with the final reference of Gentiles being called by God’s name and being included is consistent in all these versions. Regardless of the LXX or Masoretic Hebrew text, the fact that God was bringing in Gentiles into the Davidic kingdom is without any question. Praise God!
So then, there is a very important point that we can take away from Acts 15’s usage of this passage from Amos. It will be very important to establish this for next week’s sermon too. The Jerusalem council in Acts 15 sees three things going on at the same time. It sees the raising up of the Davidic Messiah, the gathering of scattered Israelites, and the inclusion of Gentiles all happening at the same time, and at that time in Acts 15. By implication, there is a way in which verses 11-15 today should be seen as beginning to have been fulfilled with the first coming of Jesus Christ. As we’ll talk about more next week, there is a part of these verses that won’t find their ultimate fulfillment until Christ’s second coming. But for now, the promised restoration of David’s kingdom has begun in Jesus. Jesus is the promised king in David’s line. And he now has brought a kingdom in which he is gathering both Jews and Gentiles to himself. As we’ll discuss more next week, the way Acts 15 uses this would not support a notion that right now Jesus is gathering Gentiles into their own church kingdom, and will only later on separately gather Jews into their own kingdom. No, there is one church, now made up of both Jew and Gentiles who bear the name of Jesus as their King, Lord, and Savior. To say it more bluntly, to say that somehow the promises in verses 13-15 should be relegated to some future earthly millennial kingdom that won’t involve Gentiles, misses how Acts 15 has already interpreted this passage and its context and application.
In conclusion for today, let me end today’s message with the joy of the final words in verse 12. In summarizing verses 11-12, it says that it is “the LORD who does this thing.” This is why this is grace and it is gospel. The whole book of Amos is full of what Israel had done and the result was God’s condemnation and judgment. Now, God describes his saving actions that he would take for this remnant that he has kept for himself. Also, God describes his saving actions that he would take for these pagan Gentiles that he would turn to himself. Notice the emphasis is not on men and their worthiness here. Nor are they the ones credited with accomplishing this glorious future. No, it’s God who does this. God had promised to send a Messiah through David’s line. God would do it. God in fact did it! God took the initiative to send Jesus into this world to save sinners who had become enemies to God. It was also God’s work and mighty power that rose Jesus from the dead and established Christ’s kingdom in that resurrection. It continues to be God’s work in drawing both Jew and Gentile to faith in Jesus Christ even today. God will continue his work until his final work in sending Jesus back into this world again, when God will make all things new and plant his saved people into an eternal place of bliss and blessing. More on that next week. But be encouraged today. If it’s God’s work, you can’t mess it up! Be encouraged at grace! Let us respond to his grace in how he says. Repent of your sins and put your faith in that work of God’s grace.
I would add as a final application that God’s grace does have implications for us. This passage spoke to who would be in God’s church that has implications of unity among different groups of people. It would have implications to the Hebrews that God would be making Israel and Judah move past their differences as they are united in the Christ. By the time we get to Acts 15 we see that they had done that, but then they needed to make room in the church for Gentiles too. That called for a greater unity in God’s house than they were used to. Today’s passage certainly continues to have such implications for us too. The gospel is going out far and wide and God is gathering up quite a diverse group of people. But we are united Christ. That’s our common foundation – Jesus. It’s a diversity rooted in a substantive foundation and set of truth. Having this unity amidst diversity, let us then act like it, live like, evangelize like it, and fellowship like it. We get a small taste of that in a congregation like ours where we have so many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds present, seeking to love each other and grow as Christians. Let’s keep living out the implications of how God brings together so many different types of people into his kingdom of grace. Amen.
Copyright © 2018 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
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