Make sure you read to the end!
3Thus says the Lord:“For three transgressions of Damascus,and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,because they have threshed Gileadwith threshing sledges of iron. 4So I will send a fire upon the house of Hazael,and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad. 5I will break the gate-bar of Damascus,and cut off the inhabitants from the Valley of Aven,and him who holds the scepter from Beth-eden;and the people of Syria shall go into exile to Kir,” says the Lord.
With these words, Amos begins his prophecy concerning the nations that surrounded Israel. As we look at the next several verses, we will find that no nation surrounding God’s people goes untouched by His Word, and finally the indictments land right on the doorstep of the Northern Kingdom and the people who have up to this point probably been saying, “Yea, that’s right. You get ‘em, God.” Ultimately, God’s people in Israel will have to face the fact that they too are sinners worthy of God’s wrath.
This first set of verses speaks to the people of Damascus which was found to the northeast of Israel. Of note is the phrase “For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment”. This phrase is used for each of the pronouncements against the nations and has important implications for the Hebrews listener. The repetition of the phrase brings an emotional emphasis to the message, and the literary foil of adding charge upon charge is used often throughout the Old Testament.
Examine this passage from Proverbs 30:15.
The leech has two daughters: Give and Give.
Three things are never satisfied; four never say, “Enough”.
First of all, the passage is just so powerful all by itself and could be used for meditation for a long time. But it is also a perfect example of the use of this foil. By the end of the verse you just shaking your head in agreement and are rather bowled over by the impact of its truth. This is the same tool used in our study passage for today. “For three transgressions, and for four . . .” God is not kidding as He talks about the sins of this nation. His wrath has been held patiently as He waits for repentance. Not one sin or two. But three and four have gone unpunished and now He must be merciful no longer. The time for judgment has come.
The call to repentance is clear and only the fool resists, right? And yet how many pet sins (you know, the ones you consider “little”) will God have to tolerate before you fall before Him in sorrow? Three transgressions, or four? At this point, you’re possibly thinking “what’s the use?” But here’s where our faith differs from every other faith in the world. You have most likely committed three or four sins today. But the blood of Jesus covers every single one of them. While it is certainly optimal that you turn away from all sin, that isn’t very likely to happen. In fact, it won’t. That is why God took care of those sins on the cross. You are forgiven for every single one of them and God has restored that relationship that was broken so that you can walk with Him every day. God remembers mercy in His wrath because of Jesus.