Flee to the Mountains
By Tom Holt
Amos 1:1,2; Matthew 24:15,16
The Book of Amos is one part of the Bible that is seldom preached in churches these years. An obvious reason: its message is not what the itching ears of today's churchgoers wants to hear. With the exception of a couple of passages, the whole book warns of the horrible judgments from God that shall surely come and the reasons therefor.
Nevertheless, it is a message we believers mustn't ignore, especially since the admonition, as we shall see, is directed particularly to the end-time generation that we are. For one thing, the many references therein of Israel's idolatry and hypocritical sac
rifices help us better recognize and understand the apostasy of today's churches. Moreover, hidden in the very first two verses is an important instruction on the step loyal followers of Christ are to take when one congregation after another has fallen away. Here's how those opening verses read:The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. And he said, The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither.
A type of JesusThe passage starts by declaring that we are about to hear the words of Amos. As the name "Amos" means burden-bearer, the prophet is really a type of our Lord Jesus. He is the One who, according to Isaiah 53:4, "hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows" on the Cross, and who has continued to bear the everyday burdens of our pilgrimage. "Come unto me," He says, "all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28).
Moreover, this Amos is among the herdmen of Tekoa. The Hebrew word for herdmen appears in just one other verse in the BibleII Kings 3:4. There, it is translated sheepmaster. A sheepmaster is one who raises and tends sheep, and to us that's what our Lord Jesus is. By His Spirit, our Great Shepherd raised us up when we were dead in trespasses and sins, and He has been caring for us since.
Tekoa. The word "Tekoa" appears in the Bible in six verses. In two of them, it was the name of a person of whom little is revealed in the Scripture. But behind the remaining four verses, there is significant spiritual meaning.
For example, we read in II Chronicles 11 beginning in verse 5: "And Rehoboam dwelt in Jerusalem and built cities for defense in Judah. He built even Bethlehem, and Etam, and Tekoa..." Thus, Tekoa was a fortified city, and again that's what the Lord Jesus is to us. "In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God" (Psalm 62:7).
Next is II Chronicles 20:20: "And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said..." Here, Tekoa is described as a wilderness. Remember the woman in Revelation 12 that represents the church? After she had brought forth a man child that was later caught up unto God, she "fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God" (v. 6). Yes, we who belong to the eternal church of God are sojourning in the wilderness and are being nurtured by our Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
Before we look at Jeremiah 6:1, the last verse in which the word Tekoa appears, let us go back first to Amos 1:1.
An upcoming Judgment DayThe verse ends with the phrase "two years before the earthquake". Interestingly, this earthquake is not mentioned in the historical part of the Old Testament. God evidently does not consider the physical event itself important enough to be recorded. But what it stands for spiritually He does, because He speaks of it again in Zechariah 14:5,6:And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.We know from I Thessalonians 3:13 that it is on the last day that our Lord shall come with all the saints to judge the world. So, here, God links the earthquake in the days of Uzziah to the last day, which will also be the beginning of eternity for believers. Hence, it shall be light even at evening time.
A great earthquake is also that which God uses to speak of Judgment Day in Revelation 16:18. When the seventh angel poured out the vial of God's wrath, the verse says: "there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great."
The Bible repeatedly states that Judgment Day will come as a thief in the night to the unsuspecting world. Not so for us believers, however. Here in Amos 1:1, we are given a warning ahead of time. The term "two years", I believe, ties to Acts 28:30,31:And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.Recorded at the tail end of Acts, the two years that Paul preached in "his own hired house" represent the short period before Judgment Day when God uses para-church ministries to feed us. I'll talk more about this later.
Believers should be able to see signs of the end also because judgment must begin at the house of God (I Peter 4:17). And that's what verse 2 is saying:And he said, The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither.Even as God used Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Israel because it had fallen away, God has been using false prophets to take over the corporate church. Indeed, the shepherds are now mourning and the top of Carmel withering, so to speak. One can hardly hear the whole counsel of God in any established congregation. Instead, some churches are promoting grace-plus-works gospels (including the freewill doctrine); some are offering sugarcoated gospels that promise mainly health and prosperity; some openly defy the commands of God on social issues; and some feature signs and wonders.
That churchgoers toward the end of time would be deceived by a menagerie of false prophets is that which God speaks of in Jeremiah 15:1,2:Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth. And it shall come to pass, if they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth? then thou shalt tell them, Thus saith the Lord; Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity.In other words, it doesn't matter which gospel they follow. As long as it is not the Gospel of the Bible, people following those churches will all end up being eternally condemned in hell.
A time to fleeWhat if the church that we have long attended has turned into one of those apostate churches cited above? Let's look again at Zechariah 14:5:And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.God wants us to flee to the valley of the mountains. In some translations, including the Modern King James Version and the Interlinear Bible, the term "the mountains" reads "My mountains", underscoring that God has Himself or His kingdom in view.
Fleeing to the mountains is also what Jesus commands in Matthew 24. Speaking of the end of time, He says: "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains" (vv. 15,16) The abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel, as most of us know by now, refers to the period when the corporate church is dominated by Satan and his workers.
Not coincidentally, fleeing Jerusalem is the same commands God gives in Jeremiah 6:1, the remaining verse in which the word "Tekoa" ap
pears:O ye children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire in Bethhaccerem: for evil appeareth out of the north, and great destruction.Putting all this together, we thus further see that the words of Amos, the herdman of Tekoa, are really Christ blowing the trumpet warning the world and us of Judgment Day to come.
Back to the Bible. How do we flee Judaea or Jerusalem? Well, spiritually we are the Israel, or the Jews, of God. So, Judaea and Jerusalem represent the congregations to which we normally belong. But when we see that they have become the abomination of desolation, we have to leave them. To remain under the hearing of false prophets is to willfully submit to the devil.
As noted earlier, the mountains (or My mountains) to which we true believers are to flee, is God Himself. In Psalm 125:2, we read: "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever."
To better understand how in practical terms do we go to the mountains, notice that Zechariah 14:5 tells us to flee to the valley of His mountains. A valley is the lowland between mountain ranges that is typically lush with pastures and through which a river of fresh water runs. Spiritually, therefore, the valley of God's mountains represents the Living Word of God that we are to feed upon. In short, instead of listening to misleading teachings, God wants us to go to the Bible directly for truths.
Para-church ministries. It's true that we believers have the indwelling Holy Spirit to teach us spiritual things. But for the work of the ministry, God specifically give some to be prophets; some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers. Most of us still need one or more gifted persons to guide us. Thankfully, bypassing the traditional corporate church, God has raised up in these end-time days ministries like Family Radio by which we can be faithfully taught the truths of God wherever we are.
While we are to flee our churches if they have turned apostate, we must nevertheless not forsake the assembling of the saints. In fact, Hebrews 10:25 tells us to exhort one another especially "as ye see the day approaching".
Since Judgment Day is indeed drawing nearer and nearer, true believers will be increasingly persecuted. Hence, it is all the more important for us to support and encourage one another. We may not be able to find too many such Christians around, but to the extent that we can, we should get together to worship and to fellowship. If necessary, meeting in a home church should be considered.
A fulfillment of prophecyThat God tells believers to flee to the mountains before the end of time is prefigured in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. After Lot had taken his family out of the city, God said to him in Genesis 19:17: "Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed."
Special grace. By giving us this warning beforehand, God is fulfilling His promise in Amos 3:6,7:Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.It may not be pleasant for us to leave the church with which we have long associated, to part with the friends that we have long loved, and to go without the organ and choir music to which we are accustomed. But if we do see the abomination of desolation that Jesus warns us of, we can count on God to give us the wisdom and strength to do the fleeing.
Meanwhile, we have this promise in the closing verse of Amos:And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.The land out of which we will never be pulled up, the land that we will possess forever, is the new earth that we will inherit after Christ shall have destroyed the present universe. From then on, we won't be able to stop praising God for the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through the Lord Jesus Christ. o
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