The Tabernacle of David 

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 10 Dec 2010 


11 In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: 12 That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this” (Amos 9:11-12).

Amos was not originally a prophet. He was a herdsman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit (7:14). He lived in Tekoa, a village about 5 miles South of Bethlehem. One day when he was shepherding his flock, the LORD said unto him: “Go, prophesy unto my people Israel” (Amos 7:15).

Although He lived in the South, and had no training as a prophet, Amos was to become a prophet in the North.

That was in the middle of the 8th century BC, about 750 years before Christ was born. It was during the reign of Uzziah king of Judah in the South, and of Jeroboam II king of Israel in the North.

There was relative peace between the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom during this time. And Israel was also enjoying a period of respite from foreign interference. The superpowers Egypt, Babylon and Assyria were all rather weak at this time.

But Israel was facing another danger. She was facing the internal danger of dead formalism. She was “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Tim 3:5). She was zealous in outward acts of religion, and even desired the day of the Lord like the foolish virgins in our Lord’s parable (5:18). But her heart was far from the Lord. She was a stranger to the true Gospel. And that resulted in many problems such as idolatry and social injustice. Amos would preach against these and other sins.

Amos begins his prophecy with a roar of the lion (v. 2). This is the roar of the lion of Judah. He roars from Zion where his throne among men was. Amos records 8 roars. Six of these are directed against the enemies of God’s people. The first roar was directed against Damascus (v. 3); the second against Gaza (v. 6); the third against Tyrus (v. 9); the fourth against Edom (v. 11); the fifth against Ammon (v. 13) and the sixth against Moab (chap 2, v. 1).

Now, if you have a map of ancient Palestine, one of the things that you must do is to locate all these cities in the order given. How are the cities arranged? If you trace the cities, you will quickly realise that they are arranged like a whirlpool leading to Israel! The seventh roar is directed against Judah and the eighth against Israel!

God’s people must know God is holy and just. His judgement is fair and impartial. Therefore, Israel herself will not escape the judgement of God when she sins against God. In fact, the next part of this prophecy (chapters 3-6) is made up of five sermons of condemnation against Israel; and then the remaining of the book, from chapter 7 to verse 10 of chapter 9, contains five visions portraying the destruction of the nation. It is only in the concluding portion of this prophecy that we have a positive word of prophecy and promise about the restoration of Israel.

In this study, as part of our series on the Great and Precious Promises of God, we must consider the famous promise of Amos found in this climax of his prophecy. In particular, we want to look at verses 11-12—

11 In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:  12 That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this.

You may realise that this is both a prophecy and a promise. This is a famous prophecy because it was quoted by James the Lord’s brother at the first assembly of elders and apostles at Jerusalem. The quotation of James may be found in Acts 15:16-17.

Let’s consider this promise under three heads. First, it is needful for us to understand what this promise is not about. Secondly, let’s consider what it is about. Thirdly, let us consider how we should respond to this promise.


1. What this Promise is Not About?

The LORD says through Amos:

11 In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:

What does He mean? Well, the tabernacle of David refers to the dynasty or kingly line of David, so literally what the LORD means is that He would restore the kingdom of David to its former glory and splendour.

Remember that this Amos was ministering in the North. In the South, King Uzziah, who was a fairly good king, was on the throne. The Davidic throne would remain in Jerusalem for yet another 136 years. But Amos appears to be seeing its declension and prophesying that it would be so weakened that it must be raised up again.

Worse yet, in the North, Jeroboam II was on the throne. Jeroboam descended from Jehu rather than David. Jehu’s dynasty was the 5th in the north; and it would not be the last. In fact, things were getting from bad to worse so fast that in about 60 years, the LORD would cast aside Israel and allow her to be destroyed and scattered abroad.

It appears that God’s promise is to restore the throne of David in Jerusalem; to unite the kingdom and to rebuild the nation from Tipzah to Gaza to its past glory. Now, this seems to be what this promise is about, and I suspect that many orthodox Jews today are still looking forward to the fulfilment of the prophecy and promise.

But I will put it to you that if you compare Scripture with Scripture, you will see that this is not how the Holy Spirit intends for us to understand this prophecy.

What then?


2. What this Promise is About?

Perhaps the best way for us to start understanding what the prophecy and promise of Amos is about is to consider how it is used in the New Testament.

Now, as I mentioned, it is quoted by James in Acts 15. The context, as you can see, is a discussion pertaining to the place of Gentile believers during the assembly at Jerusalem. Remember that the church at that time compromised mostly Jewish converts. The Jews were circumcised from young and they were taught how to walk before God. They knew the traditions and the Law so there was a certain homogeneity among the early believers. But things began to change as Gentiles began to join the church. Indeed some of the churches were predominantly Gentile. The assembly, which comprised Jewish elders and apostles, needed to decide first of all whether it was supposed to be so—that Gentiles were to be added en masse; and secondly, if so, how the church should deal with the Gentile converts.

It was essentially to answer the first question that James quoted Amos 9:11-12—

16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: 17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things” (Acts 15:16-17).

Now, there is a technical difference between what we have in Amos and James’ quotation. The difference is that where Amos has ‘Edom’, James has it as ‘men’. Well, actually, the original Hebrew was without vowel pointings, so Edom and Adam, which denote “man”, are written in exactly the same way. But it is more likely that James understood under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that Amos’ prophecy has to do with the remnant of men and not just the remnant of Edom—Edom after all is part of all men.

But in any case, it is significant that James uses the term ‘men’ rather then ‘Edom’; and it is also significant, that he quoted the prophecy in the context of the debate about Gentile believers. You see, what James is essentially telling the assembly is that what was happening, namely, the influx of Gentiles, is a fulfilment of prophecy!

James understood that the restoration of the tabernacle of David was not something in the future, but something that had already happened in the events leading up to the assembly, namely, the life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church. These events, according to James, paved the way for salvation of the Gentiles as prophesied by Amos!

You see, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was indeed a descendant of David. He would be King, though He would not sit on the throne in Jerusalem. He would conquer Satan and sin on behalf of His people by dying for their sin. He would conquer death by rising from the dead. And as a conquering king, He ascended up to heaven to be seated on the right hand of the throne of God as the King of kings and Lord of lords. As King, He would gather the Israel of God into one by first sending the gift of the Holy Spirit in great measure upon His people; and them mobilising His people to lead others into the Kingdom, many of whom would be Gentiles by nature.

In Amos, this task appointed for the church is worded in verse 12—“That they [i.e. the subjects of the kingdom of David] may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen.” James paraphrases as “That the residue of men might seek the Lord.…”

Now, all this might have been surprising to many who heard Amos. And so it was spoken of as a mystery by the apostle. But it is a mystery that has now been revealed—

“That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph 3:6)

Christ Jesus has restored the Tabernacle of David. He has opened the gates of the Tabernacle so that the Gentiles might come in. The Israel of God would know a glory and growth that she has never known before in the entire history of redemption. The Prophecy and Promise has been fulfilled and is being fulfilled for the full number of the elect Gentiles that have yet to come in.

So…


3. What Should Our Response Be?

Let me suggest 3 responses.

a. On a technical note, I think it is essential for us to learn from a text such as this on how Old Testament prophecies and promises should be interpreted. You see, were it not for the inspired commentaries in the New Testament, we might be tempted to think that Amos’ prophecy points to a future time, perhaps in a future millennium as dispensationalists would have us believe. But when you look at Old Testament prophecies in the light of the New Testament, you cannot but see that in fact, the prophecies and promises have been fulfilled or are being fulfilled in Christ and his church.

So the prophecy of Amos in regard to the restoration of the Tabernacle of David is not irrelevant to us; and neither does it demand a heightened political interest in what is happening in Israel. No, no; the prophecy of Amos and in fact all the Old Testament prophecies have direct relevance to us. Rarely if ever are they ultimately about the land of Palestine or the people who live in Palestine.

b. But now secondly, the prophecy and promise of Amos ought to fill our hearts with gratitude as Gentile believers. The prophecy of Amos, we must remember, was a key consideration that determined the decision of the Assembly at Jerusalem. Now, of course, the Holy Spirit could have led the men to a different passage for the same effect, but the fact is that He chose Amos 9:11-12. So this text is clearly important and ought to be remembered by us.

What shall we remember? Shall we not remember especially that the LORD raised up the Tabernacle of David so that we might be led to seek the Lord and His kingdom? Shall not our hearts be thankful to the Lord for all that He has done for our salvation both in His suffering and death, and in His ordering of providence? Shall not our gratitude translate to a life of thankfulness that magnifies Christ?

c. But now thirdly, since the Lord raised up the Tabernacle of David so that we might be led to seek Him, so we must understand that this is a mission for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, the Tabernacle of David does not operate from Jerusalem today. It operates from the church. Christ is in command at the right hand of the throne of God. But He has sent His Spirit; and has appointed His ministers and under-shepherds. He has given the keys of the kingdom to them; and He has committed the Great Commission to them and to the members of the church labouring together with them.

Because the Jewish-Christian fathers in the first century took seriously their commission and charge, we are where we are today.

Today, the kingdom of Christ is marching on; and there is still a remnant among the Gentiles who must be led to seek the Lord and call upon His name. What shall we do as those who have tasted of the Lord’s mercies? Shall we not join in great work of calling sinners unto Christ as good soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ our King?

Oh may the Lord grant us that our gratitude may not just be in words, but in deed and in truth!

Conclusion

Beloved brethren and children, how does the church look like to you today? Does it look like it is in ruins? Or does it look like the Tabernacle of David has been restored, the ruins are being repaired and the breaches are being closed up?

It is sad that many sectors of Christendom looks like it is still in ruin. This is so because of sin. But what about the sector you are in? Do you see that Christ is on the throne? Do you see the ruins and breaches being repaired? Do you see the army of Christ conquering in the name of the King? Oh beloved brethren, let us awake from our slumber and discouragement. Let us awake to labour like our fathers in the faith during Haggai and Zechariah’s days. Let us labour on with the full assurance that the Lord has kept and will keep His promises. Amen. Ω