Reading Time: 6 Minutes
When I was in seminary I read a book on Amos and Hosea. The preface to the book has stayed with me for almost 50 years.
The author said, “We have been able to put a man on the moon, but our morality has not advanced beyond what Amos faced in the eighth century B.C.”
A few facts will assist our appreciation of a message that is centuries old, yet appropriate in 2021.
A Few Helpful Facts
— Amos lived about six miles south of Bethlehem in the Southern Kingdom of Judea.
— His prophecy was directed to the Northern Kingdom, Israel.
— In 930 B.C. the people of God separated into two nations. The ten northern tribes were called Israel and their capital was the city of Samaria.
— The two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin, remained loyal to the House of David centered in Jerusalem. They became known and the kingdom of Judea (from where the word “Jew” was eventually derived).
— Amos was not part of the clergy, but labored with sheep and sycamore trees.
— Amos served as God’s prophet in the mid-700s B.C., at a time when the Northern Kingdom (Israel) experienced its greatest era of prosperity.
— Under King Jeroboam, Israel’s borders expanded, culture flourished, and sin abounded.
God called Amos from his labors and directed him to be his personal messenger to the Northern Kingdom, Israel.
Justice was the first word out of Amos’ mouth. It was directed to six nations in the region of the Middle East. God’s complaint against the nations would be seen as war crimes and human trafficking in today’s speech. See Amos 1.3-2.3.
Justice does not derive primarily from constitutions, laws and customs of countries. It is an essential part of the heart of God, who loves his creation.
Violations of just laws by nations are not simply a crossing of a line of decency among nations. They transgress the nature of God, who will not permit them to take place without an accounting.
They Knew Better
In addition to the six nations, Amos delivered short message about the Southern Kingdom Judah. This address was different from the other nations, because it recognized the relationship that Judah had with God.
Their offense against God was stated like this:
They have rejected the law of the Lord,
and have not kept his statutes,
but they have been led astray by the same lies
after which their ancestors walked. (Amos 2.4)
One of my friends says, “If he knew better, he’s do better.” The problem with Judah was that they knew better and chose lies over God’s truth.
We put ourselves into great danger when we stare truth in the eye and then turn away from it to serve our own will. Nations fall under God’s judgment when enough people willfully turn from God’s guidance and embrace their self-centered desires.
The Message to Israel
God’s message to the seven nations was significant, but the primary recipients of God’s word was the Northern Kingdom, Israel. The remainder of Amos will be his messages from God to Israel.
The first listing of their crimes involved the following:
(1) Selling people (probably debtors) into slavery.
— Amos 2.6 – They sell the righteous for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals . . .
(2) Oppression of the poor.
— Amos 2.7 – They who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth,
and push the afflicted out of the way . . .
(3) Sexual sin.
— Amos 2.7 – Father and son go in to the same girl,
so that my holy name is profaned . . .
Because of a high mortality rate, the father probably died and the son took his father’s wife as his own. This behavior brought God’s condemnation.
(4) Luxury at the expense of the debtors and the oppressed.
— Amos 2.8 – They lay themselves down beside every altar
on garments taken in pledge;
and in the house of their God they drink
wine bought with fines they imposed.
Garments that were taken in pledge for debts were to be returned to the poor, so they could be protected from the elements.
The common people paid fines that enabled the wealthy to live in plenty and splendor.
(5) God’s past gracious acts for the people no longer motivated their behavior. Self-centered rebellion demonstrated a lack of gratitude and appreciation for God’s mighty work in their past.
— Amos 2.10 – Also I brought you up out of the land of Egypt,
and led you forty years in the wilderness,
to possess the land of the Amorite.
An Appeal for Repentance
When Jonah walked through the city of Nineveh proclaiming, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3.4), God’s deepest desire was that the people would change their behavior and observe his guidance for life.
The in-your-face message of Amos came from the very heart of God. God used powerful means of persuasion to call the people away from lies and back to his truth.
I have been reading the prophets on a regular basis for the past few years. I believe that the message of the prophets is a loud call to us, “turn away from the accepted lies of society and return to the guidance of God.”
On any given day, between 50 and 80 people read this blog. What can such a small crowd do with the message of the prophets?
(1) We can turn away from the lie that personal behavior doesn’t matter to God. The consistent deception of the false prophets is that we can live anyway we want and still be at peace with God.
(2) We can take God’s side, as did Amos. We can say, “Yes God, you are right,” and acknowledge the sins of our culture and of how we participate in it.
(3) We can appeal to God for mercy. As we read further into Amos, we will be exposed to his appeal for God’s mercy for the Northern Kingdom. He will inspire our prayers for God’s work in our world.
(4) We can demonstrate care for the poor, proper relationships with people, honesty in business, and faithfulness to God in every aspect of our behavior.
You will notice that I have abandoned dividing the article into a study of the prophets and the letters of Paul. Yesterday, I sensed that I was not doing justice to either Paul or the prophets with that method.
I plan to alternate studies and to cover a prophet one day. Then, the next day I will feature the message of Paul. I hope this is helpful to you.
As you may recognize, each study in the blog is an experiment in communicating the information. I try out different ways to communicate the message. Some work better than others. I hope these words are helpful to you, as you follow the Lord.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and so will the prayer team at Maywood Baptist Church.