Our reading this week is Amos 2-6, but I will talk about chapter one as well. Amos is a wonderful book. All total Amos probably only preached his sermons over a four to five-hour length. There is a significant impact that God used Amos, someone who was not a prophet in the religious sense, but a common man. He also was from the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Now most people do not tolerate people of their own kind telling them what is wrong and exposing their sins. But to have an outsider – a sheep herder and fig handler from the South infuriated the Northern Kingdom. They wanted and tried to send Amos packing back to the South. We are given a hint of when Amos wrote by the phrase “two years before the earthquake.” I couldn’t find much about the event, other than to say it was significant enough that Amos needed to give no other details. I guess we could compare it to say 9/11 or the bombing of Pearl Harbor. So with that point, Amos wrote around 706 BC. The King of Judah was Uzziah and Jeroboam [North] so then Amos would be a contemporary of Isaiah. We even get a reference to Mount Carmel drying up – which should make us think of Elijah and the Baal prophets in 1 Kings 18. So there is enough warning from God about the judgment and indictment of Israel’s sin.
I found it very interesting that the vision of Amos starts condemning all the Gentile nations for their sins against the people/tribes of Israel. I can almost hear the applause from both Judah and Israel over the pronounced wrath of God on their enemies. The statement “for three sins and for four I will not revoke my punishment – this indicates there are limits to the long-suffering and mercy of God. There comes a time when God will act so as not to bring down His name and character. It is one thing for believers especially today to hear how God is going to judge the sins of society and the lost. It is quite another to be included in the conversation. This is exactly what God did; after pronouncing judgment on the Gentile nations, he began speaking to the off-spring of Jacob. God closes the vision to Amos by bringing indictment against Judah and Israel. This should have been a wake up call. Amos indicted everyone with 3-4 verses, however Israel is given 10 verses which outlined their sin and judgment. There is a New Testament parallel passage found in Romans 1 and 2. Here the Apostle Paul does the same thing; he brings the sins of the Gentiles to light; and the Jewish readers I am sure were rooting Paul on as he condemned their behavior and idolatry. But just as Amos switched to Israel, Paul switches to the Jews. The bottom line – God is against ALL sin, not just SOME sin. It is normal for mankind [even believers] to enjoy the finger-pointing of someone else’ sins; for it keeps the light off our own. Paul outlines the Romans Road from his exposition; a road to return to God for ALL. Amos also does this in chapters 3-4. Israel could return, but were too proud and stubborn.
No less than 5 times the LORD brings cause against Israel – “Yet you have not returned to Me.” Even though God has tried to chastise them into coming back, the hardness of their hearts prevented them. If I am Israel and I read chapter 5 – I say “Woe is Me!” I hear many today that are praying for the Lord to Come Back. Be careful what you ask for – verse 18-20 surely speaks that it will be judgment for ALL. Israel has never fully loved God – even in the Wilderness they carried their idols they made. [5:26-27] Here is the irony – Israel did not stop doing the LAW – they continued in the sacrifices and the festivals, yet they were not worshiping God, but their own works, while playing idolatry with the pagans gods. What a sad message Amos brings, no wonder they tried to kill him. Yet even sadder is the 20/20 hindsight that Israel [Northern Kingdom] would be obliterated from the earth. Israel becomes the “Lost Tribes” for they would not heed the message of repentance. Woe unto us that look for God to judge the unrighteousness of our generation and think He will look past our [believers] sins.