Welcome to a Scripture Saturday. I recently read through the book of Amos, as I am slowly working my way through each of the prophetical books in chronological order. Upon completing the book I sat down to write out a summary of my thoughts, and so this is the first part of what I wrote. Stay tuned for Part 2 to come next weekend!
The book of Amos is the second of the Prophetic books in the bible, going based upon chronological order. Whereas Jonah, the first book, demonstrates God’s willingness to forgive those people who are willing to repent and turn toward God, this prophet is proclaiming more of a “doom and gloom” message like what God had wanted Jonah to spread among the people of Ninevah. The prophet Amos was a shepherd before being called by God to spread this message, which falls in line with a common theme in the Bible: God calls ordinary people to work for His glory. He could have just as easily chosen one of the two kings, Uzziah or Jeroboam, or even someone in their courts to be made a prophet for this message. The reminder that God does not need someone who is mighty, wealthy, or powerful in order to use them to further His work should provide some comfort and reassurance.
The early chapters of Amos can be difficult to come to terms with, as they outline the condemnation being passed upon the nations surrounding Israel and Judah at the time. Of course they should get punished for invading, pillaging, burning food stores, slaughtering men and women and children. The early impression is that God is about to do something big, to teach a lesson to those nations surrounding His chosen people. But that isn’t what happens when we get to the second chapter. God calls down punishment on Judah, one of His kingdoms, “because they have rejected the law of the Lord, and have not kept his statutes, but their lies have led them astray” (Amos 2:4, ESV). A quick inward reflection is all it takes to remind ourselves that we, at times, fall short of the law of the Lord. In fact, that is the whole reason why Grace, the Cross, and the crucifixion of Jesus are so essential to the core of Christianity: we can’t keep the law perfectly. All have sinned and fallen short (Romans 3:23) of the measuring stick that God would use when weighing our lives so, apart from Jesus, none of us can earn our way into Heaven.
And Israel herself does not escape judgment from God in this chapter. The people of that nation have neglected the poor, sought personal gain through wealth, have indiscriminate sexual relations, and treat religious festivals and the temples of God with disrespect (Amos 2:6-8 & 4:1). This right here is a chilling set of faults that are eerily similar to what can be seen right now in our own nation. While not every person today may be guilty of some, or even all, of those things, it was undoubtedly the same in Israel during Amos’ time: even the innocent will have to suffer for the mounting transgressions of the nation. This realization makes me perk up and want to know exactly what God has in store, as it could be a mirror to what we might have to expect some day.
We learn that God will surround Israel with an adversary who will break their walls down and plunder them (Amos 3:11). They will be captured and led away (Amos 4:2-3) to lead a life without freedom because, while they go and tithe and provide offerings, they do those with the wrong intentions in their hearts. They go around and proclaim their generous deeds (Amos 4:4-5) when they do them in order to impress the men among them, rather than giving in secret and with a heart to please God. This sounds an awful lot like some of the emptiness that Jesus scorned the Pharisees for in his day. There is hope to come for us living today in the second half of Chapter 4, though, as there is a repetition of something God did on behalf of his nation, followed by “yet you did not return to me”. The hope in there is that God didn’t give up on Israel after the first, or the second, or even the third time that the nation failed to turn back to God after he interceded on their behalf. His love runs deeper than we deserve, and even though our nation is following the same pattern of remaining turned away from God, we have not reached that point where His judgment is falling upon the nation. This point is emphasized by one word in Chapter five: lamentation (Amos 5:1). Even as God passes down the judgment, He still laments that it is necessary. He still loves His people and wants them to return to Him. He doesn’t want to strike out with vengeance and wipe them out, but to welcome them back like a nation of prodigal sons.