Welcome to the second part of my reflections after reading the Book of Amos. It is chronologically the second book of the prophets found in the Old Testament, and was quite an interesting experience to really read, study, and reflect upon the meanings within the prophetic text. You can check out the post on Part 1, which deals with the content of the first four chapters in Amos. Today’s post deals with chapters 5-7.
God tells His nation, Israel, in the fifth chapter what they need to do: “Seek me and live” (Amos 5:5-6), and to “Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate” (Amos 5:15). God declares that He does not want their feasts held in His name, nor their animal sacrifices, nor their songs of worship (Amos 5:21-23) but rather He wants justice and righteousness (Amos 5:24) from His people. In other words, He doesn’t want them to do all these ritualistic things out of obedience. He wants them to live a life that shows an outward expression of the transformation that comes from living in alignment with God’s perspective. They need to die to themselves first, which will lead to a lasting transformation in who they are and what they aim to achieve. Worship and praise and giving only mean something if the person is doing it because their hearts are being molded and shaped by God’s love and justice and therefore they are acting in alignment with what God would want. Not because it is an obligation or a command.
The hearts of the men in Israel are further reflected in Chapter 7 by their reaction to Amos and his prophecies. They command him to flee from Israel and never prophecy there again because he said Jeroboam will die by the sword and the people will go into exile. They are unable to bear hearing those words of bad news (Amos 7:10-13) because they want only the prophets who speak good news of prosperity and growth and long-lasting rule for their king. How many churches today preach only the good news that will stimulate growth and avoid the topics that will challenge the congregation? How many walk on eggshells, trying not to offend anyone in order to maintain the number in attendance. Like Amos, we should be speaking what God commands, the things that are pleasing to God, rather than what is going to be pleasing to man.
And yet while there is plenty of doom and gloom, as well as enough punishment and condemnation to go around in there we also cannot ignore the message behind Chapter 9 in Amos. It can be easy to overlook everything preceding that chapter and fixate on this alone as the message of Amos, but that would be to do an injustice. It would be keeping the wool over our eyes and our ears stuffed with cotton so we cannot see or hear. God will certainly punish those who are deserving, both those belonging to His people and those that surround His people. We can maintain hope knowing that even if the justice God demands falls upon us today, as it did for the Israelites thousands of years ago, there could also come a time of restoration. It may be a restoration to the lands we inhabit now, or it could even be the restoration to the new heaven and new earth alluded to in Revelation (Revelation 21:1). We won’t know until the time arrives. But we know the day is coming when new crop will grow immediately after the harvest, when the mountains and the hills shall flow with sweet wine (Amos 9:13-14). This is a picture of what the Garden of Eden may have looked like, where everything was prosperous and the earth would produce in abundance without the need for back-breaking labor brought about by the sins of Adam. And God ends it by declaring that at this point that His people shall be rooted in that land and never driven away from that land again (Amos 9:15), a promise that should give us all hope for that future when it comes.