Written Word

Amos – Part 1

The ministry of Amos took place about 25 years before the ten northern tribes of Israel were taken captive by Assyria. They resembled ripened fruit waiting to be picked since they “rejected the law of the Lord” and sold “the needy for a pair of sandals; they [trampled] on the heads of the poor… and [denied] justice to the oppressed.” And, if that was not bad enough, their depravity pushed immorality to new lows as “Father and son use the same girl.” (Amos 2:4-8) This ungodly behaviour is coming from a people who were the recipients of God’s special favour. God now reminds them that it was he who brought them up from Egypt and met their needs for forty years in the desert. It was he who gave them the land they now occupy. And it was he who raised up the prophets to speak to them. “Is this not true, people of Israel?” God asks. (Amos 2:10-11)

Privilege Brings Responsibility

Israel was not like any other nation; God chose it for a purpose – to be the nation through whom the Saviour would come into the world. They were a privileged people: “And the Lord has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands. He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honour high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.” (Deut 26:18-19) They were not chosen because of their moral superiority or spiritual potential; their selection was a sovereign act of God and with this privilege came responsibility. This is where Israel failed. “You only,” God says, “have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.” (Amos 3:2) And to emphasise the gap that now existed between them, God asks rhetorically, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (Amos 3:3) Israel was no longer walking with God.

Prosperous and Indifferent

Israel is described as a nation bent on selfish indulgence and indifference towards God and his laws: “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, ‘Bring us some drink.'” (Amos 4:1) The region of Bashan was known for its rich pasture lands, hence its fine, well-fed, healthy cattle. The women of Israel had access to the best of everything, but they over-indulged, pampering themselves while ignoring the needs of the poor. “You trample on the poor… and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.” (Amos 5:11-12) “[You buy] the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals…” (Amos 8:6) Not only did they not care about the poor, they refused to listen to God. Five times God reminds them that he had chastised them with a view to winning them back, “yet you have not returned to me,” he says. (Amos 4:6,8,9,10,11).

If Israel thought that “the day of the Lord” (Amos 5:18) for which they longed would bring blessings upon them and vengeance upon their enemies, they were greatly mistaken, for instead, it would be a day of judgement upon them for their rebellion against God.