What do you know about the book of Amos or what do you know specifically about Amos the man? My guess is not a lot.
Amos was from Tekoa, a small town in Judah about 6 miles south of Bethlehem. He was not a man of the court like Isaiah, or a member of a priestly family like Jeremiah and Ezekiel. He earned his living from a sheep flock and a sycamore-fig grove. He was a very normal person.
Amos lived during the time of the divided kingdom of Israel, after David and Solomon. Though his home was in Judah (the southern kingdom) he was sent to announce God’s judgment on the northern kingdom of Israel. He probably ministered for the most part in Bethel, which was Israel’s main religious city
The book brings his prophecies together in a carefully organized form intended to be read as a unit. If offers few, if any, clues as to the chronological order of his spoken message – he may have repeated them on many occasions to reach everyone who came to worship. According to the first verse, Amos prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah over Judah (792-740 BC) and Jeroboam II over Israel (793-753 BC). The main part of his ministry was probably carried out from 760-750 BC. Both kingdoms were enjoying great prosperity and had reached new political and military heights. In a sense, they were doing better than most. It was also a time of idolatry, extravagant indulgences in luxurious living, immorality, corruption of judicial procedures and oppression of the poor. As a consequence, God would soon bring the Assyrian empire to destroy the northern kingdom.
Israel at the time was politically secure and spiritually smug. About 40 years earlier, at the end of his ministry, Elisha had prophesied the resurgence of Israel’s power. The nation felt sure, therefore, that it was in God’s good graces. But prosperity increased Israel’s religious and moral corruption. God’s past punishments for unfaithfulness were forgotten, and his patience was at an end – which he sent Amos to announce.
Amos declared that God was going to judge his unfaithful, disobedient, covenant-breaking people. Despite the Lord’s special choice of Israel and his kindness to her during the exodus and conquest and in the days of David and Solomon, his people continually failed to honor and obey him. Places of worship were often paganized. The people thought performance of the rites was all God required, and, with that done, they could do whatever they pleased. Those who had acquired 2 splendid houses, expensive furniture and richly laden table by cheating, perverting justice and crushing the poor, would lose everything they had.
The God for whom Amos speaks is a God of more than merely Israel. He also uses one nation against another to carry our his purposes. He is a Great King who rules the whole universe. Israel must know not only that he is the Lord of her future, but also that he is Lord over all, and that he has purposes and concerns that reach far beyond her borders.
It’s easy to read Amos and think that the book has nothing to offer to us today. It was written to a specific audience for specific reasons. However I would argue that we have two valuable lessons that we can learn from Amos.
The first is that the people of Israel thought that as long as they performed their religious rights (go to church, pray, etc.) that they could then do whatever they wanted to do. Their spiritual lives were all about doing and not having a true relationship with God. That’s why they didn’t have a problem with their immoral ways or cheating the poor and preventing justice. Amos is often called the book of social justice.
I wonder how often we just check the boxes (church, pray, Christian school, etc.) and then live our lives in a completely different way. Amos says that all of these things need to add up. We can’t do it half way. It matters that we go to church, read the bible and pray. But it also matters how we treat one another and how we conduct the rest of our lives.
The second lesson I think we can learn from Amos, is Amos himself. Dr. Radcliff pointed this out in the video. That Amos was just a sycamore tree farmer. He wasn’t anyone important in religious or political circles. He was a simple man. We often look to the celebrity, professional athlete, politician, teacher, coach, pastor, etc. to deliver an important message. What of instead we were the messengers to others. Not just on faith based matters but on how to treat one another?
Amos is an example of doing what is right. I think far too often (even I need to admit it) that we look to others to do the right things when we also have the chance to do it. I think we need to look at ourselves as ‘humble vessels’ as Dr. Radcliff states. What truths can we bring to others, even if we feel unworthy of doing so?
Your social feed is going to be overly full during this time in our lives. Most people will be communicating through technology rather than face to face. What would it look like for you to be a humble vessel of truth during this difficult time?
Questions to discuss or contemplate: