“Amos” means “burden-bearer.” He was a shepherd who also took care of sycamore fig trees (7:14). He was neither a priest nor a prophet. But he was layman whom God called to fearlessly proclaim the message of God’s judgement. This he faithfully did in spite of opposition (7:10, 12).
He was from a small town south of Jerusalem in Judah. But he was called by God to speak the prophetic word in the northern kingdom, especially at Bethel, which had fallen into worship of calf idols and other idolatrous practices.
God often calls people who are busy and faithful in their secular occupations to do His work. This does not always mean giving up one’s job. We find Paul continuing his work of tent-making while journeying to take the gospel to the farthest reaches of the then known world.
I Denunciation of Nations and Judah and Israel
Amos begins by denouncing Israel’s neighbouring nations for their crimes against humanity. Then he turns to Judah (2:4, 5) and Israel (2:6 to 3:8). Several sins of God’s people are exposed here: They rejected the law of the Lord, they were led astray by false gods, the people in debt were sold; the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, the poor were trampled upon and justice was denied to the oppressed. There was sexual immorality and widespread drinking.
II Judgement to Begin at the House of God
God spoke against them because God had chosen the nation of Israel to be his family (3:1, 2). Since they treated this privilege as a licence to keep on sinning, God’s judgement was near and sure to come (3:2). Amos says that God has revealed the judgements to come, to him (3:7). The severity of God’s judgement is described graphically in verse 12. Only very few will be saved out of God’s judgement. It is compared to a shepherd saving from the lion’s mouth only two leg bones or a piece of an ear of a sheep the lion has carried away. The people were told that they will be carried away with fishhooks (4:2) which was literally fulfilled in later years.
Belonging to the family of God is a great privilege but it also brings along with it greater responsibility. That is what prompted Peter to ask, “For it is time for judgement to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4;17). So friend, do not be tempted to live as you like, but live in fear of God and His coming judgement upon the earth.
III Useless Religion
God has always hated lip-service and outward show in religion. Instead He has always desired that people love and serve Him with all their hearts. The people went to places like Bethel and Gilgal (places of traditional and religious importance) to worship and give offerings (4:4, 5). But these were only outward show of religion to cover up the evil in their hearts. So five times God talks about judgements He had sent upon them; “Yet you have not returned to me.”
God said that His people were “like a burning stick snatched from the fire” (4:11). This is a famous imagery of the Bible and it means that someone was saved from sure destruction by a merciful intervention of God before it was too late. Yet the people were not willing to return to their God!
Now only one option remained: “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel” (4:12). When people refuse to return to God they are inviting disaster because then they will have to meet their God who will come in judgement and not mercy.
IV Seek God and Live
God through Prophet Amos was telling the people that places of religious observances like Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba will not save them in the day of calamity (5:5). In this warning the book of Amos is post-modern. It speaks to our times. Today many Christians flock to places of worship and pilgrimage as if that journey in itself is going to bring them salvation and earn them God’s favour. This is a false hope as God lists out all the sins of the people and says, “For I know how many are your offences and how great your sins” (5:12a).
God hates religious hypocrisy. Israel were:
● Unfaithful to their agreement. 3:4, 5; 3:1, 2
● Disrespectful in the Temple. 2:8
● Ungrateful for the past. 2:9—12
● Pretending in their worship. 4:4, 5; 5:21—27; 8:5.
● Self-satisfied in their attitudes. 6:1
● Spiteful to the prophet. 7:10—17.
–Taken from The Bible in Outline published by Scripture Union.
So God asks them to seek Him and live. He is challenging people not to put their trust in religious observances. Your hope has to be in God always and not in any good thing you do. God also challenges His people to seek good and not evil. He further asks them to hate evil and love good and also maintain justice (5:14, 15).
V Justice and Righteousness
The people of Israel were waiting expectantly for the day of the Lord! But Amos warns them that “That day will be darkness, not light” (5:18). This was because all the deeds of the people were evil. God abhorred their religious hypocrisy. Instead God expected something else in their religious and social life: “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts” (5:15) and “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream” (Amos 5:24 NIV)!
The point to note is that a right relationship with God is always accompanied by a right relationship with people. This is what Jesus also emphasized in the Sermon on the Mount. And in His other teachings as well: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” The transformation of society can happen only when Christians act as the salt of the earth and light of the world. Salt and light speak of good influences. Your life can truly be an influence for God.
VI Complacency and Pride Condemned (Chapter 6)
Complacency refers to a feeling of satisfaction with yourself which makes you think that no change is necessary. In fact, the Church in Laodicea was warned by Jesus Christ because they were neither hot nor cold (see Revelation 3:15, 16). That is a typical example of complacency. And it invites God’s judgement. [In this context it is interesting to note how God addressed the women in Israel at the time of Amos. They are called cows; called so because they oppressed the poor and crushed the needy and became fatted animals (4:1—3)].
Along with complacency, the sin of pride is condemned by God. The Israelites were enjoying a time of great peace and prosperity and military strength at the time of Amos. So they felt secure in their own strength. They felt no need of God and the prophet’s word was not welcome. Therefore God said: “I abhor the pride of Jacob and detest his fortresses; I will deliver up the city and everything in it” (Amos 6:8b NIV). Pride, like complacency, invites God’s judgement.
VII The Visions of Amos (7:1—9; 8:1—14; 9:1—10)
Amos receives five visions, each containing a symbol:
1. locusts (7:1—3) – signifying an invasion which is averted by Amos’ intercession;
2. fire (7:4—6) utter destruction again averted in answer to prayer;
3. a plumb line (7:7—9) – showing the judgement of the religious and political structures of Israel;
4. a basket of summer fruit (ch. 8) signifying imminent and inevitable judgement;
5. A shaken sanctuary (9:1—10) – showing that God Himself will judge His people for their debased forms of worship. Each vision is followed by a longer or shorter explanation, and their aim is to reinforce in symbolic language the fact that although Jehovah had previously relented, He could do so no more, for the time of mercy had now passed by.
Further Thought: In these days when God’s mercy seems to be so stretched out, how important it is to keep in mind that one day—perhaps very soon—judgement will surely come. Ponder this thought and allow it to stir you to greater prayer and service for your Lord.– Taken from Character by Character by Selwyn Hughes & Trevor J. Partridge.
Note that the first two judgements of God were averted in answer to the prophet’s prayer. The Bible comments, “So the Lord relented” And God said, “This will not happen.” (Amos 7:3, 6). That meant that God decided not to proceed with the judgement already decided. This was in response to the heartfelt cry of the prophet. But when it came to the third vision of judgement, Amos finds it unable to pray. Because this time the judgement was unavoidable and certain. And God said: “I will spare them no longer.” The lesson to remember is that the world and you and me cannot count on God’s mercy for ever. There is a day coming when the door of mercy will stand shut for all time and judgement will come. Be warned!
VIII Amos Faces Opposition
What has happened to every true prophet of God happened with Amos too. He was opposed by Amaziah the priest of Bethel who reported to the king, “Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. The land cannot bear all his words” (7:10b NIV). It is interesting to note that any message of God’s judgement was always opposed by religious leaders of the day. It is sad that those who should recognize the voice of God fail to do so and try to silence the very words of God. Did it not happen like that during the time of Jesus Christ? True prophets of God are always hated because they do not sugar-coat the message of judgement that God sends through them. Amos was no exception. Though he was courageous, he was driven out of Israel by the king of the land.
People need such dealing as Amos gives at times when sin abounds. We get to be too tender and gentle with the common sins of the people. We forget how to denounce; we lose the power of righteous indignation.
Not so with Amos, plumb line prophet that he was. The crooked wall will always hate the straight line. So people hated Amos. They will hate us if we speak out. Nevertheless, learn to speak, no matter what it costs. Recall here the Man with the scourge of small cords purging the Temple (John 2:13—16). –Taken from, What the Bible is All About by Dr. Henrietta C. Mears.
IX A Famine
The Bible records many famines. But the one recorded in Amos (8:11, 12) is different from all the rest and terribly frightening. It talks about a famine—not a famine of food and water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord! It talks about men desperately searching to find the word of the Lord, but not finding it. Remember, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3b NIV). Dear friend, pray that such a famine might not come to you.
Comment: Hearing the Voice of God: One of the worst fates possible for man is to endure a period in which God is silent (8:11, 12). But in Amos’ day God had spoken through
● Events (4:4—11)
● The Prophet (7:14, 15). Amos was no professional but a man taken from an ordinary job, with a burning desire to speak God’s word. — Taken from The Bible in Outline published by Scripture Union.
X Amos Ends with the Hope of Restoration
“In that day I will restore David’s fallen tent, I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be” (Amos 9:11).
Comment: After so many predictions of gloom and doom, the prophet gives a prophecy concerning the ultimate restoration for a remnant of Israel—a restoration that will be lasting and permanent (v. 15). The Temple will be rebuilt, the kingdom will assume its ancient boundaries, nature will be transfigured and the people shall dwell for ever in the land given them by God. This restoration, says Amos, will come through the house of David (v. 11), and refers, of course, to the coming Messiah. – Taken from Character by Character by Selwyn Hughes & Trevor J Partridge.
XI Amos—the Man and the Prophet
Amos was an ordinary man. He was a simple shepherd who also took care of sycamore fig trees. In his call to God’s work we find yet another example of God calling someone who was occupied in his daily work (1:1). His humility is also revealed because he does not try to hide his station in life.
Amos was a courageous man. He remained true to his calling and fearlessly denounced the nations, Judah and especially the nation of Israel. His message had the stamp of authority and truth because he declared, “This is what the Lord, the LORD God Almighty says.” He spoke God’s word and not his own.
Amos delighted in God’s creation. As commentators have pointed out, “The way he [Amos] observes the sights and sounds of the natural world is quite amazing.” “Vultures wheel and swoop, lions cry out of the wilderness, the snake lies curled in the stonework, the bear growls, the earth quakes.”
Amos had great reverence for God’s Law. A commentator says, “His [Amos’] conception of God’s great law is equally inspiring. He affirms that from the far-reaching justice of Jehovah no nation is exempt, not even Israel, and from His all-seeing eye there can be no escape.”
Amos was a social prophet crying out for reformation and social change based on the just laws of God. NIV introductory note says, “He [Amos] announced God’s judgement on the people for turning away from God, for being cruel to the poor, and for living selfishly.” He understood that repentance was the key not only to a right relationship with God but also right living in society.
Amos 2:9 Destroyed Fruit Above and Roots Below
Amos 4:11 Like a Burning Stick Snatched from the Fire
Amos 4:12 Prepare to Meet Your God
Amos 4:13 The Lord God Almighty Is His Name
Amos 5:4 Seek Me and Live
Amos 8:1 A Basket of Ripe Fruit
Amos 8:11 A Famine of Hearing the Words of the Lord