Welcome back after a short break!
A quick note: this study series will be looking primarily at the “minor” prophets who lived after the Kingdom of Israel was split into Israel and Judah. There were several prophets before who were active in the times of the Judges like Deborah and in the time of united Israel like Samuel and Nathan.
The “major” prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, whose books are much longer than any messages of the “minor” prophets. The main distinction between major and minor is not one of importance but of length.
Today we are going to be looking at the prophet Amos, whose writings date back to around 750-775 BCE. His writings are among the oldest of a series of prophets who brought messages to Israel and Judah.
Amos grew up in the southern Judah but his message was given to northern Israel.
The book has a strong message for Israel to hear regarding their lack of morals in daily life. God is concerned that their rituals and their daily life have become disconnected.
Feel free to read the entire book (only 9 chapters long), but I will be asking you to read some of the passages with some reflections to help understand or to highlight some key thoughts or phrases.
The first two verses are quick to summarize who is speaking and when.
Amos does not hesitate from the beginning with the harsh message. He wastes no time in bringing the message from God in Jerusalem (which is in Judah).
So begins a series of judgments against nations who are not behaving in the way God approves.
The nations around Israel are all judged: Aram (capital city Damascus) is the first listed with its crime described as threshing or pounding Gilead.
The following judgments followed the same rhetoric: “for three transgressions and for four.” One mistake can be forgiven, but multiple times implies no learning.
This is a judgment against Judah, who has stopped living according to God’s law. Even the home of God’s temple will not be protected if the people continue to be led astray.
Judgment against Israel is founded in how they have not cared for their poor and needy. They have instead become concerned with their greed. They do not simply ignore the poor, but have actively sought out ways to hurt. Even though God is the one who brought people out of slavery and protected them in battle, the people of Israel have enslaved others and brought about ruin.
The consequences for their actions will not be avoided.
God had tried in the past to get their attention so that they would repent. Repentance in Hebrew literally means to turn back. But the people of Israel did not turn to God.
When they had more than enough to survive, they did not turn to God.
When they were suffering, they did not turn to God.
The refrain “yet you did not return to me, says the Lord” is a powerful indication of how many times God tried to get their attention but failed as Israel continued to ignore God.
Amos 5:4-7, 5:14-24
Yet God is giving one more chance to Israel.
If they do not seek out the places where they have been wrongly worshiping others besides God, God will let them live.
God knows how they have been living and is calling for them to turn from the evil that pulls them away from the good.
The day of the Lord will not be a joyful day for those whose lives have been immoral. The day will be a dark day for those who worshiped at other altars, treated their neighbors poorly, or whose rituals and songs are merely noise without meaning.
God wants justice and righteousness to abound. God is more concerned with them living a good life every day than them putting on a good show at worship.
These are some of Amos’s visions regarding judgment against Israel. Each vision starts by Amos announcing what God has shown to Amos.
The first vision is of locust consuming grass and the second of fire destroying the land. It should not be too difficult to figure out who is destroying and who is being destroyed. (Hint: God will destroy the people). But Amos calls out and God repents.
A plumb line is used by builders to show that a wall is straight and not leaning.
But when God uses a plumb line in the midst of people, he is testing them to see if they are upright and good. Walls that are not upright either need fixing or tearing down to start over again. People that are not upright get the same treatment.
This final chapter in Amos’s message highlights the intention of God to seek out and destroy the sinful kingdom. No one will be able to hide when God is looking for them.
But God will not completely destroy the house of Jacob. The house of Jacob = descendants of Jacob (also known as Israel).
Sinners will be gone, but a remnant shall be restored and rebuilt.
There is still hope for God’s people because God will remain faithful to the promise made to King David that David’s house (Israelites) will live on and will be blessed.
Some questions to ponder:
What do you think about the message Amos brought to the people of Israel?
How do you think this message could apply to our world today?
What are some of the sins or transgressions that God would condemn?
What are some of the ways God might be striving to get your attention?
How are you called to live as one who follows God and have you been measuring up?