The book of Amos, like most prophetic books, is comprised of messages of judgment and messages of blessing. Judgment comes when we live life our own way and seek pleasure over God’s purposes for us. Blessing comes when we “Seek the Lord” (5:4, 6, 14) and live according to His ways. Amos was a “herdsman” and a “grower/nipper of sycamore figs” (7:14). He was not a professional prophet when God called him from Tekoa, secure in the hill country of Judah – southeast of Bethlehem. Amos’ call was to prophesy to Israel, the northern 10 tribes living in pagan rebellion to the Lord.
The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel.” ~Amos 1:1
There were cows in the region where I grew up. In fact, cows and timber comprised the two main industries of our county. Our cows were not Texas longhorns raised for meat, but rather black and white Holstein dairy cows raised for milk and making cute Chick-Fil-A commercials. How could a wholesome dairy cow be anything but positive? However, as we begin reading the book of Amos we find out cows can be odious in the sight of the Lord when they symbolize vile women.
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 drinks!” ~Amos 4:1
Amos begins by pronouncing a series of 7 judgments on the nations immediately surrounding the nation of Israel. He begins with the farther nations of Damascus (Syria) and Philistia (Philistines in the area of the Gaza strip), and then moves closer. As Amos announces judgment after judgment on these nations I imagine the residents of Israel saying, “Hey, this guy is saying some great things!” By the time Amos declares judgment on their sister nation of Judah (2:4-5), I can imagine people chanting: “Amos! Amos!” That is, right up to the time when he begins to pronounce doom on Israel.
Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel. He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth—the Lord God Almighty is his name. ~Amos 4:12-13
Amos gives some specific examples of why the nation of Israel would be judged by our just Heavenly Father. This list includes the people of Israel selling righteous individuals into slavery (3:6); temple prostitution involving a man and his father with the same woman (3:7); and “you made the Nazirites drink wine and commanded the prophets not to prophesy” (2:12). God’s response to their sin is sharp and pointed!
I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! ~Amos 5:21-24
As the book of Amos continues, God’s prophet will describe a series of visions including devouring locusts (7:1-3); a consuming fire (7:4-6); a vision of a plumb line (7:7-9); and a basket of ripe summer fruit (8:1-14). When it seems like things can’t get any worse, the Lord declares the result of his judgment.
“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” ~Amos 8:11
As believers we need to take seriously the message of the book of Amos. Willful disobedience of God’s people—who should know better—will result in divine discipline. Amos has described this in messages of judgment and visions of destruction that “The LORD has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: I will never forget anything they have done” (8:7).
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. ~Galatians 6:7-8
Three items of application seem to leap at believers from this book of judgment. First, God is very serious about His followers hearing and obeying “the words of the Lord” (8:11). We need this to be a priority each day if we want to truly know our Heavenly Father better. Make it a priority to find time early in your day. I suggest you check out https://www.first15.org
Second, God cares about the needy and helpless in this world and we should too. We might not be able to help everyone, but the compassionate heart of our Lord should compel us to want to help someone. Do you have a lonely neighbor, maybe a widow woman living nearby? Find a time to take her a small vase of cut flowers and cookies. Let her know you are praying for her.
Finally, have hope in the midst of discouraging times when it seems like there is a “famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (8:11). Remember, God is still at work and He will someday set all things right.
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,”says the Lord your God. ~Amos 9:13-15