AMOS 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5
Amos was not a ‘professional’ prophet, but a shepherd who prophesied ‘on the side’. He lived about 10 miles south of Jerusalem and yet his ministry was directed at the Northern kingdom (Israel); this is rather like having a job in Guildford and spending your ministry time in Glasgow! The Book of Amos (one of the Minor Prophets) brings together his prophecies in a carefully organised group, not necessarily chronological, but grouped by theme. It is largely a message of God’s judgment upon faithless Israel, at a time when it was very prosperous, strong in a military sense and doing rather well as a nation on the international ‘stage’. With this came a spiritual smugness, a great deal of immorality, idolatry, and judicial corruption, with widespread oppression of the poor by the wealthy landowners. Amos 5:24 sums up his theme very succinctly, crying for justice towards fellow men and righteousness towards the Lord. There were worship-centres at Bethel and Dan that were gatherings of nominal worship of the Lord, mixed in with a heady mix of pagan ritual. It seemed that it was ok to turn up a few times a year or week to ‘do’ your worship, and then you could behave as you wanted.
Amos preaches a God who is Lord over the whole world and creator of the universe. In his hands are the history and destiny of every nation. You offend him at your peril!
Two years before a great earthquake in 750 BC (maybe the one mentioned in Zechariah 14:5), Amos had a vision about Israel, featuring the Lord roaring with judgment from Jerusalem towards the north. All Israel’s neighbours are roundly rebuked for their wickedness; eventually the Lord gets around to rebuking Israel and Judah too – in the interests of justice. The fiercest and longest tirade is reserved for Israel. Her privilege and the grace shown to her in the past now means that a stronger punishment for sins is due. (3:2).
In chapter 4, God recounts all the previous punishments he had inflicted upon Israel – rather like the plagues of Egypt – and how they stubbornly refused to return to him even then. So therefore, Israel will fall, never to rise again. Their Day of the Lord will not be one of celebration and rejoicing, but a day of darkness and calamity. It will come on the day that Israel is sent into exile!