Now we come to a book we’re going to spend some time in: Amos. What do we know about this guy?
Amos was a shepherd and a farmer who lived in Tekoa, a few miles south of Jerusalem. Sometime between 760 and 753 B.C., the Lord called him out of his occupation(s) and sent him from his home in the South (Judah) up to the North (Israel). This was during the time of Israel’s King Jeroboam II, probably near the end of his reign. This was also a time of great material prosperity for Israel. There were few if any major military threats on the horizon, and it was even regarded as the dominant nation in the region.
But with this time of relative peace and prosperity, there were problems which needed to be addressed. This prosperity was not for everyone: A few people gained a lot of wealth and used their resources to gain even more and to oppress their fellow Israelites. They used illegal or unethical means to truly exploit those further down on the economic ladder.
Along with this came abuse of the justice system. Judges routinely took bribes and favored the rich over the poor in court. In this way the poor were deprived of their last voice available to them.
There was also ubiquitous idolatry. The northern kingdom never was all that faithful, but during this time period it was especially egregious. And of course when people worship idols and false gods, they do things their own way (instead of God’s way) in other areas, such as sex. Thus we also had rampant sexual immorality.
To this sinful nation, the God of Israel sent his ambassador as a last ditch effort. He takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live,” so he sent his representative, his “mouth” to call them back to himself before it was too late.
And what type of Lord is this, this King who send his herald? We know him as our Savior, our Friend, and our Shepherd. But he’s more than that—he’s the Lion. A Lion whose tremble-inducing roar is signaling that his judgment is coming. As C. S. Lewis put it, he’s good, but he’s never safe.
In a sense, Amos was a failure: Israel never did repent. After Jeroboam died, the kingdom was split by factions, and became weaker and weaker. Assyria arose as a national power, and Israel became its vassal. Conspiracies and royal assassinations came one after the other, and eventually Assyria came in, killed much of the population and carried the rest off into exile. The nation of Israel was no more.
But in the ultimate sense, and as far as the Lord Almighty was concerned, Amos was a complete success. As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, God’s messengers are not responsible for the response of their audience. They're only responsible for faithfully carrying the message. Amos did that, despite frequent and violent opposition, and at the end of it all, he heard “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
So what can we take from this so far?
Well, let’s see. A nation that boasts of a godly heritage, but in which the wealthy exploit the poor using legal and illegal means. A nation in which every man does what seems right to him without regard for God’s way of doing things. A nation in which the Lord's standards regarding sex and other issues are ignored or even laughed at. A nation in which people routinely worship everything except the only One who’s worthy of it.
Nope, doesn’t ring any bells.
Father God, like a wise man said, when I look at my nation, I tremble at the notion that you are just. But I also cling to the fact that you take no pleasure in the death of nations or of people. Your heart is to forgive and restore. Please do so.
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