Summary: God’s indictment of Judah and Israel by the prophet Amos gives us insight into His expectations for us both individually and as a nation.
ACCOUNTABILITY - NATIONAL AND PERSONAL
Responsibility and accountability are two words that cause us to think about maturity. These ideas more or less embody the concept of maturity. These ideas communicate expectations that if we buy something, we must pay for it; if we break something we should fix it or replace it; and if we break the rules (commit sin) we will be penalized.
When we hear the word “sin,” we typically think about individuals. However, it is possible for entire nations to commit wrongs that bring judgement on the nation in much the same way sins of individuals bring judgement on themselves. The reality of cause and consequence is ever with us. Many people find that if they spend too much on borrowed money that they will be in deep financial problems. Even our government has discovered this fact. The law of the harvest eventually comes into play in that "as we sow, so shall we reap." The nation of Israel found that God held them accountable in proportion to the blessing that He had given them. The Israelites were are special people to God and they had neglected to live in accordance with their blessing. Before God sent judgement on His people He sent many massagers to warn them and to attempt to get them to repent.
Amos was a shepherd who lived in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. God called him to go to the Northern Kingdom of Israel and give his message there. We recognize him as a prophet; however, he was not a member of any recognized group of prophets during his day. For example, in the time of David, Nathan was recognized as a prophet and probably made a living by his office of a prophet. We don’t have any professional prophets today but we do have professional evangelists. In the same way as Amos, there are others who are true evangelists that do not get paid for proclaiming the Good News. Sometimes we tend to listen more to a Billy Graham than to someone that we barely know preaching on a local radio station. Perhaps God chooses such people that are not well known to bring His messages to people because He wants people to accept the message on its own merit rather than on the charisma or personality of the person delivering the message.
God had a message for the nations of that region of the world. It covered Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab -- these nations were condemned for their sins against Israel. The people of the Northern Kingdom could remember suffering because of border raids from these neighbors. It may have been similar to the attacks that are made on Israel today by the PLO forces. When Amos announced God’s condemnation of these enemies of theirs, they could all agree and probably cheered.
This is what the Lord says: "for three sins of Judah, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because they have rejected the law of the lord and have not kept his decrees, because they have been led astray by false gods, the gods their ancestors followed, I will send fire upon Judah that will consume the fortresses of Jerusalem." (Amos 2:4-5 NIV)
Amos then started to hit a little closer to home when he talked about Judah’s sins and God’s displeasure. It was so easy for them to see the faults of others and so difficult to see their own faults. The style of the message regarding Judah was similar to what God had used for the heathen nations. “For three sins of Judah, even for four . . .” This phrase indicates the patience of God in dealing with all people. In the culture of that day the prevailing idea was that a person was extremely generous to tolerate someone doing something wrong to him. God was saying that He would be more patient than they expected or practiced with one another.
The sins of the heathen nations were atrocities they committed against their enemies. These were things so wrong that anyone would know they were wrong. The basic problem that Judah had was disobedience to God’s laws. They despised God’s laws and did not follow them. God’s expectation regarding His commandments has not changed just because we are living after the coming of the Messiah and His death for our salvation. If anything, we could be expected to be more able to be obedient because we also have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit available to us. Notice God did not condemn the heathen nations for failure to keep His laws. They did not even have His laws. The requirements for Judah were more stringent because they did know more. So it is with us, God requires much from those to whom He gives much. We cannot expect to live a victorious life apart from the abiding presence of God. We must abide in Him and He in us. The ONLY way that will happen is outlined for us in John 14:23 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Obedience is still important to God.