Summary: Amos was a businessman, not a prophet -- but he saw things in his society that needed to be examined. "Judgment is coming," is the theme of his preaching.
6 Seek the LORD and live, or he will sweep through the house of Joseph like a fire; it will devour, and Bethel will have no one to quench it.
7 You who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground
8 (he who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns blackness into dawn and darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land-- the LORD is his name--
9 he flashes destruction on the stronghold and brings the fortified city to ruin),
10 you hate the one who reproves in court and despise him who tells the truth.
11 You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine.
12 For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
13 Therefore the prudent man keeps quiet in such times, for the times are evil.
14 Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.
We are continuing our study of the Minor Prophets and today we turn our attention to Amos.
Amos was from a small town about 12 miles south of Jerusalem, a village resting in the hills, a place called Tekoa.
He is sometimes called a “bib-overalls” prophet. A blue-collar prophet. He was, after all, a shepherd and a worker who tended sycamore trees.
But I think he was more like what we would today call a CEO. He is described in the Old Testament as a shepherd, but in Hebrew, the particular word that is used here is not the common word for shepherd, but an unusual one that refers to more than just a single individual taking care of a flock – it’s more like a rancher – one person supervising a number of shepherds and flocks. He’s also a grower of sycamore trees. So he has a sort of diversified industry.
He strikes me as a self-made millionaire type of person. Maybe not that rich, but someone who is an entrepreneur. Someone with very little formal education, whose worked hard all of his life, and who always works hard as he has moved up the ladder of success.
The one thing he is not is a professional religious leader.
He is not a seminary-trained preacher.
As he puts it (Amos 7:14-15), “I was neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the LORD took me from tending the flock and said to me, ’Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’”
He was an unlikely prophetic voice. Most of the prophets and religious leaders in that period, around the mid 8th century BC, were trained theologians. But Amos was not.
He was a businessman. He was a layperson.
He was an amateur prophet.
He was also a Southerner, called by God to preach in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. And at that time things were going well in Israel.
Or at least they seemed to be.
The economy was doing well.
Trade was booming.
There was a sense of peace in the land.
And the religious life of the nation also appeared to be in good shape, at least superficially.
Amos saw that the outward appearance of success and wealth was not all that it seemed to be.
The bountiful trade had led to an oppressive social pyramid, with few at the top.
The religion of the people was a religion in name and form alone, without any sense of moral obligation.
Amos was just an ordinary man who was able to see that things were not right between the nation of Israel and God.
But more importantly, he was an ordinary man who saw injustice and did something about it.
So without any formal training, he begins to preach.
And the message he preaches is one of judgment.
1. Announcements of Judgment
Judgment – that’s a bad word today. We don’t like it. It makes us feel uncomfortable.
It has become common for us to think of God as a loving parent who would never, ever discipline His children.
We talk about how God loves us, which is true.
We talk about how God accepts us, which is true.
We talk about how God forgives and has compassion on us, which is true.
But it is also true that God, like any loving parent, has expectations of us.
My earthly father and I had a great relationship. I never ever doubted his love for me.