Summary: Amos 3:1-15 shows us the significance of four divine calls.
Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, wrote a book in 2009 titled, Future Tense: Jews, Judaism, and Israel in the Twenty-First Century. In the book, he noted, “When it was hard to be a Jew, people stayed Jewish. When it was easy to be a Jew, people stopped being Jewish. Globally, this is the major Jewish problem of our time.”
I would put it to you that this is not only a Jewish problem. It is a phenomenon that is true of Christianity as well. My anecdote to support this comes from a visit back home to South Africa in 1997. I left South Africa in 1983 to come and study in the United States. That was during the height of apartheid. The years after my departure saw an increase in tensions, uncertainty, and violence in South Africa. Apartheid officially came to an end in 1994 with the election of Nelson Mandela and the new government. When I returned to South Africa in 1997, I visited my pastor, Frank Retief, in Cape Town. He was a wonderful pastor and a very gifted evangelist. Under his ministry, the church he planted in 1968 grew to several thousand attendees each week. I asked him how the ministry was going. He said that now that apartheid was gone—which was a very good thing—people no longer had to deal with uncertainty and violence as they did during the last years of apartheid. During the final years of apartheid, people were afraid for their lives and were spiritually attentive. But now that apartheid was gone, people were far less interested in spiritual matters.
Isn’t that true today? There are countries in the world where there are severe penalties for anyone who professes faith in Christ. In those countries, people don’t pretend to be Christians. When it is hard to be a Christian, people stay Christian. On the other hand, when there are no consequences for being a Christian, people may profess to be Christians. They may want the benefits of eternal life. And there may also be benefits to being associated with a Christian church.
Amos was the first of the writing prophets. He came from the southern kingdom of Judah but his ministry was primarily to the northern kingdom of Israel. Both Judah and Israel were enjoying a time of tremendous prosperity, even though there were tensions between the two kingdoms.
Amos was sent by God to warn the professing people of God of impending judgment. The people of Israel (and Judah) were experiencing tremendous prosperity. And they believed that was a sign of God’s blessing on them. So, one can imagine their surprise when the new preacher in town warned them of God’s impending judgment on them.
Let us read Amos 3:1-15:
1 Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt:
2 “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.
3 “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?
4 Does a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey? Does a young lion cry out from his den, if he has taken nothing?
5 Does a bird fall in a snare on the earth, when there is no trap for it? Does a snare spring up from the ground, when it has taken nothing?
6 Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?
7 “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.
8 The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophesy?”
9 Proclaim to the strongholds in Ashdod and to the strongholds in the land of Egypt, and say, “Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria, and see the great tumults within her, and the oppressed in her midst.”
10 “They do not know how to do right,” declares the Lord, “those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.”
11 Therefore thus says the Lord God: “An adversary shall surround the land and bring down your defenses from you, and your strongholds shall be plundered.”
12 Thus says the Lord: “As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who dwell in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed.
13 “Hear, and testify against the house of Jacob,” declares the Lord God, the God of hosts,
14 “that on the day I punish Israel for his transgressions, I will punish the altars of Bethel, and the horns of the altar shall be cut off and fall to the ground.