Summary: Amos reminds us of the need to seek God’s face, not just religious behaviour.
We’re all familiar with the importance of mood music in such communication media as films and television. The right music can make a good film great. The wrong music can destroy what was otherwise an enjoyable experience. But music can do more than just enhance the enjoyment. It can be used in such a way that it brings the message home in a way that words alone could never do. If you’re as old as I am you may remember a piece by Simon & Garfunkel in the late 60s or 70s at the height of the anti-Vietnam War protests. It was called "7 O’clock News/Silent Night". In it they juxtaposed the singing of Silent Night with news bulletins about war and violence in the US at the time. And the real horror of their message was brought home as we listened to the peaceful music and lyrics of the Christmas Carol while reports of fighting and murder and violence were read in those emotionless tones that only news readers seem capable of.
Well, it’s a shame that we don’t have video footage of Amos delivering this prophecy here in Amos 4 & 5, Because it seems that he’s doing a similar thing here. It’s as though he’s standing in front of the temple as he speaks and the sounds of the singers in the Temple are wafting out, forming a background to what he has to say. Look at 4:13: "the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind, reveals his thoughts to mortals, makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth-- the LORD, the God of hosts, is his name!" They’re the words of a psalm of praise to God. Then Amos speaks and as he’s speaking we catch a further snatch of music in v8: "The one who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning, and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the LORD is his name, 9who makes destruction flash out against the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress." The people are singing praises to God, going about their regular routine of worship, going through the religious motions, unaware of the terrible words that Amos has to say.
You see what Amos is about to say is far removed from a song of praise. It, in fact, is a lament. It’s a funeral song. A funeral song for the nation of Israel. "Fallen, no more to rise, is maiden Israel; forsaken on her land, with no one to raise her up." Israel is likened to a young girl in the flower of her youth, who is about to be cut off in her prime. Taken away without any opportunity to bear offspring. Dying childless in a barren land. A funeral for a young person is the saddest of sad occasions isn’t it? When an 80 year old dies you can at least look back at what they’ve accomplished, the people they’ve touched, but when a child or a teenager dies our sadness is multiplied by the potential lost, the hopes abandoned, the promise unfulfilled. And that’s what’s about to happen to Israel.
What’s more it’s to be a humiliating defeat. A total catastrophe. I was watching "Australians at War" on Wednesday night and they said there were about 1 million Australians who fought in the 2nd World War, of whom I think they said, about 50,000 died. But imagine if it had been 900,000 who had died and only 100,000 had come home. Total devastation! Think what the war memorials in our country towns would look like. Of 100 young men who’d gone to war imagine if 90 had died and only 10 returned! That’s the scale of destruction that Amos is talking about here. The whole nation will be reduced to tears. Look at v16: "In all the squares there shall be wailing; and in all the streets they shall say, "Alas! alas!" They shall call the farmers to mourning, and those skilled in lamentation, to wailing." Now I don’t know if farmers in those days were like farmers today, but it wouldn’t surprise me. You have to be tough to be a farmer. You have to be able to handle set backs. Just look at the way farmers in Australia seem to cope with year after year of drought and then when the drought breaks, they’re as often as not faced with floods. But they plough on (if you’ll forgive the pun). You don’t see them reduced to tears very often But here even the farmers will be in tears, mourning the death of the nation.
And as Amos’ words ring around the Temple Square the words of the singers reach our ears: "the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind, reveals his thoughts to mortals, makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth-- the LORD, the God of hosts, is his name! ... The one who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning, and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the LORD is his name." The people are calling on the name of the Lord, confident that the Lord who made the heavens and the earth, who set the planets in their order, who makes night turn to day and day to night, every 24 hours without fail, will continue to bless them, his own people, his precious possession. There’s a confidence in their mind as the people of God, that things will be well. "God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world" seems to be their theme song. But things aren’t right with their world.