Summary: God expects faithfullness from his people, so live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
When I was a kid I remember having a friend over and playing cricket in the back yard. We repeatedly hit the ball over the fence into the neighbour’s hard and trampled all over their flower beds retrieving it. We were caught mutilating the backyard flora and my mother proceeded to berate me sternly. As it happened, when we were caught it was my friend who had been clambering over the fence and not me, so when my mum was giving me grief about the whole thing, I felt it was a bit unfair. Why wasn’t he getting it, too? He was the one too stupid to wait until my mother was away from the window til he climbed the fence! But here we were, him standing quietly to one side and me copping the shalacking.
Despite my feelings of injustice, it really made sense, though. I was the one who lived in that house in the back corner of leafy Lugarno, the Promised Land. I was the one who knew that I wasn’t supposed to be squashing the daisies and camellias. I was the child and my mother my parent – my friend just happened to be there for the view. I had that privileged position – but with that privileged position also came responsibility.
The people of Israel are the children of God. He chose them not because they were numerous or powerful or righteous – he chose them because he loved them. And, as vs. 2 reminds us, all the families of the earth, it is only them he has chosen. They are in an incredibly privileged position. Look back to 2:10-11. God brought them out of Egypt and gave them the Promised Land, the land of the Ammorites. He saved them from slavery and oppression, led them through the desert and then fulfilled his promise to Abraham by delivering to them the land flowing with milk and honey. He has raised up prophets and Nazirites to minister to them, to speak his Word to his people. He has chosen them and loved them and blessed them.
So what now? -
AM 3:2 "You only have I chosen
of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you
for all your sins."
The privileged position the Israelites held as God’s chosen people made them particularly responsible for their sin. Because God chose them, so he will punish them. This is a message Amos is speaking to all the people of Israel and Judah – “the whole family I brought up out of Egypt”. Amos is from Judah but he is a prophet to the Northern Kingdom of Israel – and his message is universal - you will be punished.
Last week we saw precisely what they are being punished for: rejecting the Law, following false gods, injustice, sexual immorality, ignoring the prophets and rejecting the very Word of God. And 3:10 sums up the situation nicely – “They do not know how to do right”. These special chosen people of God who have the Law who have the words of the prophets – they don’t even know how to do right.
The concept that those who are granted much knowledge and much privilege will be judged more strictly and punished more harshly occurs throughout Scripture. Turn with me briefly to Luke 12:47-48 LK 12:47 "That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
The Israelites have been given much, so much will be demanded of them. The LORD is a jealous God and demands that his people are faithful to him. And when they are not he will rain down his fire upon them.
This is not to say that the pagan nations will not be held accountable. We’ve already read in chapter 1 how Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom and Moab are all to be subject to God’s judgment. I caught two kids at school smoking a little while ago. One was, shall we say, well known to the school’s disciplinary committee. The other was a one who I knew went to church and called himself a Christian. Both were punished, but it was the second student who I had the strongest words with. More so than the first kid, he should have known better. I expected more of him. It’s the same situation here. The nations will be punished for rejecting God, but more is expected of the chosen people, Israel.
Amos continues with a series of images which demonstrate cause and effect in vss. 3-6, concluding with the point his is really trying to make – that God is sovereign. When a disaster comes to a city, the LORD has caused it. Amos is preparing Israel for the judgment that is about to fall upon it and saying in no uncertain terms that this judgment is from God. He has revealed these plans to Amos, the prophet, the servant of God. God himself has spoken. He has roared from Zion. As vs. 8 says, the Sovereign LORD, he who brings calamity and disaster and devastation and judgment, HE has spoken and Amos can do nothing but prophesy. He probably likes these messages of doom no more than anyone else, but God has spoken and he must speak them.