Summary: Amos uses a masterful literary technique to remind Israel that their responsibility before God is much greater than the surrounding nations because of what God has given them.
A couple of weeks ago the Wall Street Journal carried an article titled “Hollywood Destroys the World” in which the authors describe how Hollywood producers are increasingly consumed with making “end of the world” movies. What’s interesting about most of these movies is that rather than most previous movies of the genre, which focus on trying to fend off the coming cataclysmic end of the world, they deal with the aftermath of the doomsday scenarios. That article contains this interesting paragraph which describes the impetus behind many of these projects:
Most of the storytellers say they are reacting to anxiety over real threats in uncertain times: the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, two U.S. wars abroad, multiple pandemics, a global financial crisis and new attention to environmental perils.
One of the reasons that we’ve decided to take on the task of examining the Book of Revelation is to be an antidote to all these doomsday scenarios that both arise from a sense of hopelessness and end up leaving people with no sense of hope. As we’ve already pointed out several times. The Book of Revelation is not just an account of things to come, but also a guide for how to live our lives with hope right here and now in the face of that future reality.
This morning we’re going to continue our examination of passages from the Old Testament prophets dealing with the “Day of the Lord” in preparation for our study of the Book of Revelation. The last three weeks we examined the entire book of Joel and this morning we’ll move on to the Book of Amos. So go ahead and open your Bibles to Amos, which you will find immediately after the Book of Joel.
The opening verse of the book provides us with much of the background information that we’ll need in order to put the book in its proper context:
The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.
Amos 1:1 (ESV)
• Date: Around 760 BC
Unlike the situation we found ourselves in with Joel, we can narrow down the date of Amos’ prophecy based on information that he provides for us here in the opening verse. We know that his prophecy occurred during the reign of King Uzziah in Judah, the southern kingdom and King Jeroboam II in Israel, the northern kingdom. Since we can pretty accurately pinpoint the dates of their reigns and when the two reigns overlapped, we can narrow down the possible time of Amos’ ministry to about a 25 year period, between 775 and 750 BC.
Amos also writes that this prophecy was given two years before “the earthquake”. This obviously had to have been a well known earthquake. In fact, it is also referred to by Zechariah:
…And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah…
Zechariah 14:5 (ESV)
Archaeologists have discovered evidence of a major earthquake on northern Israel in a layer of material that they have dated to about a ten year period around 760 BC. In addition, other historical information in the book would support a date somewhere around 760 BC.
• Author: Amos, a shepherd from Tekoa
It’s interesting that Amos identifies himself not as a prophet, but rather as a shepherd. Later in the book, he gives us some more personal background. [Not on PowerPoint]
Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’
Amos 7:14, 15 (ESV)
We’re going to draw an important application out of this verse a little later on, but for now I want you to notice how God used a humble shepherd to carry out His plans. Seems like I remember a few other times in Scripture where God did the very same thing.
We also find that Amos is from Tekoa, a town in the southern kingdom of Judah, about five miles south of Jerusalem.
• Audience: Israel (northern 10 tribes)
Although he was from Judah, God called Amos to go and preach to the northern kingdom of Israel. We see this in verse 1, where we find the words “which he saw concerning Israel.” I want you to keep in mind the idea that Amos “saw” these words. We’ll see that is going to be consistent with the other Old Testament prophets and also with John and the Book of Revelation. We’ll talk more about the significance of seeing the Word of God when we get to the Book of Revelation.