We’ve made it to the end of Amos! (We start 2 Timothy next week.) And as promised, it ends on a note of hope. But not before a bit more judgement…Amos 9:1-4 I saw the Lord standing by the altar, and he said: “Strike the tops of the pillars so that the thresholds shake. Bring them down on the heads of all the people; those who are left I will kill with the sword. Not one will get away, none will escape. Though they dig down to the depths below, from there my hand will take them. Though they climb up to the heavens above, from there I will bring them down. Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, there I will hunt them down and seize them. Though they hide from my eyes at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent to bite them. Though they are driven into exile by their enemies, there I will command the sword to slay them. I will keep my eye on them for harm and not for good.”
We’ve almost finished our tour through Amos. Which probably hasn’t been the most uplifting experience, talking about the repeated failure of God’s people, and coming judgement. And there’s more of that today. But we’ll finish on some more hopeful stuff tomorrow. Promise.
At the start of chapter 8, God continues in the children’s talk format with which he began chapter 7, this time bringing in a fruit basket as a prop:Amos 8:1 This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: a basket of ripe fruit. “What do you see, Amos?” he asked. “A basket of ripe fruit,” I answered.
A sticker for young Amos down the front.
We continue in Amos chapter 7 where, just for a change of pace, Amos talks about judgement…Amos 7:1-4 This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: He was preparing swarms of locusts after the king’s share had been harvested and just as the late crops were coming up. When they had stripped the land clean, I cried out, “Sovereign Lord, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!” So the Lord relented. “This will not happen,” the Lord said.
(Continuing in our series in the OT book of Amos.) Yesterday, we looked at the charges against Israel:
- injustice and exploitation
- superficial worship that doesn’t involve a change in behaviour
- worshipping the gods and idols of the world
Today, the focus is on the judgement and call to repentance.
This week we’re continuing our series in the Old Testament book of Amos. So far, we’ve seen a complacent Israel (the northern kingdom) confronted by a prophet from Judah (the southern kingdom) telling them that God’s not happy with them. In fact, he’s warned them time and time again, through prophets, through drought, through military invasion – to the point where the next thing that happens is destruction.
Here in chapters 5 and 6, Amos outlines the case against Israel, and further describes the coming destruction. We’ll look at these two chapters over two days, but thematically rather than line-by-line, as Amos tends to repeat himself a bit. Today, we focus on the charges against Israel.
After reading the last couple of chapters of Amos, maybe you’re thinking that God’s being a little harsh? One warning, followed by total destruction. But that’s not the full picture. In chapter 4, Amos goes on to hint at some of the reasons Israel was being judged (there’s much more detail from chapter 5 onwards, as we’ll see next week), as well as a recounting of all the warnings they’ve had in recent memory.Amos 4:1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria,
you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy
and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”
If at some point in your life you’re going to be naming your children, here’s a tip from me: choose a different dominant vowel sound for each of them. ‘Cause when you’re yelling from the other end of the house, that vowel is pretty much all they hear. Unfortunately, my sister (Cassy) and I (Tim) could always tell which one of us was wanted, and had no excuse for ignoring the call. I didn’t learn that lesson, and named both our kids with the same dominant vowel. Now, they can always ignore me and legitimately claim they thought I was calling the other one.
The book of Amos – which we’ve been looking at this week – sees God calling to his people, Israel. But they weren’t responding. Maybe they heard his voice, but convinced themselves he was talking to one of the nations around them. (Think about all those judgement oracles against the surrounding nations we read over the past few days, before God ambushed them with an indictment on their own sin. And Israel and Syria do have the same dominant vowel sound.) Surely it can’t be us – we’re his chosen people! How can he bring judgement on us?
So far in the book of Amos, we’ve seen this prophet from the south (Judah) start out by proclaiming – in the north – that God lives in and speaks from the southern capital of Jerusalem. And what’s more, he implies that when God speaks, it enacts judgement against the northern kingdom (Israel) for her idolatry. Tactful start.
But then, yesterday, we saw him start to win them over by speaking God’s judgement against Israel’s neighbours: Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab. Many of whom had oppressed Israel in the past. And all of whom were guilty of war crimes against humanity. Amos’s hearers are probably enjoying this bit: the arrows are landing on all the nations that surround them.
And then it gets even better.
Yesterday, we began our series in Amos, looking at how this shepherd from the southern kingdom of Judah turned up in the (rival) northern kingdom of Israel, with a tactful message that went something like: “God speaks from my homeland, which is where he lives, not in any of the rival shrines you lot have built. And when he speaks, it’s a message of judgement on your idolatry. (Say, is there a Motel 7 anywhere near here, as I’ll be around for a while doing this whole judgement-oracle thing?)”
Let’s see if his next effort can endear him a little more to his audience. It’s a series of judgement oracles.
A new series today, in the book of Amos.Amos 1:1 The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—the vision he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel.
Amos was a shepherd from Tekoa, in the southern kingdom of Judah, in the eighth century BC. And he was commissioned by God to prophesy in the northern kingdom of Israel, calling them back to obedience. Probably not the safest occupation, given the animosity between the two kingdoms. But he doesn’t exactly endear himself to his audience with his opening words: