Today, we start the book of Amos. He was a shepherd and forester before being called to be a prophet.
Amos (meaning ‘burden-bearer’) prophesied at the time that Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam II was king of the Northern kingdom (Israel) around 760 BC (Amos 1:1). He was a contemporary of Jonah. Even though Amos was born in Judah, in the South, he prophesied to the North (Israel).
The pastures of the shepherds were drying up (Amos 1:2) as were loyalty and obedience to the one true God as people prospered materially. As people’s standards of living went up during a time of peace, greed and avarice increased and people’s morals and spirituality decayed. No wonder Amos felt compelled to speak out.
Through Amos, God pronounced judgement on Israel’s neighbours setting out the terrible things that would happen to them because of their despicable behaviour: their cruelty, slave-trading, brutality and disrespect of the dead. This included the Arameans, the Philistines, the Phoenicians in Tyre, the Edomites, the Ammonites, the Moabites and the people of Judah. The sins of Judah included rejecting the laws of God, not keeping his decrees and being led astray by false gods. For a shepherd, Amos was very well informed about world affairs through the Spirit of God.
Amos prophesied that fire would come upon Judah that would consume the fortresses of Jerusalem (Amos 2:5) and we have previously discussed how this would eventually come about. The Babylonian army would burn Jerusalem to the ground and take its inhabitants into exile (2 Kings 25:9).
Amos convicted Israel of its sins. The people were greedy; they trampled on the poor, the needy and the righteous; they denied justice to the oppressed; they were sexually immoral and they desecrated holy places with their disrespectful behaviour.
God had brought his people out of Egypt, fed them for forty years in the desert and destroyed the native people who had been living in the promised land (the Amorites who included a race of giants). The Israelites had been tremendously blessed and protected by their God. However, the Israelites had betrayed God. They had corrupted those who had taken holy vows (the Nazirites) and commanded God’s representatives (the prophets) not to speak.
God vowed to crush Israel as a heavy cart loaded with grain would crush everything in its path. Neither the swift or the strong or the brave would escape the oncoming wrath. Even the bravest warriors would flee (Amos 2:16).
My country, the (not so) United Kingdom has been struggling. The recent European football tournament revealed we still have a nasty racist element in the population, our politicians have voted to cut aid to the poorest countries in the world and some keep trying to sneak in extremist pro-abortion laws allowing terminations up to birth. Religion is marginalised and barely tolerated as long as no-one says or does anything in the name of the Lord. Spirits of disbelief and disobedience are rife, even amongst the Christian community. Was the pandemic sent to crush us until enough people cried out to the Lord? We all need to summon our inner Amos and speak out.
Paul preached against hypocrisy. If we pronounce that people should not commit adultery, we need to be careful not to look at others with lustful eyes. If we preach against stealing, we should not cheat on our taxes or break copyright. Some Jews said they abhorred idols, but then stole the statues from pagan temples and sold them. How do we earn our living? Do we run a corner shop selling cigarettes, alcohol, lottery cards and pornoography while professing to hate the sins associated with these items. The sexual sins of ‘celibate’ priests caused massive damage to the church and resulted in God’s name being blasphemed amongst the general population (Rom.2:24). Satan will always attack and tempt priests more than any other occupation. He hates them with a vengeance. However, we all have sufficient grace to resist all temptations.
Religion cannot just be theoretical or it is worthless. If Christianity has rules and obligations we must stick with them. We can’t just be Christians outwardly, the Holy Spirit living inside us from our baptism needs to be allowed to influence our daily lives and continually make us holier. We need to be Christians in the depth of our hearts not just on the surface.
The Jews were entrusted with the very words of God (Rom.3:2). Jesus was a Jew and our salvation has come from his sacrifice on the cross. We have the New Testament in addition to the Jewish law to guide us. The word of God is our living source of inspiration.
God is faithful even when we are unfaithful. When we sin, God looks even more righteous in comparison to our sinful ways. However, we should strive to be like him through the power of the Holy Spirit. The fact that we receive salvation as a gift from God does not give us licence to sin. We want to become more and more Christ-like each day through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are ambassadors for God.
We should never mock the poor or gloat over disaster. Christians rejoice with those who are rejoicing and weep with those in pain and suffering. They are all our brothers and sisters.
We should try to make our children proud. The immature may be embarrassed of those who live for Christ but they will show respect in the end.
We should rush to forgive and forget as ‘he who covers over an offence promotes love’ (Prov.17:9). ‘Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam’ (Prov.17:14). It is too easy to start quarrels on social media but nobody likes to be ignored. Changing the subject may be the best way to keep our friends but we should welcome just criticism. It is precious information.
Rebellion has been rife in the country through the pandemic – many people have refused vaccines and hate wearing masks. Merciless officials will have to be sent against them to legislate for compulsory vaccines for healthcare workers and vaccination passports for holidays (Prov.17:11).
God will punish the treacherous: those who repay good with evil. He will hand them over to Satan. Evil will never leave their house until they repent and renounce their ways.