Intro: Do men make the times or do the times make the men? It may be difficult to know for sure, but we could probably all agree that some men are certainly right for the time in which they lived. By that we mean they were the right person for the job they attempted to accomplish. Among the O.T. prophets there was one who certainly fit this description. Turn your Bible to the book of Amos.
I. Who was Amos, the Prophet? The opening verse to the book gives us some self-description of this unique prophet. Amos 1:1 – The words of Amos, who was among the sheepbreeders 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.
A. A blue-collar prophet: Amos was unique. He was not born a prophet. God called him from the role of a lowly shepherd to preach to His people. In defending his peaching to Amaziah, the priest, Amos says, “I was no prophet, Nor was I a son of a prophet, But I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the Lord took me as I followed the flock, And the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.” (7:14-15) He was a common man from common stock; blue collar all the way! This background seems to be reflected in his preaching. He speaks forthrightly, and uses illustrations from the common life of a shepherd [rescuing the legs of a lamb form a hungry lion (3:12), studying the constellations in the night sky (5:8)] He sees the sins of Israel from the objective perspective of the common man in the mistreatment of the poor, and the corruption of its leaders.
1. A southerner sent to preach to the north. Amos was from the town of Tekoa, a small rugged town about 12 miles south of Jerusalem in the nation of Judah. But God did not call him to preach to the nation of Judah, but rather to its northern neighbor, Israel. He is unique in this regard as well. This must have increased the difficulty of his task, but Amos did not back down.
2. A burden bearer: His name mean “to bear”, “to place a load upon”, or “burden-bearer”. He lived up to his name, as God laid upon him the task of proclaiming judgment on an apostate nation. He faced the rejection and ridicule of the people. It is difficult to be the one who brings bad news to those who do not want to hear it.
a. 2 Tim 4:2-5 – Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
3. A prophet of doom: God primarily called only two of the Minor Prophets to deal directly with what is sometimes called “the Assyrian crisis”, namely, Amos and Hosea. It is not difficult to date Amos’ preaching; [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., 1:1] about 755 B.C. This was a time of prosperity for Israel, as their greatest political threat, Assyria was waning at the time. Jeroboam II’s reign is known as Israel’s “Indian Summer” – a time of relative peace just before the storm of Assyrian oppression arrives – just 25-30 years before the captivity). This God-given prosperity bred apostasy, as the people trusted in their wealth, and forgot about God. Amos attacks this sinful attitude with a message of coming judgment. Amos 5:16-20 – wailing in the streets! “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! For what good is the day of the Lord to you? It will be darkness, and not light.
a. Interestingly, Amos and Hosea, are as different as night and day in regard to their preaching and the approach of their message. Amos typified the old fashioned “hell fire and brimstone,” preacher, using what many see as negative preaching. He was blunt, pointed, and fearless. He clearly spoke the coming judgment of God. Homer Hailey says… “There was not in Amos the sympathy, warm love and feeling of the stateman or citizen, but a cold sense of justice and right. Not a sob is to be found in his book for the nation of wicked apostates…” (pg. 83) Hosea’s message on the other hand, was a softer appeal, focusing on the love of God; the positive preacher. What we need to see is that God used both men to speak to the same generation. One does not discount the other, and there is a place for both today. Preachers need balance.
II. What was the Character of Amos’ Message? The O.T. prophets (especially the written prophets, of which Amos is the beginning) have been described as the “historians of Israelite history”. They spoke to tell the future, and lead people back to God, but also to help them make sense of their past. It was important for future generations to know why things happened, and Who made them happen.
A. God and the Nations: You will notice that the first chapter accounts God’s condemnation of the Israel’s neighbors (and enemies). The point is forcefully made that God holds all nations accountable, and He is the sovereign judge of each one. For each listed nation Amos cries out, “For three transgressions, and for four, God will not turn away His punishment.” God is not being unjust. He accounts the outstanding sins of each. (Damascus, Gaza (Philistia), Tyre (Phoenicians), Edom, Ammon, Moab) He has allowed these nations time to repent (four transgressions), But they will not escape His judgment (He will not turn it away). God is the Lord of every nation on earth. He is their sovereign Judge. One writer says… “Amos’ view of history is not as the accidental and opportunistic deployment of peoples upon the earth, but as a “controlled” entity, subject, absolutely to the will of God. Nations rise and fall by God’s will only, wicked nations being used for a season to punish the righteous, but themselves being quickly liquidated when their sins have gone beyond that hidden boundary that separates God’s mercy from his wrath. No matter how men resent and oppose this view of history, it is nevertheless the truth. Nebuchadnezzar was compelled to eat grass with the beasts of the earth for seven years in order that he might know that, “The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Dan 4:25). Paul affirmed that, “God made of one every nation of men … and determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation, that they should seek God” (Acts 17:26,27). (from Coffman’s Bibe Commentary)
B. God and Israel: In the likeness of Paul’s approach in the first chapters of Romans, Amos begins with the Gentiles, but moves quickly to the accountability of God’s own people. Beginning in chapter 2 the words of God fall hard on the sins of His own people (Judah and Israel); Amos 2:4 – Because they have despised the law of the Lord, And have not kept His commandments. Their lies lead them astray, Lies which their fathers followed. Israel would be taken into Assyrian captivity, not because God had lost His power, or because of Assyria’s superior might, but because of Israel’s sins.
- Amos 3:1-2 –“Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying: 2 “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”
1. “Yet you have not returned to Me” – Amos was called to point out that the calamities of the past were a warning from God of what was going to come unless they repented. Read Amos 4:6-11 6 “Also I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities. And lack of bread in all your places; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the Lord. 7 “I also withheld rain from you, When there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, And where it did not rain the part withered. 8 So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, But they were not satisfied; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the Lord. 9 “I blasted you with blight and mildew. When your gardens increased, Your vineyards, Your fig trees, And your olive trees, The locust devoured them; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the Lord. 10 “I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt; Your young men I killed with a sword, Along with your captive horses; I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the Lord. 11 “I overthrew some of you, As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, And you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the Lord. God has been longsuffering. His disciplines reveal this. But justice demands what is to come. What does it take to get people to turn their attention to God, and His words?
2. “Prepare to Meet Your God” – Amos 4:12-13 – “Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; Because I will do this to you, Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” 13 For behold, He who forms mountains, And creates the wind, Who declares to man what his thought is, And makes the morning darkness, Who treads the high places of the earth — The Lord God of hosts is His name. Notice that Amos does not describe here what awaits them. He only tells them it is coming, and they must now meet their God.
a. Was it irrevocable? Some see Amos’ message as one of certain doom. The captivity of Israel was irrevocable. He was using this familiar phrase in much different way as it is used in the popular song by this title. He was not telling them they could change and get ready to meet their God in gladness, but that they were going to meet God in certain judgment. Their fate was sealed. Amos 5:1-2 – 5 Hear this word which I take up against you, a lamentation, O house of Israel: 2 The virgin of Israel has fallen; She will rise no more. She lies forsaken on her land; There is no one to raise her up.
- Do you buy green bananas? Amos 8:1-2 – Thus the Lord God showed me: Behold, a basket of summer fruit. 2 And He said, “Amos, what do you see?” So I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me: “The end has come upon My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. How do you turn back the corruption of a basket of fruit?
b. But we notice that in 5:4-6 Amos has God saying, “Seek Me and live”. This may indicate a call for personal repentance among the people. The nation is doomed, but you can spiritually survive. I wonder if these call rings true for us as Americans. Certainly God has given our nation ample opportunity to “return to Him”.
3. God’s judgment is deserved: One of the powerful visions of Amos’ prophecy is found in Amos 7:7-9 – Thus He showed me: Behold, the Lord stood on a wall made with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand. 8 And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said: “Behold, I am setting a plumb line In the midst of My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. 9 The high places of Isaac shall be desolate, And the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste. I will rise with the sword against the house of Jeroboam.” Are you familiar with a plumb line? A masonry or carpentry tool used to determine if a building or wall is “plumb” or standing straight up. God’s plumb line had measured Israel (His own house) and it was crooked as could be. (we often excused the lack of perfection in the building of my house, “that’s a shame” – Fred would always come back with, well it is good enough for who it is for”) Israel was God’s building. He had every right to judge it. God had accurately measured the unrighteousness of His people. (We will study about the specific crimes depicted in Amos’ prophecy). He has accurately measured us as well. Are we plumb?
Conclusion: I found a verse in Amos that took on a more meaningful tone recently. Amos 3:8 – A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy? I heard a lion roar at the Naples Zoo the other day. It was an ominous sound, and could not be ignored.
- So Amos was the voice of a roaring lion to the people of his day. But it was not his voice that demanded the attention. It was the voice of the Lord. Who will not fear?