When the Lord reveals his judgement against sin, will you cry to him for mercy or refuse to listen? This whole book is a warning.
Vision 1 – locusts (v1-3)
As the Lord speaks first, he says he’s preparing locusts. It’s not just a vision of an accident. The Lord intends it. When they come, there will be devastation. Amos cries out for forgiveness. He’s from the southern kingdom yet he is moved to compassion for people who don’t like him. The Lord listens and relents, not because they don’t deserve it but because he loves to listen to the prayers from his people. Keep on praying.
Vision 2 – fire (v4-6)
Once again, the Lord is calling for judgement, this time by fire. The land is devoured. Land after fire or locusts look similar. There’s nothing left. Again, Amos responds and cries out. Israel had taken their name from Jacob. Jacob, without God’s blessing and grace, would’ve been nothing. The Lord had shown him kindness. Again, the Lord relents. He is teaching Amos and us that he does listen when we pray.
Vision 3 – plumb line (v7-9)
This is a different vision to the previous two. The Lord is saying Israel is the wall. They were built as they were made to be. Although we’re not told explicitly, they are no longer the straight wall they once were. This time, Amos doesn’t plead on their behalf. They aren’t what they should be. When Jesus came, he is the only person who kept God’s law perfectly. We can look at the life of Jesus and see how far we are from that life. He is the plumb line and we all fall short.
Response 1 – Amaziah (v10-13)
Amaziah doesn’t want to listen to Amos. He’s a priest but doesn’t want to listen to God’s word. Are there things that our community doesn’t want to hear? Amaziah cares more about the king’s sanctuary than the Lord’s.
Response 2 – Amos (v14-15)
Back in 3:8 Amos states the sovereign Lord has spoken. He listens. As the Lord has been revealing his judgement, he listens and cries out to the Lord for mercy. We should speak up. The Lord has called all Christians to speak about him.
A judgement against the priest (v16-17)
Everyone is guilty. God’s judgement against sin is fair. On the cross, God showed his judgement in the clearest way that he could. The full anger of God poured out, the sky darkened. Will we cry out to him for mercy or refuse to listen and face judgement ourselves?
The Israelites are looking forward to the Lord’s coming (5:18). They’re looking forward to the day when God’s people will have a wonderful future. It’s a good thing to long for. This will be a day of judgment against them (5:18-20). There is no escape. Appearances can be deceiving. For the Israelites in Amos’ time they thought they were doing pretty well. Amos is here to reveal the truth underneath. They instead have a false hope in themselves.
A false hope in themselves (5:21-6:7)
They might look fine but on the inside, they’re dead. Hypocrisy, wickedness. They’re hoping in themselves through their religious acts (5:21-27). Their acts are rituals, superstitions. They’re whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27). They’re trusting in military success (6:1-3) and their material wealth (6:4-7). They’ve got everything they could possibly ever need. Amos reminds us that a false hope leads to judgment.
A false hope leads to a true judgment against sin (6:8-14)
God’s judgment will be complete. Whole cities will be destroyed. There is an appropriate fear of the power and might of the sovereign Lord. It’s a picture of God’s complete judgment against sin. It’s just. It’s what the people deserve. These people have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness. God’s judgment is fair. God’s people will face judgment and exile for rejecting him. We can think we’re better than them, that we wouldn’t do the same.
We need a true hope in the Lord’s rescue
We need to realise we can’t do it by ourselves. We need to throw ourselves on Jesus’ mercy. It’s only through his death that God can be just and be merciful. A false hope in ourselves, whatever that may be, will bring judgment, but a true hope in Jesus will bring rescue. Whatever good things we do will never be enough because we all fail. This passage is a reminder to look to Jesus. In Jesus, each and every person is valued. Success is measured by seeking Jesus and clinging to him day by day.
Amos seems to be stirring our hearts to ask if we’re actually at peace with God. We are in danger if we fool ourselves, but God says to Amos “Come with me if you want to live.” (Terminator reference). This passage was often quoted in the American civil rights movement in the 50s. Amos announces he’s on the side of the vulnerable.
The troubling announcement of God’s wrath in this chapter begins with a lament. A lament is a song for the brokenhearted, or a song for when you’re at your lowest. God views his people in the OT as a coming marriage. He’s grieving in v2. Israel was meant to be a nation of blessing but they’ll be brought to almost nothing. Why has Israel become a depleted nation? They weren’t seeking God himself (v5). These are significant places. The people would’ve been appalled. They forgot the Lord himself. So often we want the benefits of a relationship with God but not God himself. We want what God can give us, but not God. What happens when God’s people do this? Nothing good.
Our default setting is to worry about ourselves instead of others. When we seek what we can get from God, we put our own selfish wants first. God’s beloved people are brought to almost nothing. They hate justice or do nothing about injustice. Do we know what peace even is? Amos shows peace is a right relationship with God and a right relationship with our neighbour. We’re only at peace with God when we seek him as he has revealed himself to us.
God directly appeals to his people when he says “seek” (v4, v6, v14). God’s people had forgotten who he was. They’d forgotten that he was good. He reminds us exactly who he is (v8-9). God call us to live (v14-15). Seek the God who champions the weak. He invites us back into peace with him. The passage ends with wailing in the streets (v16-17). God calls us to seek him as he reveals himself. He points us outwards to the whole city.
Amos reveals to us the severity and intensity of God’s justice. God is the hero of the brokenhearted. He won’t allow the oppressed to remain oppressed. God isn’t done with us. When we turn to God, he turns us to our neighbours. He reveals himself to be ultimately the God who is with us.
In Jesus, we have every spiritual blessing. He’s the morning light that dawns in our darkness. Jesus is God with us and shows us mercy. In Jesus we are called out of our old way of living to be able to truly love our neighbour. We are freed from the oppression of our sin. Each of us is invited to seek God and live for him.
The kingdom was split in two (northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah). They were pretty strong and prospering. Amos was a shepherd, a farmer. God called him as a prophet. He sends him a message. Amos was sent from the south to the north. The words aren’t too pleasant – the Lord roars from Zion (1:1-2). Jerusalem is the place of God’s temple and the Lord roars (Revelation).
The Lord roars in judgement against the sins of the nations (1:3-2:3)
The Lord is to be feared. He roars in judgement against the sins of the nations.
The pattern of the judgements:
- The Lord speaks
- The serious nature of sin
- An example of their sin
- The judgement of the Lord
- The Lord speaks
You don’t have to be a Christian to know that some things are bad. That’s what these nations are doing (1:3). Nothing is left standing. These are horrific sins. They are all against other people. No one should read this and think God’s judgement is unfair. When he comes to judge sin, nothing will stand in his way. Just as these nations have destroyed others, they will be destroyed.
Imagine being an Israelite hearing this. Thank God that he is going to judge this evil. What God says will happen, happens. He does still see the evil around us and he will judge it. The Lord roars against the sins of the nations. It’s a warning. It’s easy to point at the sins of others. We are just as bad. We have hurt others and we know we’ve done wrong. As Christians we can’t sit back smugly.
The Lord roars in judgement especially against the sins of those who claim to be his people (2:4-16)
Judah is judged because they’ve rejected the law of the Lord. They’ve broken the laws that God himself gave to them. Israel doesn’t escape this judgement. The root of their sin is the same as Judah’s. They were supposed to be a light to the nations. God has acted again and again to rescue and bless Israel but they’ve thrown it back in his face. Israel has no defence. It seems not a single person will get away. They’re stuck. This is certain. Amos was speaking at around 760BC. By 722BC the nations had been conquered. This is a warning. We are no better than the Israelites. To be a Christian is to know that you deserve God’s judgement.
We can be comforted in Jesus. It should make us more dependent on him and his gracious rescue, but we need to be warned. Being one of God’s people isn’t just a label. It’s an internal change that’s shown by an outward way of life enabled by the Holy Spirit. If we deny the truth with our actions, are we really Christians? The Lord sees and will judge all of our sin. Our only refuge is found in Christ. Let’s cast ourselves on his mercy.
Loving a God who loves the weak means loving the weak.
When we think something or someone is important, we begin to become like them. As we are wired like that, we will be moved to see God is like this. We will worship him and care for the weak.
The people showed all the signs of worshipping God on the outside but they didn’t love the weak and the poor. They hated them.
Worshipping God (v7-10)…
He doesn’t need the government. He is against the proud and self sufficient. He opposes human power that is always built on the backs of the weak. God is against the rich who secure themselves at the expense of the poor. It isn’t secure.
…or not (v23-24)
God says not to make noise to him and then go away unchanged. It would be better to not come at all. There is a culture where people comfort themselves with churchgoing. It’s a way of assuring yourself that you’re ok. If you ignore the weak and push other Christians out of your life, don’t come. Amos says to check and to let the blessings flow out of you to others. God’s blessings to us in Jesus are never failing, always constant and always renewed. It means you will love the weak and the poor because he does.
Kindness, service and justice like God’s will matter more if you worship God. Put others first. Christians do just do it. It does flow like a never failing stream. God makes communities of people who do that. Church is the first place we should see justice flowing to others.
How should the church impact the world?
We should always be as merciful as we can be. Service should be ransom shaped. We should not be too pessimistic and not too optimistic. Should be humble cooperation and respectful provocation (Tim Keller). We should start churches! We want to be church from which flows righteousness like a never failing stream.