Theme: The inevitable and necessary judgment of a holy God upon sin.
(RSB) – “Attacking the social evils of the people, as well as their paganized worship, Amos issued an urgent call to repentance as the only escape from imminent judgment. Israel’s privileged position, he declared, should have been an incentive to righteous living, certainly not an excuse for sinning.”
Date: It is interesting to note the date for Amos is given three ways in this book: 1) Amos shares in the first verse that this message came in the days of Uzziah, 2) in the days of Jereboam II and 3) two years before the great earthquake (Zechariah 14:15). This would put this book some time between 787 B.C. and 749 B.C. An interesting note is this would put Amos some time around the contemporary times of Hosea, Joel and Jonah.
Author: Amos. His name means “burden”. He was a man of the south (1:1) for Tekoa was a place just south of Jerusalem, though his ministry was chiefly in the north. Amos was not a professional prophet (7:14). He calls himself two things: “a herdsman” (1:1, 7:14-15) which may mean shepherd as he was also a “cattleman” (3:12). He also describes himself as “gatherer of sycamore fruit” (7:14), which was a fruit like figs, usually eaten only by the poorer people. All in all, he was an untrained preacher, not schooled or skilled like the other prophets, and yet a man God called out of his lay-work and made into a strategic spokesman for his day.
Recipients: The northern kingdom ~ the kingdom of Israel. Remember and refer to the historical note under I Kings, Stop 11. The northern kingdom contained 10 tribes. Their capital was Samaria. They existed from 930 B.C. until around 722 B.C. They were captured by the Assyrians and the 10 tribes scattered. There are a number of references to Israel (2:6, 11; 4:12; 5:1, 4). Though primarily addressed to the northern kingdom, there is also a secondary message as a warning to the southern kingdom (3:1; 2:4, 5; 6:1) which of course was the kingdom of Judah where we find two tribes, Judah and Benjamin. They existed until 586 B.C. when they were captured by the Babylonians.
Purpose: Amos lived in a time of material prosperity for Israel. However, the sins of Israel were abundant, and the nation needed the warning voice of a fearless man of God. This untrained preacher was raised up to carry a warning to Jeroboam II and the nation of Israel. He develops his message in a most fascinating manner. First he pronounces judgment on all who have sinned, beginning with the Gentile nations and working up to the two divisions of the nation of Israel. He does this by starting far away from Israel and working in closer to her. If you look on a Bible map, you will see his manner of listing the nations that are in line for judgment. After concluding that Israel is in line for judgment, he proceeds to pinpoint the sins of the nation that have captivated them in their rebellion against their God. He speaks of such sins as idolatry, excess luxury, riotous revelry, debauchery, depravity, oppression, extortion, bribery and a whole assortment of injustices. You see, though Israel was enjoying comfortable prosperity, there were also those in abject poverty. The poor were being exploited and cheated. Merchants were greedy or dishonest. The judicial system was corrupt. There was religious arrogance with even the attempt to corrupt some of the religious leaders. Affluence had lulled the nation into spiritual apathy, and they refused to recognize the true sickness of their society. Amos’s warning was that because of their sins, God would bring judgment upon them by using Egypt and Assyria to destroy them. This prophecy seemed so far-fetched because at the time not only was Israel enjoying affluence, it was also enjoying, on the international scene, relative quiet and peace, and Assyria was not a growing power; it was in a period of decline. Amos rings forth a message of the sure judgment to come on Israel because of their sins. . . (do you see any parallels to our own country in 2016?)!!
It is interesting to note that Amos is probably the last prophetic voice the north had before their captivity. As we read these verses we do not wonder why God judged them into captivity. It is obvious. But then note the response of Amaziah the priest, as he listened to Amos’s preaching. Instead of this priest and the people turning to God, the priest and the people told Amos “Shut up and go back home. Do your preaching down south” (7:10-13).
Amos refused to back down, explaining to the priest that even though he was not a professional prophet, he was speaking solely because God called him, and he would not back down.
Highlights: Consistent with the general theme of the prophets, Amos does not leave us or the nation with even the question of whether God is through with them. For after describing the judgment on the Gentiles (1:1-2:3) and on Judah (2:4-5), he shows that God will ultimately bless this nation through the establishment of the millennial kingdom that was promised to David (9:11-15).
Many speakers have found 5:24 to be a powerful addition to their sermon or speech.
I. Inevitable judgment on the nations (chs. 1-2)
II. Inevitable judgment on Israel (chs. 3-6)
III. Visions of the inevitable judgment (7:1-9:10)
IV. Millennial blessing for Israel (9:11-15)
* Of course, this is a reference to the ultimate kingdom that will come, when God once again begins to work with the nation of Israel following many years of judgment and persecution because they refused to hear the voice of their holy God.