The Book of Amos The Depths of Sin
Background to Amos • Amos comes from the village of Tekoa, south of Jerusalem • Small mountain village • Not a business center, more a shepherding community • Amos is a commoner • Not a priest, nor a member of the “School of Prophets,” • He describes himself as a shepherd and “dresser of Sycamore trees…” • Obviously educated, however – his book shows its writer had plenty of literary skill. • May have been well travelled as well (he describes many places that he may have visited)
Amos’ Calling • Amos was not called while searching for God’s purposes • Amos was called while he was at his hum-drum day job • So was David, so was Gideon, so was Matthew, and on and on. • He took his shepherd’s crook, and went where God sent him. • His book is full of imagery that comes straight from the vast and huge wilderness beyond Tekoa. • As a shepherd, Amos is at or very near the bottom of the social pyramid – he would be like the janitor or garbage man today • What does this show about God?
When did Amos work? • Amos 1:1 clearly states when Amos was at work: “…in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam, son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.” • Jeroboam II took the throne in 796BC • Uzziah died 739BC • Most scholars agree that Amos was working around 760BC • 2 years before the earthquake • Crooked walls found at Hazor (a town in the area) – there was definitely an earthquake around the time period…
Significance of Dates • Amos was hardly the only prophet around at the time • As a boy, he could very well have heard Elisha • As a young man, he would have heard Jonah • Hosea worked at the same time, and the definitely would have known each other (they were both prophets to the same area) • When Amos was an old man, a young Isaiah could very well have learned from him • A young Micah could have listened to an old Amos preach
Amos’ World • Israel (and Judah both) were at high points in their power • Assyria had not yet risen to world-conquering status • Money poured in through trade and production • Armies were victorious – glory and honor • No nation nearby was strong enough to threaten either nation • Amos’ message would have been highly improbable • Things are going good – how could they be destroyed? • Life is great, yet Amos says we’re doing things wrong?
What was Amos like? • From his book, Amos’ personality can be described as: • Humble – he does not hide his station in life • Wise – he preaches directly to the people, not over them • Clever – he catches people’s attention by first condemning their enemies • Fearless – he tells the truth to all, including kings • Faithful – His message is strictly God’s message
What was Amos like? • His language and word choice (or “diction”) is distinct: • His metaphors and illustrations are all pastoral in nature (think “country bumpkin…”) • His audience is primarily the commoners of Israel, not its kings and leaders – therefore, the words he uses are more direct and simple • He is a straight-shooter – he doesn’t try to sugar-coat his message and make it easier to swallow • He confronts the king with some pretty harsh words! • Also, he’s a call-it-like-it-is kind of guy (how many legs does a dog have if you count the tail as a leg?)
Amos’ Message Amos is calling people to the truth that they already know – someone has to yank the scales from their eyes and tell them the consequences of their sin God cannot suffer sin! – think about it: If God is holiness, he cannot allow unholiness to exist or he wouldn’t be holy. But what about our sin? He doesn’t blow us up immediately….
Amos’ Message • Amos feared the Lord so much he feared nothing else: • He had harsh words for King Jeroboam, at a time that didn’t even make sense from man’s perspective • “He who handles the bow shall not stand!” – Israel relied on archers for their military success: they were the best in the world at the time! • “He who is swift of foot will not save himself!” – Amos is implying that even the fastest runners cannot escape the coming battle that will destroy them • “Nor shall he who rides the horse save his life” – Israel’s cavalry forces at the time were nearly invincible
The Crux of the Message Thus says the Lord: “As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who dwell in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed. In other words – when a lion eats a sheep, it tears it to bits, and the only part you might rescue would be the leftovers. Israel, if it keeps sinning will be exactly like that….
Impossibru? • Israel at the time was stronger than it had ever been, except for under David – what Amos is suggesting is simply impossible! • Except for the fact that 50 years later, it happened… • Why do great nations come apart? • Every. Single. Time. The answer is sin. When people become so sinful that their nation no longer operates as it should – watch out! • How do we measure it? Biblically, a nation about to be judged is “handed over to the lusts of the flesh…”
Amos 1-2 • Amos begins his ministry in Bethel – a city on the southern edge of the northern kingdom of Israel – 22 miles from home. • He begins by pronouncing judgment on six neighboring nations: Damascus (Syria), Gaza (Philistia), Tyre (Phoenicia), Edom, Ammon, and Moab. • He then pronounces God’s judgment against Judah (his home!) • Israelites are definitely in agreement with him here. He’s calling out all the sins of everyone they can’t stand. • He then slams Israel itself, followed by the entire nation.
Amos 1-2 • What did Amos call them out on? • Excessive luxury • Greed • Careless attitude • Selfishness • Lying and cheating • Oppressing the poor • Worst of all – hypocrisy (saying you belong to God, and He is on your side, when in reality you act the opposite of what He wants!)
Amos 1-2 • Often, we think we have everything under control, when if we were actually honest with ourselves, we would be forced to admit that really we don’t. • Also, all of the sins Israel had committed that got them punished by the Lord are very, very prevalent today, still. Despite what our society thinks, people are not “basically good,” or “getting better.” In fact, we are exactly the same. So what does God think of our sin?
Amos 3-6 • Now, Amos goes into detail on Israel and why God is angry with them. • He lists their sins again: greedy, unjust, immoral, profane • Do these sound familiar? • Worse than that, however, is this: Israel excuses themselves by saying they are God’s chosen people • Technically true, but it doesn’t mean what they thought it did… • It doesn’t mean you get a free pass, it means you should have known better!
Amos 3-6 • One of the sins Amos calls Israel out for is that they had “sold the righteous for silver.” • In other words, they had taken what they knew was most important, and traded that knowledge for the desire to get wealthy. • Ever see anybody in America do that? • Wealth can never, ever replace character – nothing is more dangerous than the power and influence that comes with money and none of the humility that comes from a saving knowledge of Christ.
Amos 3-6 • Amos says that there is still a way out – Israel need to repent! • Repentance means a “turn from sin,” or doing a 180. It absolutely is not just a “Oops, sorry…” • True repentance comes from the heart, a desire to never do the same thing again, no matter what the cost. How often do we actually go to the lengths we need to in order to get rid of our sin? Do we just pray for forgiveness and change nothing? Or do we actually do what it takes to break the chain and make some changes?
Amos 3-6 • Even when Israel tries to serve the Lord, it offends him at this point… • Amos 5:21 – For I hate your feasts… even though you offer me burnt sacrifices … I will not accept them. Take away from me the noise of your songs, to the melody of your harps I will not listen. • Why would God despise their worship, even the parts they are trying to do right? Because it’s hollow and empty. They merely go through the motions – say all the right words but their hearts are not in it. Does that happen to us?
Amos 7-9 • Israel had rejected God’s warnings – therefore the punishment was coming… Amos describes it in five visions: • Devouring Locusts – It shall not be… • Consuming Fire – It shall not be… • Searching Plumbline – the building is so crooked it cannot stand • Basket of Summer Fruit – Ripe fruit, just like Israel • The Lord at the Altar – The kingdom destroyed, the house of Jacob saved
Amos 7-9 • We don’t know how long Amos was in Bethel, but we do know that he would have spoken to huge crowds of people. • Everyone would have heard of him at least, if not actually heard his message. • The common people, many of them at least, were drawn to his message of repentance • Amaziah, high priest of Bethel, couldn’t stand the prophet • The priest didn’t wanted to be told he was wrong • His pride caused him to hate Amos
Amos 7-9 • Amaziah, in his hatred, conspired with the king to get Amos kicked out of town. Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. For Amos has said “Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile, away from his land.” • With the King and Amaziah allied against him, Amos was suddenly ignored. • When Amos saw that Israel had no intention of listening to him anymore, he went home.
Amos 7-9 • Why did Amos leave? • The people had been listening to him, after all… • The Priest conspired against him • The King listened to the Priest In other words, all the authorities at the time had discussed it and they all agreed that Amos had to go. When the “professionals” all say you are wrong, it almost doesn’t matter how right you are….
Amos 7-9 Amos goes back to Judah, and writes his words down into a book so that all would learn from Israel’s poor choices. So what are the major takeaways? • American culture is guilty of the same sins Israel was • Christians must be very careful to not allow our culture to dictate how we act – we are to be transformed by Christ! • Serving the Lord is generally unpopular – the world hated Christ, why should they treat us any differently? When they do, Christians should remember to represent Christ in everything that they do…