The Minor Prophet Amos may have proclaimed God’s Word back in 763 BC Israel, but his time and circumstances are strikingly similar to ours today.
I believe if you read the following excerpt from my new book, co-authored with Steve Howell, titled 12 Faith Journeys of the Minor Prophets, available on our website and on Kindle and Nook, you will marvel at the similarities between the nation of Israel of old and the Western nations of today. Then, I suggest reading the book of Amos, particularly chapter 5’s call to repentance and chapter 9’s warning to those nations who fail to turn from their sad spiritual state.
The relevancy of Amos’ message to us today is a dire warning that we must heed or face national extinction.Amos' message is a dire warning that we must heed or face national extinction. #prophecy Click To Tweet
Time of the Prophet
“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.” Thus Amos 1:1 introduces Amos, the third of the twelve Minor Prophets.
Amos lived during Israel’s golden age of economic stability and tranquility. From 805-740 BC, Israel’s enemies, such as the mighty aggressor Assyria, were stuck in a temporary time of decline.1 During that intermission, the Jewish kingdoms, both north and south, expanded back into the old Solomonic boundaries outlined in 2 Kings 14. It was a golden age historians described as “a period of expansion, freedom, activity, prosperity and peace. Money poured in; the armies were always victorious. The people were filled with pride… nothing interfered to chill the popular spirits.”2
Since fallen human nature during times of blessing forgets God’s benevolence, a human-centered form of worship arose in Israel’s Northern Kingdom that replaced the true worship of God. Worship of Yahweh in the Temple in Jerusalem was replaced by the worship of golden calves in the cult shrines in the towns of Bethel, Beersheba and Gilgal (1 Kg. 12:26-33). Samaria’s shrine towns and their calf idols were never authorized by God, and He despised them as abominations.
As the false, idolatrous worship of God arose in Israel, the people were no longer taught who the real Yahweh God was and His moral law as revealed in the Torah. Ethics and morality were replaced by empty rituals and man-made ceremonies. The consequence of this godless, human-centered religion combined with a new ethically-lacking upper class fostered a fertile breeding ground for terrible acts of injustice. These injustices defined the time in which Amos lived.
Construction of a Prophet
Thus in this spiritual climate of apathy and empty religion which defined the Northern Kingdom, Yahweh turned His gaze far south to the little town of Tekoa in search of a faithful messenger. If Bethlehem was considered an “O, little town,” then Tekoa just six miles south of Bethlehem and 12 miles south of Jerusalem was equally insignificant. This fly-speck of a village overlooking the Dead Sea was nestled among the barren limestone hills of the Judean wilderness. Like America’s old El Paso in Texas, Tekoa was the frontier town burned by the sun and dried hard as the clay. What the town lacked in size and culture, though, its harsh setting more than made up for it by producing a stock of ruggedly hearty people.
One of these iron men was Amos. Built tough like the herdsmen of old, Amos lived the harsh life of wrangling an ugly, stunted breed of sheep which had a fine wool called noked.3 When the seasons got too dry, he’d pull up his tent pegs and head for the coastal plain or Jordan Valley to tend sycamore-fig trees. He’d set to the tedious task of ensuring good fruit by slicing or pricking the top of each fig with all the great patience one would need in doing such mind-numbing labors. And, when the wool and fruit were ready, Amos would likely travel a few miles to join the busy caravan route linking Jerusalem with Hebron and Beersheba to sell his goods up in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
It is likely that in those northern trade markets Amos got to witness first-hand the bitter taste of the religious and social corruption that dominated the North. He was a humble man of the earth with no stated lineage, cut from the same hairy cloth as Elijah and John the Baptist, and just as much a devoutly faithful follower of Yahweh. The rampant materialism and harsh oppression of the poor he would have witnessed could only have galled him. What he saw became a burden on his soul, fitting for a man whose name means “burden-bearer.”
Call of the Prophet
Few would want God’s call to become His messenger the way Amos received his calling. “The Lord roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers” (1:2). What a call! Amos, the lowly shepherd, heard the ear-splitting shout of the Lord roaring with a voice so loud it would have withered one of the highest mountaintops in the land.
From the lowest pastures with his ugly sheep, Amos responded to that mighty voice with, “Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” (3:8). The Lion of the Tribe of Judah had found His messenger in Amos.
It was the irony of God to use a peasant to bring His message to the wealthiest in society. The contrast was perfect. And Amos, he had no choice but to respond to God’s command to go. Amos didn’t volunteer; he was drafted!4
- James M. Boice, The Minor Prophets: An Expositional Commentary, Volume 1, Hosea-Jonah (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corporation, 1983), p. 134.
- Kyle M. Yates, Preaching From the Prophets (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1942), p. 33.
- David A. Hubbard, Will We Ever Catch Up with the Bible? (Glendale, CA: G/L Regal Books, 1977), p. 38.