Have you read Amos lately? It’s a good prophetic book because Amos was an average person who was called by God to proclaim a tough message to people who lived selfishly in prosperous times. Amos was a shepherd and dresser of sycamore-fig trees. He was a working man, a regular “Joe” whose conscience was moved by the Lord. He saw the selfish character of human beings in other countries and in his own. He was so moved that he spoke out against the “me-ism” of his day.
One by one, he indicted Israel and Judah’s neighboring nations for their self-centered conquests and horrible treatment of the peoples around them. Then he turned the tables of Israel, the northern half of God’s people, and Judah, the southern portion, indicting both for being led away from the Lord, for beating down the poor, for sexual sins, and other immorality.
Through Amos, God called nature to witness his people’s sin. He summoned the Philistines from Ashdod and the Egyptians to observe their judgment. He ordered, “Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria; see the great unrest within her and the oppression among her people” (Am.3:9b, NIV). His people didn’t understand what was right; they amassed goods and weapons for protection, but their refuges would be plundered. God recounted how he sent famine and disaster, yet they hadn’t heeded his warnings. Israel was about to encounter their God, the Judge, and the meeting was to be calamitous.
In chapter 5 of his prophecy, Amos urged Israel to think and to repent with honesty. “Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is” (Am. 5:14, NIV). National confidence felt as if God would not forsake them. All was well. It was not, and the Lord would stand against them if the people did not mend their ways. The people felt the day of the Lord would vindicate them, but Amos did not think so. “Why do you long for the day of the Lord?” the prophet asked. “That day will be darkness, not light” (Am. 5:18b, NIV).
The complacent were warned, and Amos delivered a series of visionary episodes which were designed to announce God’s measurement of his people. A brief section of the book of Amos recounted how he was opposed by a priest at Bethel because his message opposed the king and called for repentance and change. Then he resumed his warnings, ending with an announcement of what later became a reality—the Dispersion. Israel was to go into exile! But she would be restored in time to come (see 9:9-15). Even in judgment, there was hope.
On one hand, Amos’ character shows how God can use an ordinary person to call for change in a society. On the other hand, Amos’ plea reveals the Lord’s lasting desire to redeem his wayward people, along with his willingness to discipline them for a greater good. The prophet Amos raises our view of God to a higher level. The Lord is both compassionate and a God of judgment. Amos prepares us to learn from Jesus Christ, who was also of humble origin yet showed us a God who was both our heavenly Father and a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29; cp. Mk. 9:47-49).