Amos – The Lion Roars & Redeems
Have you ever tried to memorize the order of the minor prophets before? Let’s be honest, have you tried, got it down for a day or a week, and now months later… it’s gone? Yeah, most of us have been there. However, the minor prophets are some of the richest books of the Old Testament. They are filled with compelling prophetic words, conviction of sin, and vivid illustrations. And, best of all, they are filled to the brim with Christ.
Amos is one of those minor prophets. In this short 9 chapter book the Lord delves into the depths of sin, the glorious hope of redemption, and a myriad of ways in which His words can be applied to our lives.
Amos – A dangerous preacher with a dangerous message
Around roughly 760BC a man walked into Samaria, the capital city of Israel. He had been raise in the fields of Judah. This man, Amos, had not been schooled in the ways of the palace. He knew how to tend trees and shepherd flocks. Sometimes it takes an outsider to shake things up. Sometimes the Lord calls a stranger to shed new light. Sometimes the Lord raises up people from the lower rungs of the social ladder to shoot it straight. God called Amos to be that man.
The Lord had been patient and gracious with His people. But, there was something they had forgotten. The Lord roars like a lion. At the blast of His breath the mountains quake and the fields dry up. His people had made themselves filthy. They behaved like spoiled children acting up behind their parents’ back. They had thrown off the yoke of the Lord and dove headlong into their own desires. No more. No longer would the Lord, the Lion, keep silent. He would speak to His rebellious people with power and clarity through an unlikely servant, Amos.
Amos held no punches. His letter is one of woe and warning. He was a preacher of righteousness and judgment. Quite a dangerous calling for a prophet. Imagine standing before a king who could kill you in an instant. Yet the Lord raised up a farmer to say it – how it is. The Lord called a man to speak with courage and boldness, to pronounce God’s righteousness whether the people or politicians liked it or not. The Lord would make His roar heard in plain terms.
This remarkable book can be broken down into 4 basic parts. Chapters 1-2 The Roar of Judgment. Chapters 3-6 The Reasons for Judgment. Chapters 7-9:10 The Results of Judgment. And lastly, chapter 9:11-15 The Restoration Promised.
In the Roar of Judgment (1-2) Amos pronounces woes on various nations. As Amos preached, you can imagine the people of Samaria cheering as God rails agains their enemies. The wicked people of Aram deserved punishment. Their archenemy, Philistia, had earned their future slavery. It was just for God to condemn Phoenicia for breaking their covenants. It was right for Edom to be punished for taking up the sword against Israel. Ammon and Moab heaped up their guilt for genocide and disrespecting the dead. Here the crowd would lean in with great delight at this country preacher. Even Judah, yes Judah, those idolatrous people ought to be condemned. But then, cheering would turn to gnashing of teeth as Amos, in the capital city, pronounces woe against Israel. Amos does this knowing it could cost him his liberty and life.
Chapters 3-6 give the reasons for God’s judgment. These are specific charges the Lord brings against the Israelites. They show the broad nature of Israel’s iniquity. From idolatry to opulence the Israelites are more concerned with their desires than faithfulness to God. The Lord had brought them hard providences to turn their stiff necks, but their hearts were hell bent on sensuality and injustice. Eventually the Lord’s patience would end and the day of judgment come. Their wealth would disappear, their abominable worship would cease, and their families would be mercilessly exiled.
Amos then moves to record a series of vivid visions he has received from the Lord. These visions are filled with imagery from everyday life. The Lord paints the picture of His judgments in chapters 7-9. Judgment would come in the form of swarming locusts and devastating fire.
One would be amiss if they thought Amos was a cold hearted hell fire and brimstone preacher. In the midst of visions of judgment his heart breaks and he cries out “O Lord God, forgive, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, For he is small!” (7:2) Amos is filled with grief as he sees God’s judgments coming. Far from heartless, Amos pleads for God to relent.
This is the heart of a biblical prophet. Amos preaches judgment and pleads for mercy. God will judge. The Lord will lay out the plumb line. The Day of the Lord is deep darkness. The omniscient Lord declares that He has marked iniquity and will not forget anything they have done. No forgiveness. No mercy. No hope. Total darkness. This gravity of this judgment is terrifying. If Amos ended at this point, it would be the most depressing book of the Bible.
Where is Christ? Is there any Hope?
Thank God He is faithful and remembers His covenant. The serious tone changes as a ray of hope bursts forth in chapter 9:11, “On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old.”
This passage is pregnant with messianic hope. The Lord has not forgotten His promise in Genesis 3:15. He would bring about the seed of the woman to crush the head of the serpent. The Lord had not broken His promise to Abraham but would continue his line. God had promised David in 2 Samuel 7 that one of his sons would be king forever. The Lord would keep His word. God would not allow His people to languish in exile. He would redeem.
Who is this great king of glory? It is Jesus Christ, the promised one of Genesis 3:15, the seed of Abraham, the son of David, the only begotten of the Father. It is Jesus who would come and fulfill the messianic hope of Amos. Time and again the minor prophets end their message with the Lord’s salvation. But the scope of salvation is broader than Israel. As the Spirit spoke through Amos, “all the Gentiles who are called by my name,” will be redeemed. (9:12)
So where does that leave us today?
If we are humbled by the Holy Spirit we will see a buffet of uncomfortable applications. Pointing out the applications are easy. Applications lie on the surface like acorns under an oak tree. But, for those applications to take root in our lives is truly a miracle of God. We must realize we are by nature not Amos, zealous preachers of righteousness, but we are sinful Israel. The golden bulls are in us. The factory of idols is in our hearts.
There’s no need to go to Bethel or Dan to find the idols of today. You don’t have to go to the Hindu temples of India or find Buddhist shrines in South Korea. The idol of western materialism surrounds us like a poisonous atmosphere. Covetousness, which is idolatry, is in many ways the bedrock of our spendthrift economy. Like the rich young ruler, many of us would be ashamed if Jesus told us to sell everything we have and give it to the poor. Yet, the gold and ivory houses of Israel showed where their hearts were. Both in private homes and government indulgence. As one pastor said, “Let me see your bank account and we’ll see where your heart is.”
We also see in Amos the desperate need for faithfulness to God and holy living. Israel was marked by idolatry and sexual immorality. The two were often intertwined. How barbaric. Right? Maybe we need to take seriously the plague of pornography, sensuality, and immodesty that is the milieu of our culture. Notice, our culture. Surveys show that many leaders in evangelical, even reformed, churches are active users of pornography. Oh Lord, give us repentance!
There are plenty of other applications that can be made: justice for the poor and oppressed, the end of human trafficking, the need for self control over gluttony, justice in war, keeping of covenants, and even the proper roll of law and grace in preaching.
The book of Amos is a gift from God. Amos is a book of repentance and redemption. This is a book worthy of our prayerful consideration. I’d love to hear your thoughts, reflections, and resolutions after reading this amazing book.