Amos is not a friendly, happy book to read. Unlike the prophesies of Isaiah, which are encouraging and inspire hope, Amos speaks of punishment and destruction.
During the time of Amos’ ministry, Israel was a powerhouse—wealthy and influential. One would think that Israel’s prosperity indicated that God was pleased with His nation, but Amos’ words proved just the opposite. God was not pleased. He asked for repentance and if the Israelites would not turn from their sin, they would be punished.
These were the charges brought against the Israelites (Amos 2:6–8):
They sell the innocent for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals.
They trample on the heads of the poor
as on the dust of the ground
and deny justice to the oppressed.
Father and son use the same girl
and so profane my holy name.
They lie down beside every altar
on garments taken in pledge.
In the house of their god
they drink wine taken as fines.
The Israelites perverted justice even though they were entrusted with administering it. They oppressed the poor when they were instructed to be generous. They were involved in incestuous affairs, an act that was considered abominable and unclean in the eyes of God. And instead of offering sacrifices, as they had been taught (to show their devotion to God), they only put on the appearance of worship.
As I read through the first chapters of Amos, I wondered, what does any of this have to do with me? How can I possibly relate to any of this?
God has given the Israelites and us–Gentile descendents/inheritors of the promise—a framework by which to live.
God tells us to do good.
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.
Do not say to your neighbor,
“Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
when you already have it with you. (Proverbs 3:27–38)
How often do we have the power to act upon something and decide instead, by our actions or (more likely) our inactions, to withhold good?
God instructs His people to help the poor.
If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. (Leviticus 25:35)
When someone is in need, how willing am I do offer aid? Will I take time out of my busy day to even bother finding out if and how I can help those around me?
God has spoken time and time again against sexual immorality and specifically finds incest abhorrent.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. (1 Corinthians 5:1)
Is my mind clear of unclean thoughts? And when my mind wanders to places that it ought not to go, like filthy places, do I even try to take hold of them and submit them under obedience to God?
Samuel spoke about God’s view on offerings and sacrifices—to God, to obey is better than sacrifice.
Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)
Do I give God lip service? Or do I live a live that is in accordance with God’s word?
Amos’ words hit close to home. Sometimes, with the busy-ness of life, we neglect those things that God has charged for us to do. We think that because things are going great, things are great. Amos reminds us to take stock of our spiritual condition, acknowledge our sin and repent so that we can be made right with God.
Perhaps for you that means you need to do (more) good, be (more) generous, get your mind out-of-the-gutter or sincerely give God your all (both in your private and public life). Whatever it is, know that His grace is sufficient and that His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). And because of that, we can be who He asks us to be—holy (1 Peter 1:13–16).