By Robert Olsen, Ph. D.
Associate Professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
LISTEN TO GOD
The book of Amos fits squarely in the list of the minor prophets — minor not because of importance but because of the size. Amos was born in the southern kingdom of Judah in an obscure village called Tekoa, where he was a shepherd and farmer of figs. Despite his stature as a farmer, God called him to be a prophet and to deliver a message to the northern kingdom of Israel.
Wrongs reviewed (4–8)
The first part of Amos concerns God’s judgment against the nations throughout the region that typically warred against the Hebrews — Moab, Ammon, Edom and others. In verse 4, Amos turns his attention to Judah and God’s coming judgment upon Judah for not keeping God’s statutes. At this point, the Israelite hearers were probably pleased at Amos’ message — God was going to punish all of their historical enemies, including Judah, their neighbor to the south who Israel split from after the death of Solomon. However, Amos then turns his attention to Israel itself, revealing God’s anger at His audience for idolatry and taking advantage of the poor.
We have to be careful not to fall into the trap of looking at others and judging them yet paying no attention to the sins in our lives. When we look around at so much sin in our world, we can lose sight of our own guilt. While we are able to judge the world through the lens of Scripture, we can take no pride in this because we also are guilty before God. We can stand against sin only by the grace God has given us through Christ’s atonement and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We can never be prideful in our behavior because it is Christ who saves us (Eph. 2:8–9). Instead of looking on with haughtiness at the world around us, we need to pray God would grant others the same freedom in Christ He has given us.
History relived (9–11)
Through Amos, God takes the Israelites on a tour of all He has done in their history. The Israelites had forgotten about the God of Israel, and they had begun to follow and worship foreign gods.
We often look back at the figures in the Old Testament and scoff at their foolishness and poor decisions. We know there are no such things as false gods who we can pray to via idols. We know there is only one God who deserves worship. And yet often our behavior says otherwise. While I don’t know any Christians who worship little idols made by hands, all of us are guilty of idolatry on a regular basis.
In fact, it was John Calvin who, in his book “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” said the human mind is “a perpetual forge of idols.” Because of sin, humans are always turning away from God and toward something else. Anything that takes the place of God is an idol. While it is easy to look back at the Israelites and see their folly by participating in foreign religions, we need to be sure to check ourselves and see in what areas of our lives we are failing to put God first.
Judgment reckoned (12–16)
God is holy and He cannot allow sin to go unpunished. This was true then and it is still true today. However, the solution is found in Christ, who took God’s punishment for us. For those who have embraced Christ as Savior, the punishment is satisfied through Christ’s death. Second Corinthians 5:21 sums it up this way: “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Christ’s righteousness is transferred to us so the Father sees Christ’s righteousness instead of our sinfulness. Because we are now “in Christ,” we do not face God’s wrath. But for those who do not know Christ, God’s wrath rests on them. This motivates us to tell others about Christ so they can have eternal life and not face God’s punishment by spending eternity separated from Him in hell.