The book of Amos announces judgment against several nations (Amos 1:3-2:3), including Israel and Judah (Amos 2:4-16), for their societal oppression, injustice, and rejection of His efforts to call them to return (Amos 4-5); nonetheless the Lord promises that His people will be forever beautifully placed in their own land (Amos 9:11-15).
Explanation of Main Idea
The nations around Israel were guilty of grave sins: senseless violence (Amos 1:3), human trafficking (Amos 1:6, 9), unchecked rage and fury (Amos 1:11), and “ripping open pregnant women” (Amos 1:13) to name a few. God’s people were guilty of idolatry, ignoring His word (Amos 2:4), and taking advantage of people (Amos 2:6-8). For all of this, God proclaims that He will bring punishment (Amos 2).
The Lord wants His people to return to Him; He sent numerous events to call them back. These include famine (Amos 4:6), locusts (Amos 4:9), and plagues (Amos 4:10). Because they did not return to God, Amos warns, “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel” (Amos 4:14).
Hope is not lost, however, as the Lord repeatedly invites them to seek Him and live (Amos 5:4, 6. 14). God is abhorred with people getting rich by taking advantage of others (Amos 5:11-12) and with “religiousity” (Amos 5:21-27), complacency (Amos 6:1), and pride (Amos 6:8). The result of all this sin will be a future calamity like none other (Amos 8-9) but eventually “David’s fallen tent” (Amos 9:11) will be restored and Israel will finally be forever home (Amos 9:11-15)
God makes a case in the book of Amos against social injustice. He is concerned about the poor and oppressed. He holds nations accountable, especially His people. He always invites repentance, though. He wants justice to “roll on like a river, (and) righteousness like a never-failing stream” (Amos 5:24). Amos reminds people to “Seek the LORD and live” (Amos 5:4, 6). Repentance is always the way to restoration.
- Social Justice
God is a god of justice. He loves people and is angered when they are abused and mistreated. The book of Amos begins, “The LORD roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem” (Amos 1:2). God is not idly standing by while people made in His image are being taken advantage. He will act! He is moved to intervene. Whether it is violence, slavery, disregard for the interest of others, murder, depriving people of their rights, or any other type of social injustice, God’s heart is with the broken-hearted and will act of their behalf.
“I will send fire” occurs seven times in the first two chapters (Amos 1:4, 7, 12, 14; Amos 2:2, 5). Additionally, “For three sins…even for four, I will not turn back my wrath” occurs eight times in the same chapters (Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; Amos 2:1, 4, 6). God has determined that evil will be punished; destruction at HIs hand will come (Amos 2:6-16; 3:14; 6:8). He will destroy kings (Amos 1:8), punish Israel (Amos 3:14; 4:2; 7:9); in fact His judgement will be so sever that “the land will tremble…and all who live in it will mourn” (Amos 8:7).
All throughout the book, God calls out to people to come back to Him. In chapter four, God documents several instances where He sent calamity for the purpose of bringing people back to Him (Amos 4:6, 8, 9, 10, 11). Chapter five contains invitations to “Seek the Lord” and live (Amos 5:4, 6, 14). No matter how bad things get, God is always extending and invitation to forgive and restore.
In chapter seven, God threatens to send a swarm of locusts and a massive fire which will dry up and devour the land (Amos 7:1-6). At hearing this news, the prophet Amos, heartbroken and desperate, cries out, “Sovereign Lord, forgive!…Sovereign Lord, I beg you, stop! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!” (Amos 7:2, 5). In answer to Amos’ prayer, “the Lord relented” and said, “This will not happen” (Amos 7:3, 6). God responded to Amos’ intercession for his people and disaster was averted.
- Justice Over Religion
God has strong words for outward religious expression that is not accompanied by inward sincerity. “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies” (Amos 5:21). He will not accept any sacrifices or offerings (Amos 5:22). He would rather have justice and righteousness (Amos 5:13, 24).
- Israel’s Ultimate Restoration.
Like many of the other prophets, Amos looks forward to Israel’s ultimate restoration, a time when they will experience “new wine (that) will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills” (Amos 9:13). Israel will “rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine…” (Amos 9:14). This restoration will be final and complete, “never again to be uprooted” (Amos 9:15)
How Does This Relate To Us?
We live in a world ripe with social injustice. People are oppressed left and right. Prejudice is still alive, abortion abounds, slavery is a problem, pornography is rampant, poverty prevails, governments are corrupt, and on and on and on it goes. Amos would be a busy man if he were alive today! We need to know that God is aware of these issues and He will not long stand by and do nothing. There will come an ultimate punishment for the offenders.
What about the church, His people? We can be guilty of ignoring the problems in our society and focusing solely on the spiritual. This is not the heart of God; in fact, He would despise this attitude and prefer justice over religious assemblies. The church needs to be more active, get our hands dirty, and advocate for righteousness in our world today. We need to do this with the heart of an intercessor, like Amos, who was desperate for God to forgive.
It is good to know that God is ready to forgive. The invitation is ongoing: repent, turn to God, and be restored. This is message that we need to bring to our world today. We also need to remember that Israel still has a special place in God’s economy. They will one day be back in their land forever.
- What did Amos do for a living? What did God call him to do? Look in Amos 1:1 and 7:14.
- Amos 1:3-2:4 contains seven sections that all follow the same pattern. What is this pattern? What phrases occur in each section?
- Look in chapter four. How many times does the phrase “yet you have not returned to me” occur? What is the message that God is trying to get across?
- What does God think about religious assemblies based on Amos 5:21-27? Why is this?
- Read Amos 7:1-6. What does Amos say when he realizes what God is going to do?
Life Application Questions
- Amos 1:3-2:4 contains seven sections that all follow the same pattern, which you identified in question two above. What sins would God identify in your context? Write your own section based on the sins of the country you live in. For example, “For three sins of America, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because she_______. I will send fire upon_______. I will________.
- Chapter four identifies several natural disasters clearly sent by God. Why did He do this? Do you think He does this today?
- God would rather have justice than religion. Do you think he would say something like he did in Amos 5:21-24 to evangelical churches today?
- What can your church do practically to “let justice roll on like a river” (Amos 5:24).
- Amos had a heart of an intercessor. Does injustice break your heart? Read Amos 7:1-6. Do you think your prayers can make a difference?