Amos has been connected to the sheep: he was a shepherd by trade, who had a tremendous concern for the downtrodden, and was called by God to become a prophet.
Chapters 1-3, Amos prophesied about God’s plans to judge Israel and the surrounding nations, eight in all. Today, we will take a deep dive into final paragraph of chapter 2.
Amos had leveled seven damning indictments against the nation and people of Israel, and he had done it within the heart of their religious center. Like the hot fire of God’s light, Amos’ words exposed their rampant corruption.
When God had gathered the people in the wilderness, to bring them into an eternal covenant as God’s people, and a holy nation, God had consistently portrayed Himself as caring for the oppressed and needy.
Had God not heard their cries for rescue, when they were enslaved in Egypt?
Had the Lord not proven to be their very great champion and savior?
Had God not redeemed them with an outstretched arm?
Did not the Lord freely provide for their every need, water from the rock, manna and quail from the sky, sandals and robes that did not ever wear out, and victory over every opposition?
God now commanded the people to show the same love and care for those in need among them. Those with resources and connections, those who were empowered were to use those resources and connections to empower the powerless, to care for those in need, to protect the vulnerable, to enable the disabled, to lift up the downcast, to make the nation of Israel—God’s people and God’s nation—stand out among all others as a people who cared for people and the earth.
God’s people were to be recognized in their likeness to the LORD.
And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the Lord.
You shall not defraud your neighbor;
you shall not steal;
and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning.
You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind;
you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.
You shall not render an unjust judgment;
you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.
You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people,
and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord.
You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin;
you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people,
but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.Leviticus 19:12-18 (NRSV)
I picture Amos trembling with emotion, so swept up is he in the Lord’s anguish and grief over how God’s people have profaned everything the Lord holds dear. The people shift uncomfortably under Amos’ searing gaze and scalding words. They cannot deny the truth of his scorching excoriation.
Some may have begun to tear up, others to feel their own anger—a covering for fear—rising up in their chests. “How can you say such things to us?!” Our country is powerful, wealthy, we are politically and militarily respected among the nations. How could those things be true without God’s favor?
There surely were those in the crowd who were faithful to God, who were honest in their dealings with others, generous to those in need, who did their best to live by God’s commands as well as their government’s laws. Perhaps they felt distanced from those they knew who were unquestionably guilty. Perhaps they thought so long as God’s people were in the land, God’s judgement would not roll down.
But as one who lived there, in Israel—just as you and I live in our nations today—what God said through Amos was spoken for all. This was not just about God’s eternal wrath over evil, this was about God’s temporal judgment over wrongs done to the earth and to each other.
Through Amos, God showed not just concern for the individual, but also concern with nations. God judged the nations. Whether those nations had pledged faith with God or not, when God’s law was transgressed, and God’s people harmed, God took notice.
If God is consistent, then we have to assume God continues to take notice.
The first part of what Amos had to say was hard to hear, but the next part had to have been far, far worse, for God now described the impending punishment. There would come a terrible crushing that none would escape—not the swift, nor the strong, not the skilled nor well-armed, the fleetest foot and galloping horses could not outrun what was coming, and
“Even the bravest warriors
will flee naked on that day,”
declares the Lord.Amos 2:16
The atmosphere has changed precipitously. What had begun as a righteous rally of indignation at the nations who had wronged them was ending under the pall of condemnation. Some shook their heads and waved scoffing hands at Amos, trying to dismiss him by turning away. Others spat on the ground and snarled. Then, those who had come in last began to leave first, as people dispersed.
Perhaps a few stayed and stared in hurt resentment, asking each other, or maybe even asking Amos,
“Is it fair for such a horrific consequence to fall on everyone alike?”
Amos might have answered with his own question: Is it possible for people to believe they are God-fearing and God-honoring while at the same time act without regard for those who are on the edge?
“Does it not make a difference if someone is deserving, or undeserving, of help?” Another might have called out.
“And did God speak of such a difference in the laws given at Sinai?” Amos might have replied.
[Homeless | Curtis Cronn, flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/]
[Many thanks to Dr. Steve Delamarter for his presentation on Amos at George Fox University]