Amos (764-755) was a native of Judah, but called to preach in and against Israel. He was a herdsman from the barren hill country overlooking the Dead Sea. He was called to preach at a time when both kingdoms were experiencing a period of great power and prosperity. Jereboam II was on the throne of Israel, and with Syria soundly defeated and Assyria in a period of temporary decline, wealth and worldliness went hand in hand. Uzziah was on the throne of David in Jerusalem, and Judah, like Israel, was experiencing imperialist expansion.
The outward prosperity of both kingdoms was deceptive, for within a few years the Assyrians would be besieging Samaria, and Judah would be living daily in terror. In Israel, especially, lawlessness was but thinly veiled, and while the nation gave lip service to Jehovah, immorality and superstition were at the heart of popular religion.
The opening of the book shows that Amos saw far beyond the borders of Judah. His message embraced past, present, and future, and was climaxed by a series of five visions. All was well with both kingdoms when he prophesied of surrounding nations. Even when He denounced Judah, the northern tribes listened, probably, with glee. But when he turned his attention to Samaria and denounced the sins of Israel, well, that was a different matter. Amaziah, priest at Bethel, complained to Jereboam that Amos was a danger to their national security, and he went so far as to order Amos out of the country. It took courage and conviction on the part of Amos for him to tell Amaziah that his wife would become a harlot, his daughters put to the sword, his property divided, and Amaziah himself die a captive in a heathen land.
Even though the burden of Amos was one of judgment, yet through his prophecy there runs a note of hope and an often-repeated exhortation to "seek the Lord." In the three sermons (3-6) and the five visions (7-9) there is an increasing intensity to be noticed. Sins, which Amos mentions, are greed, injustice, drunkenness, immorality, profanity, and oppression. He shows that the nation, even when at the height of prosperity, was indeed on the brink of disaster.
Amos has a message very much applicable to us in our day and time.
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