The primary theme of the Book of Amos is the universal justice of God. The Israelites believed that their favored status as the people of God would spare them from His judgment—to the contrary, they would be held more accountable than their neighbors.
Before proclaiming God’s judgment against Judah and Israel, Amos speaks of judgment against six of their neighbors: Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, the Ammonites, and Moab.
The goal of this message is to study God’s judgment of His own people in this era. Amos 2:6-16
Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals—7 those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted; a man and his father go in to the same girl, so that my holy name is profaned; 8 they lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge, and in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined. 9 “Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars and who was as strong as the oaks; I destroyed his fruit above and his roots beneath. 10 Also it was I who brought you up out of the land of Egypt and led you forty years in the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. 11 And I raised up some of your sons for prophets, and some of your young men for Nazirites. Is it not indeed so, O people of Israel?” declares the Lord. 12 “But you made the Nazirites drink wine, and commanded the prophets, saying, ‘You shall not prophesy.’ 13 “Behold, I will press you down in your place, as a cart full of sheaves presses down. 14 Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not retain his strength, nor shall the mighty save his life; 15 he who handles the bow shall not stand, and he who is swift of foot shall not save himself, nor shall he who rides the horse save his life; 16 and he who is stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day,” declares the Lord.
Judgment Of God’s People In The Book Of Amos
God issued an indictment of six strong charges against the nation of Israel:
- First, the people were guilty of repeatedly sinning—they were practicing sin. Despite possessing God’s Holy Word, the people of Israel broke God’s holy commandments. They continually transgressed God’s laws.
- Second, the Israelites perverted justice, not only in their personal dealings with others but also in the courts of the land. They were guilty of abusing and enslaving people, of ignoring the dignity of human life and freedom. Apparently, it was a common practice for the rich and powerful to bribe judges to rule in their favor. Through bribery, they were able to twist the law in their favor. Justice had become so perverted that the honest and poor were being enslaved because they could not repay the debts they owed.In addition, the rich and powerful were oppressing the poor, trampling them in the dust of the earth. They were abusing them through crushing demands and hard labor. Tragically, they were denying true justice to those in society who needed it and deserved it the most.
- Third, the people of Israel were guilty of committing adultery and incest. Father and son were both sleeping with the same woman. Most likely, this offense refers to sexual intercourse within the family or with a relative, not with a prostitute. The very fact that this particular sin is mentioned suggests that it was a common practice. Spouses were breaking their marriage vows and family members were engaging in sexual intercourse with other family members.
- Fourth, the people engaged in hypocritical worship. They were worshiping at “every altar,” which implies they worshiped at the altars of false gods. Although they professed to worship the LORD, they were also worshiping other so-called gods. However, the depth of their hypocrisy is seen in the garments and wine they used while worshiping. While they professed to obey and follow the LORD, they actually used the garments they had taken from others in their worship. These were garments taken as a pledge for debts. It was these garments they were using to kneel and lie upon as they worshiped their false gods, items often taken unjustly. Under ancient Jewish law, a garment taken in pledge for debt was to be returned to the owner before nightfall as a covering for sleep (Exodus 22:26–27; Deuteronomy 24:10–13). In the case of widows, clothing was never to be taken as a pledge (Deuteronomy 24:17). Note also that the wine being used in religious festivals had also been taken in pledges.Israel’s worship had become corrupt to the core. Among all the people of the earth, the nation was far more guilty before God, for they were living shameful, hypocritical lives before the world.
- Fifth, the people of Israel rejected the LORD as the source of their blessings. Down through the centuries the LORD had blessed Israel beyond imagination. Yet the people had always refused to acknowledge and honor the LORD as the source of their abundance.
- The people denied the LORD’s power, that it was He who had destroyed their enemies such as the Amorites (the former inhabitants of Canaan). Instead of honoring God for defeating their enemies, the Israelites attributed their success to their own strength and to their false gods.
- The people denied the LORD’s salvation, that it was He who had saved them from Egypt and led them through the wilderness wanderings. Although it was the LORD who had given them the promised land, they again attributed their success to their own strength and to the false gods whom they worshiped.
- The people rejected the spiritual leaders raised up by the LORD. They rejected His prophets and the Nazarites, those who had committed themselves to live righteously as God commanded. Both the prophets and the Nazarites were strong examples of commitment and devotion to the LORD.
- Sixth, the people of Israel were guilty of persecuting the prophets and the LORD’s righteous followers. When a Nazarite made a commitment or vow to the LORD, the people tried to force him to break his vow in order to excuse their own sinful behavior. In dealing with true prophets, the people attempted to stop them from preaching the truth of God’s Word. The people did not want to be continually reminded of God’s Holy Word nor of their violation of His commandments. Neither did they want anything to do with a righteous person lest they be reminded how grievous their own sinful behavior was. Thus they did all they could to silence the prophets and to corrupt the righteous. Persecuting God’s faithful people was the norm in Amos’ day.
The Preacher’s Sermon And Outline Bible. (2008). Joel–Nahum (p. 85). Chattanooga, TN: Leadership Ministries Worldwide.
Now that we have looked deeper into God’s charges through the prophet Amos, let’s examine ourselves by raising some questions:
How am I living in accordance to God’s Word? Am I practicing any sin, willfully transgressing and offending my Lord? Am I worshiping at other altars? Am I abiding in Christ?
How are God’s people today, the church, honoring or dishonoring God in righteous living, worship, and praise and thanksgiving? How is the church protecting the poor and needy of society? How is the church walking out Christ with regard to loving one another? Loving our neighbors?
Now, looking at our nation, what parallels can you identify in our current culture with that of Israel in the time of Amos? What grievous sins and offenses to the Lord are acceptable in the culture we live in? How do we change that?
Throughout the Book of Amos there are six Key Themes to understand
- God is the Creator of the Universe; therefore, His ethical norms are universal, and all people are subject to judgment in light of them.
- Justice and righteousness in the treatment of other people are the key evidences of right-relationship with the Lord.
- Religious ritual in the absence of just and righteous treatment of others is an abomination to God.
- Israel’s covenant with the Lord did not guarantee special protection for them when they broke the covenant. Rather, it meant that they would be held to a higher standard of obedience and would be subject to more scrutiny in judgment.
- Thus, the “Day of the LORD,” would not be a time of miraculous deliverance for unrepentant Israel—it would be a time of terrible destruction.
- Yet, a faithful remnant will be preserved to see a day of glorious restoration and blessing. Romans 11:26 “And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.’”