Woe to a people who celebrate perversity! (Amos 1-5)

Scripture Reading – Amos 1-5

Amos 1

In the days of the prophet Amos, “Uzziah king of Judah” (1:1) presided over the southern kingdom and that nation had maintained an outward form of worshipping the LORD (5:21-22); however, the hearts of the king and people were far from Him.  “Jeroboam the son of Joash” (thus identifying him as Jeroboam II) was king of Israel (1:1), the northern kingdom. That nation made no pretense of worshipping the LORD. Founded by Jeroboam I who set up and sacrificed to a golden calf at Bethel, Israel had rejected the LORD and departed from His Law and Commandments.

Borrowing the modern vernacular of politics, the prophet Amos was an outsider, a layperson “who was among the herdmen of Tekoa” (1:1), when God called him to deliver a word of prophecy against Judah and Israel (1:1).  He lived and worked in obscurity as a common herdsman with no political ties or religious lineage.  When God called him to prophecy, Israel and Judah were enjoying a season of peace and prosperity and the thought of God’s displeasure and judgment was far from them.

With the word of the LORD upon his lips, Amos courageously delivered a series of prophecies concerning the imminent judgement of God against six Gentile nations: Syria, identified as Damascus (1:3-5), Philistia, identified by its principal cities, Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron (1:6-8), Tyre (1:9-10), Edom (1:11-12), Ammon (1:13-15), and Moab (2:1-3).

Amos 2

Turning his focus from the Gentile nations, Amos warned Judah the nation would be judged because they had “despised the law of the LORD, and [had] not kept his commandments” (2:4).

Amos then declared the sins and wickedness of the kingdom of Israel and warned the nation would suffer God’s judgment (2:6-16).  Lest any doubt the grace and longsuffering of God, the prophet reminded the nation how the LORD had brought them out of Egypt (2:9) and given them the land of the Amorites (2:9-10).  God had sent prophets, but the people had said, “Prophesy not” (2:12).

Amos 3

Amos reminded the people how the LORD had chosen the “children of Israel” (meaning both Israel and Judah) to be His people and made Himself known to them (3:1-2).  Israel, however, had rejected the LORD and He had set Himself against them saying, “I will punish you for all your iniquities” (3:1).

Adding to Israel’s humiliation, God commanded Amos to summon two Gentile nations, Ashdod, a Philistine city, and Egypt to witness God’s judgment against Israel (whose capital was Samaria).  A sad commentary on the deception of sin is the condemnation: “For they know not to do right, saith the LORD” (3:10).

How did the nation to whom the LORD had revealed Himself, His Law and Commandments, come to “know not to do right?”  How could they be so blind? Why had they lost the knowledge and discernment of right and wrong?

Warning: Here is the beguiling way of sin and wickedness.  When a people make light of God’s Truth, trivialize and rationalize sin, eventually their hearts become so desensitized to wickedness, they no longer know how to do right.  Perhaps an oversimplification, but I believe an accurate one:  Israel had strayed so far from God’s law that the people no longer had “common sense”—they had no sense of right (3:10).

On a personal note, I fear our society has followed the same sin pattern. The lunacy of atheism and the perversity of humanism have become so entrenched in government, education, religion and media that our judgment as a society is perverted.  When a people reject God and His Laws, the moral judgment of that nation is so twisted that the people “know not to do right” (3:10).

Amos 4 – The Chastisement of Israel and a Prophecy of That Nation’s Fall and Exile

Amos 5

Remembering the distinction between Israel, the northern kingdom made up of ten tribes, and Judah, the southern kingdom consisting of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, Amos takes up the prophecy of the LORD against Israel in Amos 5.

God’s condemnation and exposure of Israel’s hypocrisy gives way to His lamentation over the judgment and sorrows that will soon come upon the people (5:1-3).   Knowing the heart of the nation was set to do evil, nevertheless the LORD appealed to Israel to hear, heed and repent (5:4, 6, 8, 14-15)!

Amos names the sins of Israel: Unjust and rejecting righteousness (5:7), hating bearers of truth (5:10), abusing the poor (5:11), afflicting the righteous, and taking bribes (5:12).

A pronouncement of “woe!” brings this chapter to a close (5:18-27).  The people had continued to make a pretense of worship (“your feast days…solemn assemblies” 5:21-22), but God knew their hearts and the prophet condemned their hypocrisy, and even their songs were noise to His ears (5:23).

I close with a challenge that Israel ignored, but that we should heed:

Amos 5:15 – “Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith