Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 9 2019 - Amos 1:1-8; 2:4-16 – Judgment closing in

Amos prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel about fifty years before that kingdom was swept away by the Assyrians. The threat from Assyria seemed to have decreased and both Israel and Judah enjoyed stability under their respective kings. It was a period of relative prosperity which was taken as evidence of the Lord's favour and blessing. People were even saying that "the Day of the Lord" was about to arrive – a day when God would judge all the enemies of his people and they would enjoy a kingdom more prosperous and peaceful than those of David and Solomon.

But the prosperity enjoyed by the few had come at the cost of oppressing the poor and needy. Amos was sent to declare that when God comes in judgment his people will not be exempt.

Amos begins with a declaration that "The Lord roars from Zion" (1:2). In Genesis 49 the elderly Jacob, pronounces a blessing on each of his twelve sons – the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel. Of Judah he says, "You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness – who dares to rouse him?" (Genesis 49:9). Judah was likened to a lion – and later the risen Lord Jesus will be called, "The Lion of the tribe of Judah" (Revelation 5:5). It is the Lord who roars from Zion, the city of God, and at his roar, "the pastures of the shepherds dry up, and the top of Carmel withers." This is no tame lion.

Amos then speaks of the fierce roar of God being directed against Israel's enemies. He speaks of God's judgment against Damascus, the Syrian capital (1:3-5). The king of Syria had "threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth"; God will destroy their kingdom. 

Amos then turns to prophecy against the Philistines and their capital city of Gaza (1:6-8). God is going to destroy the cities of the Philistines because they raided Israel and Judah and sold captives as slaves to Edom.

In the verses we skipped over, similar judgments are pronounced against Tyre (1:9-10), Edom (1:11-12), Ammon (1:13-15) and Moab (2:1-3). We can imagine the delight of the Israelites as they hear of the judgment which is about to fall on their enemies.

But in 2:4-5 judgment falls nearer home; God's judgment is proclaimed on the southern kingdom of Judah. The fact the lion's roar sounded from Jerusalem does not mean that the people of Judah will escape God's judgment. They have rejected the law of the Lord and turned to false gods (2:4). God's judgment will even fall on Jerusalem, the holy city.

Amos was preaching in the northern kingdom of Israel. They may still have imagined that they would escape judgment. But no, the longest declaration of God's judgment concerns the kingdom of Israel (2:6-16). Despite having known God's salvation when he brought them out of Egypt, provided for them in the wilderness and enabled them to conquer those who possessed the land before them (2:9-10), they also have turned from the living God to worship idols. They have sought to make themselves rich at the expense of others: "They trample on the heads of the poor" (2:7). Father and son make use of the same prostitute at pagan altar sites (2:7). Those who have sought to dedicate their lives to the Lord have been plied with alcohol to make them break their vows, and those who preached God's word were told to be quiet (2:11-12). God will come to judge Israel (2:13-16).

As we look at the world around us with all the greed and evil that seem to go unchecked, we may ask, "Why does God not do something about it? Why does he not come down in judgment?" Amos calls us to look to ourselves; are there things in our lives that call for God's judgment?

Father God, I recognise that I too am deserving of your judgment. Thank you for the Lord Jesus, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who is also the Lamb of God who takes away my sin. Help me by your Spirit to be more like him: to be freed from greed and filled with compassion for those in need. Help us to be the beginnings of the change we long to see in this world.

Peter Misselbrook