God’s Social Justice
God called Amos from his life as a shepherd and fig grower to become His spokesman (ch.1:1; 7:14 ff.). Like all prophets, Amos spoke Gods message to the people. Amos presents a message of righteous fury over the religious, social, and political decay present in the nation.
Gods anger with Israel arose from their lifestyle and values. Among their offenses were the following:
The majority of Amos preaching relates to Gods interest in social justice. These are restatements of principles contained in the Mosaic Law, being ignored by Israel. Society had devolved into two distinct economic classes – the very rich and the very poor (ch 5:10; 6:4). The poor were oppressed just for being poor (ch 2:6; 5:11; 6:3-7; 8:4) and some were even sold into slavery in order to feed the lifestyles of the wealthy (ch 2:6-8; 8:6). In turn, the rich had wealth to excess: they purchased summer and winter palaces (ch 3:14; 5:10) complete with furniture and objets dart inlaid with ivory (ch 6:4). They owned vineyards that were designed for the best of grapes (ch 5:11). They used expensive oils for perfume and purification (ch 5:11; 6:4-6).
The rich women of Israel were considered to be obese and pampered – they were referred to as cows of Bashan (ch 4:1), an unflattering description in any culture! Their consciences allowed them to force injustice on the poor so that they might live in the lap of luxury.
The noble men (ch 6:1), royalty (ch 7:10-14), and even Israels priests (ch 7:10) tried to stop the prophet Amos from proclaiming his message. They were wayward and uninterested in hearing, much less obeying, Gods Word, secure in the status quo (ch 6:1). Taking its lead from the leaders, society as a whole was not interested in hearing what the prophets of God had to say (ch 2:12). The indictment of the cows and the noble men is an indictment of materialism (and so, this has a message for todays society!).
Justice was not fair to all that came to be judged (ch 5:4; ch 6:12). Amos was particularly incensed that Israel was hypocritical to the point that justice was being sold to the highest bidder (ch 5:15) even in religious cities holy to God, including Bethel and Gilgal. God the righteous judge, did not countenance such activity. In fact, He had grown to despise their empty rituals. Cheating did not stop in the area of justice. Businessmen felt no compunction about dishonest scale weights in order to feather their own nests (ch 8:5-6).
Amos berates Israel about how they had turned away from Yahweh to worship false gods that were incapable of helping them (ch 8:14). This was in direct contravention of their covenant with God and was abhorrent to Him. The nation did not consider itself accountable to God, instead, they had rejected the law of the Lord, and had not kept his statutes (ch 2:4). Even after warnings by other prophets, Israel had not repented and so Amos expects that their eventual reform will only be achieved after they suffer Gods punishment (ch 3:14; ch 7:9; ch 9:1-4).
To compound their sin, Israel was engaging in immoral fertility rituals in support of those gods. This included the drinking of wine offerings made to those gods (ch 2:7-8). Israel had come to believe that their economic and political success was the result of satisfying all gods, instead of remaining faithful to God. In fact, refreshing rains (ch 4:7-8), bountiful crops (ch 4:6,9), and health and peace (ch 4:10-11) came only from God, but Israel ascribed this blessing to their cosmopolitan recognition of all gods.
Even when they were worshiping God, they were doing so ritualistically and not in accordance with the covenant (ch 4:4-5; 5:21-25). Following form with no substance, their involvement in solemn assemblies, feasts, offerings, and melodies (ch 5:21-24) was really just religious sins. In the worst cases, they defied God and defiled the sanctity of the house of God by carousing by the altar (ch 2:8). Further, they forced true servants of God to practice acts that were in disobedience to the covenant (ch 2:12).
Amos further inveigled the people of Israel for their lack of dependence upon God. God was irrelevant to them; they were self-sufficient. Amos refers to their independence as the pride of Jacob (ch 6:1-8). God will not be mocked – He will unveil the folly of such a view (ch 6:9-14) and ensure that Israel understands who He really is and His importance to their continued existence.
Gods anger was not limited to Israels behavior. The nations surrounding Israel also felt the lash of Amos tongue. In chapter 1, God, via Amos, excoriates six of Israels neighbors for their blatant sin and pronounces judgments upon them. He is God, not just of Israel, but also of all the nations of the earth. Amos builds to the crescendo by declaring, in effect, that Judah is guiltiest of all for committing the sin of rejecting the law of the Lord (ch 2:4), by disobeying the statutes. The reason they committed the sin was that false gods had led them astray (ch 2:4), instead of following the one true God.
Implications for Christians Today
There is little doubt that our society betrays some of the attributes that Amos decried – particularly in the areas of materialism, acceptance of many gods, social injustice, and hypocrisy in worship. Gods opinion of our society in relationship to these attitudes and actions will be no different than his reaction to Israel in the days of Amos. So, we should examine ourselves to make sure that this world-view does not infect our minds and our assemblies.
Blessings Flow from Repentance
Thankfully, despite the anger and judgment proclamations in Amos, God is merciful in reiterating His promises regarding the ultimate redemption of His people. God promises to restore (ch 9:14) the people of Israel to their land and prosperity, so that Israel will possess all the nations (i.e., Gentiles) who are called by My name (ch 9:12 NASB). God will bless Israel and the Gentiles through Israel. This promise happened in history, it happened again in Christs life and work, and will happen again in the future. We, like Israel, must listen carefully when we hear Gods word instructing us to prepare to meet thy God (ch 4:12).