Saturday, 1 January 2022

The Visions of Amos

Compassion for this unjust society prompts intercession rather than condemnation
Amos lived some seven and a half centuries before Christ.  In those days God’s people were living in two divided nations; conservative and isolated Judah to the south, and cosmopolitan and prosperous Israel to the north.  God called Amos from his work in Judah’s fields and flocks in the south to pronounce judgement against the rapidly expanding kingdom of the north. His oracles were delivered in aptly named Bethel, meaning ‘house of God’, which had become a centre of idolatry and syncretism, mixing orthodox religious practices with all kinds of disgusting rituals relating to golden calves and other false deities.

As he delivered his message Amos was heading for trouble with the religious and political leadership, but wisely began by prophesying against all the surrounding nations. This must have somewhat pleased the hearers since their nation was in the process of expanding at the expense of its godless neighbours, who were about to come under judgement. Even self-righteous Judah was on the list. But then Amos brought his words to bear on the arrogance, oppression and injustice of the nation of Israel itself and was then told in no uncertain terms to go back to his own country and his day job with the sheep.

Israel, under the leadership of Jereboam II, had regained territory, expanding fourfold, and was prospering from new trade which could move freely while the great empires of Egypt and Assyria were in a period of quiescent cold war and were not considered a current threat. As trade flourished and greed became the norm, the rich got richer, the poor got more abused, the parties got wilder and religion became a formality.
Meanwhile there had been warning signs – drought, food shortages, disease, warfare – all ignored as the people refused to return to the Lord. Amos responds:
“Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel;
because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!”

Such was the hypocrisy that the ‘day of the Lord’ was considered desirable, but mere religious offerings cannot help the proud and complacent who live in comfort at the expense of the downtrodden.

Amos has brought many critical and eloquent warning words, but now come a series of visions that God gives him. Today we consider the first vision of locusts.  (Chapter 7:1-3). Here in the UK we have little idea of the devastation caused by a swarm of millions of locusts, each insect eating its own body weight in a day, consuming every green thing in its path, leaving poverty and starvation in its wake.  Timing is critical; in this vision the king’s share of the first harvest has been taken and the standing crops are to feed the people, thousands of whom will certainly die of hunger.

The response of Amos tells us something of his character. Compassion for this unjust society prompts intercession rather than condemnation. He cries out to God, through whose eyes he now sees just how small and vulnerable is this apparently great nation.

“O Lord God, please forgive!

How can Jacob stand?

He is so small!”

The Hebrew word ‘salach’ is only ever used of God’s forgiveness, so Amos places himself as mediator, pleading for mercy for the nation he criticises. And God answers by revoking his decision and relenting.

Ancient Israel is still a model for God’s dealings with people. Today in Britain, were it not for intercessors crying out on behalf of this nation we would surely be under serious judgement, but one day God’s patience will run out, and we will face the consequences of our rebellion, just as Israel did a couple of decades after Amos’ words.

Author: John Plumb

May God bless and enrich your life

Please feel free to share this article and other articles on this site with friends, family and other

No comments:

Post a Comment