Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 6, 1958
NUMBER 27, PAGE 1,10b

Lessons From Amos

Irvin Himmel, Richmond, Virginia

If any prophet of the Old Testament could be styled with propriety "the country preacher," Amos is that man.

Although a native of the Southern Kingdom, Amos was sent to Bethel to preach against the sins of the Northern Kingdom. The theme of his book is the doom of Israel. His work as a prophet belongs in the same period as that of Hosea.

Character Of The Prophet

Three characteristics of Amos are made to stand out in his book.

(1) Humility. Amos never looked upon himself as a "professional" preacher. He was "among the herdsmen of Tekoa," a small village in the desert country west of the Dead Sea, and was "a gatherer of sycamore fruit." (1:1; 7:14.) When Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, charged him with conspiracy against the king of Israel, and asked him to return to Judah, he confessed, "I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son . . . And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel." (7:14,15.) Amos made no attempt to appear as a big preacher or as a formally trained prophet. As God chose this man from behind the flock, many other men of true greatness have come from between the plow handles.

(2) Ruggedness. I have no way of knowing how Amos dressed, but I cannot visualize him in ecclesiastical robes. When he came to Bethel he probably had the appearance of a rough, coarse, and stern shepherd just in from the wild, desolate regions. His message to Israel was no less rugged. Like a lion, he roared out God's judgments, and who could but fear? (3:8.) It takes a man of severity of manner to bring the naked truth to a people like the Israelites. No doubt God chose Amos because his character was suited to his ministry. Like John the Baptist after him, he was a stern man with a communication of brazen truth.

(3) Courage. Amaziah implied that Amos was no different from the other prophets of his day. Said he, "0 thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there: But prophesy not again any more at Bethel: (7:12,13.) Amaziah charged that Amos were merely preaching for bread, so he could do it in Judah as easily as Israel. He did not object to the fact that Amos prophesied; the objection was to his doing it in Bethel. Amos replied that God told him to "Go, prophesy unto my people Israel." Amos gave not the slightest indication of having any intention of leaving Bethel, nor was he afraid of Amaziah or Jeroboam the king. With courage and boldness he addressed himself to Amaziah in person, "Now therefore hear thou the word of the Lord . . . Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity fourth of his land."

Charges Against Israel

In 1:3-2:5 Amos announces the impending judgments on the neighboring nations. The people of Israel probably said "amen" as Amos brought accusations against Syria, Philistia, Phoenicia, Edom, Ammon, Moab, and even Judah. Most people give smiles of approval as long as the preacher is talking about someone else. But our smiles turn to frowns when we are reproved! After showing the guilt of surrounding nations, Amos brings indictment against Israel. In the remainder of his book he enlarges upon that indictment, describing Israel's crimes, condemnation, and destruction. Only in the last paragraph of the last chapter does he strike an optimistic note — a prophecy of Christ's kingdom.

Notice a few of the charges named and observe the danger of our committing the same sins.

(1) Commanded prophets not to prophesy. Jehovah said through Amos, "I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites . . . But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not." (2:11,12.) The people influenced the Nazarites to break their sacred vow (Num. 6) by giving them wine to drink. A guilty conscience hates reproof, so they said to the prophets, "Don't prophesy to us." A similar charge is found in Isa. 30:10. Isaiah said the Jews told the prophets, "Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits." It is a sad day when God's people say to those who preach, "Don't hurt anyone's feelings; don't tell us the whole truth; lie to us, deceive us — do anything, but don't tell us we are wrong." Paul warned, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (2 Tim. 4:3,4.) If any New Testament prophecy is now being fulfilled, this is it.

(2) Oppressed poor and crushed needy. In chapter 4, Amos speaks directly to the luxury loving women in Israel, calling them "kine of Bashan." Of 'course, no "refined" preacher would call his sisters "cows"! (John called certain men "snakes," and Jesus called the same type folks "whited sepulchres," "hypocrites," and "serpents"; but today it is not ethical to even call people by the names they apply to themselves!) Amos said of his bovine-like sisters, "Ye oppress the poor, crush the needy, and say to your masters, Bring, and let us drink." (4:1.) These women made themselves rich at the expense of others. If we abuse those who are poor, or neglect to help those who are in need, we are guilty of the same sin. Jesus was a friend of the poor. (Lk. 4:18.) Paul and Barnabas were disposed to "remember the poor." (Gal. 2:10.) Let it not be forgotten that to feed and clothe "one of the least of these," is to serve Christ. (Matt. 25:31-46.)

(3) Lived in luxury, ease, and false security. In chapter 6 Amos pronounces "woe" to them that are "at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria." Material prosperity so often produces a feeling of self-sufficiency and results in spiritual poverty. How true are the words of Jesus, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" (Mk. 10:23.) The church in Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22) was victim of the same condition that Amos found in fleshly Israel. With our fine homes, good clothing, big automobiles, large incomes, and wasted food, what would Amos say today?

(4) Put far away the evil day. The people of Israel would not allow themselves to think of the consequences of their crimes. Amos said they "put far away the evil day." (6:3.) Many men now put the evil day far away by convincing themselves that there is ample time in which to turn to God. Others put that day far away by refusing to believe that the judgment is a reality. We are only deceiving ourselves when we pretend that the judgment is too far removed to concern us.

Outstanding Admonitions

Amos' earnest exhortations furnish the students of his book with excellent preaching material. I mention the following as examples:

(1) Prepare to meet thy God. Jehovah disciplined Israel repeatedly, but the people failed to profit by that discipline. They had seen famine, drought, blasting and mildew, locusts, pestilence, and burning; yet, they stubbornly refused to return to God. Therefore Amos said, "Prepare to meet thy God, Israel." (4:12.) This admonition warns that man has an appointment with God in judgment. Other appointments may be broken, but this one WILL BE KEPT. The exhortation also states the necessity of preparation for that appointment. As the appointment is a personal one, so is the preparation an individual affair. I may be able to help others prepare for judgment, but I cannot make their preparation for them. "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." (Rom. 14:12.)

(2) Seek God and live. "For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live: But seek not Bethel nor enter into Gilgal and pass not to Beersheba: for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nought." (6:4,5.) The cities here named are associated with idolatry. Israel was warned not to seek those places. It is interesting that Beersheba is mentioned. It was in the Southern Kingdom far beyond Jerusalem. Jerusalem was too far away, (1 Ki. 12:28), yet it is evident that some were going beyond Jerusalem to Beersheba. How like us the Israelites were! We cannot be at Bible study by ten o'clock on Sunday, but we can go fishing at four o'clock Saturday morning and be at work by eight on Monday morning; we cannot drive ten miles to assist a neighboring congregation during a meeting, but we can drive a hundred miles to a football game; we cannot give more than a dollar on the Lord's day, but we can spend three dollars on tobacco during the week. Indeed, Jerusalem is too far, but we can go right past it to Beersheba. We find what we seek. Men do not find God because they do not diligently seek Him. We must seek Him to live.

(3) Seek good and not evil. Seeking God necessitates our seeking those things in life that are good. After exhorting Israel to seek God, Amos said, "Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken." (5:23.) To find good we must "Hate the evil, and love the good."

(4) Take away vain worship. Jehovah said, "I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream." (6:2124.) No matter how elaborate our worship, God is insulted when we have no desire to keep His commandments. God seeks men to worship Him (John 4:23), but He does not seek just any worship. The worship may be right as to form, but unless the worshiper brings his own life into conformity with God's will, God despises the worship. Here is an Old Testament example showing that not all worship is true worship.

These are some lessons from Amos with which I have been impressed. I share them with the reader in the hope that they will prove beneficial.