In this lesson, we’ll be looking at the book of Amos, one of the Old Testament prophets for help in answering this question.
This is a challenging lesson as many of the issues Amos deals with in this book are so relevant to our world today including how we should address the extremes of wealth and poverty, how to live in times of political turmoil, how should we treat aliens and immigrants? God’s view of these issues are often uncomfortably clear as this book shows us.
To download the timeline chart of prophets and kings, click on the following link: Old Testament Prophets Timeline
To download a copy of the PDF of the notes, click here:
The notes are also available below:
Amos, the prophet of Justice
Teacher Yvon Prehn
Do you ever wonder what God wants you to do?
• In Dallas Willard’s book, Hearing God, he says that one questions most frequently asked by Christians is “What is God’s will for my life?” It’s a question I’m sure many of us have asked.
• In today’s lesson we’ll be looking at the book of Amos, one of the Old Testament prophets for help in answering this question.
Real people in identifiable history
• As we start, it’s important to understand that what we’ll be talking about isn’t simply some spiritual, unrelated-to-life musing
• For this book and as we start looking at some of the lesser known prophets, it’s important from the start to understand these books are messages from real people who lived in identifiable history
• To help you see this, I’ve created a chart that places the various prophets along with the historical kings and happening that were going on at the same time
• It’s on the website, www.bible805.com for you to download.
- The chart has the prophets listed along with who was king at the time
• It’s grouped by who the audience was: Israel, Judah, the exiles in Babylon and misc. nations including Nineveh and Edom
In addition to that, most of the books we will study clearly identify when they took place
• Far from fairy tales or vague spiritual histories, many start with statements like this:
• The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—the vision he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel. Amos 1:1
• Evidence of earthquake described:
• Archaeologists have found massive amounts of earthquake damage in sites throughout the ancient kingdoms of Judah, Israel and the Philistines. This earthquake damage dates to around 760 B.C.E., right around the latter third of Uzziah’s reign. Tilted walls, collapsed floors and more are attributed to this earthquake. So great is the amount of evidence, that scientists have been able to determine the epicenter was likely in Lebanon, and that its strength was probably around a magnitude 8.2 and lasted 90 seconds
• Josephus wrote that this earthquake occurred while Uzziah was attempting to offer incense in the temple. He wrote that “a rent was made in the temple, and the bright rays of the sun shone through it, and fell upon the king’s face, insomuch that the leprosy seized upon him immediately.” He also claimed that a nearby mountainside collapsed, causing a significant landslide that destroyed roads and the king’s prized gardens.
• Good overview of history—but be careful of the website overall—disagree with overall views
Also discovered seals and plaque with Uzziah’s, Azariah name
This isn’t an archeology lesson
• But again, an emphasis that the Bible speaks to us in real-life situations
• The times were ones of political turmoil
• In a relatively wealthy, prosperous nation
• Ecological disaster-earthquake
• Spiritual decline
• Sound familiar?
Specific Historical Setting what was before, what will be afterwards
• Kingdom united under Saul, David, and Solomon split into two parts in 922 BC
• A little before Amos, Jonah went to Nineveh,
• Amos approx. 760-754 BC
• Earlier Elijah and Elisha preached, plus “schools of the prophets”
• Didn’t seem to do much good overall
• So now a prophet to Israel comes up from Judah
• Contemporaries: Isaiah, Hosea, Micah
• Israel taken captive 721 BC
• His message and Hosea’s the last major warnings
• Amos about 30 years before; Hosea 3 years
• Judah watching—prophets of their own—Isaiah and Micah overlap and preach
• Leading up to the fall of Jerusalem, 2 Kings 17
• Judah, final fall of Jerusalem 586 BC
Into this world God sends His Prophet: Amos
• Name means: Burden-bearer
• Not formally trained
• A shepherd and farmer
• From Judah, sent north
• Sent to an incredibly wealthy, prosperous and religious nation
• God’s calls unpredictable and exciting
• Called “the first Great Reformer”
• Key theme in the book: Justice
• A reminder that God expects it and that he punishes economic and social injustice
Why he was sent
• Amos 3:7 Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.
• Jn. 15:15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
• These books and the prophets we are studying illustrate this truth—the New Testament clearly spells it out that…
• God tells us what He wants us to do, and tells us the consequences of our responding actions
• Challenge then and always: are we listening?
• Delay in judgment shows God’s mercy and patience, not his acceptance of sin
• Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism
will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery. Prov. 29:1
Book begins with Judgment on surrounding nations
• Damascus, for cruelty in war
• Tyre, sold ‘brothers’
• Gaza, slave traffic
• Ammon, excessive cruelty in war
• Edom, anger, fury to brother
• Moab, excessive vengeance
• Judah, idolatry
• All accountable, Rom. 1
• God’ expectations of humanity are universal—no excuses
Now to Israel
• Because they were chosen by God, greater judgment, “You I have chosen” Amos 3:2 “therefore I will punish”
– “To whom much is given, much is required” Luke 12:48
• Wrongs listed c. 2,3
– Trample poor
– Injustice in many areas
– Idol worship
– Forbid prophets to speak
– Excessive drinking
– Amos 4: 1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”
Amos 2:6 “For three sins of Israel,
even for four, I will not relent.
They sell the innocent for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals.
7 They trample on the heads of the poor
as on the dust of the ground
and deny justice to the oppressed.
Father and son use the same girl
and so profane my holy name.
8 They lie down beside every altar
on garments taken in pledge.
In the house of their god
they drink wine taken as fines.
• 9 “Yet I destroyed the Amorites before them,
10 I brought you up out of Egypt
• 11 “I also raised up prophets from among your children
and Nazirites from among your youths.
Is this not true, people of Israel?”
declares the Lord.
12 “But you made the Nazirites drink wine
and commanded the prophets not to prophesy
How did they respond?
• Outwardly very religious
• Religion mixed with idolatry
• Jeroboam set up two golden calves at Bethel and Dan, after kingdom split
• Very similar today—we must examine ourselves
• Do we go to church and then worship our idols of self-indulgence, selfishness, lack of care for the less fortunate
• God’s response:
• “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.
Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.”Amos 5:21-2
Response God wants
Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.
Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph. Amos 5:14-15
But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream! Amos 5:24
What is “justice”?
• The Hebrew word for “justice,” mishpat, occurs in its various forms more than 200 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. Its most basic meaning is to treat people equitably. It means acquitting or punishing every person on the merits of the case, regardless of race or social status. Anyone who does the same wrong should be given the same penalty.
• But mishpat means more than just the punishment of wrongdoing. It also means giving people their rights.
• Mishpat, then, is giving people what they are due, whether punishment or protection or care.
• This is why, if you look at every place the word is used in the Old Testament, several classes of persons continually come up. Over and over again, mishpat describes taking up the care and cause of widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor—those who have been called “the quartet of the vulnerable.”
• In premodern, agrarian societies, these four groups had no social power. They lived at subsistence level and were only days from starvation if there was any famine, invasion or even minor social unrest. Today, this quartet would be expanded to include the refugee, the migrant worker, the homeless and many single parents and elderly people.
Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/what-biblical-justice#1o8p9RjzBSgF0seW.99
A similar passage helps explain it
• Isaiah 58 tells us about the importance of justice, the meaning of justice, and how to become people who do it.
• Begin at verse two, where God describes a particular group of people, who, the passage says, “day after day … seek me out.”
• They want to know, “Why have we humbled ourselves and you haven’t noticed?” In spite of their moral lives, God is not answering their prayers.
• God’s response is startling. He says, essentially, “Let me tell you what a fast is. Let me tell you what worship is. Let me tell you what it really means to seek me. In Isaiah 58:5-7, God says, “Is it not to loose the chains of injustice, to untie the cords of the yoke and set the oppressed free? Is not the fast I chose to share your food with the hungry, to provide the poor wanderer with shelter, to see the naked and clothe him?”
More on Justice—a contemporary message in Judah—people asking what does God want?
• He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
• Mercy needed because we have been shown mercy and need to remember that when acting with justice
• Humility needed above all, because all we have and are is because of God
• Pride and arrogance are the opposite of justice, mercy, and humility and should never be characteristic of God’s people
How we treat others is important to God
• God cares deeply for the poor, the widow, alien
• He expects his people to do the same
• There is nothing in us to deserve God’s love and mercy
• We are all aliens from God’s household, spiritually bankrupt, poor
• God pours out his love and blessings to us and as His people (in both Israel and today) he expects us to do the same
Their response—Instead of repentance—
Response by religious leader
• Amos 7:10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent a message to Jeroboam king of Israel: “Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. The land cannot bear all his words. . . . . Amaziah said to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. 13 Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”
• 14 Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. 15 But the LORD took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ 16 Now then, hear the word of the LORD.
• Didn’t want to hear messages
• Judgment upon Amaziah pronounced
• 14 Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. 15 But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ 16 Now then, hear the word of the Lord. You say,
• “‘Do not prophesy against Israel,
and stop preaching against the descendants of Isaac.’
• 17 “Therefore this is what the Lord says:
• “‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city,
and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword.
Your land will be measured and divided up,
and you yourself will die in a pagan country.
And Israel will surely go into exile,
away from their native land.’”
Continues with Many kinds of judgment
Hear this, you who trample the needy
and do away with the poor of the land, . . . .
I will turn your religious festivals into mourning and all your singing into weeping.
I will make all of you wear sackcloth
and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.. . . .
“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.
• Because people don’t study or know the Word, cannot make correct judgments when difficult times come
• Please listen to the podcast about post-Christian, post-Biblical world we live in #36 Proverbs, part one: WHY we need it in our post-Christian, post-Biblical world
• Don’t understand what is happening because they not in the WORD
• Wrong priorities—expectation of self-indulgence
• In every area—time, service, leisure
Many warnings, but finally—judgment
“For I will give the command,
and I will shake the people of Israel
among all the nations
as grain is shaken in a sieve,
and not a pebble will reach the ground.
10 All the sinners among my people
will die by the sword,
all those who say,
‘Disaster will not overtake or meet us.’ Amos 9:9-10
In less than 50 years, Assyria conquered them.
Yet beyond judgment always
mercy & hope
“In that day “I will restore David’s fallen shelter—
I will repair its broken walls
and restore its ruins—
and will rebuild it as it used to be,
so that they may possess the remnant of Edom
and all the nations that bear my name,”
declares the LORD, who will do these things. . . . .
and I will bring my people Israel back from exile
“They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.
They will plant vineyards and drink their wine;
they will make gardens and eat their fruit.
I will plant Israel in their own land,
never again to be uprooted
from the land I have given them,” says the LORD your God.
Amos 9: 11-15
This lesson is important not only for Amos time
• Matt 25: 31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
• 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
• 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
• 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
• 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
• 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
• 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
• 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
• God makes it very clear what he wants, what he expects from his people
Are we living God’s priorities?
• Care for others, especially the downtrodden is not optional, but a key expectation of God’s people
• Religious observances do not take the place of actions, reorienting life priorities
• You don’t have to do really big things, but we need to do whatever we can
• God’s mercy is long, but should never be taken for granted
• We should be people whose lives reflect justice, mercy, and humility in all we do and especially how we treat others, always remembering
• “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matt. 25:40
• God has told us what he wants us to do
• Ultimate message, Matt.25
• Good summary
• He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
• In the Message Translation: But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.
• God has told us what He wants….are we listening and obeying?