Amos – Restoring Discipline
Background on Amos
• Amos started prophesying “two years before the earthquake.” (Major event, see Zechariah 14:5. People rebuilt using what used to be ceiling as floor.)
• Amos starts where Hosea stopped.
• Amos prophesies to people who are afraid of restoration.
• In Amos’ day, prophecy was an occupation.
Passages to Study
Amos 1:1-2 – Amos is a southern farmer preaching to a northern king. His prophecy comes in about 750 BC, early in Isaiah’s career and near the end of Hosea’s. This is nearing the end of the greatest period of northern kingdom prosperity. The earthquake would be devastating.
Amos 2:6-16 – The first set of oracles in Amos condemn Israel’s seven enemies, including (notably) Judah. God is a God of justice; He does not allow sin to go unpunished, nor does He punish the righteous while letting the wicked go free. Each nation is condemned for specific sins. Likewise, the condemnation of Israel is specific. The sins of Israel have to do with justice and morality which are seen by God as, fundamentally, disloyalty and ingratitude. Those who oppress the poor and defile their bodies are guilty of the same sin – forgetting God. They have, in fact, made disloyalty and ingratitude the expected norm rather than the exception. They “command prophets to be quiet” issue will come up again later.
Amos 3:1-10 – God is obligated to alert His people to their iniquity so that they can repent before the judgment comes. Prophets are not instruments of punishment, but of discipline. Amos’ job is to convince Israel to open its ears so that God can restore His people. But for discipline to have its desired impact, Israel must submit to instruction. If they fight to defend the status quo, noting can change.
Amos 4:1-13 – God’s discipline is harsh, but only harsh enough to get the point across. God takes no pleasure in the suffering of His people. He tried everything at His disposal to get His people to wake up, but they refused to listen. Plus, women are not exempt from God’s discipline.
Amos 5:4-7 – It is only when Israel seeks the Lord that they can live. God specifically warns that there is no other option. No nation can save you. No idol can deliver you.
Amos 5:18-24 – Worship is not a solution, but may in fact do more harm than good. Celebrating the “Lord’s Day” will only create a false sense of security. Those who perceive themselves as righteous but carry out iniquity will only be more surprised when judgment comes. The solution is not more sacred assemblies and feast days. It’s justice, righteousness and holiness.
Amos 7:10-17 – Amos’ message is not welcome, for two reasons. One, the job of the prophet in that day was to advise the powerful, oftentimes packaging their own opinions in the trappings of superstition. If the message is not what the ruler wants to hear, or its implementation would result is a loss of power, the message was obviously wrong. Prophets made their living by dispensing good advice and keeping their master out of trouble. Two, Amos is from Judah. Israel and Judah are enemies at this stage. Beginning his statements with, “The Lord speaks from Jerusalem” did not endear him to his audience. Remember what we said earlier about telling prophets to be quiet?
For discipline to happen, the prophet needs a willing audience. Clearly, Amos is spinning his wheels here. His message never gets any traction with the royal court, and within a generation there is no more northern kingdom.
Topics for discussion:
Amos makes a big deal about God having the power to punish, but using it only sparingly in His discipline of His people. Why is it important to remind people who need correcting about the power of God?
Discipline is a major issue for church elders. What examples can a New Testament elder take from the work of Amos?
When God is disciplining us, how can we tell?
Given how powerless women were in Amos’ day, why did he single them out for special rebuke, especially when no other prophets did?
Amos did not receive positive feedback from his preaching. Why did he persist? Does there come a point when we are justified in giving up?