Amos 1 brings us the words of God through Amos, a sheep herder from Tekoa which was a city about ten miles from Jerusalem. This book of prophecy is the only mention in the Bible of Amos. His name means ‘burden or burden bearer’. Since most of the prophecies of Amos concern coming judgment on either the nations surrounding Israel or judgment on Israel itself, he was a man with a burden. He doesn’t appear to have any formal theological background or training, and was likely a simple man who worked the land and was called by God uniquely to share His truth.
Amos is around during the period of the kings. What God revealed to him “he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel”. When Amos served as a prophet, the people of God had been divided into two nations for more than 150 years. The southern nation was known as Judah, and the northern nation was still known as Israel. Through the period of the divided monarch Judah saw a succession of kings, some godly and some ungodly (Uzziah was one of the better kings of Judah). The northern nation of Israel saw nothing but a succession of wicked kings. Jeroboam the son of Joash was one of the better kings among these wicked men – especially in a political and military sense – but he was still an ungodly man.
Amos brings a message of judgment from God. “The Lord roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers”. God’s people have been disobedient again (what a surprise), and have set up worship centers outside Jerusalem in direct disobedience to God’s commands. Sin is a big problem, and God calls it out through Amos as sin upon sin upon sin. “For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four”. It isn’t that there were only four sins committed by the Syrians in Damascus, but that they, as the first of the folks God is dealing with through Amos’ words, were just piling on sin after sin. That’s how we seem to live as humans. If we get away with one sin, we just tack on more and more until judgment comes.
Amos moves on to address Gaza and Tyre and Edom and Ammon – all of whom are guilty like Damascus of piling on sin after sin against God’s will. Judgment comes for all sin. We don’t know when, or how that God will choose to address it. But there is a day of reckoning for our sin and Amos makes it clear to each of these places that they would not get away with it. In these cases, these people came against God’s chosen and were punished. But it is still God’ dealing with sin, which He did then, and continues to do today. He can’t ignore it, whether it is attacking His people in days gone by, or violating His will and commands today. There is a price for sin. We need to pay attention and learn!