As seen in verse 1, Amos was a contemporary of Hosea and Jonah, as well as of Isaiah, and prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah in Judah and Jeroboam II in Israel. Again, this was a time of material prosperity, but of spiritual poverty in both nations, but especially in Israel. And so God called Amos, a shepherd of all people, to preach to both nations, but primarily Israel.
And here in the first two chapters of Amos, you see that Amos pulls no punches. We sometimes hear of fire and brimstone preachers, and that’s exactly how Amos started, saying,
The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds dry up, and the top of Carmel withers. (1:2)
He then starts preaching God’s judgment first on Israel’s neighbors, and then on Judah and Israel themselves. On Damascus, he preaches the destruction of Aram because of the wars they waged against Israel, promising that their king would be deposed and that the people would go into exile (you see this fulfilled in II Kings 16:9).
Then he preached judgment against the Philistines for their slave trade. You can see some of this fulfilled in Uzziah’s battles against the Philistines in II Chronicles 26:6.
Next was Tyre, who broke their treaty with Israel, and sold many Israelite captives as slaves to Edom.
Edom itself was then condemned by God. The Edomites, of course, were related to the Jews, as their forefathers were Esau and Jacob respectively. And just as Esau had once pursued Jacob with unchecked anger in order to kill him, so Edom acted against Israel.
Next came the judgment against Ammon for the atrocities of war they committed in order to extend their borders, and then after that came the judgment against Moab for the evil that they had committed against Edom’s king.
Then Amos condemns Judah for turning their backs on God and his law and following false gods. It should be noted that this was during a time when Uzziah (or Azariah as II Kings names him) was king, and was following God. Unfortunately, his people didn’t follow his example (II Kings 15:4).
Then Amos turns his attention to Israel, his main audience. And on top of their idolatry, was all the social injustices they committed, trampling the poor and denying justice to the oppressed. As if that wasn’t enough, they were also corrupting people who had committed themselves to God (the Nazirites) and tried to shut up the prophets.
And because of all that, Amos warned them of God’s judgment to come.
What do we get from all this? Two things. First, nothing is hidden from God. He sees everything that we do. And second, there will be a day of reckoning for our sin. God may seem not to notice, or not to care. But he does notice and he does care. And that’s why he sends us warnings. That was the whole purpose of Amos’ message. Not to tell them, “Ha ha! You’re going to die!” His purpose was that the people would hear the warnings and turn.
So the question we need to ask ourselves is, “What do we do with God’s warnings?” As we saw in Jonah, when people repent, he will relent (Hey! That rhymes!). But if we, like the Israelites, instead try to ignore the warnings or fight against them, judgment will come.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that God is love and therefore will not hold us accountable for our sins. He is also a God of justice, and as such, he must punish sin. So let us heed his warnings and turn from our sins, not only to avoid his judgments, but so that we might also find his blessings in our lives.