"Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness
as a mighty stream."
Every prophet has a burden in his heart. A religion
that is confined to rites and rituals and incense burns the eyes of the
Almighty if they are not offered on the altars of compassion and
translated into acts of charity on those around us. Injustice had so
contaminated the land that Amos (which means "burdened") could
remain silent no more.
A religion that steps over the bleeding bodies of the
oppressed and wounded is an abomination to the Lord. The Savior told the
story of the Good Samaritan as to prick their complacent consciences
that were at ease on Zion. Every saint should have a burden; yet, the
God who gives the burden will also give the grace and strength to carry
When God wanted a voice crying in this wilderness of
indifference and idolatry he chose neither priest nor professional, he
chose a shepherd and farmer named Amos. Amos grew up learning the ways
of the wilderness and lived close to the simple earth.
America was once a nation of farmers. No farmer can
truly be an atheist. If you should find one, you have found a fool. A
farmer is often a man of faith. He understands faith, hope and love. He
looks to the soil for his livelihood, but he also looks to God. He is at
the mercy of the elements. The heavens have the final word about the
harvest. If it does not rain, if his crops do not grow, if the sun fails
to shine, all his labor is in vain. An agricultural society is more
likely to pray than an industrial one. America has prayed less and less
as it turned from the fields to the foundries. Amos lived close to the
earth and closer to God. Industrial affluence can also lead to social
insensitivity and indifference. Prosperity becomes a sin when it is
built upon the backs of oppressed classes of our fellow creatures and
becomes to God an outrage. What contacts Amos had with society so
grieved him that his heart was broken and he cried out for justice. "Let
justice roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty
Are you without a burden? Should we not have a burden
for the ignorant and desire to teach them? Should we not have a burden
for the hungry and wish to feed them? Should we not have a burden for
the homeless and want to shelter them? He who is closest to God will
have the greatest burden about the needs of others. Women are exploited,
the unborn are aborted, innocent children are abused. The poor are
extorted, our youth are ensnared, the land is polluted and ravaged.
Should we not have a burden for the lost? Some have wondered what
constitutes a call from God. Be assured, God does not call the
indifferent. God called to Samuel three times before he discovered it
was God who was speaking. Perhaps the first sound of God’s voice in
your life will be felt more than heard; perhaps it will begin with a
broken heart or a burden.
1. Prepare to meet thy God (4:12). Life is a time of
getting ready. We are all on a journey as transients on the road to
eternity. Yet people are oblivious to the destination and destiny. "It
is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment" (Heb.
2. All must stand at God’s judgment bar. Damascus,
Hazael, Edom, Gaza will all answer and give an account for their
behavior. Notice they will be condemned in the memory of their deeds.
Our deeds are enough to condemn us. The sins of Tyre were many. Jesus
mentioned this city as a proof of God’s judgment coming on cities of
His day. The sin mentioned by Amos was in not remembering the brotherly
covenant (1:9). Have we also been guilty of this sin? Have we failed
treat our fellow man with kindness and charity? Have we brushed aside
our obligations and ignored the needs of our neighbors? Have we failed
to love our neighbor as our self? The answer must be that we have, and
with that admission must come a repentance and a resolve to become an
instrument of God’s grace.
The sin of Edom was that he "kept his wrath
forever." The children of Esau could never forget the loss to
Jacob. The Edomites carried the fire of anger in their heart for
centuries. They never missed an opportunity to be unkind to the sons of
Jacob. Have we kept certain resentments alive as so many Edomites in our
heart? Do we hold a grudge toward anyone we feel took what was ours? If
we do, we are in poor company, the company of Edom.
The sins of Ammon are also very much alive in our
land today. They "ripped up the women with child .... that they
might enlarge their borders" (that is, improve their lifestyle)
(1:13). Today doctors rip up women with child for material gain, and
mothers willingly allow the pagan priests of the temples of medicine to
enter their most private and sacred parts, the temple of life, in order
to mutilate and ravage the innocents. What an abomination of desolation
is the practice of abortion. Our nation and world is being built upon
the bones of a million babies a day, and what a foundation of hell that
is. Such a foundation cannot support civilization much longer. It will
soon collapse under the weight of its own evil.
Amos had warnings for Judah as well as the gentile.
Judah would not be spared God’s judgment. They were given God’s law
and they failed to keep it. "Unto whom much is given much is
required." Not only did they fail to keep it, they despised it.
It is one thing to fall short of it , it is quite another to trample
upon it. No man ever kept the law. It is impossible, but woe to those
who tread upon holy things; they should tremble.
3. Finally, Amos gets close to home. Real prophets
always do. He judges his own people. It is easy to see the sins of
others while we are blind to our own. We are always trying to get the
speck out of the other man’s eye not realizing that we have a beam in
our own. The sin of Israel was that of harboring false doctrine. It
seems obvious to the student of Jewish history that Israel was guilty of
setting up a false religion when the altars were erected in Dan and
Bethel. This counter-worship was a grievous sin of folly. False
religions and churches still abound, yet the charge brought before the
bar of righteousness points to the more practical and common evidence of
phony religion. They "sold the righteous for silver,and poor for
a pair of shoes" (2:6). Here is exploitation and oppression.
Here is inequity and lack of charity. The sins were also a perversion of
sex and profanity. The sin of the land was the addiction of drunkenness.
God sent Amos to cry out against evil and indifference, violence, and
America should see her reflection in these muddy
waters, drunkenness, drug addiction, immorality, pornography, extortion,
greed, and materialism. Where is Amos today? Who is burdened at the
sights that parade before them? Who has a broken heart for the children,
the women, the poor, and the addicted?
The church remains strangely quiet while God must
weep. The church has become too accustomed to the darkness because it
has not lived in the light. Pray for God to send a prophet, a preacher,
a teacher, an Amos.
"You gave Nazarites wine to drink"(2:12).
God gave Israel children that they might live before God in thanksgiving
and holiness. Some were to be given as a "tithe" to the
service of the Lord by their parents as Hannah gave little Samuel. How
many Christian parents have made promises to God as their babies were
"dedicated" and vowed to bring them up in the "fear and
admonition of the Lord" only to forget those words. How many allow
the babes to press cups filled with the wine of worldliness to their
lips? TV with its addictive trance-like power has intoxicated millions
of children with selfishness, greed, materialism, commercialism, sexism,
and hedonism to the point where they are drunk in the presence of the
parents that bore them.
Worldly preachers preach worldliness (2:12) and
parishioners love to have it so. Jesus called it the "blind leading
the blind" and predicted that they both will "fall in the
ditch." The weight of transgressions pressed down the cart
drawn by Amos who, as a farmer, knew well the burden of bringing the
harvest to market.
The whole family is called into account by the
Father. "Only you have I known of all the families of the
earth" (3:1). The privilege of Israel was one of incalculable
worth and yet they treated it with disdain. "I will punish you
for your iniquities"(3:2). God will punish all sin and sinners,
but most grievous is the punishment of rebellious children. But punish
God will. Those who use Grace as a stronghold to hide from God are in
for a shocking surprise. No one, not even a child, will escape the
correction of the Father. And to all who refuse to accept God’s
counsel, pleading, and guidance is this most important question posed: "Can
two walk together, except they be agreed?" The answer is always
"no." The dawning of this truth upon our darkness should call
everyone to repentance (which is "agreeing" with God). He who
is in disagreement with God must walk alone, Godless. He who disagrees
with heaven may only hope for hell, and nothing more.
Judgment is coming and the Lord has revealed it to
his prophets (3:7). These prophets see the setting of the snares (3:5)
and the sound of the trumpets (3:6) though everyone else is blind and
deaf. God will tear Israel to shreds. She shall be like a leg taken out
of the mouth of a lion. God is serious. We should be serious too.
For Modern Preachers & Teachers
A Prophet was called a ro’eh and a hozeh.
Both come from roots which mean "to see." Prophets were seers.
They were not psychics like the false prophets of today. While many
indeed had visions and "experiences," it is safe to say that
they had great "insight" into the significance and meaning of
events and circumstances of life. In this regard the preacher of our day
must have "insight" more than foresight. He must have the gift
of discernment and have a spiritual intuition in order to navigate
through the shallow waters of this world.
Prophets were also called ‘ish elohim a man
of God. What value is the preacher who is not such a one? While we
believe all believers to be priests, not all men are prophets (Deut.
33:1; 1 Sam. 9:6; II Kings 4:9).
A third word for a prophet is nabhi’ which
is thought to come from the verb nabha’ which some say meant to
"bubble up." Some say the etymology is linked to the Akkadian
word nabu which means "to speak." A prophet is one who
is "spoken to" and one who "speaks for God." The
study of the call of a prophet helps us to understand the significance
and role of a prophet. Moses objected to this calling on the basis of
his inability to speak well (Ex. 4:10-16). Moses would be given Aaron as
a "mouth" and Moses would be the "mouth" for God. In
Ex. 7:1 God said "And Aaron thy brother shall be thy
prophet" (nabhi). In other words, a prophet is one who speaks
for another. The ministry of the prophet is to speak God’s word. "I
will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren like unto thee (Moses),
and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all
that I shall command him" Deut. 18:15-22.
Being a spokesman for God is clearly seen in the life
of Amos. He was sent to Bethel to speak against the altar erected there.
The priest of Bethel challenged and attempted to silence Amos. "Oh
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; for it is
the king’s sanctuary and it is the king’s court." Amos was
not easily dissuaded and replies "I was no prophet, neither was
I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore
fruit; and the LORD took me as I followed the people, and the LORD said
unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel" Amos 7:12-16.
Our generation is just as prone to wander as the
ancient ones and Christian congregations are as likely to need
correction and guidance as did Israel. Preachers are as likely to be
pressured to accommodate the capricious children of today as in days of
old and should be forewarned. Isaiah found his congregations often
offered unsolicited advice "That this is a rebellious people,
lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD; which
say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, prophesy not unto us
right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits"
People have not changed much. Congregations still would rather hear
"feel-good" messages rather than truth if that truth is
painful and calls for a change. Real prophets must deliver God’s
message. It is a mistake to think that God only has "Good
News" today. Hirelings and amateurs seldom deliver heavy packages
to their own door. Hirelings are naturally cautious when it comes to
being too critical of their employer. While amateurs may not preach for
money (as many a preacher has been so accused) they often preach and
teach for fun. When it is no longer fun they look for more enjoyable
things to occupy themselves with. A prophet and a preacher must
sometimes speak out of a burdened heart, and Oh to God, that the
people might listen.