One of the most colorful minor prophets in the Old Testament was the prophet Amos. Amos admitted to the palace court in Israel that he was just a shepherd and a farmer of fig trees, but was called by God to deliver an important message to a nation that had forgotten its spiritual roots.
Just imagine a poor farmer with suntanned arms, rough textured hands that had been stained by the cultivation of figs, clothes that smelled of sheep entering the polished courts of the palace to deliver a prophetic message to well manicured men and women. That was Amos, a humble farmer who had a heart that listened to God.
In his opening statements, Amos captivated his audience by speaking judgments against Israel’s enemies. The court of Israel applauded the prophet’s stern messages against the neighboring nations. Syria’s sin was cruelty to Israel by conducting a slave trade, into which some of Israel’s citizens had been captured and sold. The neighboring city of Tyre was also judged by God by engaging in similar slave trades, by separating families. More applause was given by the court of Israel.
Then, prophetic statements were made against Edom, which housed relatives of Israel. Citizens of Edom harbored unforgiveness toward Israel that dated back to the time when Esau, the father of the Edomites, sold his birthright to Jacob, the father of the Israelites. On many occasions, the Edomites would start territorial wars with Israel in order to regain some land. This time, louder appause would follow Amos’ prophecies.
Afterward, Ammon and Moab, two other neighboring nations were handed down judgments based on their violent and vindictive hatred of Israel. The applause became very loud at this point of Amos’ message.
Last, Amos denounced the nation of Judah and Jerusalem because they had forgotten the God of their fathers. Judah had begun to think of the Law of God as something that had been outdated. The priests and rulers had become corrupt by extorting money from the poor citizens of the land. They treated the Law of God as something to be despised. Shouts of praise and thunderous applause were now given to Amos.
Then, Amos became blunt to the court of Israel. Amos was about to explain God’s judgment to the nation for their failure to maintain their relationship to God Himself. At the time of Amos’ prophecy, Israel had experienced economic prosperity. Business owners had become wealthy, farmers had bumper crops due to excellent weather conditions, but God was ignored in society. Instead of true worship to Jehovah God, Israel worshiped wealth and set up their own idols as a substitute for worship.
Amos continued his prophecy by comparing the court to a herd of cows. That statement was very interesting because Amos tended sheep. Sheep were more dependent on their owner for safety and nurture. Cows, on the other hand, have been known to be more aggressive than sheep. Perhaps Amos was making the point that their attitude had become aggressively hostile against the Word of God as compared to “sheep” that looked to God as their source of life.
Understandably, Amos was not receiving any applause. Smiles of approval had become scowls of hatred for the message. Toward the end of his message, Amos predicted a famine – not a famine of food, but of hearing the Word of God. Israel was a land that had plenty of priests and easy access to the temple in Jerusalem for worship. Levites had been scattered throughout the land to help with prayers, sacrifices and spiritual advice. The Word of God was not rare.
Their problem was similar to our modern days. We live in a society that makes Biblical teaching easy to find by Christian television, radio, books and the internet. Are we listening? It is one thing to own a copy of the Bible, but do we read it? Easy access to Biblical teaching does not guarantee that someone is listening.
A lesson from the life of Amos would be to pay attention to God’s message. Read the Scriptures and thus find life with God. God wants listening hearts.
The Rev. Kitty Mills teachers Sunday School at Mount View Pentecostal Holiness Church in Claudville, Virginia.