Amos Deep Dive

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WHO DO YOU REALLY WANT IN CONTROL?

RYAN KERRISON

The book of Amos, as many of the other Prophetic Writings, requires a vigilant and measured hermeneutic for the fullness of its content to be comprehensively appreciated. Written in a politically and nationally multifaceted time, the book of Amos seeks to offer not only a unified perspective on the justice and the righteousness of Yahweh, but furthermore, reminds Israel and believers of today, that God is sovereign and merciful over His creation. What this means is not that He is absent and aloof, but rather that He is engaged, intentional, and impassioned. This Deep Dive will explore both the judgment and the mercy of Yahweh and offer a nuanced perspective to be mindful of while reading the book for yourself.

Judgment

Amos is the ultimate of understated prophets. A humble fig-farmer and shepherd. However, he is called by God and travels to Northern Israel where he comes out swinging. Initially against the nations surrounding Israel: Gaza, Edom, Moab, Tyre, and Damascus, for example, however, this serves only to create a crosshair, with its intersection focused directly upon Israel. This verbal bombardment of judgment against Israel spans three times longer than the nations previously named and covers three main issues occurring within the nation. 1. Class-division, based upon wealth, and the ill-treatment of the poor, by the wealthier, even going so far as to sell the poor into debt slavery, and deny them legal rights to representation. 2. The display of hypocrisy by the rich, through idol worship, brought about by the king, Jeroboam, and his “apparent” conquests. 3. Finally, the way in which Israel had rejected the need for God and embraced self-sufficiency. The call to a social justice–oriented society could not have been louder, nor fiercer.   

Day of Yahweh

Chapters three through six outlines Israel’s guilt and their subsequent punishment to come if they continue in their sin and unrepentance. ‘Uncle Ben’s’ dictum in the Spiderman comic universe springs to mind here, “With great power comes great responsibility.” In this case, the “power” was God’s calling upon the nation, and indeed that calling came with great responsibility, and often, even greater consequence. It is within this section that Amos’ poems once again draw together the threads of sin present in the lives of the people of Israel. Amos exhorts them to let their relationship with Yahweh, affect their relationship with others and to allow justice to flow down like water, and to righteousness, brought about only by the seeking of the Father. Hence the phrase “Seek me, and live" in 5:4, followed by 5:14 "Seek good, not evil, that you may live." There is a clear and decisive relationship here between living righteous and doing good. However, the nation of Israel in its ignorance rejects Amos and the Prophets and as such the chapter concludes with the declaration of the Day of the Lord. A common theme throughout the Prophetic literature. This notion of the Day of the Lord serves as a reminder that the almighty Yahweh has the right to act in and upon His creation in such a way that He pleases, given that, He never violates His promises or Himself. In this case, Amos alludes to the forthcoming Assyrian captivity, some forty years away and the judgments to occur upon them as a nation. However, this is not where the story ends.

Mercy

The final portion of the last chapter of this book serves to remind the people of Israel of Yahweh’s perfect mercy. However, this mercy as shown in the text does not come at a compromise of righteousness. The wicked shall be judged. God is a jealous God, and cannot by His own being, ever accept anything less than perfection, yet He remains good to provide a way into His family. Amos does not gloss over the fact that Israel will be ruined, nor that the sin of its people will be ignored, but rather that from the ruins, the House of David, (a poetic and linguistic reference to Jesus Christ’s lineage), and the family of God will be restored. The great and ultimate reversal of Israel’s sin and God’s subsequent judgment will occur. The importance of this final paragraph cannot be overlooked; it stands as the bridging link between God’s perfection, justice and refusal to leave sin unconfronted, and His faithfulness to restore His long-term purpose and remain faithful to His covenant.

Further Reading:

The Day of Yahweh – John M.P. Smith (The University of Chicago Press)

Old Testament Survey – The Message, Form and Background of the Old Testament – LaSor, Hubbard & Bush

Paul and the Faithfulness of God – Christians Origins and the Question of God – N.T. Wright

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