Amos 1:1 The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—the vision he saw concerning Israel.
Amos lived in the small town of Tekoa, about six miles south of Bethlehem. He was a shepherd, who also cared for sycamore-fig trees (Amos 7:14). Around 755 BC he was sent by God to prophesy to the northern kingdom of Israel (Amos 7:14-15).
Israel was enjoying a time of prosperity, but had fallen into idolatry and moral corruption. Amos announced that God would send them into exile (Amos 5:27), and within a few decades, Israel fell to the Assyrians (722 BC). Most of the people were deported, and never returned home.
Amos 2:7 Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name.
Having a family prostitute was apparently common, and shows how far God’s people had fallen away from him. The people of God were required to live by strict sexual guidelines, or the land would vomit them out, just as it had the nations before them (Leviticus 18:28). Only a few more years would pass before Israel learned that God does not make idle threats.
Likewise, a professing Christian in the city of Corinth was sleeping with his father’s wife, and refused to give her up (1 Corinthians 5:1). Expel the wicked person from among you (1 Corinthians 5:13), wrote Paul. Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), he wrote. We are not saved by being good, but we will not be saved without it. [W]ithout holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14), says Hebrews.
Amos 2:11-12 I also raised up prophets from among your children and Nazirites from among your youths. . . . But you made the Nazirites drink wine and commanded the prophets not to prophesy.
God not only gave the nation his law, but raised up prophets to proclaim it, and even gave them Nazarites to model holiness. In response, God’s people broke his law, told the prophets to be quiet, and encouraged the Nazirites to break their vow of holiness by drinking wine (Numbers 6:3).
Godly people are not surprised when the world tries to lead them astray. But they are surprised when fellow believers want them to live like the world. Worldly Christians do not like to talk about the Bible, and turn the conversation elsewhere. They are less concerned about prayer than worldly entertainment. They encourage their Christian friends to loosen up, and be less devoted to Christ. In effect, they command the prophets not to prophesy, and the Nazirites to drink a little wine.
Amos 3:2 You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.
Israel felt secure because they were chosen by God. They failed to understand that they were held to a higher standard precisely because they were chosen by God. Parents do not usually care if their neighbor’s children break the law. But if their own children break the law, there are serious consequences. That’s how it is with God and his people.
The servant who knows the master’s will and does not . . . do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows (Luke 12:47), said Jesus. And, From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded (Luke 12:48), he said. The most blameworthy people on earth are not those who know the least about God, but those who know the most about God, and disobey him anyway.
Amos 4:12 [P]repare to meet your God.
Since they refused to serve God in life, many were about to meet him in death. And since this was the most important meeting of their lives, perhaps they would want to prepare for it. Perhaps we would as well.
A man in his fifties was diagnosed with cancer, and was only given days to live. He had not paid much attention to God previously, but wanted to be ready to meet him personally. So he repented of his sins and received Christ Jesus as Lord (Colossians 2:6). He was so transformed that the last three days of his life were the happiest he ever knew. The time was filled with singing, laughing, and reading the Bible. He was finally prepared to meet his God. Are you?
Amos 5:21-23 I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.
The Israelites worshipped God with festivals, sacrificial offerings, and loud singing. They were having a wonderful time worshipping God, but God was not having a wonderful time being worshipped. They were giving him lip-service without life-service.
Many consider God important enough to worship, but not important enough to serve. But apart from obedient service, our worship can be offensive to God. Acceptable worship requires preparation.
We can prepare for corporate worship by living for God throughout the week, and by confessing our failures with the assurance of his forgiveness (1 John 1:9). We can go to bed early the night before, so we’ll be alert in the morning. We can also get up early to prepare our hearts by worshipping God privately.
We can also arrive early to greet others, and then be seated to focus our hearts and minds on God. When the music is played we can sing with all our hearts, and when the sermon is preached we can hang on every word. Then, when the service is over, we can go and apply all that we have learned. This is how we can worship God acceptably with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28-29).
Reflection and Review
Why is God against sexual immorality?
How can we prepare to die?
How should we prepare for public worship?