The Book of Amos is a collection of the sermons, poems and visions of Amos of Tekoa, a shepherd and farmer who lived on the border of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel about 150 years after the kingdom split in two, during the reign of Jeroboam, a greedy, idolatrous and unjust king of Northern Israel.
God called Amos to travel to the city of Bethel in Northern Israel to announce His Word to the people.
In the first two chapters, Amos delivers accusations of idolatry (worship of other gods) and injustice against Israel and the surrounding nations. He even goes so far as to call out the leaders of Israel for selling the poor and helpless into slavery, just as Egypt did to the people of Israel.
In chapters three through six, Amos describes the lengths God has gone over the course of history to rescue His people, and their continued rebellion against Him.
He describes how unjust the people are against the poor and needy, and how worthless the idols and false gods they have begun to worship can never compare to the holiness, righteousness and goodness of the One, true God.
And because of Israel’s deep injustice and idolatry, God is sending the “Day of the Lord”—a divine act of justice—on the people.
Amos warns that because of Israel’s rebellion, an enemy from the north (the Assyrian Empire) will come and conquer the nation, forcing them into exile from the land (see 2 Kings 17).
Chapters seven through nine describe some of Amos’ visions. These are symbolic depictions of this coming Day of the Lord. Israel is described as being decimated by a swarm of locusts, scorched by fire and eaten up like overripe fruit.
His visions end with a sort of grand finale: Israel’s idol temples will be struck down by God’s mighty hand, and in their place, God will one day rebuild the house of David. Though Israel is doomed to destruction, God has not given up on His people. One day a King will come from the line of David who will rebuild God’s family—not just the people of Israel, but all the nations.
Israel’s religious hypocrisy: Throughout the book, Amos calls out both the people of Israel and its leaders for their deep hypocrisy. Like many other prophets, Amos describes the people’s divided hearts—they worship in the Temple and give sacrifices to God, but do not follow His covenant commands in the way they treat others. The land is full of injustice and neglect of the poor and needy. God wants His people to be devoted to Him in all they say and do, not just in the Temple, but everywhere.
Israel’s idolatry: Not only do the people of Israel fail to keep God’s commands, they continually break their covenant with Him by worshiping the gods of other nations. Jeroboam, the king of Israel in Amos’ time, was notorious for allowing idol worship in the holy places of Israel. God’s desire for His people is to worship Him and Him alone.
HOW DOES THIS FIT INTO GOD’S STORY?
Amos shows its readers that when they love God with all their heart, it should be reflected in how they treat others. When we have a relationship with God, it transforms our relationships with others. God has called His people to worship Him alone, to keep His commands and to take care of poor and vulnerable people.
According to Amos, worshiping God with your whole heart is synonymous with justice, generosity and doing good for others.
Another shepherd, the Good Shepherd, echoes these truths in Matthew 22:37-39.
“Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”’”