Today, I am reading and commenting on Amos 1-5. Before I get started on my Bible study, I want to thank my wife for 17 wonderful years. It was 17 years ago today that my wife gave me the birthday present I could ever receive. Every year she asks me what she can get me for my birthday and I tell her that she has already given me the best possible birthday present. OK, I will stop here on that since I cannot possibly express how incredibly happy she has made me.
The people of Israel and Judah must have been happy with the beginning of Amos’ prophecy. Amos starts by condemning their various enemies and warning them of God’s coming judgment against them. The overarching theme of the condemnation of Israel’s neighbors was their oppressive treatment of the people of Israel. There are a couple of other reasons that one or more of them are condemned for that I want to bring up. Several of them were condemned for enslaving and/or selling the people of Israel as slaves. The people of Ammon were primarily condemned for the killing of the unborn. The people of Edom were condemned for committing something approaching genocide against the people of Israel. And interestingly enough, the people of Moab were condemned for war crimes against the people of Edom. That last is noteworthy because the people of Edom were condemned by God for their actions, but Moab was still condemned for what they did against them. All of the things which Amos condemned Israel’s neighbors for are going on in the world today, and God will bring judgment against those who are following these practices.
However, the happiness the people of Israel and Judah felt when Amos began to prophesy would not have lasted long. Once he had condemned the pagan nations around them he began to list out their sins in greater detail. At least part of the reason for the greater detail was because the people of Israel and Judah should have known better. Amos condemns them for many of the same sins for which he condemned their neighbors; in particular, selling people into slavery. The part of that which strikes close to home is “They sell…poor people for a pair of sandals.” That hits close to home because of the reports of U.S. companies buying shoes (and other items) from factories which employ slave labor. I am not going to say that those who buy those products are the subject of Amos’ condemnation, but those who knowingly profit out of such companies are. As we go further in the passage, Amos tells us more about those subject to condemnation. He mentions those who cause Nazirites (people who had dedicated themselves to God) to sin and tell prophets to be quiet. I see a comparison to what Amos is saying in those who encourage celebrities who start out with an innocent, wholesome image to become more “edgy”, or who set out to seduce (either directly or indirectly) male celebrities who attempt to avoid sexual immorality.
Those whom Amos is condemning think they are righteous because they offer sacrifices, which they believe they are offering to God. Amos offers us guidance for knowing if we are making offerings to God, or to an impostor. Do those accepting our offerings call us out when we commit injustices? Or, do they congratulate us on our righteousness? If the place we are giving our offerings does not call us to act justly and to live righteously, we are hypocrites and God will bring judgment against us. God calls us to live righteously, not to put on the appearance of righteousness. God wants us to live righteously and to treat our fellow man justly more than He wants our material possessions.