“I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the LORD took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel’” (Amos 7:14, 15, NIV).
Amos was quite open in admitting his lack of qualifications for being a prophet, but as he presents his message to the Israelite nation, he shows an obvious ability to draw his hearers into what he wants to tell them.
He begins on a popular note, listing off the surrounding nations—Syria, Philistia, Phoenicia, Edom, Ammon, and Moab—and detailing their crimes, outrages, and atrocities for which God will punish them (see Amos 1:3-2:3). It is easy to imagine the Israelites applauding these indictments of their enemies, particularly as many of the crimes of these nations had been directed against the Israelites themselves.
Then Amos moves a little closer to home, declaring God’s judgment against the people of Judah, Israel’s southern neighbors in the now-separated kingdoms. Speaking on behalf of God, Amos cites their rejection of God, their disobedience to His commands, and the punishments that would come to them (see Amos 2:4, 5). Again, we can imagine the people in the northern kingdom applauding as Amos points out the wrongdoing of those around them.
But then Amos turns on his audience. The rest of the book focuses on Israel’s evil, idolatry, injustice, and repeated failures in the sight of God.
Read Amos 3:9-11; 4:1, 2; 5:10-15; and 8:4-6. What sins is he warning against?
While Amos is not diplomatic in his language and his warnings are those of doom, his message is seasoned with entreaties to turn back to their God. This will include a renewal of their sense of justice and care for the poor among them: “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24, NIV). The last few verses of Amos’ prophecy point to a future restoration for God’s people (see Amos 9:11-15): “In their hour of deepest apostasy and greatest need, God’s message to them was one of forgiveness and hope”. – Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 283.
Are there times when we need to be prepared to speak harshly to correct wrong? How do we discern when such language might be appropriate?