Although Amos was from Judah his message from God was for the northern kingdom. He was based in Bethel, where Jeroboam had set up one of the calf-idols for the people Israel to worship. Amos’ message to the northern kingdom was of their need to return to God: “Seek me and live.”
“This is what the Lord says to Israel: ‘Seek me and live; do not seek Bethel, do not go to Gilgal, do not journey to Beersheba. For Gilgal will surely go into exile, and Bethel will be reduced to nothing.’ Seek the Lord and live, or he will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire; it will devour them, and Bethel will have no-one to quench it.” (Amos 5:4-6 NIV)
With no punches held, Amos detailed what would happen to Israel for going after idols: God’s judgement was coming. He compared Israel to a basket of ripe fruit: the time was ripe for God’s judgement and he would spare his people no longer (Amos 8:1-3). There would be many dead bodies strewn everywhere because of their sin.
One of the problems Israel had, and this can be seen in both the northern and southern kingdoms, was that they did not place value on the worship of YHVH. Instead they were more concerned about doing business and making a profit while running roughshod over the needy and poor.
“Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, ‘When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?’ – skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.” (Amos 8:4-6)
God would not forget nor ignore what they were doing!
The real problem was that the people were living in famine conditions. It wasn’t a famine due to a lack of food or water, but it was a lack of God’s word! Notice God’s scathing description of his people.
“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign Lord, ‘when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it. In that day the lovely young women and strong young men will faint because of thirst.’” (Amos 8:11-13).
We could well ask if conditions are any different today? We realise that those who don’t know God have no time for his word, but what about those who are supposed to be God’s people?
What is the emphasis in our lives? Is it a desire to be with God’s people when they worship and study his word, or are we focussed on doing what we can to make a profit, to build up our business? Too often we see people trying to do the minimum they can (as if there was a minimum) in their service of God.
Are we living in famine conditions? Not a famine of food or water but a famine of God’s word. Do we take advantage of opportunities to study and learn more of God’s word or do we prefer to spend time doing anything but studying the Bible?
If we want to truly live and have fulfilled lives we need to heed God’s admonition through Amos: “Seek me and live!”
Photo by hudsoncrafted from Pixabay
Readings for next week: Joel 1-3; Amos 1-9