I occasionally speak on the Learn2Lead course at church and yesterday led the session on the Prophets. 17 books by 16 authors is a large task for 90 minutes. In fact we only touch on Elijah, Amos, Isaiah and a bit of Jeremiah. I was struck by how contemporary Amos is. He preached at the time of King Jereboam the second, a time of great prosperity for Israel. The borders were extending, they were wealthier than at any time since Solomon, they took neighboring tribes captive and sold them into slavery. Even their beds were inlaid with ivory. Yet they had neglected God. Their sacrifices, instead of being a propitiation for the times they lapsed into sin, had become an alternative to sinlessness. They were just a ritual to be enacted as an alternative to living a righteous life. There was huge gap between the rich and the poor.
Amos heaps curses on the surrounding nations. They have many sins but each is condemned for a particular sin. For Judah and Israel, though, he reserves a double curse; they have the Law, and know how they ought to behave. Even without the Law, the surrounding nations have no excuse; they have their consciences. Bur Israel has conscience and the Law and is doubly condemned.
Amos appears the epitome of the Old Testament prophet. He is not all doom and gloom though. Like Moses of old, he pleads with God for his sinful nation.
I wonder if the situation sounds familiar? What strictures would Amos bring on our nations were he preaching now? Then he faced opposition from the school of prophets at Bethel (remember Elisha?) Those who preach the truth now face opposition from the formal church. We have had the gospel for so long yet we continue to sin grievously in our paneled houses. We may not sleep on beds of inlaid ivory, but what would Amos have made of out new SUVs and flat screen TVs? Are there still poor among you? What about your religion? Has it become formulaic? We, perhaps justifiably, heap scorn and damnation of Moslem suicide bombers, but we have the Word of God and know how we should live. As Christians we believe that they do not. We are worthy of double condemnation.
How delightful then to come to Isaiah chapter 40 v 2. "Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins."
and chapter 43:"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior"
There's a way back to God from the dark paths of sin, there's a door that is open and you may go in. At Calvary’s cross is where you begin, when you come as a sinner to Jesus.