Prophets: Amos Witnesses to Justice and Hope

How might a migrant worker convict luxurious homeowners about their oppressive lifestyles? What might a poor, rural believer say to wealthy, urban idolaters?

Amos was neither trained as a prophet nor assumed the career of a prophet. He was a shepherd in the Judean wilderness near Bethlehem from the backwater village of Tekoa. He supplemented his income through cultivating sycamore-fig trees (a kind of migrant worker since those trees did not grow in the area of Tekoa).

The eighth century before Christ, however, was a time of prosperity and peace.  Jeroboam II ruled over the northern kingdom while Uzziah reigned over Judah. Jeroboam II had the longest reign of any northern king and Uzziah had the second longest of any king of Judah. Together their reigns approximated the “golden age” of Solomon himself in terms of territory, building projects, and economic trade.  

Peace and prosperity, however, did not form a just and faithful nation. On the contrary, wealth was increasingly located in the hands of the elite few. Whereas their blessings should have blessed all, the wealthy consumed their blessings rather than sharing them.

The shepherd Amos went from his rural environs near Tekoa to the heartland of Israel’s ruling elite in Bethel and Samaria. His message decried injustice, oppression, and idolatry. He announced Israel’s future–one of both judgment and hope.

How do the poor speak a word from God to the rich? How does a lowly shepherd address the ruling elite about their nation?

We want to stand with Amos as he speaks against injustice and idolatry. But we will miss the message if we do not become Amos’ audience as well. We must hear Amos as those who live in luxury with more wealth than we need. Otherwise we will simply make excuses and judge his words inapplicable–much like Israel responded to Amos.

Prosperity often creates spiritual apathy along with greed and covetousness (as we always want more). If nothing else, the words of Amos warn us that prosperity is only a blessing if it is acknowledged with gratitude and shared.  Otherwise it becomes the root of greed, injustice, and oppression.

Nevertheless, Amos offered Israel hope. In chapter 9, Amos announced good news. A day will come when God will renew Israel and fully restore relationship with them. God will again raise the tent of David and a son of David will once again reign over the land. Amos 9:11-15 offers hope not only to Israel but to the nations. The restoration of the “tent of David” will include the nations. They too will be called by the name of God. When that day arrives the glory of the Lord will fill the whole earth and the meek will inherit the earth. The Abrahamic promise will be fulfilled when the whole earth becomes the Lord’s both in fact as well as by right. Both Israel and the nations will enjoy the land, the blessings of the covenant, and the presence of God when the “tent of David” is restored. And that story is the next act in the theodrama

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