Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink.
2 The Lord God hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks.
3 And ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is before her; and ye shall cast them into the palace, saith the Lord.
4 Come to Bethel, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years:
5 And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord God.
6 And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
7 And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered.
8 So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
9 I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
10 I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
11 I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
12 Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.
13 For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The Lord, The God of hosts, is his name.
God’s judgment is often misunderstood as arbitrary punishment to make sinners suffer for their wrongdoing. Some people look forward to it falling on their enemies. Others are terrified of it falling on them.
Amos 4 shows us that God’s judgment isn’t simply anger vented at sinners. It is God’s way of restoring justice and bringing His wayward people back to Him.
Amos prophesied to the people of Israel during a time of national prosperity. The people made a pretense of religion, but their hearts were far from God. They worshiped idols, lived in self-indulgent luxury, and oppressed the poor. (Their situation sounds not unlike our own today.)
God recounts all the ways He has tried to get their attention. They suffered through drought, pestilence, and war, yet still they persisted in their rebellion. These judgments were not total; God describes Israel as a “firebrand plucked from the burning” (v. 11). God’s desire is to save, not to destroy. Yet He will see justice restored. Eventually the people will face a final reckoning with God (v. 12).
Amos 4 reminds us how seriously God takes the mistreatment of the poor and the miscarriage of justice. Judgment is an expression of His love for the oppressed. Yet it is also His way of bringing us back into a right relationship with Him.
May we repent of our sins and turn to Him for mercy before the day of reckoning comes.
Pastor, Georgia-Cumberland Conference, USA