The Herdsman from Tekoa

Amos 1:1-2

Can be an interesting mind exercise to consider: If God, primarily through inspiration of Spirit is author of the Bible, oversaw its human authorship and composition, made it clear to his people which writings really belonged in his Book, at what point in process from original penning to what we hold in our hands did God take his hands off? If God sovereignly directed each aspect of forming the canon of Scripture, then is reasonable to credit God with 4 major divisions: Law, Prophets, Writings, New Testament. And credit God with setting order of books within each division. If so, then in ordering Book of the Twelve the way we have it, God must have had other than chronology in mind.

Have already seen in first two prophets: God’s faithful love for unfaithful people (Hosea), God’s sovereign governing of all things toward his Great Day (Joel), battle between God’s redemptive purpose and man’s sinful rebellion (Amos). God expresses his love to us through Christ, Christ is One who will judge the nations and shelter his people on Great Day, is in Christ that David’s kingdom is restored and reaches its fullness.

Is much of God’s displeasure with sin of his people, threatened judgment in minor prophets… but not where God starts – opening view is of God’s great love set against man’s great need. Progressing thru, see more fully just how hopelessly lost we are apart from God, and God elaborates on how he intends to bring about redemption of his people.

Amos just as applicable to 21st century America as Israel in 8th century before Christ. Obviously, people still have same needs; have same hindrances to full trust in God as well. So who was Amos? what were issues he faced? his message and method of presentation? a few thoughts of application.

A. the prophet

occupation

sheepbreeder/herdsman (1:1)

different word v1 & 2 – nôqêd v.1, râ‛âh v.2 – source of speculation/argument! only used couple times, here and 2 Ki 3:4

common term râ‛âh, the one who feeds and tends the sheep; nôqêd probably closer to herdsman, one who manages flocks, including selective breeding to improve quality of flock

tender of sycamore fruit (7:14)

“Its leaves are heart-shaped, downy on the under side, and fragrant. The fruit grows directly from the trunk itself on little sprigs, and in clusters like the grape. To make it eatable, each fruit, three or four days before gathering, must, it is said, be punctured with a sharp instrument, or the finger-nail. This was the original employment of the prophet, Amos, as he says. Amo 7:14.” Smith

not prophet or seminary trained

untrained as prophet, not unlearned – previously not a prophet by calling or education, was highly skilled in husbandry

also apparent from speaking / writing had keen mind, people smarts, clear understanding of God and his expectations

home town

Tekoa – 10 miles S of Jerusalem, 5 miles from Bethlehem (Judah); area where sycamore figs did not grow – required travel to practice his trade… another indication Amos a breeder/trader/manager type rather than local shepherd

ministry to northern kingdom, Israel, probably concentrated in area of Bethel (7:10), place of worship since time of Abraham… idol-worship (calf) in Amos’ day (1 Ki 12:29)

almost case of Yankee sent to preach to Red Sox – not necessarily received well, even though was Jewish, not Gentile

period

time of Uzziah/Azariah in Judah, Jeroboam in Israel – approx. 760-750 BC – length of ministry not clear… few days or weeks, a year, maybe more

period of great prosperity and guarded peace between Judah and Israel; had great military successes, controlled nearly all territory held by David and Solomon

contemporaries

both Hosea and Isaiah active during Amos’ lifetime – Hosea also ministering to Israel, Isaiah’s focus on Judah

B. the issues

location/accusation:

Damascus Cruelty; Philistia Slave Trade; Tyre Slave agents in spite of Covenant; Edom Determined Unforgiveness; Ammon Cruelty based on Cupidity; Moab Violent and Vindictive Hatred; Judah God’s Laws Despised; Israel Corruption of a Delivered People

but what were root causes – corrupted worship and corrupted values

“Amos’s message of divine judgment is directed at two particular areas: idolatry and social injustice. Idolatry was commonplace in the Israel of Amos’s day (2:8; 5:5, 26; 7: 9– 13; 8:14). The worship of Yahweh had itself become corrupt, a religion content with external and perfunctory fulfillment of sacrificial duty (4: 4– 5; 5: 21– 26) and Sabbath commands (8:5), all the while missing the “weightier matters of the law.” For others the commandments of God were openly defied (2: 7– 8). The material prosperity that had accompanied political and military successes under Jeroboam II had created a powerful and wealthy upper class in Israel (3:12, 15; 6: 4– 6). New levels of leisure time and disposable wealth had brought open vice (2: 7– 8); alcohol abuse had now become a problem even for women (4:1; cf. 2:8). For the wealthy justice could be purchased (5:12), while those less fortunate were reduced to chattel/property (2: 6– 7; 8:6); the poor and needy were crushed by the powerful (2:7; 4:1; 5:11; 8:4).” Longman, Dillard

“The breakdown in traditional values was particularly striking among the wealthiest in the society, who cultivated and enjoyed considerable luxury. While some were losing their land and homes and family, others had both winter and summer houses (3:15), lived in homes of ashlar (hewn stone) masonry (5:11), or enjoyed furnishings decorated with fine ivory work (3:15, 6:4; excavations have produced numerous examples of Samarian ivories). In 6:1–6 there is a graphic description of the sybaritic banquets enjoyed by the elite of the society, with choice meats, wine ( cf. 4:1b), unguents, and music. Amos castigates those who enjoy a life of carefree luxury and remain at the same time oblivious to the violence and oppression on which it is based. Indeed, having lost sight of the right direction for the society (3:9–10), the elite are said to “hoard violence and oppression for themselves” (3:10–11). The core of Amos’ message, then, is that because of these misdeeds, God will destroy this society. The finality and thoroughness of this coming disaster, as well as its inescapability, are a persistent theme.” quoted in Brueggeman

C. the message/method

Reveals the great warfare between God’s redemptive purposes in Christ and the terrible unrighteousness of sin-habituated men. The great symbol for Amos is the roaring lion (Amos 1:2; 3:8). The prophet ten times uses fire to picture God’s redemptive judgment upon unrighteousness (Amos. 1:4, 7, 10, 12, 14; 2:2, 5; 4:11; 5:6; 7:4).” Parker

The book is a masterpiece of satire, and this is the most helpful large label to attach to it. …The book is designed to …subject its readers to a shock treatment in regard to their complicity with evil.” Ryken

example: v.2, “The LORD roars from Zion”; people much more accustomed to “The LORD is my shepherd” – don’t want to hear anything past Hosea’s message: my God is God of love, accepts me like I am (open and affirming)

Observe how Amos first gains his audience by condemning and pronouncing woe upon the surrounding nations in the name of Jehovah. But the fire of his withering denunciations approaches closer and closer, until it finally reaches Ammon, then Moab, then Judah, and then — without the least hesitation — Israel itself!” Hendriksen

can almost see Amos’ audience nodding heads, few knowing smiles, sighs of relief – finally God is doing something about them

were not prepared for them to suddenly become us – could easily recognize faults in others, were reluctant to acknowledge own sinfulness – even got serious push-back from local priest, Amaziah, in Bethel

had found religious system of practice that let them stay in sinful comfort zone – resented shock of Amos’ warning of impending judgment… especially unthinkable if it came from the big God, Yahweh

yet… “God will not judge His Son for sin, then leave unrighteousness to run its course among men.” Parker – Jews needed to understand that, so do we and all rest of humanity

D. the Lord Jesus

Amos presents Christ as the One who will rebuild David’s dynasty (9:11) and as the one who will restore His people (Amos 9:11-15; cf. Acts 15:13-17). Keathley

how do we know that? compare Amos 9:11 with Acts 15:16 in context – James says Gospel going to Gentiles fulfillment of Amos

more on that when we get there, but… keep Christ in mind as we study OT – prophets had Jesus in their sights, so should we… because God does – Eph. 1:10 his “a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.”

E. a few thoughts of application

relevance of warning to present culture

consider again: “commandments of God were openly defied; material prosperity created a powerful and wealthy upper class; leisure time and disposable wealth had brought open vice; alcohol and drug abuse now a problem even for women and young; justice could be purchased, the poor and needy made dependent by the powerful” Longman/Dillard lightly edited

no question of relevance; perhaps only question – why has God waited so long, how much longer will he tarry?

example of Amos – career change – Amos 7:15

Amos doing his thing, minding own business, traveling the countryside and observing state of affairs around him

without warning, apparently without desire on his part “the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ Now therefore, hear the word of the LORD:”

see what happened there? God called, Amos answered even though probably had plenty of excuses could have used

instead, Amos obeyed God, did hard and dangerous thing – in process left legacy that is still profiting people of God 2700 years later

argument from silence but… probably went back to sheep/figs when prophetic assignment finished, served faithfully there

As we continue through Amos: may God help us change what needs to so are more faithful/obedient to him; may we live so as to be available for God’s use, working diligently in whatever vocation God has assigned us.

 

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