I am a Herdsman

Amos

“Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation, O house of Israel” (Amos 5:1).

Michael Costelli

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Amos was a prophet of God. He is usually termed a Minor Prophet, referring to the number of words penned and not the importance of his message. He was a contemporary of the prophets Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, and Jonah. He was active around 760- 755 BC during the reign of Jeroboam II.1 His death is listed as 745 BC.

Amos means “burdensome,” or “to impose a burden” (Strong’s H5986, 6006). Amos’ burden was to warn of God’s coming judgment. Amos was just a herdsman when “the LORD took me from following the flock and the LORD said to me, ‘Go prophesy to My people Israel’ ” (Amos 7:14,15 NASB). Amos was unique in that he promoted Jehovah as a God of all people, not just of Israel. He conveyed God’s special judgment of Israel’s Gentile neighbors in chapters one and two. Their sins did not escape God’s attention, who instructed Amos to prophesy against them. After this, Amos’ attention turned toward Israel’s shortcomings because “unto them were committed the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2).

Background

Amos came from Tekoa, a village in the Judean hills about six miles south of Bethlehem. He was a sheep farmer and tended fig trees (Amos 7:14). God had sent him north to minister to Israel. Although Amos had little formal training, he had great oratorical skills. Not much is known about the life of Amos or his family. We do not know how long he lived, but we do know his message dealt with the idolatry and sins of the ten tribe kingdom of Israel. In Amos 3:14, the prophet said that God would visit Bethel and cause the horns of the altars, used to worship the golden calf, to be cut off, symbolizing the end of their misdirected worship.

At that time, Jeroboam II was king of Israel (782-773 BC) and Uzziah was king of Judah (767-740 BC).2 Jeroboam had expanded the border of Israel to those of the days of King Solomon and was proud of his success in the expansion. “Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength?” (Amos 6:13). This expansion enabled Israel to control the trade routes leading the nation to become rich and lifted up. This time of peace and prosperity led to Israel’s greatest sins of idolatry, social injustice, and moral decay. The prophet addressed this condition in verse 14, saying “But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, saith the LORD the God of hosts; and they shall afflict you from the entering in of Hemath unto the river of the wilderness.”

Amos received his vision of instruction from God “two years before the earthquake” (Amos 1:1). This expression is believed by some Bible scholars to have been inserted by Ezra and the compilers of the Jewish Canon.3 The earthquake mentioned is believed to have occurred about 760 BC. It is the same one mentioned in Zechariah 14:5 where the prophetic message warns Israel that God will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle.

Overview of the Book of Amos4

“The book of Amos may be divided into three main parts. The first two chapters deal with the Lord’s punishment of the nations. He starts with the neighboring states of Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon and Moab. Their crimes are those of war and violence. The prophet then moves closer to home. The people Amos I am a Herdsman “Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation, O house of Israel” (Amos 5:1).

 __________
(1) Wikipedia, “Amos.”
(2) http://craigtowens.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/ kings of Israel-Judah2.ing
(3) Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary
(4) “Who’s Who in the Old Testament, pages 52, 53, Joan Comay, 1971.

of the south, Judah, will be punished ‘because they have rejected the law of the Lord, and have not kept his statutes’ (Amos 2:4 NASB). Finally comes the turn of the citizens of Israel to whom he is speaking. Here Amos’s wrath rises to a climax and the catalogue of their sins becomes specific and vivid. They are profane, immoral and above all callous and inhuman towards their fellow-men, ‘they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes’ (Amos 2:6). “

The next three chapters are warning sermons, each starting with the phrase ‘Hear this word.’ In the remaining chapters, the threats of judgment are built around concrete symbols: the devouring grasshoppers, the consuming fire, the builder’s plumb line, the basket of summer fruit and the smitten sanctuary. “In the last few verses of the Book, Amos holds out the hope of a new beginning after the destructions he has prophesied. ‘Behold the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground; except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,’ says the Lord’ (Amos 9:8). In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old’ (Amos 9:11).”

Warnings of Amos Amos’ message included admonitions against sinful behavior, warnings of coming judgments and hopeful, prophetic utterances. He showed a heart for the oppressed and voiceless (Amos 5:9-11). Other prophets interspersed redemption and restoration themes in their messages. However, Amos uses only the final five verses for such consolation. He holds out hope that the “spoiled” or the weak will come against the “strong” powers that oppress them, which appears to be an end-time prophecy which Pastor Russell details in Reprint 3425:

“The appropriating of the advantages of our day, while legally done, under laws that at one time were equitable, is bound apparently to work a great hardship — putting the power and financial control of the world in the hands of comparatively a few. True, those few giants are as yet very moderate in their requirements and dealings, some of them even generous; but the Scriptures seem to clearly imply that it will not be very long until their power, willingly or unwillingly, will be so exercised as to bring great distress upon the mass of humanity, grinding them as between two millstones. From this standpoint the Prophet’s words might well be appropriated by Christendom; but we may be sure that those in power and position are not disposed to hearken to Amos or to anyone else, and hence we must expect what the Scriptures everywhere point out, that the overthrow of Christendom will come suddenly, in a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation; and that in this conflict the Lord, who made Pleiades and Orion, will be He that will strengthen the spoiled against the strong, so that the spoiled ones shall rise against the strong ones in anarchy — verse 9.

“The close of Amos’ prophecy tells of the recovery of Israel and the blessing of the Lord that will be upon all mankind, including the Gentiles, at that time. It is this prophecy that the Apostle James quoted in the Council at Jerusalem, saying, ‘After this I will return and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up; that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things’ (Acts 15:16,17). We are living at the time when this prophecy is about to be fulfilled. The recovery of natural Israel is about to take place under the reestablishment of God’s Kingdom in the world — the one that was once typically represented in King David, but which is to be actually established in the greater David — the ‘Beloved One.’ Under that Kingdom, reestablished under more favorable conditions by a heavenly Kingdom, the residue of men will be given an opportunity to seek the Lord, for the knowledge of the Lord shall fill the whole earth.”

Israel’s Shortcomings

There were many activities in Israel for Amos to rail against. He cited flagrant violations of social and legal stipulations in the Law of Moses. Israel’s judges accepted bribes (Amos 2:6-8) to condemn righteous people, violating Deuteronomy 16:19: “Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.” In verse 7, Amos upbraids them for a man and his father having the same maid, possibly a prostitute in the idol’s temple worship. The more serious offense stated is that they deliberately “profane My holy Name.”

Israel’s mistreatment of the poor and needy is listed in Amos 4:1: “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.’ ” He uses “kine” to liken Israel to cows, fatted and wanton, common in the mountains of Samaria. These celebrate their actions over wine, making them as intoxicated in the flesh as they were in their hearts and minds. God’s warning to them comes in verse 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.” This predication came to pass when God allowed Israel to be subsequently taken captive by the Assyrians.

Amos characterized Israel’s legal system as “wormwood!” “Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth” (Amos 5:7). As justice is sweet, injustice is bitter, like the bitterness of wormwood. Israel had literally cast “righteousness” to the ground, much as Daniel would later prophesy that Papacy would “cast down the truth to the ground” (Daniel 8:12).

Amos counsels Israel to seek God. “Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name: That strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong, so that the spoiled shall come against the fortress” (Amos 5: 8,9). But Israel would not change. Instead, they hated him “that rebuketh in the gate … and … speaketh uprightly” (verse 10).

In chapter five, Amos hearkens back to the title of “virgin” for Israel and cites her former national glory. But, alas, she had fallen. “She shall no more rise” (as a separate ten tribe kingdom) is the future predicted for Israel. However, we are given hope for her future rise in the Messianic Kingdom described in Amos 9:11.

Israel is beseeched by the Lord to seek Him and live as a result of obedience. God describes Himself as the creator of the constellations Pleiades (harmony) and Orion (victor) to define His rank and glory. Doubtless, as a shepherd, these constellations were commonly viewed by Amos on clear nights (Psalm 19:1).

Israel is upbraided for taxing the poor while the elite lived in luxury. Neglect of the poor was a common failing of Israel. Injustice in their daily dealing with tribesmen was obvious to God and He tells them to “Seek good, not evil, that you may live … Hate evil, love good, maintain justice in the courts” (Amos 5:14,15 NIV). In chapter 5, the Day of the Lord becomes the topic of discussion in verse 18. A rhetorical question is posed to Israel: “Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you?” God declares it to be a day of “darkness, and not light.” What would prompt such a question? Did Israel look forward to a day of victory over all their enemies or did they look at the precious promises as a pipe dream? Regardless of their perspective, Jehovah states that the Day of the Lord will be calamitous to them. This must have come as a shock to them, revealing their misunderstanding of the Day of the Lord. Perhaps this was also provided by Amos to inform spiritual Israel of the end times in which we live.

God takes Israel to task over their spiritual hypocrisy. He strongly disavows their practice of the religious procedures specified in the Law Covenant in verses 21 to 23: “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols [harps].” The Israelites were only going through the motions of worship without a corresponding conversion of their hearts and minds in service to the Lord.

Prominent Scriptures

Amos 3:2. Certain proclamations in Amos’ message stand out. “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities” (Amos 3:2). Referring to all 12 tribes, God warns that His intimate knowledge of Israel separates them for special disciplinary action. The Hebrew verb yada (Strong’s H3045), translated as “known,” is the same word used to describe God’s knowledge of the Prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5) while he was yet in his mother’s womb. As followers of the Lamb, we can take heart in these proclamations of God while looking back over our lives and realize how His hand has guided us to consecration and through the work of sanctification.

Amos 3:7 says, “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” This precept was illustrated in God’s dealings with Abraham (Genesis 18:17), David (Psalm 25:14), and Jesus’ apostles and disciples (John 15:15 and John 17:25,26). These verses illustrate how God desires for us to know the truth and coming prophetic events for our edification. Although God has always forewarned civilizations about impending judgments, He has reserved His “secret” for those closest to Him through their willing obedience and service.

“Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-28). Amen!

Categories: 2017 Issues, 2017-May/June

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