After announcing a general warning against Israel in chapter 1, verse 2, Amos’ turns to announce the first six prophetic oracles against the Gentile nations that surround Israel. Like a whirlwind or a cyclone, Amos accuses one nation after the next until by chapter 2 his indictment zeroes in on Judah and Israel, which is in the ‘eye of the storm’ of his prophecy.
There are a number of important theological doctrines contained in these opening paragraphs of the prophecy of Amos to the nations. Not the least of which is monotheism (the Lord is One). Of course this idea is hated and even mocked in a world that embraces the many ways which are supposed to lead to heaven. But Scripture announces most vigorously, that there is but one living and true God and that all peoples are subject to Him and will stand before His righteous judgment throne. God is sovereign over all, including the heathen nations, even calling for their worship (Ps 100:1, 117:1). Further, Amos teaches the equal depravity of all men, lumping the nations and the people of God together under sin and guilt before this holy God in very much in the same way as Paul does in the first three chapters of his epistle to the Romans, coming to the conclusion that, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Further still, Amos announces that the sins of these nations are sins for which they should know themselves guilty. So we have here a study in doctrine of conscience. The Bible makes it clear that the moral law of God is written on the heart of every man, so he knows, at least in general, the obligation he bears to God and to his fellow man (see Rom. 2:11-16). Paul even says that though the people of the world know God’s righteous judgments and know that those who rebel against them deserve punishment, they nevertheless continue to transgress (Rom. 1:19-32).
But why should the Christian pay attention to the transgression of the world? After all, should we not expect the pagan to act like a pagan? Why should we spend any of our Lord’s Days buried in Amos’ relentless exposure of the sins of the unrepentant heathen? Would it not be better for us to consider happier themes? After all, we have confessed our sin and been granted forgiveness through Jesus Christ. As important as it is for Christians to move on from their sin and to live out their forgiveness, the Bible spends much of its time and space indicating that God is concerned with the welfare of nations. Psa 145:9 reminds us that the Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. In this age of individualism, we too often narrowly think of Christianity as it relates to personal faith, piety and ethics, but Amos reveals that God has genuine care that nations not commit atrocities, not persecute God’s people, not break treaties, and not even desecrate the bones of a heathen king. Men are created in the image of God, and although that image is defaced, it nevertheless exists after the fall. And on the basis of this, Christians must take care to love our neighbor as ourselves, by taking a genuine interest in and action against national atrocities against man, as he is created in the image of God. It is the church’s prophetic task to declare the mind of God as revealed in Scripture on social, national, and international issues. This is not a ‘social gospel,’ but rather the social and ethical fruit of the gospel.
Think about what social issues afford the church its greatest challenge in our day; find God’s outlook on the matter from Scripture; and consider how you can be practical ‘salt and light’ in working to support a people for whom God is concerned and how you might stir up others to do the same.
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