The first six oracles of Amos are succinct indictments of the pagan nations that surround Israel. One by one, Amos systematically articulates the specific sin of each nation and the resulting judgment for their national sins. We can be sure that God has, does, and will judge nations for their dreadful offenses against mankind created in His image.
But then, without batting an eye, Amos turns his indictment quickly past Judah and right to the hub of his prophecy, the nation of Israel. It has been suggested by some that Amos was just using the preliminary oracles against the nations to catch his true audience off guard – to catch Israel cheering on the judgment of their enemies before revealing to them that the very same sins exist in their nation. In much the same way as the prophet Nathan did to David, Amos is exposing the sin of the nations so that he could turn the finger to Israel and say, “You are the man.”
If the Syrians, Philistines, Phoenicians, Edomites, Ammonites and Moabites were guilty of treating people like things to use and then dispose of, objects to treat with contempt unless they had some economic benefit, then that is also precisely what the wealthy Israelites were doing. Had the Ammonite commander been interviewed by a reporter concerning the brutality of his tactics, he would have said something like, “This is war. In war you hit the enemy with everything you’ve got and in as many ways as you can. War is brutal business.” But then that was the same kind of argument the Israelite merchants would have made concerning their treatment of the poor and unfortunate. “Its business; we’re not running a charity here. Our competitors aren’t going to increase their salaries and cut costs for the sake of the poor. And, by the way, what’s good for the Ford Chariot Company is good for Israel.” That is the way people think, but it is not the way God thinks!
While it is true that the sins of these nations were outward sins of a cruel nature, they nevertheless stem from inward sins that every man has committed. Like the nations, God sees our using of other people for gain, our broken promises, our long-term bitterness against family members. He sees our ambition, our lurking memories of hatred. He most often brings this sin to light in human relationships. So we should examine our own human relationships with husband, wife, father, mother, daughter or son – with friends, and co-workers, to find those similar sins which displease our Father.
Realize thought that the heart’s ability to deceive is legendary (Jer 17:9) – so much so that honestly assessing our motivations, emotions, and deeply held convictions can be difficult. We are unknowingly affected by influences of a godless culture. The very sins that Amos will expose in Israel we find in our own hearts and in the life of even faithful churches and Christians. They may not be the hardened sins of an unrepentant and faithless people, but they are the same sins nevertheless. The two most important things you can do are: 1) pursue by the grace of God a lifelong task of transforming your mind from conforming to secular culture on all matters, and 2) insulate yourself from the false security of the quasi-Christian subculture. The way to ensure that we do not come to take those sins which God hates lightly or to allow ourselves to indulge them is to hear, over and over again, what God thinks of those sins and what he does to those who commit them and do not repent and forsake them. The warning for our generation is clear: let no one think himself exempt from obedience and reverence to God.
Listen to this message: