Amos begins with a humble description of himself - "one of the sheep farmers" (Amos 1:1). Being a prophet of God has nothing to do with what we are in ourselves. It's all about God. It's all about His grace and His call. Looking after sheep - This is such an apt description of the ministry of a pastor. "The Lord roars from Zion" (Amos 1:2). These words make us think of a lion. This could be terrifying for sheep. Think of the lion - Aslan - from "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (C S Lewis). It's a picture of Christ. His voice is more than a roar. It's the voice of love. The "roar" speaks of authority. The greatest authority is the authority of love. How does the Lord command our respect? He loves us. As we learn to appreciate His love, we learn to love Him. Our love for Him is inspired by His love for us. As we learn to love Him, our obedience to Him increases in strength. "The Lord has said this" (Amos 1:15). The prophet's voice is to be an echo of the Lord's voice. We speak because God has spoken.
"I brought you out of Egypt..." (Amos 2:10-11). God had done great things for His people. Sadly, this is followed by "You made the Nazirites drink wine. You commanded the prophets to stop prophesying." God has been good to us. How are we reacting to His love? Are we being changed by His love? His love is not only a gift to be received. It's a power to make us more like Him.
Privilege and responsibility (Amos 3:2). "The Almighty Lord has spoken. Who can keep from prophesying?" (Amos 3:8). God's Word is not to go in one ear and out the other ear. It's to change us. It's to equip us for living as His people and being His witnesses.
"And still you didn't return to Me, declares the Lord" (Amos 4:8-11). What does God say to people who keep on refusing to return to Him? This is what He says: "Prepare to meet your God" (Amos 4:12).
"Search for Me and live! ... Search for Me and live!" (Amos 5:4,6). Life can be tuned around. This isn't something that we can do for ourselves. It must done for us by the Lord. "Search for good instead of evil so that you may live" (Amos 5:14). The Lord gives us a new direction in life. When we read of the call to conversion, we must remember that we cannot answer this call in our own strength. The strength that we need must be given to us by the Lord.
"How horrible it will be ... " (Amos 6:1,3-6,13) - This is a prophecy concerning God's judgment. Such words need to be heard, if people are to be turned back into walking in the ways of the Lord. If we don't hear of God's judgment, we are likely to keep on walking in our own ways. There needs to be "an alarm to the unconverted" (Joseph Alleine). There needs to be an alarm to the converted. The danger of remaining apathetic and unconverted is not the only danger. There is also the danger that, after being converted, we become apathetic and backslidden. God is calling us to turn to Him. He's calling us to keep on being turned towards Him.
"Almighty Lord, please forgive us!" (Amos 7:2) - This is the prayer that the Lord is waiting to hear and answer. "Almighty Lord, please stop!" (Amos 7:5) - This is a prayer for God's mercy. We come to Him, deeply aware of our sin and His judgment. We cry to Him for mercy. Why should He have mercy on us? From our point of view, there is no answer to this question. From His point of view, there is an answer - the Cross. Upon Christ, there is our sin and God's judgment. To us, there is mercy and grace. There are people who do not want to hear the Word of the Lord. They say, "Don't ever prophesy again in Bethel" (Amos 7:13). Why did they tell the prophet to "run away to Judah! ... and prophesy there" (Amos 7:12). The reason is this - "This is the king's holy place and the king's palace" (Amos 7:12). Holy? - What is holy about a place when its people send away the prophet of God, and tell him to preach the Word of God somewhere else? If a place is really holy and the people are really holy, there would be a real desire to hear what the Lord has to say to us. What did Amos say about this? This is what he said - It was the Lord who said to me, "Prophesy to My people, Israel" (Amos 7:15). The Lord says, "Speak." The world says, for the Word of the Lord "Stop speaking to us." A true prophet will speak the Word of the Lord.
"The days are going to come, declares the Almighty Lord, when I will send a famine throughout the land. It won't be an ordinary famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will wander from sea to sea, and roam from the north to the east, searching for the Word of the Lord, but thy won't find it" (Amos 8:11-12). There's a real sadness in these words. People are looking, and they're not finding. They know they're looking for something, but they don't know what it is. It is the Word of the Lord. May God help us to continue speaking the Word of the Lord and looking to Him to send the blessing.
"I will restore and rebuild My people, Israel, as they were a long time ago" (Amos 9:11,14). This is not about good times and bad times. Sometimes, we have good times. Sometimes, we have bad times. This is about the blessing of God, which comes to us from the faithfulness of God. We must never forget the Lord. Real blessing comes from Him. God-given blessing is more than things turning out all right for us. It's having a real sense that the Lord is with us, that He's showing us how much He loves us, that He's leading us into a closer walk with Himself, and that He's leading us to give all the glory to Him.