Perhaps the most important aspect of biblical interpretation is understanding what the message meant to its original audience and how that translates to life today. The following is an excerpt from the Lutheran Bible Companion, which assists readers in identifying the original meaning and the application of Amos.
What It Meant
Amos Chapters 1–2
Amos denounces the nations surrounding Judah and Israel and threatens them with fiery judgment and political defeat. Like its unbelieving neighbors, Judah is guilty of listening to false prophets and worshiping in ways unbecoming the one true God. Likewise, Amos accuses Israel of breaking virtually every part of the covenant. The people worship other gods, withhold justice from the innocent, and shamefully exploit the poor and vulnerable.
Amos Chapters 3–6
Because Israel has completely abandoned the covenant—through worshiping idols, perpetrating injustice, and showing indifference to the poor—the Lord threatens to allow an invading enemy to wreak havoc on the land. The prophecy intersperses vivid descriptions of divine judgment with the divine lament “yet you did not return to Me.” The Lord sings a funeral dirge over impenitent Israel, for He is soon to come in judgment against the nation for abandoning the
covenant. The people of Israel are living under the delusion that their prosperity is a sign of God’s approval and that their perfunctory offering of sacrifices is keeping the Lord satisfied, even though they act unjustly and honor
other gods. God’s first expectation has ever been and will always be “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).
Amos Chapters 7–9
By means of symbolic visions involving locusts, fire, and a plumb line, the Lord warns His people that He will punish their apostasy. However, these threatening visions, Amos’s repeated intercessions on behalf of the people, and God’s forbearance did not drive them to repentance. Amaziah the priest rebukes Amos and orders him out of Israel. The prophet responds by uttering some of his most chilling words of judgment. Amos does so with good reason for, on top of all their other sins, the people of Israel have now dared to openly despise the
prophetic word even as it is being spoken to them. His next vision, the basket of summer fruit, points again to the Lord’s judgment that will soon cut down the people of Israel for their idolatrous worship, their greed, and their callous mistreatment of their brethren. In his fifth and final vision report, Amos makes two main points:
- Because Israel has abandoned the covenant, it has forfeited its claim to a privileged status before God. Thus the nation will be destroyed, leaving only a tiny remnant.
- Yet the Lord provides a means of escape. Amos’s prophecy unexpectedly ends with a word of hope. A day of rich blessing is coming, for the Lord will fulfill His covenant promises, bring about restoration, and establish the eternal kingdom of His Messiah
What It Means
Amos Chapters 1–5
Through the prophet Amos, the Lord roars for justice among the nations. Seeing those around us condemned might tempt us to be smug, though it ought to show us that unless we repent and do what is right, the same fate can befall us. Vices destroy our communities today, despite the great blessings we have enjoyed from God’s hand. God calls His Church today to repentance precisely because He wishes to avert the shame and sorrow that will inevitably result when we take the way of selfishness and greed.
He daily calls us to receive anew the forgiveness Christ won for us. Amos teaches us that grace and faith are the true basis for worship and a right relationship to the Lord. His invitation ever stands: “Come to Me, all who labor
and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Amos Chapters 6–9
As happened in Judah and Israel, people today interpret material prosperity as a sign that they need not humble themselves and turn away from complacency. They are just as slow to heed God’s Word and are equally intractable in their bad behavior. This scenario reminds us just how dangerous it is to ignore God’s Word and to defy those sent to call us to repentance. Though guilty ourselves of similar failings, we take comfort in Christ’s loyalty and unbounded forgiveness. His death has paid the debt of our rebellion, and His resurrection assures us that even as He lives, so also shall we. Treasure the Word! As the conclusion to Amos shows, our God is gracious and continually stands ready to receive the repentant heart and lift it up with His Word of forgiveness and peace in Jesus, great David’s greater Son.
Read more in the Concordia Commentary on Amos.
Blog post adapted from Lutheran Bible Companion, Volume 1: Introduction and Old Testament, pp. 886–88, copyright © 2014 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.