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Two weeks ago we began a brief look at the area of social justice from a Christian perspective. The instruction from God’s word is clear as stated in Psalm 11:7, “For the Lord is righteous, He loves justice; upright men will see His face.” Its a principle that God puts much importance on and it is seen distinctly in the book of Amos. 


Amos was known as the country prophet. By profession he was a shepherd, a herdsman and a cultivator of sycamore figs. Today we would have called him a farmer! John T. Willis said this about him, "These occupations made it necessary for Amos to do a large amount of traveling to the wool and cattle markets of Israel and Judah. In this way, he learned firsthand the military, social, and economic conditions and practices of rich and poor alike." Amos was not a "professional" prophet, but a common man utilized by the Lord to deliver His Word to His people. "I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet ... but the Lord took me from following the flock and the Lord said to me, 'Go prophesy to My people Israel.' And now hear the Word of the Lord!" (Amos 7:14-16). He had no special training. He was not a graduate of the School of the Prophets (variously referred to as "bands" -- I Samuel 10:5, 10, and "companies" -- I Samuel 19:20, and "sons of the prophets" -- I Kings 20:35), nor was he descended from or related to any prophets. He was not even a citizen of Israel (the northern kingdom), but rather of Judah (the southern kingdom). Nevertheless, God sent him to Israel to proclaim the Word to the people of the northern kingdom. He was not a man of wealth, yet was sent to warn the wealthy; not a man of luxury, or one who was lazy, yet sent to those who were both. All of this was designed to separate the MAN from the MESSAGE. There was to be nothing about this man which would attract a personal following. It was the message God desired the people to focus upon, not the messenger! He also was the first of the eighth century writing prophets and voiced his messages from God during the reign of Jeroboam II and King Uzziah. The second Jeroboam had successfully restored Israel’s frontiers similarly to how it was during the reigns of David and Solomon. Peace had brought prosperity and prosperity luxury. There was also a religious boom, as the local sanctuaries were crowded with worshipers. 

But alongside these externals, the nation suffered from a profound social and moral decay. In every sphere of society Amos saw evils that needed to be exposed. In the law, court magistrates trampled on the face of the poor for justice had to be bought with bribes as seen in Amos 5:12. In the marketplace, merchants were guilty of “skimping the measure” and “boosting the price” in chapter 8:5. In upper class mansions, the wealthy were indulging in luxurious living, eating and drinking, while ignoring the plight of the poor as seen in chapter 4:1 and 6:4-6. In the sanctuaries, worshipers were longing for the festivals to be over so they could get back to their buying and selling as seen once again in chapter 8:5.  

One may perhaps single out in Amos’ teaching one particular distinctive. Amos insisted that privilege brings responsibility not immunity to the judgment of God. This is well illustrated in the opening two chapters of Amos’s prophecy. He warned of God’s judgment on the six surrounding nations - Syria, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab. One can easily imagine the growing enthusiasm of the crowd. But suddenly Amos added God’s coming judgment on Judah and Israel too. True, they were God’s chosen and covenant people, but this would bring punishment, not immunity to it. It is a solemn warning to us too. As they forgot the goodness of God in bringing peace and prosperity it is eerily similar to our world today. Justice is cast aside for profit and the poor and oppressed lose out. Just ask a relative of someone who lost an innocent victim in the Haitian earthquake of this year because of greed and disregard for proper building codes. May we all learn something from this ancient Hebrew farmer called Amos.

By: David Jones