Hear this word, Israel, this lament I take up concerning you (Amos 5:1 NIV).
This section is the start of the third proclamation. We need to remember that Israel (the northern kingdom) was at the height of its power when Amos prophesied these words. It would be like proclaiming that the USA was about to be overthrown. Who would listen to that message? “You’re being ridiculous,” or “you’re an alarmist”. But Amos was saying that Israel was already dead. This is a lament. Amos is telling dead Israel to listen to the poem he is reading at her funeral.
A more practical matter for us is this: Do we want to hear the word of the Lord? This should be one reason for attending public worship. We should be listening so that we can live closer to the Lord.
Amos prophesied by weeping over Israel’s destruction (5:1-3, 16-17). It is a lament. What were they to grieve about?
They should weep about the sad condition of Israel. She was a fallen virgin (5:1). Before Amos’ time, the people were unsubdued; they were beautiful and separated to God. However, all is changed. God had deserted her. Her true and faithful husband had departed from her. God had withdrawn. It may be that the picture is like the one in Jeremiah 9:22. Say, “This is what the Lord declares: ‘Dead bodies will lie like dung on the open field, like cut grain behind the reaper,with no one to gather them’” (NIV). So this is a picture of utter rejection.
They should weep because there was no one to help Israel (5:2b). This is in remarkable contrast to Psalm 18:2-3. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock where I seek refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I was saved from my enemies (CSB). Israel stood deserted.
As Francis Schaeffer used to say, “If you understand, weep.” The great glory of God’s people is the presence of God to bless and sustain them; otherwise, we are nothing, because God’s people are the weak and foolish and despised of the world (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). Without our helper, where are we?
They should weep because of the degree of destruction—ninety percent casualties (5:3). As horrible as Covid-19 has been so far, its ruin doesn’t approach this in any evaluation. Destruction is a recurring theme throughout this passage. On your own, contrast Deuteronomy 28:7; 32:28-30 and the conquest of Canaan, and then compare Deuteronomy 28:25-29. Israel had come under the curses of the law covenant.
They should weep because the Lord had come to judge (5:16-17). Notice that the whole community of Israel is involved: in all the streets… in every public square… in all the vineyards. The language is the same as in Exodus 12:12. God was about to pass through their midst in judgment, but this time it would not be Egypt but Israel under his wrath. Let us listen to what Jesus says to his church. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent (Revelation 2:5 CSB).
Grace and peace,