The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of King Uzziah of Judah and in the days of King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel, two years before the earthquake. Judgment on Israel’s Neighbors
And he said: The Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds wither, and the top of Carmel dries up. Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they have threshed Gilead with threshing sledges of iron. So I will send a fire on the house of Hazael, and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad. I will break the gate bars of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitants from the Valley of Aven, and the one who holds the scepter from Beth-eden; and the people of Aram shall go into exile to Kir, says the Lord. Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they carried into exile entire communities, to hand them over to Edom. So I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, fire that shall devour its strongholds. I will cut off the inhabitants from Ashdod, and the one who holds the scepter from Ashkelon; I will turn my hand against Ekron, and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, says the Lord God. Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Tyre, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they delivered entire communities over to Edom, and did not remember the covenant of kinship. So I will send a fire on the wall of Tyre, fire that shall devour its strongholds. Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because he pursued his brother with the sword and cast off all pity; he maintained his anger perpetually, and kept his wrath[g] forever. So I will send a fire on Teman, and it shall devour the strongholds of Bozrah. Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of the Ammonites, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they have ripped open pregnant women in Gilead in order to enlarge their territory. So I will kindle a fire against the wall of Rabbah, fire that shall devour its strongholds, with shouting on the day of battle, with a storm on the day of the whirlwind; then their king shall go into exile, he and his officials together, says the Lord.
Amos comes with a message which reverberates from his days – around 755 BC – till now. The date can be fixed because there is archeological evidence in Galilee of an earthquake from Amos’ time. The stunning nature of Amos’ calling and the explosive force of God’s message through him are like the reverberating roar of a lion.
Amos’ background is that of being a tough keeper of sheep and sycamore trees in Tekoa, a small town about six miles north of Jerusalem. He comes from the southern kingdom (normally called Judah) and prophecies to the northern kingdom (normally called Israel). The reason why this is important and why Amos is an unusual prophet is that he prophesies outside his home country. He crosses borders! Amos is the only one of the written prophets to have done this; all the others prophecy to their compatriots.
“The Lord roars from Zion”. Amos utters what he sees like a lion’s sudden roar. In the prophetic judgment speeches Amos talks about the different people, not to them. He criticizes both Israel’s neighbouring nations and then follows with judgments against Judah and Israel. Amos listens and then delivers difficult messages.
Pilgrims today come back from Israel/Palestine with challenging messages. Visiting Embrace the Middle East projects we were asked to do 4 things –to say thank you for coming, to tell stories, to pray for the projects and to encourage others to visit.
Loving God we give thanks for Amos and for all people of faith who had the courage to travel beyond their home territory to deliver disturbing and difficult messages. May we be still during this season of Advent and listen as today’s prophets challenge us to go beyond comfort zones and to walk forward. Amen
The Rev’d Mary Taylor is the minister of Selkirk URC in the Synod of Scotland and Crookham URC in the Northern Synod.