Amos 6:1-8 ESV
“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria, the notable men of the first of the nations, to whom the house of Israel comes! 2 Pass over to Calneh, and see, and from there go to Hamath the great; then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are you better than these kingdoms? Or is their territory greater than your territory, 3 O you who put far away the day of disaster and bring near the seat of violence? 4 “Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall, 5 who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp and like David invent for themselves instruments of music, 6 who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! 7 Therefore they shall now be the first of those who go into exile, and the revelry of those who stretch themselves out shall pass away.” 8 The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts: “I abhor the pride of Jacob and hate his strongholds, and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.”
One of the functions of the prophets is to help the people see how they actually look to God. It is so easy for us to compare ourselves to others. We tend to defend our actions, while at the same time we might criticize others who are doing the same things. We also tend to defend our inaction – our lack of activity. We go on, business as usual until some catastrophe happens – and hopefully God can use it to get our attention. In Amos’ day, Israel had been hit by an earthquake. Amos tried to get his audience to see that even worse things were yet to come.
Amos prophesied during the reigns of king Uzziah of Judah and king Jeroboam II of Israel. That dates his ministry between 767-753 B.C.
Amos had been a shepherd and he also tended an orchard in the Southern kingdom. At some point in his life, he was called into the prophetic ministry, and sent to the Northern kingdom. His first prophecies were about the doom of the nations that surrounded Israel, so he was probably well received for a while. But as his message started hitting closer to home, he was probably not too well received. He probably saw the people of God as stray sheep that needed to be brought back because they were in danger of being destroyed.
Amos was sent to Israel and found it to be prosperous and hypocritical. Jeroboam I had replaced all the priests and Levites since they had loyalty to Judah. The religion he set up was for show only. The people had grown complacent, and believed that they were immune to disaster because the LORD was on their side.
His message was also a warning to Judah as well, because they were guilty of the same attitudes.
In verse 1 of today’s text, Amos mentions two mountains: Zion, which represents the kingdom of Judah, and the Mountain of Samaria – which is Mount Gerazim, and it represents the kingdom of Israel. Amos pronounces a prophetic Woe upon the mountains. It is a way of saying that these two lofty high places are going to fall. Other nations are going to invade, destroy, and plunder the lands and kill and enslave the people.
Amos knows that the people of Israel are saying, “God would never bring disaster on us … We are his people.” What they mean is, “We have it under control. Nobody is going to challenge us.”
In verse 2, Amos mentions Calneh, Hamath and Gath. These were three stronghold cities of the surrounding nations. They trusted in their fortifications. Amos is reminding Israel and Judah that when God judges, no human strength can protect from it.
Amos says that the people are “at ease.” They “feel secure.” They are lying on their ornate ivory beds, and stretching themselves out on couches. Judgment is coming when there will be no rest.
They are eating lambs and calves and drinking wine in bowls when judgment is coming and there will be no food or drink.
They are singing and making music and inventing musical instruments (entertaining themselves) when they should be mourning over their coming ruin.
Can I ask you to do something? Would you stop what you are doing sometime today, and in the privacy of your own heart can you ask yourself these questions?
1.How different am I from my non-Christian neighbours?
2.Where am I placing my trust?
3.Do I spend more time pleasing myself than seeking God?
LORD, give us a heart like the heart of Amos. Help us to see what other people do not see. Make us different from the nations around us. Help us to put our trust in you, and not in ourselves. Help us to spend our time seeking you instead of entertaining ourselves.