The words of Amos, who was among the herdsmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah…
The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa. In the little village of Tekoa, six miles south of Bethlehem, the young peasant Amos lived. He was a lad of humble birth and lowly occupation. Sometimes be trimmed the sycamore trees, and sometimes drove the cattle to and from their pasture. But he heard the voice of God everywhere, and saw his works in all the scenes around him; for he was devout, and feared the Lord exceedingly. Although he lived in Judah, his heart was stirred with the thought of the sins committed in the neighbouring kingdom of Israel, and of the judgments which would ultimately ensue. It was a time when Israel had every sign of prosperity. The warlike Jeroboam II. was on the throne, and his frequent victories gave his kingdom power, wealth, and security greater than it had before, or would ever have again. Amos, however, as a true "seer," saw under the surface of society. He was not to be diverted from sins and woes at home by dashing enterprises abroad. He knew that the poor were oppressed, that other classes were sinking into luxurious effeminacy, that the worship of Jehovah was ignored; and these and other evils he rightly traced to the idolatry which had its seat in Bethel Inspired by God to denounce these sins, he visited the towns and villages of Israel, everywhere delivering his message, until he came to Bethel itself, and boldly denounced idolatry in its chosen seat. He was expelled the kingdom by force, in obedience to the order of Jeroboam, who was instigated by Amaziah the high priest. But (as Church history has often shown) the attempt to silence a voice from God made its echoes reverberate through all the ages. Secluded in his little native village, Amos recorded the words which God had given him as a message to his contemporaries, and hence they have come down to us for our instruction. The history of the man and the style of his teaching in themselves teach us important lessons. We are reminded first -
I. THAT GOD OFTEN CHOOSES HIS SERVANTS FROM AMONGST MEN OF LOW ESTATE. We often quote the words (1 Corinthians 1:27, 28), "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen." But we glide over the surface of that assurance without noting, as we should do, its deep significance and profound truth. As a matter of history, however, it is true that the world is most indebted, not to its kings, but to its shepherds, fishermen, and tentmakers. In the stress of poverty and toil, not in the indulgences of luxury, the noblest characters have been formed. It is what a man is, and not what a man lugs, that fits him for the service of God. The Church has lost much moral power by ignoring that. No one can visit our places of worship without noticing that members of the artisan class are conspicuous by their absence. Their energy and activity are too often antagonistic to religion. And since they form the basis of society, and it is ultimately their work which makes our wealth, the outlook is sufficiently serious. Doubtless they are to blame, but the Church is to blame also. Abstention from places of worship is often due, in its initial stage, to absence of welcome; to the unexpressed desire, on the part of Christians, to treat certain of their fellow men as a separate class, which is "to be done good to" with effusive benevolence. Once more let it be true that "the rich and the poor meet together, and the Lord is the Maker of them all," that "the poor have the gospel preached to them," and we shall see a marvellous change. Those who now, when intelligent, are too often cynically sceptical, or, when degraded, are too often sunk low in drunkenness, will become as of yore - amongst the noblest upholders of love, righteousness, and truth.
II. THAT GOD DESIRES HIS SERVANTS TO DO THEIR WORK NATURALLY. Amos drew almost all his illustrations from the natural objects and scenes with which he was familiar in his calling among the herdmen. Perfect naturalness is a source of moral power to any teacher, especially to a teacher of religious truth. Nothing is more offensive in him than pretence, unreality, and affectation. To ape the style of another man, to speak confidently on subjects which have not been personally studied, etc., brings nothing but contempt. Be real and genuine, and thoroughly yourself, wherever you are, but most of all in speaking for God. Amos the herdman would not put on the style of Solomon the king. He was as wise as David was when he put off the armour of Saul because it was untried and therefore unsuitable. The shepherd lad was mightiest with the shepherd's sling and stone.
III. THAT GOD MAKES HIS WORLD TO BE VOCAL WITH TEACHING. The prophecy of Amos is crowded with scenes which the herdman had witnessed. It is worthy of study, if only as a bold picture of the incidents of village life in the East in olden days. Let us trust ourselves to his guidance in imagination. We see the gin set for the bird, and the snare spread for the game. We hear the roar of the lion in the thicket when he has caught his prey, and stand by the fisherman with his hooks, as with skill and patience he plies his craft. We watch the man fleeing from the lion only to meet the bear, and the fugitive bandit hoping for refuge in the caverns of Mount Carmel. We follow Amos to the field. Here the ploughman and vinedresser are busy at work; and there the gardens, cursed with mildew and blasting, bear no fruit. Now we hear the chirp of the grasshopper in the meadow, and now the patter of the rain as it falls after the king's mowings. In harvest time, as we walk with Amos, we see the laden cart pressed down with the weight of the sheaves, and hear the thud of the flail as it falls on the threshing floor, and watch the corn beaten out flung into the sieve, and note that while the chaff is scattered "not the least grain fails upon the earth." Then in the evening, when the land is quiet, and the heavens are glorious with stars, we hear Amos speak of him who "made the Pleiades and Orion," who makes the day dark with night, and then, in all the splendour of the Oriental dawn, turns the shadow of death into morning. What an example is he to us! Let us re-echo the prayer of Keble -
"Thou, who hast given me eyes to see
And love this sight so fair,
Give me a heart to find out thee,
And see thee everywhere."
IV. THAT GOD WOULD HAVE HOLY THOUGHTS ASSOCIATED WITH ORDINARY THINGS. We all know the power of association. Sometimes we hear a riddle or a joke which presents a text or hymn in a ludicrous aspect. We never hear the text or the hymn afterwards without being reminded of the grotesque thought. Hence such "jesting which is not convenient," and which is unhappily a staple ingredient of American burnout, should be repressed by thoughtful men. Our endeavour should be in the opposite direction. Instead of making sacred things profane, let us rather make profane things sacred, so that the prophecy of Zechariah shall be fulfilled, "In that day there shall be upon the bells of the horses, Holiness unto the Lord; and the pots in the Lord's house shall be like the bowls before the altar." All things belong to God. He is present in the fields as well as in his house. He is near us in our homes as well as in our temples; and the life we live as Christian men has sanctity, whether it be spent in the engagements of business or in the services of the sanctuary. Let us seek grace to follow in the footsteps of Amos, or rather in the footsteps of One infinitely greater than he; and then when we see the sower in the field, or the merchant in his business, when we gaze on the lilies in the garden, or on the tares amid the corn, we shall have sweet thoughts of those higher truths which our Lord has associated with them. The voice from heaven still says, "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common." - A.R.
Parallel VersesKJV: The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.
WEB: The words of Amos, who was among the herdsmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.