One of the problems with being the chosen people of God is that we think we are the chosen people of God. We lose humility and begin to think of ourselves as important before God. God repeatedly challenges the arrogant thinking that we are special. Israel believed that because they were the chosen people of God that they were special because of their obedience to God and therefore would avoid judgment. Judgment would happen to the world, but the chosen people of God would be spared. God tried from the beginning to warn the people against this kind of foolish thinking.
Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 8:17–18 ESV)
“Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. “Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. (Deuteronomy 9:4–6 ESV)
The events of the Exodus were not for them. The people were not to witness the ten plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the destruction of the Egyptians, and the miraculous provisions of the wilderness and think that they were something special. These things were to draw the people to God in awe and proclaim his glory and goodness. Unfortunately the people thought their chosen status would protect them from harm.
With Privilege Comes Accountability (3:1-2)
Notice the privileges that God expresses to the people. “I brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (3:1). “You only have I know of all the families of the earth” (3:2). You were the chosen people of God. You saw God work to redeem you and deliver you. You were the only people to have this covenant relationship with God. “Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” The result is not that God is going to overlook their sins. Rather, God will punish them for every sin. Their chosen status does not mean they are protected from judgment. Their chosen status meant they had greater accountability to God. They knew what God required. They were to be to the Lord a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6). With the privilege of knowing God came the responsibility of acting like the people of God.
The same accountability is described to us. Consider the message found in the parable of the talents. Everyone was given a degree of wealth from the master and each were accountability for what they were given. Israel was the one talent man who had taken the blessings and privileges of God and did nothing with them. Listen to the words of the apostle Peter:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)
You are the chosen people of God, a holy nation. The purpose is not to think that we are special because of ourselves. Our status before God is not because of ourselves, that we can boast in our works. Seeing what God has done for us is to cause us to proclaim the excellencies of Christ. He called us out of darkness. Christ is the light who is shining in the darkness. We proclaim him because we were blind and without the light of Christ we would continue to be blind.
The Lion Has Roared (3:3-8)
Amos now introduces a serious of rhetorical questions to lead the people to grasp two important conclusions. The first message is that the judgment of God is coming with cause. Notice the rhetorical questions in verses 4-6 to see God making this point. Does a lion roar when he has no prey? Does a young lion cry if he has taken nothing? Does a bird fall in a snare if there is no trap? Does a trap snap shut if there is nothing to spring the trap? The answer to all of these questions is no. These things only happen with a purpose. The victim has been trapped. Look at the questions in verse 6. Are people to be afraid when the trumpet sounds in the city? Yes, they are because that is the alarm to the people warning of invasion. Does disaster come to a city unless the Lord does it? The cities of Israel only fell when the people were in rebellion. God would cause their defeat because of their sins. Think about the success of the conquest of Jericho and the failure of the attack at Ai. Disaster comes when you are not faithful to him. What is the point? The beginning of verse 8 is the answer. “The lion has roared; who will not fear?” The Lord has spoken. Judgment is coming. Amos is calling for the people to make a decision to respond appropriately to the revealing of God’s plan. God’s plan will be revealed in verses 11-15. But before revealing God’s plan, Amos is preparing the hearts of the people to listen to the message of God. The trumpet has sounded. The trap has shut. The lion has roared. You need to listen to the alarm and hear the message of the Lord.
The second point is that Amos is carrying the message of the Lord. Amos needs to validate that he indeed is God’s messenger. Look at verse 3. “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?” Amos’ message is not a coincidence or an accident. Amos has been called by God to make this declaration. Verse 7 continues this point. “For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.” Amos declares that his message is from God. Amos proves his relationship with God because God has revealed his plan for the nation of Israel to him. Notice the end of verse 8 for the second conclusion to be drawn from these questions. “The Lord God has spoken, who can but prophesy?” The Lord has spoken. Who can refuse to proclaim God’s message? God has called me to walk with him and revealed his plan to me. I must speak God’s plan to you. God is the lion and his prophecy is roar.
God calls for us to pay attention to the declaration of his word. When God speaks, his voice roars through the earth. It is easy to lack intensity when listening to God’s word. We can pay attention to everything else and get distracted when trying to read God’s word or listen to its proclamation. The voice of the Lord must grab our attention. The voice of the Lord must cause us to respond in attention, like the blowing of the trumpet sounding the alarm. God has spoken. Be at attention and focus on what God has to say.
The Downfall and Devouring of Israel (3:9-15)
In verse 9 God through his prophet Amos calls Egypt and Philistine to be witnesses to the wickedness in Israel. These two nations were past oppressors of Israel. Yet these immoral heathens are called to judge the morality of Samaria. See how wicked God’s people are! The nations are called to be a witness against the people of God. Verse 10 defines the problem. They are morally warped. They do not even know how to do what is right. Their storehouse is not full of mercy and grace, but violence, robbery, and oppression. This is an accurate description about the nature of sin. We look at sin is a harmless act. The problem is that sin warps our thinking, our hearts, and our consciences. We lose our innocence and develop depraved hearts and minds. Sinful act after sinful act leads us to a point that we can no longer even do what is right because we have lost all sensitivity to the will of God. We look at people and perhaps ourselves and wonder how people can get so steep in sexual sin. The path is very simple: dabble in it a little and lose sensitivity to the sinfulness of what you are doing. Soon you need a little more to satisfy the desire you have awakened. Before long you will get so far down the path that you will be consumed by these sins. What began as a hobby or an occasional act now has become a vice. You have become imprisoned to the sin and it feels like you cannot stop. You engage in it even when you do not want to and even if you know better. Finally you will be at the point where it can be said that you do not even know what is right. This is why it is so important to guard our hearts. The danger of allowing our hearts to stray from the right paths of the Lord are very serious.
The final verses of this chapter describe the coming doom against the nation. All of their defenses will not help and their strongholds will be plundered. Verse 12 pictures the ferocity of their doom. Like a shepherd rescuing a sheep from the mouth of a lion with only two legs or a piece of an ear, so will be the people of Israel. There will be nothing left of their former lifestyle. There will only be fragments left, just enough to prove who the victim was. Their lavish living will suddenly perish. All that will be left is part of a bed. Your comforts and conveniences will all be taken away. Your wealth will be gone. You will have nothing left but a fragment. Life apart from God may yield temporary material gain, but will surely result in eternal loss. Their houses of ivory and summer and winter homes will be taken away (3:15). Your pleasures in comfort and wealth will come to an end. How foolish to plunge ourselves into what makes us comfortable when God will destroy all these things!