Key Verse: “Let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.”
THE MESSAGE DELIVERED by the Prophet Amos was one of certain punishment which would come upon a perverse nation. As a herdsman, his opening words—“The Lord roars out of Zion”—are very descriptive of the most terrifying sounds imaginable to one tending a flock. (Amos 1:1,2, Amplified Bible) Using similar words, he reminds them of God’s use of chosen prophets to deliver messages to his people saying, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” (chap. 3:7,8) In the New Testament, the Apostle Peter also speaks of a “roaring lion” when describing Satan’s desire to destroy those called of God in the present Gospel Age. He says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”—I Pet. 5:8
Peter’s words were a warning to spiritual Israelites. Amos, however, leaves no doubt that his prophecy was not a warning, or yet another call to repentance, delivered so many times in the past to natural Israel. His prophecy was a verdict of punishment upon them for continually turning away from God. The provisions of God’s covenant with Israel were clear. He had chosen them alone to be his special people among all the nations on the earth. (Deut. 7:6) In return they promised to follow all of God’s arrangements and serve only him. Their actions, however, betrayed their promise as time and time again they turned to their own sinful desires. They ignored God’s instructions and worshipped idols. (Isa. 2:8) They paid no heed to his warnings and killed his prophets. (Neh. 9:26; Matt. 23:31) They also ignored natural disasters brought upon them, as described by Amos, designed to bring them back to God.—Amos 4:6-10
In the verses of today’s lesson, God declares that he knows Israel’s heart and will not be fooled or swayed by hollow actions intended to show obedience. The feast days and various offerings established to give honor and thanks to God were no longer acceptable to him because of their sins. He further declares that he will no longer hear the noise or melody of their songs. (chap. 5:21-23) Then, Amos speaks the words of our Key Verse. Over three-thousand years earlier, the disobedient act of Adam resulted in the promised punishment of death to him and all of his progeny, according to God’s law of justice. The prophet says that this same perfect justice must now be meted out to Israel without regard to what they might attempt to hide or cover up.
Here we see an important feature of God’s character. What he promises he will fulfill, whether they be blessings or punishments. He knows what is best for his human family and declares that his ways are higher than our ways. (Isa. 55:9) Therefore, our trust in him must be complete and without the hypocrisy of mere lip service to his instructions.
Let us earnestly embrace Paul’s instruction as he hearkens back to Israel’s unrighteousness: “With many of them God was not well pleased: … Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world [ages] are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”—I Cor. 10:5,11,12