Amos 1-9: Religiosity

I know that today’s reading is not in Amos, but I wanted to put together a post for the days that I missed last week in Amos. I want to make sure that there is at least one post for each of the minor prophets.

Amos’ name means “burden bearer”, and this is a pretty accurate description of the task that God had given to Amos; and is a pretty accurate description of what most of the prophets felt I am sure. Amos was no one special. A herdsman, and cultivator of sycamore trees (like the one that Zacchaeus climbed in order to see Jesus). Most importantly, Amos had absolutely no connection to the religious or political systems in play during this period of time (about 793-740 B.C.)

Amos primarily declares judgement on the Gentile nations as well as on Israel and Judah.

Here’s the thing about Amos: his warnings and pronouncements come during a time when both of the Jewish Kingdoms were experiencing prosperity and security. They were not in distress, they had stabilized themselves militarily and economically. The people were well fed and content, even bordering on living in luxury. On top of that, religion was on an upswing during this time. The chapel at Bethel was being well used by the Kingdom of Israel and the religious festivals were in full swing in Jerusalem (see Amos 5:21-22). Unfortunately, all of this religious fervor was not very pleasing to God because it masked a people who were not very interested in living out the principles that God had established for his people to follow.

Amos 8 tells us that people were eager for the religious festivals to get out of the way so they could go back to selling grain; and in fact were interested in selling it dishonestly (“We can reduce the measure while increasing the price and cheat with dishonest scales”).

There is also some major issues with dishonesty in the justice system and abuse of the poor was rampant (5:11-15 and 8:4-6). In fact, you will hopefully notice that most of the warning in Amos are aimed at the aristocrats.

So although things looked pretty good and the people were “religious’, the moral and ethical state of the nation was dismal and very displeasing to God.

As modern day Christians, we must be careful that we do not fall into similar patterns of empty religiosity and ritual that simply add a nice veneer to moral, ethical and spiritual decay. Attending church on a regular basis does not a Christian make. God wants and expects our lives to reflect his heart. That we be increasingly transformed into his likeness. Religiosity does not accomplish this, only a committed relationship with God does that.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

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