With a view to an audience within a stated contemporary ministry setting, provide an exposition of Amos 5
As I engage to expound the book of Amos I would want to do an exposition of Amos 5 which with a view of a mixed Audience of men and women between the ages of 20 to 50 years of age and also young people who most of them are under the age of 20 years. The audience is a mixture of different nationalities that have different cultural background.
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According to Hasting (1963:28) writing in the dictionary of the bible, he says that “Amos was one of the earliest prophets who prophesied in the 8th century B.C”. Amos is known to have come from Tekoa and according to the dictionary of the bible, he prophesied when Israel and Judah were strong and prosperous. Though there was prosperity in Judah and Israel the book of Amos portrayed a lot of injustice taking place during that period. In (chapter 4) of Amos and verse (1) it talks of how the poor are oppressed and they are crushed. (Amos 1:1) “The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa-the vision he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash[a] was king of Israel.” According to this verse, it makes us understand that Amos was a shepherd, and also understand that Amos may not be the one who wrote the book;(Thorogood 1992:10) cites that, “the book of Amos is a collection of the Prophet’s words. We cannot be certain who actually wrote it, or when it was written”. When we come to chapter 5 of Amos it can be hard trying to understand what specifically he is trying to address when he talks of a virgin Israel in verses 2. It is hard to interpret the book without first having understood some of the things that Amos is saying, for example, where he says, “This is what the Lord says to Israel: “Seek me and live; do not seek Bethel, do not go to Gilgal, do not journey to Beersheba. For Gilgal will surely go into exile, and Bethel will be reduced to nothing “(vs. 4-5). Not knowing what Bethel, Gilgal and also Beersheba means one can not interpret what he was implying. Patte (2004:282) makes us understand that “Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba were sacred places because they were memorials connected to the ancestors and history of the conquest of the land” without having this knowledge it is a hard one to understand. The writings of Amos are regarded as Oracles, this is highlighted by Heaton(1977:73 ) “Amos cultivated the practice of embodying in his oracles quotations of his opponents’ claims”. So this is to affirm that Amos was writing oracles. Wolff (1977) in his book of Joel and Amos cites that “the literary tradition hardly allows us to recognize more than two dozen short individual oracles”, so he is implying that Amos’s writing was literal and he cites three basic type of speech found in the book of Amos (i) The messenger speech which he says that it is tied to what Amos was told to say by God. (ii) The free speech “witness speech,” this he says promotes relationship with the listener. (iii) Vision report, that one he says that it cannot be said with certainty whether is rhetorical or literary in Origin.
When Amos is starting to speak the oracles he is using “within and in front” the text where he is addressing the children of Israel and tells them in verses 1-7 to hear what the Lord is saying and what will happen to them. As Amos is speaking in chapter 5:1-3, he regards the children of Israel as people who are already dead, and is lamenting over their state and seems there no hope for them when he says, “Fallen and no more to rise”. He compares them to a virgin woman engaged but now she has been forsaken. So he uses “metaphor when he is addressing them”. This may mean that Israel is glorious but their glory is gone. In verse 4-10 it is a call for them to call God even in their crisis, it is surprising that in the beginning, he speaks to them; It portrays them as people who have been utterly destroyed and no hope to rise again. In verses 4 he tells them to seek the Lord and live. On the other hand, he tells them, what not to seek Bethel and not to enter Gilgal or cross over to Beersheba for there are consequences when they do that. Marsh (1959:53) gives the meaning of the word seek and he says the ” word translated “seek” originally meant to ask for an oracle from some diviner, and then to offer worship and obedience to God. Applying this few verses as I address my audience bearing in mind the state of the nation that we are in where there have been a crisis in the economy and a lot of cuts in so many sectors that some services that the government used to offer are not longer there, I would bring to their attention to how the nation has declined and probably try to mention, maybe is because of the evil that is done in the nation. I would also encourage them to seek the Lord and not to put their trust in the systems, as Amos was encouraging the children of Israel to seek God and not seek the sacred places. When Amos is warning the people not to seek Bethel or go to Gilgal and having now understood that Gilgal was a sacred place as cited by Patte(2004:282), he is encouraging them to worship the true God rather than go and worship those sacred places whereby even if they are sacred places they are not God themselves. I would, therefore, encourage my audience to worship the true God rather than men, bearing in mind that most of my audience are from African background where there is a tendency of worshiping the men of God. In verses (10 Amos talks of people hating correction or rather discipline and hate he who tells the truth. So I as address my audience I would encourage them to speak the truth and allow themselves to be corrected by the word of the Lord. Since my audience is a mixture of young people who most of them are under the care of their parents I encouraged them to adhere to discipline and obey their parents.[G1]
In (verses 11-12) Amos talks of how the poor are oppressed, and he tells them because they have done these things and even extracted wheat unjustly from them even the house they have built they will not live in them. Amos was pronouncing judgment. As I bring this to my audience I would speak to them, warning them not to oppress each other and especially the old oppressing the young even on those who are married, men not to oppress women. I would speak to men oppressing women with confidence having some background knowledge how African women at times are regarded as not equal to their men and they tend to be oppressed. Amos changes his tone in verses 14 and he gives the people hope that if they seek the Lord they will live. What I see when I look at the previous (verses 12 and 13) he is telling them to stop oppressing the poor and they will live. So I would tell the audience that, when we are doing injustice to one another we are not seeking God, and God is not with us because after Amos telling the Israelite how they have oppressed the poor he tells them to seek the Lord in order for them to live. Amos here was like implying that God was not with the Israelite because they were oppressing the poor.
Amos follows verses 14 with verse 15 by saying that they should hate evil, and my understanding I will interpret that not rendering injustice and oppressing the poor is what God hates. As a result of them hating evil, they will escape the calamity that Amos is speaking in (verses 16) which he says there will be wailing as the Lord passes across the land. The Israelite will understand the in a better way when they remember what happened while they were escaping Egypt when there was wailing in the camp of the Egyptians. Amos is saying that the wailing will be so great that, they will even call for people to help them to wail. As I would address my audience I would focus them on treating each other well and not oppressing others, this is because loving God is loving and treating other people justly, we cant say we love God and yet you treat others badly and oppress them. According to Patte(2004:282) in the commentary, he says that “The horizontal relationship to neighbors is inseparably bound to the vertical relationship with God”. To avoid punishment from God we have to love God and treat people well. Though God had sworn of bringing destruction we see in (verses 15) that he will leave some from the remnant of Joseph may be the ones who will carry on his purpose on the earth. This reminds me the day of Noah where he had to destroy everything apart from Noah’s family.
Amos in verse 17 is using literal language that he is going to pass through them and their vineyard will be wailing. This may not mean that God is the one who is going to pass the land himself; but may be the adversary. As I share this verse I may bring to the attention of my audience that the Lord may not necessary come to punish our wrong doing but things might happen when we don’t live according to what the Lord has expected of us.
In Verses 18 he is warning those who have been waiting for the day of the lord, may be expecting a reward, and instead he is telling them it will be darkness instead of lights. In other words, things will be so bad instead of being good and this is as a result of their actions. Most Probably they Children of Israel have been expecting God to come and reward them and have victory among their enemies. Thorogood(1992) in his book a guide to Amos commented that Amos did not share hope with the Israelites instead he predicted a day of darkness instead of light. Even in our day, we might be expecting great things from God because we believe in him, and instead, we find ourselves going through difficult times. Therefore it is important to check our ways and see whether there are people we are oppressing or doing things that cannot please God. Maybe the children of Israel thought because they have a covenant relationship with God, they can do anything and God turns a blind eye. Amos portrayed the day of the Lord they have been expecting a very gloomy day, in that they will be running from one problem thinking they have escaped they find themselves in another major problem. Amos uses allegory a lot; as he writes when he is talking about a lion, a bear, and even a serpent. Maybe he using this because for him being a shepherd has had encountered all these animals. If I were to use allegory I would use things that my audience would understand. In verses, 21-24 Amos is narrating how the Lord is not pleased by the sacrifices that they offer unto him and even their worship unto God. He said if justice and righteousness are not found in them, their rituals are in vain. Maybe they thought by observing the rituals and offering sacrifices they will please God even if they oppress the poor and put heavy taxes on them. I would also address the same issue to my audience that it is not by how much we do for God, or how much money we give to the Him; is about acting according to what he requires. Marsh (1959:57) as he comments on verses 21-24 cites that “Israel had all externals of true religion-fine churches and cathedrals, great festivals popularly observed (everyone went to church on such days, moving rituals solemnly impressive sacrifices, beautiful music, and well-trained choirs. But such externals do not, of themselves, beget communion with God. In other words, outward rituals and appearance do not appeal to God. We must go beyond rituals and do what God want us to do. In verses, 25 Amos is like narrating what God is asking Israelites that they never offered him any sacrifices and that they carried idols with them. It is like he is saying that while they were not established they didn’t offer any sacrifice to God and yet he took care of them. But now that God has established them the won’t honor him, instead, he is saying they carried idols with them. Having an audience who some of them have come from hardship I would bring to their attention to remember where God has brought them from, some from great hardship and yet God has established them. I would encourage them to honor God and keep his commands. Amos has mentioned two things they carried which are sikkuth their king, and chiun their idols which according to Wintle (2015:1146) commenting in South Asia Bible commentary refers to these idols that the Israelites carried as Assyrian deities. This shows as if the Israelites regarded other gods more than the true God. They were holding unto what they may be; thought is the righteous way than do what God had instructed them to do. As we read these verses today we would also ask ourselves as Christians are we exalting things in our lives more than we exalt the Lord, and this can be true even in the audience I am addressing, in that some many have valued their jobs, families children or as a people we regard rituals more than we regard God.
In conclusion, as I have looked at the book of Amos chapter 5 I can conclude and say that this chapter can speak to us as the church of today that we need to deal with injustices in our society and live righteous lives, and that will be a true worship unto God. Amos has reminded us the need of humility in our worship. Thorogood 1992:66) says that “the closer our worship is linked with the rest of-of our life the more helpful it is likely to be”, This means that we need to be conscious every time, that we have a relationship with God; and we can worship him anytime not only when we are gathered together. As Amos highlighted the injustices and oppression done to the poor by the children of Israel we also need to learn as Christians to treat each other well even when we are in different social status.
D.D, J. H. (1963). Dictionary of the Bible. Edinburgh: T.and T Clark.
Heaton, E. W. (1977). The Old Testament Prophets. London: Anchor Brendon Ltd.
Marsh, J. (1959). The Torch Bible Commentary series: Amos And Micah. Great Britain: Northumberland Press Limited.
Patte, D. (2004). Global Bible Commentary. Nashville: Abingdon Press.
Thorogood, B. (1992). A Guide to Amos. London: Spck.
Wintle, B. (2015). South Asia Bible Commentary, One Volume Commentary on the whole Bible. Michigan: Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Wolf, H. W. (1977). Hermancia, Joel, and Amos. United Kingdom: Fortress Press
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