A. Judgment seen in three visions.
1. (1-3) The vision of locusts.
Thus the Lord GOD showed me: behold, He formed locust swarms at the beginning of the late crop; indeed it was the late crop after the king's mowings. And so it was, when they had finished eating the grass of the land, that I said: "O Lord GOD, forgive, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, for he is small!" So the LORD relented concerning this. "It shall not be," said the LORD.
a. Thus the Lord GOD showed me: The prophet Amos will relate a vision from the LORD. This was something he saw, something the LORD showed him.
b. He formed locust swarms at the beginning of the late crop: Late in the harvest, Amos sees a swarm of locusts coming to devour the crops of Israel. It came after the king's mowings, so the royal court already took their taxes, so there is nothing left at all.
i. "If the first cutting went to the court and the second crop to the locusts, Israel would be left destitute indeed." (Hubbard)
c. Oh, that Jacob may stand, for he is small! At this vision of terrible judgment, the prophet's heart is moved with pity and compassion for Israel, and he asks God to consider Israel's frailty.
i. "Israel is called Jacob, a reminder that he was the smaller, younger one to Esau in Isaac's family; God had deliberately chosen him and therefore was obligated to stand by him in his helplessness." (Hubbard)
d. So the LORD relented: In response to the prophet's prayer, the Lord relented. Is it really that simple? What if Amos didn't pray or if he didn't pray with the same earnestness? We must believe that the LORD would not have relented.
i. This is another amazing example of how much rests upon prayer. We may debate endlessly how this incident reflects on the issues of predestination and human responsibility, but clearly we are left with the impression that the plague either came or was held back based on the prophet's prayer.
2. (4-6) The vision of fire.
Thus the Lord GOD showed me: behold, the Lord GOD called for conflict by fire, and it consumed the great deep and devoured the territory. Then I said: "O Lord GOD, cease, I pray! Oh, that Jacob may stand, for he is small!" So the LORD relented concerning this. "This also shall not be," said the Lord GOD.
a. The Lord GOD called for conflict by fire: After the vision of locusts, now Amos sees a vision of a great consuming fire upon the land of Israel. In response, he does what he did before: plead for mercy (Oh, that Jacob may stand, for he is small!).
b. So the LORD relented concerning this: As happened with the vision of locusts, God relented at the prayer of the prophet.
3. (7-9) The vision of the plumb line.
Thus He showed me: Behold, the Lord stood on a wall made with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand. And the LORD said to me, "Amos, what do you see?" And I said, "A plumb line." Then the Lord said: "Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. The high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste. I will rise with the sword against the house of Jeroboam."
a. I am setting a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel: A plumb line measures if a wall is built straight. God holds this measure against Israel, to see if they are "straight" against His standard.
b. The high places of Isaac shall be desolate: "The references to Isaac are the only places in the Old Testament where Isaac stands for the nation of his descendants rather than for the patriarch himself. Amos seems to have in mind the special veneration for Isaac which the members of the Northern Kingdom displayed . . . Amos may be announcing and lamenting the tragic break with the covenantal past." (Hubbard)
c. I will rise with the sword against the house of Jeroboam: Because Israel is chronically "crooked" against the plumb line of God, Israel and her leadership shall be judged with the sword.
B. Hearing from all sides.
1. (10-13) Amaziah's words against Amos.
Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, "Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said: 'Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive from their own land.'" Then Amaziah said to Amos: "Go, you seer! Flee to the land of Judah. There eat bread, and there prophesy. But never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is the royal residence."
a. Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel: This Amaziah was a wicked man, because he is identified as a priest of Bethel, which was one of the centers of Israel's idolatrous worship. He sent a message of Jeroboam king of Israel, who was a successful king by worldly standards, but a wicked king before God.
b. Saying, "Amos has conspired against you": Amaziah implicated the prophet in a conspiracy to undermine King Jeroboam and the people of Israel. He also said that the message of Amos was too hard (the land is not able to bear all his words).
c. Flee to the land of Judah. There eat bread, and there prophesy: Amaziah was offended that Amos came Bethel and prophesied, so he does his best to send him back to Judah.
i. "Hireling priests of this kind have ever been the great enemies of the true prophets of God; and when they could bring no charge of false doctrine or immorality against them, have accused them of conspiring against the government; and because they have preached against sin, have held them up as exciting insurrection among the people." (Clarke)
2. (14-15) The answer from Amos.
Then Amos answered, and said to Amaziah: "I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said to me, 'Go, prophesy to My people Israel.'"
a. I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet: Amos replies to Amaziah by noting that he was a reluctant, unprofessional prophet - only a farmer by trade. Amos was hardly the type to launch a conspiracy.
b. Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock: Like many others in the Bible, God called Amos as he faithfully performed his present calling. It was because Amos was an honorable sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit that God made him an honorable prophet.
i. We see also that God used Amos as a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. With so many allusions and illustrations from the world of agriculture, Amos spoke as a farmer and God used it. "Every prophet has a manner and style peculiarly his own. Although God speaketh through them all, yet they lose not their individuality or originality of character. The breath which causes the music is the same, but no two of the instruments give forth precisely the same sound. It is true they all utter the words of God; but each voice has its own special cry, so that though God is pre-eminently seen, yet the man is not lost." (Spurgeon)
3. (16-17) The answer from the LORD.
Now therefore, hear the word of the LORD: "You say, 'Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not spout against the house of Isaac.' Therefore thus says the LORD: 'Your wife shall be a harlot in the city; your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword; your land shall be divided by survey line; you shall die in a defiled land; and Israel shall surely be led away captive from his own land.'"
a. Your wife shall be a harlot in the city; your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword: God's word to Amaziah - through the prophet Amos, no less - is that the calamity he wanted to silence Amos about would certainly come upon him.
b. And Israel shall surely be led away captive from his own land: This is exactly what Amaziah accused Amos of saying as part of the "conspiracy." Amos is bold enough to speak for the Lord, and to tell Amaziah and everyone else that Israel's impending captivity is indeed true. This was a difficult word in most difficult circumstances, but Amos was faithful to deliver it.