By Robert Olsen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile


Amos 4:1-13

Treat yourself (1–3)

As God’s prophet, Amos was to speak God’s message, and in chapter 4 he reveals God’s judgment on the northern kingdom. His first criticism is aimed at the wealthy women of Israel, whom he calls the cows of Bashan. These women were wealthy and healthy, just like the cows were in this fertile region. However, these women were wealthy due to their exploitation of the poor and needy.

God always expresses his concern for the poor, and these women took advantage of their place in society by oppressing those below them. God declares that these women will be punished for their behavior and explains that they will be taken away with hooks. Many ancient armies brought their captives back to their homeland by putting hooks in the lips or nose of the captives. Connecting the captives with a rope created a line of captives who were virtually unable to escape. It was painful and embarrassing. This is exactly what happened to the northern kingdom when it was taken by the Assyrians in 722 BC.

Worship (4–5)

After detailing what would happen to the oppressive women of Israel, Amos mocks Israelite worship by calling it a “sin.” He told them to go to Bethel and Gilgal, two sites where worship was taking place, and bring their tithes and offerings. Only these tithes and offerings were not true worship. They were sinners.

People sacrificed and brought tithes, but not for the right reason. Instead of truly worshiping God, they were doing it for show. They gave more than necessary, but they did so to show off their wealth and “righteousness.”

When we read the Gospels, we see Jesus dealing with the same problem. For example, in Mark 12:41-44, Jesus reveals that the poor woman who gave only two small coins gave more than the rich who gave larger sums of money because God knew her heart. Worship is always a matter of the heart. If we worship—singing, reading the scriptures, giving—without the right intention, God deems it meaningless.

Refuse (6–11)

Despite the impending judgment, God, through Amos, showed every way he had tried to get Israel’s attention. While God is indeed holy and must punish sin, he is also loving and desires his people to come back to him. It had brought famine, pestilences, invading insects to eat crops, drought and more.

God brought all these judgments on the Israelites so that they would repent and return to God, but they refused.

God disciplines those He loves (Heb. 12:7), and we need to be aware of God’s discipline in our lives. It’s easy for us to look at these people in the Old Testament and think how stupid and blind they were to what God was trying to do in their lives, but we are often guilty of the same thing. When bad things happen to us or around us, instead of blaming God for our misfortunes, we should pray and see how God uses those experiences for our sanctification.

Prepare (12–13)

Because the Israelites did not repent, God brought judgment, ultimately in the form of exile. God’s patience is not endless. There will come a time when He will bring judgment. As Christians, it reminds us that we must always repent of sin. As a Church, we are the bride of Christ and we must live as such. Christians living in sin are on a dangerous path.

God’s judgment also comes upon the unbeliever, and this reminds us that we must live the gospel. We must preach the gospel to a lost and dying world so that people can see their need for a Savior, come to Christ, and thus be saved. Otherwise, they will face eternal judgment from God in the form of eternal separation in hell.

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