Thursday

17 May 2018

Amos 7:1-17

“This is what the Lord GOD showed me.” (v. 1a)

Psalm: Psalm 64


Background

There is nothing like a good vision or picture from God when you’re an Old Testament prophet, and Amos is no exception.

He backs up his doom-laden predictions for Israel (see previous days this week for more details of why he is so annoyed with the nation) with vivid allegories of disaster, three of which we explore today. 

  • The first vision is of a plague of locusts attacking crops (verses 1-3). They attack at the time of the latter growth, which means the first grains have been harvested but the main crop has yet to be picked. The first grains were often delivered to the royal court, so this was the people’s crop, an important harvest. So this would be a disastrous time for the locusts to strike. So Amos, showing compassion, prays to God to help the people and God hears and relents.
  • The second vision is even more dramatic (verses 4-6). God sends a firestorm, a shower of fire so hot it burns up the sea and begins to eat up the land. For a second time, Amos intercedes and God relents.
  • The third vision is perhaps the most well known. God stands by a wall built with a plumb line (verses 7-9). The Hebrew word used here and translated into English occurs nowhere else in the Bible, but a plumb line would generally be understood as a string with a lead weight on the end, which enables the string to fall straight and therefore be used as a measure. The implication is that the wall has been built well, but when God’s ‘plumb line’ is applied to the people, they just do not measure up. Therefore destruction is coming. Amos does not respond or cry out on behalf of the people at this point.

Amos’ position as a prophet seems to shift here; there are glimmers of compassion as he intercedes for the people but the message seems clear – Israel is heading for trouble and not even the royal courts will be spared (“the house of Jeroboam” (v. 9)).

Therefore, it is no surprise that Jeroboam seeks to banish Amos, for who wants to hear negative prophecies about themselves and their kingdom? Today’s passage finishes with a humdinger of a response from Amos back to Jeroboam – you, your family and your kingdom are doomed.


To Ponder

  • A dramatic visual image often communicates a message much more powerfully than words. Does this mean we should use images more than words in worship?
  • How do you respond to the ways that God is portrayed in Amos – as a God who listens and relents but also as a God who seems to be prepared to let a nation fall?

Bible notes author

The Revd Mandy Briggs

Mandy Briggs is a Methodist minister who can usually be found at the New Room (www.newroombristol.org.uk) in Bristol, where she is the Education Officer, working with schools and groups to tell the story of the Wesleys and Methodism in Bristol and beyond.