In our study of Amos chapter one, we see how God chose a common man to share an uncommon message with His people. He was a simple herdsman from a backwater town but God sent him to the big city to warn the elite of society about the coming judgment.
The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa - what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel.
We are introduced to this unlikely prophet and told that he was a shepherd from Tekoa. Tekoa was located about twelve miles southeast of Jerusalem which was in the southern kingdom of Judah. It was on the edge of a wilderness (desert) and was like the last stop before you entered into this hard place. He was a shepherd of a particular type of desert sheep that most would have considered lower than other breeds but they grew long wool as it gets very cold in the desert at night. We also see here that God took this common man and sent him to the big city in a foreign land.
He said: 'The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds dry up, and the top of Carmel withers.'
He gets right to the point as he proclaims that judgment is coming. A lion will let out a big roar just before it pounces on its prey and that is what he says is happening. This would let those that heard it know that this judgment is coming quickly. Then, he gives them the first indication that it is coming which is a drought that causes a famine. Carmel was a beautiful and fertile area but the prophet says that God is removing His hand of blessing from the land. We may ask ourselves what this has to do with us today and the simple answer is that the northern kingdom of Israel had descended into idolatry where they even replaced God with a golden calf. This is much the same thing that is happening in many parts of the world today. We may not forge our gold into the form of a calf but it may take the form of our ridiculously large homes, our bigger and bigger cars, or our retirement accounts. The warning that Amos delivers should speak to our hearts as well. (This same thing is what Jesus was speaking about in Matthew 6).
'For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because she threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth,'
This verse speaks of the modern country of Syria (Damascus is its capitol) and, although God could have given a long list of their offenses, he uses the numbers three and four. We should remember that, throughout the Bible, the number three is associated with the display of God's will and the number four with trials/temptations. We see here that it is God's will to judge Syria because He used them to deal with Israel but they chose to do so harshly. (They failed this test of their hearts.) The iron sledges that the verse talks about were used to beat the grain to separate it from the chaff (which is a kind of refining). God was wanting to refine (purify) His people but Syria wanted to destroy them and so was cruel. This is also what happened to Assyria in Isaiah 10. As His children, we can find comfort in this passage and the fact that God may use a bad situation to correct us but the purpose is refinement and not destruction. This refining process is also described in the tribulations of Revelation 6.
'I will send fire upon the house of Hazael that will consume the fortresses of Ben-Hadad. I will break down the gate of Damascus; I will destroy the king who is in the Valley of Aven - and the one who holds the scepter in Beth Eden. The people of Aram will go into exile to Kir.' says the Lord.
Because of the way they dealt with the people of Israel, God decrees that He will destroy their king and their capitol. God even says that He is going to use the Assyrians to do this. (Kir was a province of Assyria)
This is what the Lord says: 'For three sins of Gaza, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because she took captive whole communities and sold them to Edom.'
Now, Amos turns to the judgment on Gaza and God could have given a list of charges but He gives a specific reason for the judgment. Gaza was the land of the Philistines who were constantly battling God's people. God's charge against them is simple in that they conquered Israel and sold entire villages into slavery. We know the people of this area as Palestinians today and even now they continue to battle with Israel (God's people).
'I will send fire upon the walls of Gaza that will consume her fortresses. I will destroy the king of Ashdod and the one who holds the scepter in Ashkelon. I will turn my hand against Ekron, till the last of the Philistines is dead,' says the Sovereign Lord.
Because of their treatment of God's people, the judgment is severe and will fall on all of the people and their rulers. Once again, God says that He is going to send fire and that is a reminder that God is purifying the land with this judgment.
This is what the Lord says: 'For three sins of Tyre, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because she sold whole communities of captives to Edom, disregarding a treaty of brotherhood.'
Now the Lord turns to the Phoenicians which inhabited the coastal areas. Tyre was one of their city-states and had broken a covenant of peace with God's people. This reminds us of what is to come as we see in Revelation that there will be a false peace before the judgment of God.
'I will send fire upon the walls of Tyre that will consume her fortresses.'
The judgment on the Phoenicians is simple. God is sending fire and the palaces (rulers) will be destroyed.
This is what the Lord says: 'For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because he pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion, because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked, I will send fire upon Teman that will consume the fortresses of Bozrah.'
Edom is another name for Esau which was Jacob (Israel's) brother. Although Esau was older, Jacob had been chosen by God to be the father of the tribes of Israel and this caused jealousy (see Genesis chapters 25 - 27). Amos tells us that this jealousy (sin) has led to anger (not righteous anger) and, therefore, God is going to judge Edom.
'For three sins of Ammon, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because he ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to extend his borders.'
The Ammonites joined with Syria to conquer Israel. We see that they did so to increase their borders and now they are going to give an accounting for their actions.
'I will set fire to the walls of Rabbah that will consume her fortresses amid war cries on the day of the battle, amid violent winds on a stormy day. Her king will go into exile, he and his officials together,' says the Lord.
Like the rest, God's judgment on the Ammonites begins with their leaders and ends with the people in exile. That is also a picture of the coming judgment on all of mankind but that exile will be permanent separation from God. That judgment will also begin with those leaders who are leading the people astray.