Amos 1:1

"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." NIV translation

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.

Amos 1:2

"He said: 'The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds dry up, and the top of Carmel withers.'" NIV translation

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).