Chapter 1 of Amos is pretty much about the divine judgment of God against the nations surrounding Israel. These nations have committed terrible sins against God’s people: Israelites being killed and enslaved, breaking treaties with them, women were killed and even the pregnant women were slaughtered. The atrocities they did were horrible.
But God will punish them, tearing down the walls of their capitals, bringing fire to their cities. Their kings will flee or perish.
Often, the Old Testament prophecies are somewhat unpalatable for modern readers. They speak of retribution and revenge. God seems cruel and hard.
But we need to remember, God is holy. He is just and good.
Our societies see guilt and innocence in very black and white terms: you did it or you didn’t. However, I think the Biblical idea of sin is far more complex and pernicious than that. It kills and spreads. It’s like a disease that infects and ruins, like yeast in dough. Therefore, when we read these chapters, we perhaps have to think of sin as being more than we can define and therefore the cost of it more than we can say.
But it does make us ask a number of questions of our faith and reflect upon what we believe:
- Do we trust God enough to believe in his justice?
- Do we have faith that God’s plan is right?
- Do we believe that God’s ways are perfect?
- Do we believe that he is love?
This passages definitely challenge our thinking.
However, God loves his people. He loves other nations too. This is why prophets are sent: they warn people. God want the people to turn back to him and to find his mercy. However, sadly with the case of a lot of prophets, they don’t heed the warning. Because of God’s just nature, something needs to be done about the wrongs they have committed. So, when they fail to seek God’s mercy, they find themselves at the hands of his justice.