Amos is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible other than in the book of Amos. Amos was from Tekoa. This city was a suburb of Jerusalem and was originally built as a defensive position to protect Jerusalem. The land around the city is dry and has very sandy soil. The area is full of shepherds that used this empty land by filling it with grazing sheep.
Amos was a sheep breeder which implied ownership of sheep; therefore, we might assume that Amos was financially well off. Amos was also a fig-slitter. We are not sure if this means he grew figs or that he traveled to perform this skilled service. At any rate, Amos was an ordinary guy living in the suburbs. Based on his location he may have known Joel, Elisha, or possibly Jonah. Hosea was a co-worker in the area.
To better understand Amos we must understand his surroundings. It is approximately 760 B.C. and there is a power vacuum in the world. Syria and Assyria are on the decline. The northern kingdom of Israel is experiencing a “Golden Age” of sorts. Israel and Judah are enjoying great prosperity. There are indulgences of every kind. There is now a class system that has developed. In the 10th century all the homes were of equal size but now in the 8th century homes are either small or large. The economy has shifted from agriculture to commerce and prosperity has come and in this culture prosperity equals God’s blessing. The middle class has seemingly disappeared and the polarization between rich and poor grows greater. The poor suffer extreme poverty and crime has become quite perverted. All types of sin and iniquity abound. People have become very religious acting; however, their religion was only superficial and devoid of any real meaning.
It is startling to hear a description of the times of Amos because it sounds so hauntingly familiar. So what does all this information mean to us today?
Amos 7:14-15 (Contemporary English Version)
14 I answered: I’m not a prophet! And I wasn’t trained to be a prophet. I am a shepherd, and I take care of fig trees. 15 But the LORD told me to leave my herds and preach to the people of Israel.
Amos was not a professional prophet, nor was he a priest, or a son of priest or prophet. He was simply put a man of God. When we hear the words “man of God” we most often think of pastors, evangelists, missionaries, or priests. In today’s terms, Amos was a layperson. He took care of sheep and tended to sycamore fig trees. He was not professionally trained in the art of ministry or preaching. He was busy doing his job in suburbia and God called on him to deliver a message. Amos stopped what he was doing and delivered the message. Amos was the first to deliver the message of judgment to Israel. He faced all sorts of opposition from the religious system and people of the day. Despite the opposition and the hardship, Amos performed his job for God and then returned to everyday life in suburbia.
As you live your life, what has God called you to do?
What has God asked you to do?
God wants you in the game – not on the bench …