Amos’ confrontation with the priest Amaziah illustrated how his prophecy acted as a plumbline in Israel, clearly demarcating the innocent and upright from the guilty and crooked. The proclamation of the gospel of Jesus has the same galvanizing effect on an unjust society today.
In Amos 7:1-9, God shows the prophet three versions of judgment, the last of which is the famous plumbline vision. Not only do we see in this exchange an example of prophetic intercession for a sin-sick society, we also see God’s plan for “separating the wheat from the tares” using prophets and their message as the litmus test – those who accept the prophet will be spared, while those who reject the prophet will be punished.
With Amos, the modern Christian must believe and proclaim that a prosperous economy cannot be built on a unjust society, because the foundation of peace and prosperity can be only justice, and especially justice that is built upon the acknowledgement that God is God and we are not.
Even after the destruction of Samaria, Amos is depicting the Israelites as not only not returning to God but actively avoiding turning to God out of Genesis 3-like fear. Rather than turning to God, those with wicked and foolish hearts look at their sufferings, which they brought on themselves by their own wickedness and foolishness, and they blame God.
Whatever strength you feel you possess that you can boast in, God does not think much of it. God is not against your strengths and talents, but when you rely on them rather than on him to secure and defend your prosperity, God says that all your excellence, all that in which you would take pride, is nothing next to his power. Your mighty fortress will not secure you against his justice.
There was a willfulness to the ignorance of the wealthy Israelite elite. It is not simply that they were unaware of the problems of their people and of their time. The evidence was all around them, as Amos had been pointing out, yet they were refusing to acknowledge that evidence, choosing instead to live in a constructed reality that was favorable to them. They only saw their own wealth and apparent safety, because that was all they wanted to see.
Using a heavy dose of sarcasm, Amos challenges the idea that Israel and Judah are the greatest nations on earth and that nothing could harm them.
What we do for God is important and God appreciates it and takes it seriously. However, unless we are treating our fellow humans with fairness, kindness, and generosity, God doesn’t have any use for our tithes and offerings.
God’s unconditional love does not imply that what we do doesn’t matter. Nor does believing that what we do matters imply that God’s love is conditional. The biblical truth is that God loves us unconditionally, and that is precisely why what we do matters.
The Israelites were longing for the Day of the Lord, thinking that it would be a day of blessing for them. Amos, however, says it won’t be what you think it will be, and you won’t be on the side of it that you think you will be.