God alone is sovereign. This means (1) that there is no point in trying to appeal to other deities, and (2) that God is the God of the whole world. This means that when God’s covenant people become no different in their conduct from the nations of the world, they cease to be in any substantial way unique and are nothing more than just another “sinful kingdom.”
Amos 9:1-4 recapitulates many themes from earlier in the book of Amos for climactic effect and even intensifies these themes. Amos says that a fate worse than death is coming for the Israelites, and this fate is absolutely inescapable.
For Amos, religious fidelity and social immorality are not really two different realms of sinfulness. They are inextricably linked to one another, and this is one of the really important ways that the book of Amos confronts us in modern Western Civilization. Theology implies ethics, and ethics depends upon theology.
You might think food and water are what sustain your life, but in fact it is the Word of the LORD that created those things and provides them to you, just as the Word of the LORD created and sustains us. The worst kind of famine, then, is where God is no longer speaking into your life, or where we find ourselves no longer sensitive to his voice.
Yahweh is not only the Creator but the sustainer of all that is. To try to live without the Creator while holding onto the creation is folly. In the same way, to try to hold onto peace and joy without source of all peace and joy is folly. Humans were created to be joyful, but when we displace God from the throne of our life, joy goes with him. It can be no other way, because he alone is the source of all joy.
When you love money, you cannot love God. When you love money, people become numbers, commodities to be bought or sold in the marketplace. Contracts become technicalities to be danced around and manipulated. Societies that become dominated by this spirit are inviting God’s judgment.
In Amos 8:1-7, God uses a vision of a basket of summer fruit to say that the end has come for Israel. Why? In part, because of their greed. For the greedy merchant in ancient Israel, days of rest and holidays were not blessings but irritations, much the our greed pushes us towards a “24/7” society.
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.