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Discovery Magazine 12/1/2003

Amos the Shepherd Who Tried to Lead Israel Back to God

by  Rhonda Thompson

Shepherds are mentioned many times in the Bible, but one of the most important shepherds is not very well known. His name was Amos. We know about Amos from the Old Testament book that bears his name. Amos was from the village of Tekoa, in the southern part of Israel called Judea. He was a humble, hard-working man who not only took care of sheep, but also took care of sycamore trees. Amoslived in an ordinary village and had an ordinary job. He was not famous or rich or powerful. But God chose him to do something extraordinary: to go far from his home, into the northern part of Israel, and tell the Israelites to change their ways. Amos was not trained to be a preacher or prophet, but when God gave him a job to do, he did it.

God told Amos to go to Bethel, which was one of the places where King Jeroboam had set up idols. Jeroboam and all the other kings of Israel had led their people away from God, encouraging them to worship manmade gods and do many terrible things in the name of those idols. The Israelites offered sacrifices to their gods, and had great feasts in their honor. They did what made them feel good, rather than what was right in God’s eyes.

The Israelites had become more and more interested in being comfortable and gaining wealth. They were very greedy and selfish, so they often neglected and mistreated the poor. Those who had some land wanted more, so they took land away from the poor. Those who had fine houses wanted even bigger houses, so they built themselves “houses of ivory” (3:15), while the poor had little or no shelter. Those who had money bought and ate more food than they needed, while the poor starved. That was not the way God had told the Israelites to live!

Amos told the Israelites that they were not being just (fair). Because idols are manmade, men can make their own decisions about what is right and wrong. Idols don’t care if men treat one another badly, but God does!  Because God is just, He expects His chosen people to be just, and to treat each other fairly. God wanted the Israelites to treat others as they wanted to be treated themselves. 

Amos told the people, “Seek good and not evil, that you may live, so the Lord God of hosts will be with you.... Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate...let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream” (5:14, 15a, 24). Even though Amos preached to the Israelites over 2,700 years ago, God also expects us to listen to His words. He wants us to treat others as we want to be treated (Matthew 7:12), to be fair, kind, and unselfish to others (James 2:1-9; Ephesians 4:32). God wanted the Israel-ites to change their ways. If we aren’t following His Word, He expects us to do the same.

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