Sanctify has been studying Amos for the past few weeks on Tuesday nights. It is certainly not a light or lovey-dovey book. It's incredibly awesome. "Minor prophet" my foot. We have studied two chapters so far. Amos clearly establishes who Yahweh is, what he expects of his creation (both covenant people and non-covenant people) and why he is angry (here is a hint: everyone is screwing up). I've posted a Google Doc with more detailed thoughts from each "session" which I will add to as I make progress.
I will put kind of "big idea" posts here. Reading through my thoughts on each verse would probably get tedious for most.
So far, we have studied chapters 1 and 2 in entirety (Amos 1 Amos 2). It opens with Amos establishing that he is a farmer of sorts - he owns flocks and is probably well to do - rather than a professional prophet. He is from the southern kingdom of Judah and prophesies to the northern kingdom of Israel. The first of many hymn fragments comes along (Amos 1:2) establishing Yahweh as powerful and terrifying. Amos then tells of the transgressions of six of Israel's neighbors. Then he chastises Judah. Just when Israel is getting a swell head from how righteous they are, Amos slams them with their wrongdoings. He then promises impending doom.
The "war oracles" each tell of a nation and their wrongdoings. Some of these are pretty heinous. For example, the Ammonites "ripped open pregnant women" to "enlarge their border" (Amos 1:13-15). When Amos gets to Judah and Israel, the crimes suddenly seem less dire. They do stuff like disregard the poor, worship idols, and reject the law of Yahweh. They're not killing anyone or driving entire peoples into slavery. What's the big deal then? Aha! The Israelites are God's covenant people. They are held to a higher standard than the people around them. Then why is God punishing the others? They aren't his covenant people so doesn't that mean they aren't under the law? Aha again! Their crimes are contrary to basic human decency. The key to everyone's transgressions is that they violated the law they knew. Sometimes these nations were instruments of God in punishment of another nation. That doesn't matter - they are still held accountable. God never said "I art fair."
This teaches Christ-followers a valuable lesson. While we may not be "as bad as the next guy," we are held to a higher standard due to our covenant with Yahweh (it's easy to forget that New Testament means New Covenant). In fact, we should go out of our way to make sure the poor are treated fairly, justice is served, and the law of Yahweh is followed by our brothers and sisters.