Read Amos 1:1-2:16
“This is what the Lord says: ‘For three sins of ________, even for four, I will not relent…I will send fire on ________ …’”
You likely noticed the repeating pattern as Amos, a shepherd and prophet in 8th century B.C. Israel, wrote these words of God eight times in the short span of two chapters. Let’s make some important observations from these chapters.
The “for three sins of…even for four” formula. Although this was possibly a common literary device of the day that may have indicated several sins, it is interesting that only one primary sin is addressed in each of the first seven references:
- Damascus – threshed Gilead.
- Gaza – slave trade.
- Tyre – slave trade.
- Edom – evils against Israel.
- Ammon – cruel, imperialistic expansion.
- Moab – atrocities against Edom.
- Judah – idol worship.
How would an Israelite have responded upon reading those words? Would there have been a sense of joy in knowing that the roaring lion of Zion was going to judge some of the surrounding enemies? How would they have responded as they read about Judah, the two southern tribes from which they had separated years before?
But, I wonder, were those first statements of judgment all a set up? Don’t get me wrong. God would indeed execute the punishment He outlined. Was He, however, helping Israel to recognize their own pride before lowering the boom with their own “for three sins of Israel, even for four”(2:6) judgment. And the description of their sin, was the only one listing four:
- Pagan practices
- Abuses of pledges and fines
- Mistreatment of spiritual leaders
This book, you see, is a warning to God’s chosen people of impending judgment. It is an invitation to them to wake up and recognize the reality of their own waywardness.
Do you find within yourself a critical judgmental spirit that identifies the failures of others and rejoices when they experience difficulties? Are you, meanwhile, blind to your own shortcomings? Regardless of your responses to those questions, pause now and sincerely pray the words of the Psalmist from centuries ago:
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)