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There are two sections in this chapter, and today we are going to focus on the first: verses 1-7. This passage is about the self-indulgent and self-confident leaders of society. Both Jerusalem (the capital of Judah) and Samaria (the capital of Israel) are included. These cities were centers of wealth, powers and prestige – not unlike many of today’s capital cities. Those who lived there had ridiculous wealth compared with the rural people of the surrounding tribal provinces. The city’s infrastructure was funded by tax-payer money and we can see in these verses that those who lived there didn’t have to work hard to sustain their luxurious lifestyles. They were in ‘first’ place in the nation, and others came to them for financial help and physical security.
But Amos warns them that being ‘first’ does not always mean being ‘best’. They were no better off than other cities in other nations that they themselves had subjugated. If Gath could be defeated, why not Samaria?
Ignoring the coming disaster, they lazed around on beautiful furniture, eating meat (which was a delicacy for most people, not an everyday event like it is for most of us) and drinking wine out of bowls instead of glasses. They had leisure not only to play music, but even to invent new instruments. Instead of using their time and money to invest in the nation and its poor and needy, they spent it on their own lavish lifestyles.
Therefore, being ‘first’ in the nation would mean, ironically, being the ‘first’ to go into exile. We don’t see this word directly fulfilled in the northern kingdom, but it is certainly what happened in Judah (2 Kgs 24:12-15).
The second section of this chapter (verses 8-14) picks up the same ideas of self-confidence, sin, and punishment by military defeat, but is not as coherent a unit as the first section.
Those of us who read this blog are generally the complacent and the secure, those who find ourselves on beds and couches, playing music, and eating and drinking to our heart’s content. Amos is asking us instead to grieve over the ruin of the nations in which we are living.
Prayer: Lord God, I find myself in the same situation as the people of Samaria and Jerusalem. I am one of those rich and powerful citizens, living a life of luxury from others’ taxes. Help me to live righteously and generously. Make my heart sensitive to yours, and to the people you have created, great and small. May I be one who is grieved by all that is not right with my world and my self.