Under the reign of Jeroboam II, the nation of Israel had reached extraordinary wealth and success. They had peace from their enemies and expanded their borders. A new class of wealthy citizens emerged who showed off their status through their possessions, including their gold and ivory mansions. But the people followed a religion of convenience and had no compassion for their less-fortunate neighbors. It was into this world that God sent the man Amos to preach His judgment.
This is Amos’ fourth message to God’s people. The Lord had sent His warnings (Amos 3), and yet they had not listened. They minimized God as they built themselves up (Amos 4), yet he pleaded with them to seek the Lord (Amos 5). And now, this next message of judgment is directed to the complacent and comfortable Israelites.
The message starts with two statements of sorrow (“woe”). The first sorrow is for the complacent, who were confident that God would never punish them! The people were filled with national pride, considering themselves the “first of the nations”. They were secure in the belief that God preferred them to their neighbors and would exempt them from His punishment. But they were no better than the great and mighty nations of Calneh, Hamath, and Gath — all who have met destruction at the Lord’s hand. They push away the warnings of judgment while they pull in their own violence and wickedness.
The second sorrow is for the comfortable, who lived their lives in luxury and leisure. They slept in lavish beds of comfort, eating the best of the flock, and passing their time in music, drinking wine, and the finest cosmetics. But while they rejoiced in their comfort, they had lost their compassion. Their neighbors are headed for disaster and they don’t care! They counted themselves first of the nations, yet they will be the first to exile. Their lives of comfort will be over as they are herded away into slavery.
But the core issue was their pride. They were consumed with themselves and their own accomplishments, and had forgotten that it was the Lord who saved them. They were caught up in their own greatness, yet the Lord swears them to punishment by the greatest thing possible — Himself! Their city will be taken and they will be totally destroyed. The people will fear to even call upon the Lord as their houses are demolished.
Their pride has turned their justice into poison and their righteous acts only make the world more bitter! To expect justice or righteousness from them is as damaging as running a horse or driving a plow over slippery rocks! They take pride in their accomplishments, never realizing that they have accomplished nothing, and have no strength of their own!