Good Times, Bad Times (1 of 3)
The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. And he said:
“The Lord roars from Zion
and utters his voice from Jerusalem;
the pastures of the shepherds mourn,
and the top of Carmel withers.”
It is in good times we are most prone to sense the favor of God in our lives. Along with peace and prosperity often comes a feeling of blessing—a nod to the heavens in recognition. Things are right: the spouse is happy, the children are healthy, work is steady, and our neighbors are content to remain snug in their own world. Life is looking up. The economy is turning around, the famine is gone, the recession is abating, and money is starting to flow again. Markets are active, and business is brisk. Wallets begin to bulge; midsections begin to bulge. Every visible indicator points to God’s favor in our lives.
Such was the situation in Israel when Amos came on the scene. Since the death of Solomon 170 or so years before Amos was called, the now-divided kingdom was naturally in disarray. Beset by enemies on every side, Israel had suffered a series of constant invasions. Her people had been subjected to the cruelties and pressures of the city-states and nations around her. But fortune smiled on Israel as the great nation of Assyria invaded Israel’s northeastern ancestral foe, Damascus (Syria, Aram). Damascus could not continue its historical raiding policy with such a burden on its back—Damascus’s strategic flank was vulnerable. Along with other factors, this helped bring about a period of respite for Israel. We might call it a political-economic “Indian summer.” Life was looking up. Spouses were happy, and children were healthy. Having their own battles to fight, neighbors were content to focus on their own issues. The economy had turned around, the recession had abated, and money was beginning to flow again. Markets were active, and business was brisk. Purses began to bulge; midsections began to bulge. Every visible indicator pointed to the presence of God’s favor in Israel.
It is when times are good, when the belt is loosened, that people again begin to move around and do things. People begin to contribute economically. We buy things, go
out to eat, and enjoy entertainment. So it was in Israel. Yet word came that a prophet of God was in town. Engraved invitations were sent to every town and village. Every home was called to come and hear the word of the LORD. There was a national murmur. The appearance of a prophet had never been good news. But was not God showing his favor? Community leaders gathered to discuss what this could possibly mean. Families wondered aloud in their homes what this message might be. The nation was apprehensive. But when the day came, they all made their way south. From every point on the compass, Israel made the trek to Samaria to listen to what the LORD had to say. Men, women, and children. Rich and poor. Young and old.