At the death of Solomon, about 931 B.C., his kingdom was torn in two and became known as the kingdoms of Israel (in the north) and Judah (in the south). Jereboam, a descendant of Joseph, became Israel’s first king. Jereboam was chosen by God for this position and had God’s blessing, but Jereboam faithlessly (and stupidly) chose to rebel against God, installing worship centers at the cities of Dan and Bethel, all in an effort to solidify a monarchy already guaranteed by God. He set up golden idols at those sites and encouraged the people to worship them. They did, and very soon afterward, God made their lives incredibly difficult by sending the Syrians and the Assyrians to oppress them. From 805 – 735 B.C., however, there was a break in the oppression and Israel began to prosper. Rather than turn to God in repentance however, Israel drew further away.
It was during this time that God sent a poor man from Tekoa (12 miles south of Jerusalem) to preach to them. His task was to get Israel to repent and warn them of the consequences of impenitence. His name was Amos, and his message to Israel was simple and ominous: “Prepare to meet your God” (4:12).
The book of Amos begins (chapters 1-2) somewhat deceptively in that it addresses the sins of the nations surrounding Israel. Amos’ hearers and readers could not help but believe, to begin with, that they were God’s favored nation.
But beginning in chapter 3, the address changes. No doubt Amos’ hearers had applauded everything the prophet said to this point. After all, he was taking sides with them against their enemies! But in chapter 3, Amos turns to Israel and says: “You’re no better, and you will not fare as well.”
It would be a rude awakening.
Jesus had stern language for people who condemn others for the same things they are doing themselves (Luke 13:2-4). Paul spoke the same way to the Roman Christians (2:1-4).
None of us is perfect, but our imperfections should not blind us to sin. Instead, they should humble us and draw us closer to the God who can forgive and restore.