Chapter six opens with an address to those in “Zion,” which is strange because Amos is a prophet to the northern kingdom, not the southern (where Zion – Jerusalem – is the capital). But this point allows us to make an observation about biblical interpretation. There can be a difference between whom words are spoken to, and who they are for. Amos was the prophet sent to Israel, but the book of Amos was not written for Israel, but for Judah. And so Judah is supposed to learn from the message and experience of her sister nation to the north.
This is an important point for the study of the gospels. While they record what Jesus said, the message may not have the same point Jesus had because the book in which the words are recorded was written by someone other than Jesus with perhaps a different emphasis.
In the prophets, “Joseph” is another name for “Israel” (see Ezekiel 37:16 and Zechariah 10:6), and in chapter six Israel’s great sin is that she has immersed herself in her luxuries and cannot feel the sorrow she should feel for her own (Joseph’s) spiritual decay.
If she believes she is impervious to destruction because of her financial acumen or her military might, she should consider the then disappeared economic greatness of Calneh, the military might of the Hittite city Hamath – both lying far to the north – and the superb glory of Gath to Israel’s south. All these were now far from their heyday. It could, and would, happen to Israel too (and Judah).
The most difficult time to remember God is when things are going well and yet, it’s when things are going well that we are most vulnerable.