The first item to note in the text is:
I. THE LAMENTATION OVER ISRAEL (Amos 5:1-3)
Amos began this sermon with a lament or a funeral dirge. As with each of Amos' sermons he asked for the attention of the congregation. Hear this word, Amos declared (Amos 5:1). It was a word of death, sorrow, and sadness. We can almost see the congregation glancing at each other: "Who has died?" they thought. Could it be a relative of Amos? Could it be that Amos had received word that the king had died? What could possibly bring such a sermon of sorrow?
Amos then stated that this lament was for the nation itself; this funeral sermon was for Israel (Amos 5:1). Again the people must have glanced at each other. "How can that be?" they asked. This was the best of times. The economy was good. There were no national soldiers fighting in any foreign war; it was a time of peace. The people were building their summer homes and their winter homes. There were (so to speak) two chickens in every pot and a car in every garage. How could Amos speak of the nation's death?
Amos declared that the nation had fallen, no more to rise (Amos 5:2). They had not the spiritual strength or the character to survive what was coming their way. Amos stated that the nation would be forsaken with no one to raise her up. There would be no external help for the great storm that was on the horizon. Thus internally and externally there would be no help.
Amos stated that only about 10% of the population would be left following the horrendous events that were coming (Amos 5:3). He declared that a thousand would march out and only 100 would be left; that 100 would march out and only 10 would be left. It would be a time of death and destruction.
Again, the people must have asked how such a tragedy could possibly happen. Amos responded to that question with the next point for our consideration:
II. THE LIFE STYLE OF ISRAEL
Amos declared, "Here is what you have done; now God will give you according to your works!" He revealed that the fabric of the nation was rotten to the core. No area was free from the taint of sin.
Listen to the charge against this nation: I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins, you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe and push aside the needy in the gate ... it is an evil time (Amos 5:12-13). The nation of Israel had become a people without restraint or moral guidance.
If one wanted to live right, that one was persecuted. If one wanted some political or judicial decision, many in places of power were open to be bribed. The poor and the needy were ignored, pushed aside, and neglected. It was a time when justice could be bought and sold; thus, the poor had none. Their rights were taken away.
In addition it was a time of religious and spiritual idolatry. The people had become Sunday-go-to-meeting Christians (so to speak). The ritual of religion on the day of worship had no impact on what they did during the week. They boxed God into the place of worship and did not honor him in their family life, their social life, or their business life. When they left the place of worship they felt that they had done their "God thing" and they would not be bothered with God until the next day of worship.
This brought Amos to the third point of his sermon:
III. THE LESSON FOR ISRAEL
Listen to this declaration of God: In the squares there shall be wailing; in the streets they shall say, Alas! Alas! They shall call the farmers to mourning and those skilled in lamentation to wailing: in all of the vineyards there shall be wailing, for I will pass through the midst of you, says the Lord (Amos 5:16-17). God's final declaration is I will take you into exile beyond Damascus (vs. 27). God made very clear that sin in the lives of His people would be punished.
One final thing must be noted in this sermon of Amos:
IV. THE LOVE OF GOD FOR ISRAEL
God warned Israel of the consequences of their disobedience but He also gave them opportunity to avoid His wrath. The invitation of God was ever before them. God said, Seek me and you shall live (Amos 5:4). Amos, the prophet, declared, Seek the Lord and you shall live (vs. 6). Amos added, Seek good and not evil that you may live (vs. 14). The patience and the grace of God find illustration in these events.
The reality is that any person who experiences the wrath of God must climb to that wrath, for along the roadway of life God places barriers and obstacles. God purposes that we avoid His judgment. He gives us many opportunities to escape. Anyone who reaches the judgment of God must climb over these obstacles to get there.
Many years ago I heard a sermon entitled "Climbing to Hell." The evangelist stated that any person who reaches Hell must climb to get there because God places obstacles and barriers in the path to keep folk from Hell.
Any person who reaches Hell must climb over the Bible to get there. Any person who reaches Hell must climb over the church to get there. Any person who reaches Hell must climb over faithful Christian friends to get there. Any person who reaches Hell must climb over the cross of Christ to get there.
Amos watched the nation of Israel climb over every barrier to reach God's wrath. They ignored God's last call of grace.
May we learn from Israel's failure. May we heed the calls of God's grace in our lives.
One songwriter penned these tremendous words:
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within.
Grace, grace, God's grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sins.