The Book of the Twelve (Minor Prophets) 11: Amos - Justice and the Tabernacle
One of the most famous speeches in recent memory given in the turmoil of the civil rights struggle was Martin Luther King, Jr’s - Where Do We Go From Here? (1967). He urged, “Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. Let us be dissatisfied until that day when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together . . . Let us be dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout ‘White Power!’ — when nobody will shout ‘Black Power!’
Amos 5:24 captures a central theme of this powerful prophetic book, “But let justice roll down . . .” Amos lived during Isaiah’s day, “in the days of Uzziah, King of Judah” (790-739 B.C.). His name means “Burden-bearer.” His prophetic burden was a message against the greed, injustice, externalism, and self-righteousness of the Northern Kingdom. Though they were to “promote justice at the city gate!” (5:15), he addressed abuse of the poor and defenseless by the rich and powerful (2:7; 5:10–12).
The story of Amos is interesting. He was a welcome part of religious establishment for a time, but then is cast out (ch. 7). One can imagine that Amos thunders that “The LORD roars from Zion” (1:2) as a Warrior to judge wicked nations around Israel. “For three transgressions of Damascus and for four I will not revoke its punishment” (1:3). Judgment will come to Aramea, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab (1:3-2:3), even Judah (2:5). But then the message turns against Israel: 3:1 “Listen, you Israelites . . . I brought up from the land of Egypt: 3:2 “I have chosen you alone from all the clans of the earth. Therefore I will punish you for all your sins.” 3:14 “Certainly when I punish Israel for their covenant transgressions.” The various temporal judgments did not produce repentane (4:8ff) “Still you did not come back to me” (4:9). Therefore Israel is called to “prepare to meet your God” (4:12). The result of scathing denunciation of Israel for her sins is that Amos was exiled from his prophetic role at Bethel. 7:10ff “Don’t prophesy at Bethel any longer.”
The theme of judgment gives way in the final chapter to a glorious new covenant vision of salvation. After judgment, “In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David . . . and all the nations who are called by My name” (9:11-12ff). This prophecy is cited in new covenant fulfillment by James at the Council. Acts 15:14ff - “Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. With this the words of the Prophets agree.” James concludes that to “rebuild the tabernacle of David...” is to grow the Church by the mixture of remnant Jews and “all the Gentiles who are called by My name.” The uniqueness of the Tabernacle of David is that in contrast to the tabernacle (of Moses and in Shiloh), David established worship in the presence of God (before the ark), in an undivided tent with both Jews and Gentiles together who especially offered sacrifices of praise (cf Leithart, Silence to Song). So Amos provides a message of judgment for our own instruction, but also hope. He will build His church and the gates of hell will not prevail. The nations shall yet rejoice.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more