Amos gives us a lot of detail about his situation compared with other writers. Amos and Hosea prophesy and speak for God to the Northern kingdom – Israel under the reign of Jeroboam II. Isaiah was in the south while Amos was in the north, says Amos. Amos probably grew up knowing Elisha, Jonah, Isaiah and Micah. Amos was a little different however. He never went to a prophetic school and was called to prophesy while being a working man in the field. The time of Amos is during the period of Isaiah chapter 1-5 chronologically, in case you were wondering about why the reading plan is jumping around like it.
Israel is flourishing at this time. They are experiencing economic stability and prosperity. The surrounding nations were not strong enough to give them trouble. Assyria was not yet a conquering world power. It does depend on what ‘flourishing’ means, however. Israel is far from being a witness for God and was reveling in ease, loose morals, and had no problem with discrimination of the poor. Worst of all, religion was also flourishing but it wasn’t to do with Yahweh but the gods of the neighbouring nations. Israel were idolaters, yet again.
Amos spoke boldly for God and this landed him in trouble with Amaziah, who condemned him to silence (7:10-17). Amos believed there was a bright day for Israel as the book finishes. If Israel would listen and change they would come to true national prosperity spiritually and physically. After being ousted by Amaziah, Amos went back to Judah and wrote his ministry imperative in a book for all to see and know who cared.
In his background book, David Pawson sees four themes in Amos: eight sentences (1:1-2:16), three sermons (3-6), five symbols (7-8), three surprises (9). Whatever the structure, Amos’s chosen message is clear. Almost like when Nathan came to David and David proclaimed ‘that person should die’, Amos shows that the surrounding nations are terrible and that Israel has been just like them. God’s sentence on them will be for Israel too. But it need not be that way if they would only listen and return. If they don’t, God will warn and punish them with five pictures that will prove that Amos is right in his prophecy. But praise be to God for his mercy means that one day He will show his ultimate mercy in restoring the nation.