When GOD SPEAKS to us, are we LISTENING? The words of Amos, who was among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. And he said: "The Lord roars from Zion, and utters His voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers." (Amos 1:1-2)
Bible scholars are in agreement that the book of Amos has been written in some of the finest Hebrew style ever found in the Old Testament. The name “Amos” is derived from the Hebrew root ‘amas’, which means “to lift a burden, to carry.” By profession, Amos was a sheep-breeder and tender of sycamore trees (1:1; 7:14, 15), and was a contemporary of the more famous prophets like Hosea, Isaiah, and Jonah. God called Amos, a shepherd from Judah, to prophecy against the Northern Kingdom (Israel) before their captivity by Assyria.
Amos illustrates the appearance of God-ordained men throughout history who speak very effectively as God’s spokesmen without having the traditional “school of the prophets” background or any formal education so much sought after today. Amos gives no family background in his introduction (v. 1), which leads us to assume that he was not of noble or prominent heritage, like that of Isaiah or Zephaniah (7:14). Amos was from Tekoa, a town at the edge of the Judean wilderness, about five miles southeast of Bethlehem. Because of marginal and uncertain yearly rainfall, this area was suited more for raising sheep and goats than for cultivating crops. As a sheep breeder, Amos was the owner of one or more flocks of sheep.
Thus, in the midst of his secular job, Amos heard the voice of God, which he likened to the sound of a roaring lion (Jer. 25:30; Joel 3:16). Much like the “roar” heard from a lion before it pounces on his prey, God was speaking through His prophet before descending in judgment on Israel. The voice of the Lord thundered from Jerusalem, south of Israel, to Mt. Carmel in the north. As a shepherd, Amos could have known well the terrifying roar of a lion on the attack (1 Sam. 17:34–37). Due to the fact that “a lion (the Lord) has roared,” (3:8) His judgment from Zion against Israel; Amos listened, and became heavily burdened for the plight of the Israelites.
In fact, Amos had a tremendous sense of the majesty of God and the authority of His Word as he became obsessed with listening to God. Amos became a stern prophet of righteousness and uncompromising justice, and he faithfully delivered God’s message two years before the earthquake that occurred during the reign of King Uzziah (see also Zech. 14:5). His messages with the theme ‘God’s passionate concern for justice’ included eight prophecies (1:1–2:16) against eight nations including Judah and Israel; three sermons (3:1–6:14) each beginning with the phrase “Hear this word” (3:1; 4:1; 5:1); five visions (7:1–9:10) of coming judgment upon the northern kingdom; and five promises (9:11–15) which were God promises to reinstate the Davidic line, to renew the land, and to restore the people.
This is what Herbert F. Stevenson writes about Amos: “Unlike other prophets, Amos was not a man whose life was devoted to hearing and speaking the Word of the Lord. He was no product of the “schools of prophets,” nor a professional “seer.” He left his flock for a limited period, at the command of God, to deliver a specific message at Bethel. That done, he presumably returned to his sheep-tending at Tekoa.”
The question to ask ourselves today is, when God speaks to us, are we listening? When God roars from heaven and wants our attention, do we stop talking and listen? Or, are we so busy in our daily activities that we do not pause and incline our ears to God in order to listen to God? Or, do we only listen to God when it doesn't interfere with our lifestyle? Or, does God have to stop us on the tracks in order to draw our attention? Or, even if we hear God’s voice, do we acknowledge Him in order to receive His message fully. Let us surrender ourselves to God today, and tell Him like the young Samuel: "Speak, for Your servant hears" (1 Sam. 3:10).