Although Amos was a farmer from Judah, he prophesied to Israel, the northern kingdom, around 760 B.C. During this period the nation was secure and the upper classes prospered. Archaeological discoveries at Megiddo and Samaria have uncovered carved ivory inlays that were used in the furniture and decorative paneling in the homes of the wealthy. But instead of using their wealth to serve the needy, the upper classes were deaf to their cries. In fact, the wealthy maintained their lifestyle by oppressing the poor.
Although the Israelites continued to worship God, their worship was cold and self-serving. Jeroboam had built temples in Bethel and Dan so the people would worship in the north rather than traveling to Jerusalem. But God viewed this worship as idolatrous and declared, "I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them" (Am 5:21-22).
God's judgment came against Israel in the form of famine, drought and plagues. But because the people failed to return to the Lord, Amos prophesied that all but a remnant would be destroyed. Still the Lord pleaded with Israel, "Seek good, not evil, that you may live!" (Am 5:14).
Amos has a powerful message today. We often seek the wrong things, forgetting the One who is the only source of true life. Amos challenges us to forsake anything and everything that hinders our relationship with God, proclaiming, "Seek the Lord and live!"