In this series, certain books will grab a preacher’s attention without much convincing. And then there are books like Amos that often go unnoticed and unpreached. Has anyone had a church member recently ask, “Hey, when are you going to finally preach a series through Amos?” Anyone…anyone?
At just nine chapters, Amos is deceivingly short, but his message includes a vast array of subjects and many difficult passages. Some might make members wince when they’re read aloud (like when he talks about babies being ripped out of pregnant mothers in 1:13).
But we should preach this book. We should sit in it with our congregations. We should understand its place in God’s revelation. Here are six reasons you should preach through Amos.
1. Preach Amos to preach justice.
The announcement of judgment on the nations surrounding Israel and Judah contains God’s displeasure with injustice in the world. This offers a chance to show God’s anger toward societies that don’t care for the helpless and take advantage of his people. To those who often wonder, “where is God in all the pain and suffering in the world?” Amos makes it clear: God sees, and he will judge!
Nowadays, justice is a hot topic. Some preachers tend to preach about it from suspect texts, which causes people to be suspicious. However, if you address the topic as part of your exegesis of Amos, then you’ll give your church a chance to put justice in its place biblically.
2. Preach Amos to preach repentance and forgiveness.
Time is almost up for Israel, and so Amos calls them to repentance, exhorting the peoples of the world to seek God’s forgiveness before it’s too late. Just when you think Amos is preaching only to people out there, he focuses in on his own people—Judah and Israel. Israel in particular has severely sinned against God. This is why he calls them “cows of Bashan.” Though it’s lost on us, this is a serious insult! Judgment is coming unless they seek the Lord and his forgiveness.
3. Preach Amos to clarify what biblical worship requires.
Does anyone still think that worship is just singing songs? Sure they do. Hypocrisy is as ripe in churches today as in any other generation. Thankfully, Amos gets to the heart of worship when God says he hates their songs and music because behind the words on their lips are lives marked with sin.
4. Preach Amos to warn comfortable sinners.
Amos preaches to the people of Israel as they enjoy relative comfort. Assyria’s pressure has been relieved for the moment. And so all is well, right? Not so fast. Amos declares the coming judgment of God to an otherwise comfortable and wealthy people. Why? Because Israel has grown too comfortable in their wealth and their sin. Amos seeks to arouse them to repentance. This is the major theme from beginning to end of the book.
5. Preach Amos to unpack the Davidic covenant.
Though you probably won’t have to wait until Amos 9 to mention it, the final chapter of this book offers an opportunity to preach clearly on the Davidic Covenant, a prominent topic throughout the Scriptures. The Davidic covenant is in the angel’s word to Mary. It’s central to Peter’s sermon at Pentecost. In fact, Jesus himself took several opportunities to claim David’s promise, including his words on the cross (Psalm 22).
You can’t preach Amos without preaching Jesus’ coming kingdom. You could sit in Amos 9 for a few weeks if you wanted, connecting its prophetic hopes to Christ and the church.
6. Preach Amos as an introduction to other prophets.
Preaching the prophets seems like a daunting task. While Amos does include visions and prophecies that require careful interpretation, the book doesn’t contain the tangled web of apocalyptic literature found in other prophets like Daniel and Ezekiel.
In fact, once you understand the historical setting, the original audience, and Amos’ reason for writing, you’ll find his message to be relatively straightforward. All of this makes Amos a great on-ramp to prophetic canon. By familiarizing yourself with certain historical settings and prophetic themes, you’ll build up confidence to preach other, more difficult books. After preaching through Amos, I suspect you’ll even be hungry to preach through more of the prophets!
I’m going to assume you already have the go-to commentaries in series like the New International Commentary OT/NT, Word Biblical Commentary, John Calvin and the commentaries that come with Logos. Here are a couple of additions that I’d recommend along with the typical commentary series.
Kingdom Through Covenant, by Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum
This book only references one verse of Amos and it’s very technical at times. But this volume will help you learn the prophets’ role in the history of redemption. Their chapter on the Davidic Covenant (a major prophetic theme) will help with the last chapter of Amos tremendously. This is an excellent, albeit challenging, aid for biblical theology in the prophets.
God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment, by Jim Hamilton
An incredible biblical theology with a helpfully narrow scope. Chapter 3 covers God’s judgment in the prophets, and at least briefly covers all the prophets individually. The imminence of God’s judgment is a central matter in the book of Amos, and Hamilton puts it in its proper biblical-theological context.
The Prophets as Preachers, by Gary V. Smith
Smith devotes a chapter to each prophet in chronological order as he helps the reader understand the collective prophetic message. His short address on Amos is a great summary, and helpful to get a quick grip on the purpose of the book.
This article originally appeared here.