In chapter 4, Amos urged his listeners to prepare to meet their God. Judgement was coming and they needed to be prepared to face it. In chapter 5, he continues this theme of judgement, highlighting that the source of the judgement would be Yahweh himself. He also delivered three pleas to the people. If the nation wished to escape the coming Assyrian invasion, they needed to heed God’s words here. Sadly, history records that they failed to heed his words and so indeed came under judgement. Nonetheless, Amos’s principles remain true. If we will escape the certain chastening that will fall upon us for our sin, we will do so by hearing the lessons of this chapter.

Structurally, this passage forms a chiasm. A chiasm is a literary structure in which the central thrust of the text is sandwiched by its surrounding parts. Gary Smith shows the chiastic structure of this passage:

A. Lament the death of the nation (vv. 1–3)

B. Call to seek God and live (vv. 4–6)

C. Accusation of injustice (v. 7)

D. Hymn to Yahweh (vv. 8–9)

C’. Accusation of injustice (vv. 10–13)

B’. Call to seek God and live (vv. 14–15)

A’. Lament the death of the nation (vv. 16–17)

The hymn to Yahweh, highlighting his personhood and power (vv. 8–9), is the central focus of the text. Yahweh had made the very stars the people worshipped and governed the very forces of nature that they believed their idols controlled. He would personally see to it that his disobedient people fell under judgement.

While judgement was pretty much inevitable, there is always hope of escape when we respond as we should to the Lord. Amos offers a threefold appeal to his hearers who will escape judgement.

First, he called the people to hear God’s word (vv. 1–3). If there was to be any hope of escape, they must believe what God said about sin and judgement. As noted previously, Israel had never been more militarily secure. King Jeroboam II was a skilled politician and capable military general who had restored much of the territory that Israel had formerly lost. But his skill would not save them from judgement. If the people were to have any hope of escape, they needed to see past the veneer of security and hear God’s warning of judgement to come.

Like Israel, we are prone to hide beneath a veneer of security. That veneer might take the form of God’s blessings in our lives, or our external show of religion, or our generosity to the poor, or our membership in a Bible-preaching church. These things are all good in and of themselves but if we find our security in them we are in no better a place than Israel was in Amos’s day. We need to hear God’s word and respond appropriately.

Second, he called the people to seek God’s favour (vv. 5–7). The Israelites had for too long been looking to their idols for hope but they needed to abandon those idols and return to Yahweh. Warren Wiersbe writes, “To seek the Lord means first of all to change our thinking and abandon the vain thoughts that are directing our wayward lives.” The people needed to think aright about God and to turn to him for their hope. We need to do the same.

Third, he called people to seek good (vv. 10–17). In these verses, the Lord highlights several specific sins of his people (promoting injustice, stubbornness to God’s calls to repentance, oppressing the poor, arrogance, etc.) and calls them to repent. “Seek good, and not evil, that you may live” (v. 14). They needed to concretely recognise and repent of specific sins. Vague confession was insufficient; they needed to be very specific. To quote Wiersbe again, “True repentance begins with naming sins and dealing with them one by one.”

God is willing to deliver us but we must hear his word and seek his favour by repenting specific sins and pursuing what is right.

As you meditate on Amos 5:1–17 this morning, ask God to help you recognise what you need to hear, how you need to seek him, and what sins you need to repent of as you actively pursue good.