“The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds 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.” (Amos 1:1, ESV)
No one would have expected Amos for the task God gave him. It seems that God is always choosing the least likely for the task at hand. That was certainly the case in his selection of King David when he too was just a youth serving as a shepherd. The selection of Amos is also surprising though. He introduces himself as, “among the shepherds fo Tekoa (Amos 1:1), and then again in Amos 7:14-15 he describes himself as a “herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs.”
In the year 760BC (the likely time period when Amos lived and penned this book) shepherds were seen as simple ordinary people of the field. Amos’ claim to that of a “herdsman” in chapter 7 may have given him a slightly higher status than that of a simple shepherd, but nevertheless he came from no clear religious background which would have made him fit for prophetic service (1). Shepherds were also often even seen as dangerous since they spent many nights out in the fields protecting their property from thieves and wild animals. Where others more than likely simply saw a common shepherd of the field, God saw His man for His mission. Amos was to be the one to deliver a message of the impending wrath of God which would come not only to his own people of Israel, but to all the surrounding nations as well. To Israel for breaking God’s law which was to govern His people, and to the surrounding nations for breaking the moral law given to all people. All were guilty, and Amos was to prepare them for the impending justice of God.
God choosing Amos ought to serve as an incredible encouragement and reminder of the sovereignty of God. As an encouragement it reminds us that our ability to be used in God’s Kingdom is not dependent on the number of degrees we have or the amount of books we have consumed. Being used by God is not dependent on other’s perspectives on our own holiness or capability. It is not dependent on our heritage or our pedigree. God chooses whom He chooses. As a reminder of God’s sovereignty it is powerful to appreciate that we cannot coerce God. The God who “sustains the universe by the Word of His power (Hebrews 1:3) owes us nothing. His grace is poured in excess upon those who truly bring nothing to offer in return. And yet like Amos, we too as recipients of grace then also are caught up into the ongoing history of redemption as workers in His field, messengers of grace in the face of the Day of the Lord.
- Smith, Gary V. Amos. Mentor Commentaries. Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 1998.