by Francis Foulkes ©


Thus the Lord God showed me: behold, he was forming locusts in the beginning of the shooting up of the latter growth; and lo, it was the latter growth after the king's mowings. When they had finished eating the grass of the land, I said, "O Lord God, forgive, I beseech thee! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!" The Lord repented concerning this; "It shall not be," saith the Lord. Thus the Lord God showed me; behold, the Lord God was calling for a judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land. Then I said, '"0 Lord God, cease, I beseech thee! How can Jacob stand? He is so small !" The Lord repented concerning this; "This also shall not be," said the Lord God.' (7:1-6)

Amos was a great prophet. He was also a man of prayer. He was a great prophet because he was a man of prayer. He not only preached God's word to Israel. He prayed earnestly for his people that they might turn back to God. Preaching without prayer is cold and heartless. Preaching with love and concern and prayer behind it is powerful and compelling. Amos sometimes received God's word through visions. It may have been a quite ordinary sight that he saw at first, locusts eating the crops, a fire, a builder checking a house - then through that the Lord spoke to him, and 'showed' him what He want him to see, to receive His message. Here we have two such visions.

a. Locusts

In the Middle East and in many countries of Africa plagues of locusts are not uncommon, and they can be terrible and devastating. Locusts come down in their millions and eat up the crops and leave nothing at all. Amos watched the locusts at work, and as he watched God gave him a vision of the judgment that threatened Israel, unless they turned back to Him (compare 4:9 for such a judgment in the past). It was the time of 'the latter growth after the king's mowings'. In Palestine the early rains came in October, and then there was the first growth of crops and pastures. It seems that from this was taken a tax which was called 'the king's mowings'. Then there were the later rains which normally gave a greater growth. If 'the latter growth' of crops and pastures was all eaten up, there was no hope of anything more till the next December. Amos in his vision saw all the green growth of the land eaten up just at this critical time. 'Must this be?' he cried. 'Must his people suffer like this?' So he prayed for God's mercy and forgiveness. He pleaded that Israel was too small and weak to face such a disaster, too small to stand before the judgment of God. His prayer was like that of the psalmist in Psalm 130:3-4: 'If thou, 0 Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.' And God heard the prayer of Amos, ' 'It shall not be', said the Lord.'

b. Fire

The second vision that Amos saw was a vision of fire. Perhaps this time he watched an ordinary fire, in a house or in the fields, and through this God gave him a vision. But the vision was not of a small fire, but a vast, raging fire, the fire of God's judgment. In the prophet's vision 'it devoured the great deep'; perhaps this means the ocean, or perhaps the waters under the earth (see Genesis 7:11, 49:25, Deuteronomy 33:13 and Isaiah 51:10 for this expression). Then it went on to devour the land, the cultivated land of the earth. Again Amos turned to God in prayer for mercy. Again God answered. The Bible has many such prayers that God will pardon His people, and God loves to hear that earnest intercession for men and women under judgment. Abraham interceded with God for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-33). Moses pleaded that God would forgive Israel when they had turned aside to worship idols at the very time when they had seen His glory on Mount Sinai and had been given His law to obey (Exodus 32:31-32). The apostle Paul says about his people, 'my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved' (Romans 10:1). God does not wish that anyone should perish, but rather turn back to Him in repentance, faith and obedience (see Romans 2:4, 1Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9). So He is glad when men and women of God turn to Him in prayer for the salvation of others.

We pray to God for many things in the lives of other people; but the greatest thing for which we can pray is that men will turn from their sins and come back to God. In the New Testament 1 John 5:16 speaks about our praying in this way for one who is our brother and says that in answer to such prayer 'God will give him life'. When a Christian prays like that, he should also use every opportunity to make dear the gospel of salvation, bearing witness to the Saviour by word and by life. Nothing is more wonderful than what Jesus speaks of as the bringing back of the lost sheep to the shelter of the fold, the bringing back of the run-away son to his father (Luke 15). James (5:19-20) says, 'My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins'


Lord, give us a deep and strong desire to pray for others, and may we also be faithful messengers of Your gospel in every opportunity that we have, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Saviour. AMEN.

For further thought and study. Study further some of the great intercessory prayers in the Bible, those of Abraham, Moses and Paul mentioned above, and also those of Samuel (in 1 Samuel 12:19-25), Isaiah (in Isaiah 37:1-4) and Jeremiah (in Jeremiah 8:20-9:1, 14:7-9, 19-22). See also 1 Timothy 2:1-6.

Notes. 1. When verse 1 speaks of 'the king's moorings', it is usually understood that the first growth was taken for the king as a tax. We have no other record of this being done. It is possible to translate it as referring to the time of the shearing of the king's sheep.

2. We usually use the word 'repent' for a turning from sin. The Bible quite often speaks of God's 'repenting. This obviously does not mean a turning from sin. It might be translated 'God was sorry', or (as many modern translations do), 'God relented'; that is, in answer to prayer, He turned from His purpose of judgment and showed mercy and pardon.