by Francis Foulkes ©


'And he said: "The Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers" (1: 2)

We have seen that the first verse of this book of Amos introduces the book to us by telling us who Amos was and the times in which he lived and preached. This verse is a further introduction, or we might call it the title-page of the book. It tells us that although we are to read in this book 'the words of Amos' (verse 1), the book brings us God's word through Amos, and God's word is a mighty word.

a. The power of God's word

The Bible speaks in many different ways of the power of God's word. Jeremiah 23:29 says, 'Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer which breaks the rock in pieces?' Sometimes the Bible speaks of God's word as a sword (see Ephesians 6:17 and Hebrews 4: 12-13). Psalm 19 speaks of the voice of the Lord being heard in the thunder and in earthquake (see also Psalm 18:13 and Jeremiah 25:30). God has power to speak like that and He does speak like that ; but it is no contradiction when Elijah tells how he was alone on Mount Horeb and God spoke to him, not by the strong wind, nor by the violent fire, nor by the terrifying earthquake, but with 'a still small voice' (see 1 Kings 19:9-13). Most frequently God speaks to us like this, as we read the Bible, or in the quiet of our own heart and conscience, or through the circumstances of our lives. But that 'still small voice' can be to us a mighty voice, mighty in its effect on our lives. It should be to us a mighty voice, because it is the voice of our mighty, holy and loving God. It is more wonderful than anything else in all the world that He wants to speak to us. The greatest thing we can ever do is to hear God's word and obey it.

b. Like the roar of the lion

Amos, as we have seen, lived his life as a shepherd; and to the shepherd the most terrifying sound in nature was the roar of the lion. So when Amos wanted to speak of the power of God's word, he likened it to the lion's roar. It had come to him like that, and he knew that he must respond to it and obey it. 'The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophesy?' (3:8). so when Amos preached, the words were not just his own words. God spoke through him, and God's word through him was a mighty word. Revelation 1:15 says of our Lord Jesus Christ that 'His voice was like the sound of many waters'. That voice could be heard above all other sounds and we need to pray that today God's word will be heard like that, above all the world's voices and more strongly than all the words of men.

c. The result of the word of God

We have seen that Amos preached at a time when to the eyes of men Israel had great prosperity, but in the eyes of God it was a time of great crisis in the life of the nation. The people had rejected His word to them so often. God had offered them His love and His guidance and His strength, but they had despised His offer time and time again. His word through Amos, therefore, was a warning of judgment; and because they neglected the warning, judgment came. So it is said here that the result of the word of God was that 'the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers.' God in His love wanted to bless the people with pleasant pastures for their flocks, and to give the land fruitfulness and abundant harvests (see Psalm 65:9-13 and Joel 2:21-24). But because they turned away from Him, they had to realise that one day His gifts would be taken from them. When that happens, very soon even the most fruitful part of the countryside withers (The very name of Carmel, the hilly area by the sea north-west of Samaria, means 'fruitful'). It is equally true that our lives are fruitful and useful only when we listen to the word of God, live by it and allow His Spirit to work in us. When we turn aside from God our spiritual lives wither and we become useless to God and to man.


Mighty God, we thank You for Your great love in speaking to us, to make Yourself and Your way known to us; may Your word be powerful in our lives, and help us to rejoice to obey it. AMEN.

For further thought and study. 1. Compare this verse with the beginning of other prophetic books, for example Jeremiah 1 and Ezekiel 1, which speak of the call of these prophets, and Isaiah 1 which gives a summary of the message which Isaiah preached.

2. Consider with this verse the ways in which Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17:5-8 show the difference between the fruitfulness of the life of the person who trusts in God and obeys Him, and the 'withering' of the life of the person who turns away from God.

Note. 'Zion' was the hill on which the temple stood in Jerusalem, and in Old Testament days God made His presence known in a special way there. It may be that, although Amos addressed his prophecies especially to the northern kingdom of Israel, and not to the southern kingdom of which Jerusalem was the capital, they thought of His word as coming from the place of His temple. Or it may be that this verse was a title added later to stand at the top of this collection of the prophecies of Amos. In fact we have almost the same words as the first part of this verse in Joel 3:16, and rather similar words in Jeremiah 25:30. The verse is a true description of way God spoke, not only through Amos, but also through others of the prophets.