As I prepare a sermon on the whole book of Amos I am struck again by the contrasting sermons I could give. On one hand I could give a bible study sermon which describes Amos' call from being a shepherd and gives details about his historical setting as he addresses the surrounding nations and then focuses on the northern kingdom Israel sometime around 760 BC. And, most importantly, I could range over the content of his harsh prophecies which utter God's judgement on the greed, corrupted leadership, oppression of the poor and hypocritical worship of his people. Because Amos addresses a nation enjoying apparent prosperity and power, his message was all the more challenging to hear. Such a bible study would give a clear understanding of what Amos is all about and draw out some implications for us today.
On the other hand, without neglecting the historical particularities of Amos, I could preach this as God's living word today recognizing how God continues to call his people to account and roars judgement on injustice, poverty and self-pleasing worship. This becomes a tough message, just as unwelcome as when Amos first spoke! As I wrestle with the preparation task I know that I am being challenged about my easy acquiescence about society's treatment of the poor, and my lacking awareness that God has a view on my worship too! So I am constrained to take the tough path!