While dating some Old Testament prophecies is a difficult task, Amos does not leave the reader at a loss. His prophetic writing begins, “The words of Amos, who was one of the sheep breeders from Tekoa—what he saw regarding Israel in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah, and Jeroboam son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake” (Amos 1:1). Amos was one of the earliest writing prophets sent to Israel. He preached during a period of relative strength for Israel under Jeroboam II (2 Kgs 14:23-29) and while Uzziah reigned in Judah (2 Kgs 15:1-7). Called from an agronomical background as a sheep breeder (Amos 1:1), Amos’s prophecies contain metaphors of rural life. Amos’s proclamations against the nations imply that he was educated and knew the world situation of his day. The prophet demonstrated rhetorical skill with a repeated introductory statement when he announced the word of the Lord: “I will not relent from punishing…for three crimes, even four, because they…” (Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6).
In the first two chapters of Amos’s prophecy, the nations in and around the land of Canaan were in the prophet’s purview. The prophet announced the Lord’s intention against these nations by first addressing those furthest from Jerusalem. He then announced the Lord’s intention against Israel and Judah. Thus, Amos’s sermons against Damascus, Gaza, Edom and the like preceded his condemnation of Israel and Judah. Amos indicted God’s people because though they had enjoyed the benefits of a special relationship with the Lord since the Exodus, Israel had failed to maintain covenant loyalty in their behavior. In Amos 1-2, the prophet condemned both the nations surrounding the Promised Land and those living in it.
Amos described the Lord’s wrath against Israel for their failure to keep the demands of the law. Amos pictured the Lord as a lion, roaring against the nations and even those dwelling in the Promised Land (Amos 1:2). Throughout Amos 1-2, the prophet announced that the Lord would send fiery judgment against those that dishonored Him (Amos 1:4, 7, 10, 12, 14; 2:2, 5). Even though God had given His people the land promised to Abraham, had removed their enemies from before them, and had even allowed them to prosper under Jeroboam and Uzziah, they were unfaithful to the practical socio-economic demands God gave to Moses. Judgment was in order. The author of Hebrews recognized that the failure of Israel and Judah was part of the schema of the storyline of Scripture. He wrote that:
(1) God found fault with His people, annulled the Mosaic covenant, and instituted a new covenant in Christ. In Heb 8:7-8, the author noted that God had found fault with His people in the first covenant. The new covenant in Christ, prophesied in Jer 31:31-34, was thus God’s word of grace to Israel and Judah (Heb 8:8-12; 10:16-17). In the new covenant, God said He would put His law on the minds of His people and write them on their hearts so that they would all know Him. God promised that in the new covenant He would finally deal with His people’s sins. The author of Hebrews wrote that God has forgiven His people through Jesus’ sacrificial death (Heb 1:3). In Jesus’ incarnation, suffering, and death, He defeated the Devil (Heb 2:10-15) and through the offering of His own blood, fulfilled the role of a high priest (Heb 2:16-18; 4:14-16; 7:26-28; 10:19-22; 12:22-24; etc.).
(2) God will judge those who partake in the benefits of the new covenant but fail to endure in their profession of faith. The warnings of Hebrews are no less severe than those written by Amos or Israel’s other prophets. The author warned his audience, saying that if the Mosaic covenant was binding and those who turned away were punished, how much worse punishment would God exact on those who would reject God’s Son (Heb 2:1-4)? The author of Hebrews urged his audience to remember God’s judgement against the wilderness generation lest they fail to enter God’s rest, namely, fully identifying with Christ (Heb 3:7-4:12). In light of the dangers of falling away (Heb 6:1-8; 10:26-39; 12:14-17), the author urged the participants in the new covenant to be faithful and to persevere in Christ (Heb 11:1-12:13; 13:13-15).