Amos, a Judean herdsman (Amos 1:1), was called to preach a message of judgment to the northern kingdom and her king, the powerful Jeroboam II (2 Kgs 14;23-29). Amos called the nation to repent of their idolatry during a period of socioeconomic success. The prophet’s courageous sermons provide a composite of prophetic ministry: divine visions, proclamations of judgment, announcements of destruction, endurance of persecution, lament, and hope of restoration.
Amos cast a vision of hope. He proclaimed that after the Lord disciplined His people by sending them into exile, He would have compassion and restore them (Amos 9:11-15). “In that day,” the Lord said, “I will restore the fallen booth of David: I will repair its gaps, restore its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that are called by My name” (Amos 9:11-12). Amos announced that the Lord would prosper His people to the degree that sweet wine would run down the mountains and the hills would overflow with produce. The Lord said, “I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel; they will rebuild and occupy ruined cities, plant vineyards and drink their wine, make gardens and eat their produce” (Amos 9:14).
Amos’s vision of restoration in Amos 9:11-15 sounds a note of fulfillment in the storyline of Scripture. At the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, James employed Amos’s prophecy to provide a historical basis for articulating which elements of the Jewish law Gentiles were required to practice. After Paul’s first missionary journey, Paul returned to Antioch and enjoyed fellowship with the disciples there. When a delegation from Judea came to Antioch and urged the brothers to be circumcised and follow the law of Moses, Paul and Barnabas opposed them. It was agreed that the opposing factions should go to Jerusalem and gather with the leaders there to decide what elements of the Mosaic law should govern the churches.
At the council, Peter recounted his proclamation to Gentiles (Acts 10), noting that the Spirit came upon them just as it did upon the Jews at Pentecost (Acts 2). Paul and Barnabas addressed the council with a similar report, describing God’s work through them to the Gentiles during their missionary journey recorded in Acts 13-14. The council reached a climactic moment when James addressed the assembly from Amos 9:11-12. In James’s view, although the Jewish nation was yet subject to Roman rule, the Jews had enjoyed restoration to “David’s tent” (Acts 15:16). James interpreted Amos’s prophecy as a description of how God would fulfill the purposes of the Jewish nation: the advent of Jesus opened the door for Gentiles to experience God’s blessings to Israel apart from the law of Moses. At the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, James saw in Amos 9:11-12 the justification of the Gentiles in the church and proposed that they were free from adopting the identity-markers of natural Jews. “In my judgment,” James said, “we should not cause difficulties for those who turn to God from among the Gentiles” (Acts 15:19). Gentiles thus needed only to avoid items associated with idolatry, abstain from immorality, and decline any food strangled and yet having blood (Acts 15:19-20). For Paul, James’s verdict was such good news that he set out on his second journey to report to the churches what the council, in accord with Amos 9:11-12, had decided (Acts 15:36).