It is generally not a popular thing to call women “cows.” But the prophet Amos was not in the business of being nice, but of rather calling in dramatic tones and pictures to a wayward people to attempt to awaken them to their spiritual plight.
Chapter 4 of Amos is the second of five messages that the prophet delivers to the nation of Israel. He speaks to them about their indulgence and injustice, their hypocritical worship, and the certainty of judgment due to their lack of repentance.
4:1 – Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”
2 The Sovereign Lord has sworn by his holiness: “The time will surely come when you will be taken away with hooks, the last of you with fishhooks. 3 You will each go straight out through breaches in the wall, and you will be cast out toward Harmon,” declares the Lord.
The land of Bashan is the area to the northeast of the Sea of Galilee and is in modern-day Syria, comprising also the Golan Heights. It is an area spoken of on multiple occasions in Scripture as a rich land for pasture and agriculture. And so, the prophet speaks of the bossy rich women of Israel as like the fat cows in the pastures of Bashan – feeding their many self-indulgent passions through the exploitation of the masses of poor and needy people.
Amos says to them that a time is coming when they will be strung together like a chain of fish and led away into captivity toward Harmon – on the road through Bashan toward Assyria.
We next see the prophet condemning their false pride in worship and religious observance…
4 “Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years.
5 Burn leavened bread as a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings—boast about them, you Israelites, for this is what you love to do,” declares the Sovereign Lord.
Bethel was the center of worship in the north; Gilgal was the place where Israel first entered the Promised Land and was also a place of worship and sacrifice. But their worship was simply perfunctory – their animals and agricultural offerings even coming from wrongly-seized lands. All of it was a sacrilege to the Lord, who knew their hearts and lifestyles were far from righteous.
God gave them sufficient warnings …
6 “I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord.
7 “I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away. I sent rain on one town, but withheld it from another. One field had rain; another had none and dried up.
8 People staggered from town to town for water but did not get enough to drink, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord.
9 “Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, destroying them with blight and mildew.
Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord.
10 “I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord.
11 “I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the Lord.
Every one of these events in verses 6-11 – hunger, drought, famine, blight, diseases, locusts, plagues, death – were foretold in the covenant God made with Israel as the natural consequences that would follow their disobedience. A year ago we studied through Deuteronomy (see HERE) and wrote about this very list of consequences, and now we see them piling up on Israel, and STILL they would not turn back to God.
Therefore, they should prepare for judgment …
12 “Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, Israel, prepare to meet your God.” 13 He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth—the Lord God Almighty is his name.
Summarizing the content of this prophecy of Amos, what might we take away as topically similar to our world today? Amos essentially condemned materialism, exploitation, empty worship, and a denial of the natural consequences of disobeying God. Does that sound anything like America in 2014? The people to whom Amos spoke essentially had the worldview of “I want to live well and look good, while being also seen as spiritual and in the position of good standing with God because of my obvious blessings.”
Could there even be “trending” of Evangelical Christians toward such worldviews – conscious or not? Could a nice church person in 2014 conclude that their life blessings are the just rewards of God indicating they are in sufficiently good standing? Could worshipping God just enough, when there is no other schedule priority, give a modern Christian a sense of security about their faith?