Amos was a farmer, called on by God to be a preacher to Israel, during the time of King Jeroboam. This was a very good time for Israel in many ways. The economy was good, the military was strong, its borders were safe, and the nation was at peace. In the Old Testament book that bears his name, Amos describes these good times. He describes the people as being secure and complacent. They ate the finest food, lounged around on fancy furniture, listened to good music, and drank wine by the bowlful.
But all was not well, according to Amos. Israel was failing miserably as a nation in the most important way. They were rich in every way, but they were poor in their spiritual life. They had abandoned their God who brought them out of slavery in Egypt unto the good land that they were enjoying. Not only had they forgotten the true God, but they had been worshiping all the false gods of the neighboring nations. They even built altars to the detestable god Moloch, to whom they sacrificed infants by throwing them into fire. Therefore, Amos’s message is not a happy or a hopeful one. “Woe unto you,” he said, “for your lounging around and your feasting will come to an end.”
King Jeroboam was a wicked king. In II Kings 14:24 we learn that he “did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not turn away from the sins of his father.” Yet, God blessed the reign of this wicked king. Verses 26 and 27 say that God saw how the people had been suffering and God saved them through this Jeroboam. This wicked king, therefore, was blessed by God with a long and prosperous reign.
This becomes all the more striking when, in the very next chapter of II Kings, we read about another king. The nation had been divided by civil war many years before this, and while Jeroboam was king in the northern kingdom of Israel, a man named Azariah was the King of the south. Unlike King Jeroboam, King Azariah was a good and godly man. Chapter 15:3 says, “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father had done.”
So was this Azariah blessed by God for his faithfulness? It does not appear that he was. Verse five: “The Lord afflicted the king with leprosy until the day he died, and he lived in a separate house.” There is no further explanation given; just that this good king was afflicted by God with this most dreadful disease. So, Jeroboam, the wicked king, has one of the most prosperous reigns in Israel’s history, and Azariah, the good king, lived out his days in illness and isolation.
What’s going on here?
Well, first of all, we learn from this that the Bible is a realistic book. If everybody in the Bible who did the right thing had all the best things happen to them, and everyone who was wicked had nothing but trouble, we would have to say, “Well, that’s not how life is. This is not a realistic book at all.” But the Bible tells it like it is. We can all think of people like Jeroboam who are very bad, but get all the breaks; or, like Azariah, are good people, but seem to have nothing but trouble in this world. What we read in the Bible is indeed true to life.
But more needs to be said. The Bible not only describes life as it really is, but it is also, always, telling us that there is more to life than what we see. The Bible is always broadening our perspective, always reminding us not to think only of ourselves and only of today, but to remember God and to remember eternity. The Bible tells each of us to remember that there is another day coming. For some people that will come as good news, and for others, that will be bad news.
The nation under Jeroboam were enjoying good times; but the blessings God had bestowed upon them did not inspire them to return to God with gratitude or faith. They continued with their wickedness and injustice. Therefore, God sent Amos to condemn them for enjoying their luxury at the expense of the poor in the land, as they were enslaving some of their own people. God told Amos to tell them that the good times would not last. Predicting their defeat by their enemies in battle and their being sent away into a faraway land, Amos said that when the bad times do come, “You will be the first to go into exile, and your feasting and lounging around will end.” King Jeroboam was riding high for now, but, said Amos, his wickedness would, in the end, bring him down into ruin.
Azariah, on the other hand, being the good and faithful king that he was, would certainly have been familiar with the words of another good and faithful king, his ancestor king David. David was the author of these wonderful words of hope in the 23rd Psalm: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you, Lord, are with me… Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” FOREVER. When one has an eternal promise like that, one need not be discouraged by even a lifetime of leprosy. There was another day coming, and so while Jeroboam had reason to fear the future, Azariah had every reason to be hopeful. (continued…)
II Kings 14:27 — …The Lord… saved them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Jehoash.
Amos 6:6-7 — You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end.
II Kings 15:3…5a — (Azariah) did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done… The Lord afflicted the king with leprosy until the day he died, and he lived in a separate house.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.