Amos is an unrelenting attack on the all-pervading unrighteousness of God’s people. No one was exempt, not the general population, not the political leaders, and certainly not the religious leaders. By the end of chapter five, God had rejected Israel’s feasts, their solemn assemblies, their celebrations, their sacrifices, their singing, their worship, etc. In short, God was sick of His people. Amos chapter six begins with a proclamation of woe to the leaders (religious & political?) in the southern kingdom of Judah and to the leaders (religious & political?) in the northern kingdom of Israel. God uses sarcasm to emphasize the attitude of their heart. They evidently believed, maybe even referred to themselves, as the most important people in the most important of all nations. There is some truth in that claim but they seem to have forgotten two deeply significant points. They failed to acknowledge where their blessing came from. They also failed to realize that to whom much is given, much is required. They not only did not carry out their responsibilities, they took advantage of the general population, so that they, themselves, could live in luxury.
God continued on. He reminded them of three cities that had been defeated and occupied by foreign powers. God said take a look at those three cities, consider their circumstances. Next came the question: Do you suppose you will be treated any differently than them? If God judged and punished those cities, He will surely judge and punish Israel and Judah.
The Holy Spirit was not through with the lecture. He pointed out that the nation’s leaders’ declarations that judgment was not coming or if it was coming, it was far off in the future were not correct. God described their luxurious, complacent, unworried lifestyle in graphic word pictures. Then He said: and all the while you refuse to “grieve over the ruin of Joseph”. I see more than one legitimate interpretation of that phrase. It is certainly possible that more than one interpretation could be accurate and correct, especially in prophetic books. It could mean that these leaders, while living in luxury, refuse to do anything regarding the plight of the poor and needy all around them. Joseph’s brothers refused to do anything about his plight in the bottom of the well. Don’t forget that the brothers put him there and that while Joseph was in the well, they were plotting his downfall. Also remember that they wound up selling him into slavery. Seems eerily like the actions of the leaders of Judah and Israel in Amos’ day.
There is another way to look at refusing to “grieve over the ruin of Joseph”. It could be that God was chastising the leaders of Judah and Israel for declaring that judgment was not imminent, specifically that the northern kingdom would not fall. Joseph can certainly be used to represent the ten northern tribes, just as Judah is used to describe the two southern tribes. Living a complacent, luxurious lifestyle, ignoring God’s warnings is no way to stay in right relationship with God. Refusing to repent invites judgment. God will not be mocked. Man will reap what he sows.
I see both interpretations as true and accurate in God’s people during Amos’ day. I see both interpretations as true and accurate in God’s people in my time. The book of Amos speaks to a people who greatly resemble modern day Americans. It is as if the Holy Spirit, speaking through Amos, is describing the 21st century United States. In short, God was sick of His people in Amos’ time. Could it also be true that God is sick of His people today? Do we suppose we will be treated any differently than them?