But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.

These words pick up two of the key themes of Amos: righteousness and justice. There is a need in God’s kingdom for righteousness - equity despite social difference. There is a need in God’s kingdom for justice and for people to address inequality and lift up the poor rather than trample them underfoot.

Amos, a book for our day, includes the visions, sermons and poems of the shepherd and fig tree pruner who went to Israel, the northern kingdom, to proclaim God’s judgment. This proclamation was to a people who had turned away from the God who had chosen them, brought them out of Egypt and settled them in a new land. While Amos encouraged the people of Israel to seek God and live, to seek good not evil, and to seek justice and righteousness, his words fell on deaf ears. God’s foretold judgement came in the form of the kingdom being conquered by Assyria about 40 years later. But, as we see in the other prophetic writings, judgement is not the end of the story, as Amos finishes with words of hope of a future messianic kingdom and an inclusion into the covenant of all nations.


We then take a leap of time to the shortest book in the Old Testament, the book of Obadiah. Israel, the Northern Kingdom, falls to Assyria in 722 BC as Amos foretold. Jerusalem and Judah fall to the Babylonians in 586 BC. Obadiah tells of how the people of Edom, descendants of Esau, in their pride stood by as Judah was invaded. They pillaged and plundered their neighbours and treated refugees badly. But pride comes before a fall. What they have done to Judah, says Obadiah, will be done to them.

Yet in Obadiah there is so much more. Verse 15 is a watershed verse where we see that Edom is being used as an illustration of all nations - ‘as you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.’ The day of the Lord will be a day of judgement - but as verses 17-21 also show, it is also a day of deliverance for God’s faithful people. Four promises are outlined: a new Jerusalem, a decisive victory, a future inheritance and a divine kingdom.