Amos was a shepherd and prophet of Israel. A common accusation in the world of American politics is that someone is a “Washington insider,” meaning he (or she) is so well connected in the affairs of the federal government that he’s not in touch or concerned with the affairs of the common voter.
Instead, he is mostly concerned with using his position to benefit himself.
There were many such “Samaria insiders” among the prophets of Amos’s day, but Amos was clearly not one of them. As Amos himself said, he was neither a professional prophet nor the son of a professional prophet, but rather, a simple shepherd and farmer of sycamore-fig trees (Amos 7:14–15). His chief qualification for prophesying to the kingdom of Israel was simply the Lord’s calling on his life.
To be fair, though, Amos should not be caricatured as an uneducated country bumpkin who had a few spiritual jabs to give Israel. Instead, his prophecies reflect a deep understanding of God Himself and the world in which he lived. His prophecies must have emanated from a heart and mind that had been engaged in these two expansive thoughts throughout his simple life.
Amos’s prophecies warned Israel of the coming of the great “Day of the Lord” that would bring judgment against the injustices of both the Israelites and their neighbors.
Amos’s special calling by God and his refusal to become absorbed into the self-serving world of the professional prophets challenge believers today to make sure they are continually being “salt and light” to the world (Matthew 5:13) and not simply becoming an indistinguishable part of it. At the same time, Amos’s deep understanding of God and the world around him despite his simple vocation calls us to strive for the same, whatever our calling in life.