Cognitive neuroscientists have discovered that we have a “good-news” bias. We remember good news more clearly and believe it more confidently than bad news. As one example of our unfounded optimism, participants in a study conducted by University College London researchers identified their chances for developing cancer within their lifetime as one in ten. In reality, the average is closer to one in three.
In the time of Amos, the ancient Israelites had a clear preference for good news rather than bad news. Though the prophet faithfully brought news of God’s impending judgment and called God’s people to repent, they did not listen. “The land is not able to bear all [your] words,” Amaziah, priest of Bethel, warned Amos, goading him to leave Israel and live in Judah (7:10).
Just as we learned some biographical details about Hosea, we learn a little bit more about the prophet Amos in today’s reading. He was a herdsman and vinedresser called to leave behind the fields for the vocation of proclaiming God’s bad news (7:14–15). Divine disaster would strike, and the people would be exiled from their land; worse, there would be a famine of hearing the words of God. There was good news of God repairing the ruins, of course—but not to the exclusion of the bad news (9:11–15).
Amos plays the role of mediator between God and His people. He calls on God to relent from His judgments, begging God (as we see in today’s key verse) to have pity and to forgive. This is a role that Old Testament prophets often played. Not only did they relay God’s words to His people but they also advocated for God’s people before God Himself.
Jesus was the Word of God (John 1:1). But He didn’t come only to relay messages from the Father, He became our mediator (1 Tim. 2:5). As such, He advocates for us today. Imagine Jesus saying Amos’s words to the Father on your behalf: “Please forgive! How can ______ survive? She is so small!” What mercy!