Chapter four opens with a searing insult against the Israelite elites. Although Christians may often feel like calling out people like this, prophets were given latitude that we do not always have. When sharing the gospel of Jesus (including our warning of coming judgment in hell), we are challenged to “do it with courtesy and respect” (1 Peter 3:16) and to “conduct [ourselves] with wisdom…[letting our] speech always be gracious” (Colossians 4:5-6). Amos was obviously not under such restrictions with his message, calling the women cruel “cows” and lushes, fattened for their coming slaughter (Amos 4:1-3).
The people loved to offer their public sacrifices (like the people in Jesus’ day, Luke 20:45 – 21:4), yet they refused to acknowledge God when he tried to get their real attention with famine, drought, blight, plagues, and even destruction (Amos 4:4-11). Because of this, God promised to bring judgment, although he does not detail what kind (Amos 4:12-13). They thought they were meeting with him in their sacrifices, but here he told them to prepare to finally meet him.