In Amos 1-2, the shepherd-prophet proclaims the LORD’s judgment on seven cities/nations: Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, and Judah. In each of his condemnations, he prophesies that the LORD will “send a fire upon the house/gate of” the particular city/nation (1:4, 1:7, 1:10, 1:12, 1:14, 2:2, 2:5, respectively).
But then he turns his attention to the nation of Israel. He begins his prophecy against Israel in the same manner as he had against the other seven, “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because…” But for Israel, there is no fire prophesied.
So where’s the fire?
For the nation of Israel, God holds out the threat of fire as he urges his people to repent:
Seek the LORD and live, lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel… (5:6)
4This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, the Lord GOD was calling for a judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land. 5Then I said, “O Lord GOD, please cease! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!” 6The LORD relented concerning this; “This also shall not be,” said the Lord GOD. (7:4-6)
Even though Judah outlasts Israel in God’s judgment (and even though Israel was clearly the more disobedient nation), Amos’s prophecy to Israel was to flee the fiery wrath to come that God had determined to bring against even Judah, but that God was willing to relent for Israel’s sake.
Don’t be fooled by the vindictive, vengeful trappings of Amos’s message–the book is all about the gospel. Repent and believe every one of you, for the Lord is willing to turn his judgment away from even the most wicked of people.