continuing with Amos…
Something to say today
The lesson from the 70 elders that prophesied in Moses’ day was there were two others who prophesied on the day. They didn’t do it again, but that didn’t matter – the lesson was that God determined who He revealed Himself to, what they were to speak, where and when. And so it is today.
He gives gifts according to His will. Before admonishing the Jewish people, he had much to say about the terrible transgressions of Damascus, Gaza, Tyrus, Edom, Ammon and Moab – all the neighbors of the two Jewish kingdoms, who would suffer the consequences of their evil ways.
It was a significant, defining moment for Amos. We don’t know too much about any continuing ministry that he may have had – but Israel recognised his words as those of a prophet, and honoured him in that way.
Amos’ confident prophetic outburst reflects the inspiration of God, conveying a serious message with typical Hebraic prose; “Thus says the Lord, For three transgressions, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because…”
All in all, it’s a powerful message. Amos is speaking into these things because God has already taken the initiative by giving revelation. It’s important to us because the starting point as we step out in the gifts of the Spirit or in prophetic ministry is to look at what God is revealing to us, rather than going our way looking for a revelation.
There is a difference between taking Jeremiah’s encounter with God in Jer 1:11 (“And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”) and casually looking around for something to interpret. We must learn to see what God is showing us, drawing our attention to – and we do this through prayer and discernment.
A key issue for everyone venturing out in the prophetic ministry is learning to unite prayer and discernment together as we look for what God may be disclosing to us – treat them almost as twins!
His bench-mark ministry starts in the book of his prophetic ministry with an earthquake – and ends with one. Perhaps it was written intentionally to demonstrate the distinct calling to the prophetic ministry that was on his life, he was not a professional prophet standing in his place by choice, but because he was appointed, called and commissioned by God. Elijah had a significant start to his ministry, and Amos is no different; His fearless and outspoken words came thundering and stirred the people.
His opening words: “God will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither.”
Pausing to think
There is a vast volume in what Amos prophesies to these eight groups. They are not merely accusations, each one is gathered together with evidence and with a plea. Amos is caught up with God’s heart about injustice, wickedness. Amos is speaking into the way that the poor have been downtrodden, oppressed, abused and maligned. The rich got richer at the poor people’s expense. Hope was being torn out of the heart of the lower ‘classes’ of society. Is Amos the prophet relevant to life today in 2017? What do you think?
Amos says to all eight of these nations, “God is sending the fire”. Now I have your attention. It’s a different age, a different culture, a different time – but God has not changed. It’s time for judgement to begin in the House of God, for God to send the fire, but it’s a fire that cleanses our hearts, purifies and sanctifies.
It’s also the first time in the prophets that the term “The Lord of hosts” is used and it is done so with the burning conviction of the message that he heralds; prayers and sacrifices can never make up for bad deeds. He will take it further asserting between the lines of his prophetic declaration, that practice of religious acts is no insurance against the judgement of God and importantly, immunity cannot be claimed simply because of past favour of God, irrespective of deeds and the measure of faithful service. Walking with God now is what matters.
God is looking for a continued life of faith and obedience.
Behaving justly is much more important than ritual (Amos 5:21-24) going through the motions, having a form of godliness but denying its power, just won’t cut it with God. Ceremonial worship has no intrinsic value, the only genuine service of God consists in justice and righteousness (5:24) and that only can come out of obedience to God and His Word. It is not enough that society walks in justice it needs righteousness – that only flows from God into obedient,blood-washed, sin-cleansed regenerate hearts.
Furthermore, Amos also believed in economic justice, the conviction of Amos that economic justice was necessary to preserve the nation (whereas his opponents asserted that sacrifices and offerings were preserving it) forced him to conclude that a God who wanted the nation preserved must want justice and want it always, and could never therefore want sacrifices, which abetted and condoned injustice. Amos would not be at home in our midst.