When did you last hear a prophecy on the message and ministry of the prophet Amos? You will be surprised at how many snippets you are familiar with, but shocked at how much of his culture-current, timely ministry you have overlooked. Amos offers much to our modern-day experience of God and offers volumes by way of warning, encouragement and direction; especially for those engaged in prophetic ministry.
As I mention on my disclosure page, I am a member of a thriving New Frontiers Church but am not an Elder, Church leader, prophet, group leader or anything noble like that – everything I write here is with a heart that is looking for the best for God’s people and with a longing to see God move in great ways amongst the Church. In short, I am unqualified to write the things that I write, and at this point, find myself in good company with an unassuming shepherd from Tekoa called Amos.i
Amos was the first prophet to distance himself from other prophetsii, making the assertion that he wasn’t in the ministry by choice, he was a herdsman, a shepherd – and then God called him. (Amos 7:14) His ministry was deliberate, intentional and the words and message that he shared came from the revelation of God. It is very easy to look at life, circumstances, body language or even our cultural norms, and then tender words and encouragements from God. Amos wasn’t doing that – God revealed himself to Amos. In Amos 3 the prophet makes this clear. It is an underlying dynamic of the prophetic ministry, God reveals His secrets to the prophets who serve Him. It is a subtle but distinct message. You don’t second-guess God, His mind or His intention. You don’t need to, if you are a prophet, He will tell you.
Let’s take a whirlwind tour through Amos’ ministry – it covers nine chapters so we’ll be doing this in bite size chunks. There are lots of good commentaries on Amos so all I want to do here is draw your attention to some of the challenges of Amos, including areas of interest concerning the ministry and role of prophecy.
1. Prophetic ministry starts with encounter
Amos comes straight to the point in his introduction and ties his words as being a prophetic declaration of what he saw concerning Israel in the days of two kings, two years before that earthquake. Unlike my confused attempts at prophecy, Amos was clear, specific, articulate and left you with no doubts about when God gave revelation to him – it came two years before the earthquake.
That earthquake. We know nothing of the earthquake, but the people of Israel to whom this message was brought, knew exactly when it was. “The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake”. It was obviously something that impacted him deeply.
There is a difference between prophetic ministry and the gift of prophecy and this is one of those moments. God called him, spoke to him, showed himself and gave him insight into what was happening in the heart of Israel. It was not just Israel either, what follows is a barrage of words for the people around Israel at the time. The prophecy carries a weight that is not found in the general encouragement of the New Testament gift of prophecy; It is more than encouragement, exhortation and edification. In fact, Amos’s message for the most part, is not an encouraging one but he does manage to break through with some positive notes before he concludes.
I wonder if there is a profound difference in which the ministry of the Prophet will come into a maturity as yet not encountered in the modern day Church, as the closing days approach?
The apostle Paul tells us to eagerly desire the gifts of the Spirit. They build the church in the most formidable way. If you think the gift of faith, or gifts of healings are great consider what the gift of miracles working in the midst of the
Church looks like then consider how truly life-transforming, inspiring and encouraging it is when Paul in effect says, “all these gifts are wonderful, you should reach out for them, but there is a gift I really want you to covet; the gift of prophecy!” You can all prophecy – but you are not going to all be prophets.