The next prophet in our series, "The Message of the Twelve: a Journey through the Minor Prophets" is Amos. Amos was an interesting guy. It would seem that he was a shepherd and a migrant worker in the orchards ("a herdsman and dresser of sycamore figs" according to Amos 7:15). He wasn't a prophet or a priest or had a history of ministry until God called him to proclaim a message of the impending destruction coming upon Israel. Where most of us would say, "That sounds bad, that can't be my calling." Amos was faithful to obey the Lord.
Amos was from Tekoa, which is in Judah, but his message was for Israel. It's difficult to say where Amos called home at the point of his commission, but scholars argue that there aren't sycamore figs around Tekoa, so Amos likely crossed the border for work. Either way, Amos' message was a difficult one.
God told Amos to warn the people of Israel that they were going to be cut down and exported to Assyria or killed in the process. God tried to get the people to return to him by giving them riches, but they did not turn to the Lord in thanksgiving. So God decided to call them back by sending minor calamities, but they would not cry out to him for help. Finally, after hundreds of years, time ran out for the nation of Israel. "Therefore," God said, "thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I do will this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" (Amos 4:12).
For generation after generation, God gave good things and trouble to draw his people back to him. He was patient and gracious. He was loving. They continued to sin, all the while thinking they were spiritually fine because they were still offering the sacrifices and works. They were like the unfaithful spouse running off to prostitutes but expecting no ramifications, over and over again. They were going through the religious motions. But they didn't understand that God wanted a meaningful relationship. They didn't, and they assumed that God would never bring his justice. Then time ran out.
Amos' message is a tough one. There was no opportunity for salvation for the people of Israel, so why would God even send Amos?
I contend that the message of Amos was not for the people of Israel because they only rejected it. A priest in Bethel named Amaziah said to Amos, "O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel for it is the king's sanctuary and it is a temple of the kingdom" (Amos 7:12-13). Amos' message is for us if we are willing to listen to the timeless principle.
The message of Amos is a warning to those who, like Israel, are slothful, lazy, and full of hypocrisy. It's a message for the complacent people who are far from God and don't want to be near God on his terms. It's a message for those who only desire to silence the Word of God as if silencing God will hold his judgment at bay. But it is not a message of condemnation, so much as a warning because there's still time for us to repent of our ways and turn to the Lord.
While it was too late for Israel (because they were so hard they only wanted to kick Amos out of the country), it is not too late for us. Through Amos, God says, "Seek me and live!" (Amos 5:4, and Amos 5:6). God told them to turn to the Lord, not their cities, or politics, or any other idol, or even empty religious behavior. He's telling us the same. It's not too late.
Jesus calls us to himself for salvation. Will you turn to him, or will you be like the Israelites who ended up meeting their maker on bad terms? Are you willing to hear a message of God's truth or would you rather try to silence God in your own life? Yes, Amos' message is very relevant today, for us individually as well as for us a church, and even for our community.
I'll be discussing more about Amos and his message this Sunday. I encourage you to read the book. It's nine short chapters. Pray. And come anticipating that God might speak to you. We meet for prayer and communion at 10 am and for a worship service and teaching at 11 am. I look forward to seeing you there.
For the Kingdom!
Pastor Bryan Catherman