Minor Prophets: Teachers & Preachers





Amos - Prophet of Justice

"Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream."

Every prophet has a burden in his heart. A religion that is confined to rites and rituals and incense burns the eyes of the Almighty if they are not offered on the altars of compassion and translated into acts of charity on those around us. Injustice had so contaminated the land that Amos (which means "burdened") could remain silent no more.

A religion that steps over the bleeding bodies of the oppressed and wounded is an abomination to the Lord. The Savior told the story of the Good Samaritan as to prick their complacent consciences that were at ease on Zion. Every saint should have a burden; yet, the God who gives the burden will also give the grace and strength to carry it.

When God wanted a voice crying in this wilderness of indifference and idolatry he chose neither priest nor professional, he chose a shepherd and farmer named Amos. Amos grew up learning the ways of the wilderness and lived close to the simple earth.

America was once a nation of farmers. No farmer can truly be an atheist. If you should find one, you have found a fool. A farmer is often a man of faith. He understands faith, hope and love. He looks to the soil for his livelihood, but he also looks to God. He is at the mercy of the elements. The heavens have the final word about the harvest. If it does not rain, if his crops do not grow, if the sun fails to shine, all his labor is in vain. An agricultural society is more likely to pray than an industrial one. America has prayed less and less as it turned from the fields to the foundries. Amos lived close to the earth and closer to God. Industrial affluence can also lead to social insensitivity and indifference. Prosperity becomes a sin when it is built upon the backs of oppressed classes of our fellow creatures and becomes to God an outrage. What contacts Amos had with society so grieved him that his heart was broken and he cried out for justice. "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream."

Are you without a burden? Should we not have a burden for the ignorant and desire to teach them? Should we not have a burden for the hungry and wish to feed them? Should we not have a burden for the homeless and want to shelter them? He who is closest to God will have the greatest burden about the needs of others. Women are exploited, the unborn are aborted, innocent children are abused. The poor are extorted, our youth are ensnared, the land is polluted and ravaged. Should we not have a burden for the lost? Some have wondered what constitutes a call from God. Be assured, God does not call the indifferent. God called to Samuel three times before he discovered it was God who was speaking. Perhaps the first sound of Godís voice in your life will be felt more than heard; perhaps it will begin with a broken heart or a burden.

1. Prepare to meet thy God (4:12). Life is a time of getting ready. We are all on a journey as transients on the road to eternity. Yet people are oblivious to the destination and destiny. "It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment" (Heb. 9:27).

2. All must stand at Godís judgment bar. Damascus, Hazael, Edom, Gaza will all answer and give an account for their behavior. Notice they will be condemned in the memory of their deeds. Our deeds are enough to condemn us. The sins of Tyre were many. Jesus mentioned this city as a proof of Godís judgment coming on cities of His day. The sin mentioned by Amos was in not remembering the brotherly covenant (1:9). Have we also been guilty of this sin? Have we failed treat our fellow man with kindness and charity? Have we brushed aside our obligations and ignored the needs of our neighbors? Have we failed to love our neighbor as our self? The answer must be that we have, and with that admission must come a repentance and a resolve to become an instrument of Godís grace.

The sin of Edom was that he "kept his wrath forever." The children of Esau could never forget the loss to Jacob. The Edomites carried the fire of anger in their heart for centuries. They never missed an opportunity to be unkind to the sons of Jacob. Have we kept certain resentments alive as so many Edomites in our heart? Do we hold a grudge toward anyone we feel took what was ours? If we do, we are in poor company, the company of Edom.

The sins of Ammon are also very much alive in our land today. They "ripped up the women with child .... that they might enlarge their borders" (that is, improve their lifestyle) (1:13). Today doctors rip up women with child for material gain, and mothers willingly allow the pagan priests of the temples of medicine to enter their most private and sacred parts, the temple of life, in order to mutilate and ravage the innocents. What an abomination of desolation is the practice of abortion. Our nation and world is being built upon the bones of a million babies a day, and what a foundation of hell that is. Such a foundation cannot support civilization much longer. It will soon collapse under the weight of its own evil.

Amos had warnings for Judah as well as the gentile. Judah would not be spared Godís judgment. They were given Godís law and they failed to keep it. "Unto whom much is given much is required." Not only did they fail to keep it, they despised it. It is one thing to fall short of it , it is quite another to trample upon it. No man ever kept the law. It is impossible, but woe to those who tread upon holy things; they should tremble.

3. Finally, Amos gets close to home. Real prophets always do. He judges his own people. It is easy to see the sins of others while we are blind to our own. We are always trying to get the speck out of the other manís eye not realizing that we have a beam in our own. The sin of Israel was that of harboring false doctrine. It seems obvious to the student of Jewish history that Israel was guilty of setting up a false religion when the altars were erected in Dan and Bethel. This counter-worship was a grievous sin of folly. False religions and churches still abound, yet the charge brought before the bar of righteousness points to the more practical and common evidence of phony religion. They "sold the righteous for silver,and poor for a pair of shoes" (2:6). Here is exploitation and oppression. Here is inequity and lack of charity. The sins were also a perversion of sex and profanity. The sin of the land was the addiction of drunkenness. God sent Amos to cry out against evil and indifference, violence, and vileness.

America should see her reflection in these muddy waters, drunkenness, drug addiction, immorality, pornography, extortion, greed, and materialism. Where is Amos today? Who is burdened at the sights that parade before them? Who has a broken heart for the children, the women, the poor, and the addicted?

The church remains strangely quiet while God must weep. The church has become too accustomed to the darkness because it has not lived in the light. Pray for God to send a prophet, a preacher, a teacher, an Amos.

"You gave Nazarites wine to drink"(2:12). God gave Israel children that they might live before God in thanksgiving and holiness. Some were to be given as a "tithe" to the service of the Lord by their parents as Hannah gave little Samuel. How many Christian parents have made promises to God as their babies were "dedicated" and vowed to bring them up in the "fear and admonition of the Lord" only to forget those words. How many allow the babes to press cups filled with the wine of worldliness to their lips? TV with its addictive trance-like power has intoxicated millions of children with selfishness, greed, materialism, commercialism, sexism, and hedonism to the point where they are drunk in the presence of the parents that bore them.

Worldly preachers preach worldliness (2:12) and parishioners love to have it so. Jesus called it the "blind leading the blind" and predicted that they both will "fall in the ditch." The weight of transgressions pressed down the cart drawn by Amos who, as a farmer, knew well the burden of bringing the harvest to market.

The whole family is called into account by the Father. "Only you have I known of all the families of the earth" (3:1). The privilege of Israel was one of incalculable worth and yet they treated it with disdain. "I will punish you for your iniquities"(3:2). God will punish all sin and sinners, but most grievous is the punishment of rebellious children. But punish God will. Those who use Grace as a stronghold to hide from God are in for a shocking surprise. No one, not even a child, will escape the correction of the Father. And to all who refuse to accept Godís counsel, pleading, and guidance is this most important question posed: "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" The answer is always "no." The dawning of this truth upon our darkness should call everyone to repentance (which is "agreeing" with God). He who is in disagreement with God must walk alone, Godless. He who disagrees with heaven may only hope for hell, and nothing more.

Judgment is coming and the Lord has revealed it to his prophets (3:7). These prophets see the setting of the snares (3:5) and the sound of the trumpets (3:6) though everyone else is blind and deaf. God will tear Israel to shreds. She shall be like a leg taken out of the mouth of a lion. God is serious. We should be serious too.

For Modern Preachers & Teachers

A Prophet was called a roíeh and a hozeh. Both come from roots which mean "to see." Prophets were seers. They were not psychics like the false prophets of today. While many indeed had visions and "experiences," it is safe to say that they had great "insight" into the significance and meaning of events and circumstances of life. In this regard the preacher of our day must have "insight" more than foresight. He must have the gift of discernment and have a spiritual intuition in order to navigate through the shallow waters of this world.

Prophets were also called Ďish elohim a man of God. What value is the preacher who is not such a one? While we believe all believers to be priests, not all men are prophets (Deut. 33:1; 1 Sam. 9:6; II Kings 4:9).

A third word for a prophet is nabhií which is thought to come from the verb nabhaí which some say meant to "bubble up." Some say the etymology is linked to the Akkadian word nabu which means "to speak." A prophet is one who is "spoken to" and one who "speaks for God." The study of the call of a prophet helps us to understand the significance and role of a prophet. Moses objected to this calling on the basis of his inability to speak well (Ex. 4:10-16). Moses would be given Aaron as a "mouth" and Moses would be the "mouth" for God. In Ex. 7:1 God said "And Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet" (nabhi). In other words, a prophet is one who speaks for another. The ministry of the prophet is to speak Godís word. "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren like unto thee (Moses), and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him" Deut. 18:15-22.

Being a spokesman for God is clearly seen in the life of Amos. He was sent to Bethel to speak against the altar erected there. The priest of Bethel challenged and attempted to silence Amos. "Oh thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah and there eat bread and prophesy there: but prophesy not again any more at Bethel; for it is the kingís sanctuary and it is the kingís court." Amos was not easily dissuaded and replies "I was no prophet, neither was I a prophetís son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit; and the LORD took me as I followed the people, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel" Amos 7:12-16.

Our generation is just as prone to wander as the ancient ones and Christian congregations are as likely to need correction and guidance as did Israel. Preachers are as likely to be pressured to accommodate the capricious children of today as in days of old and should be forewarned. Isaiah found his congregations often offered unsolicited advice "That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD; which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits" Isa. 30:9-10.

People have not changed much. Congregations still would rather hear "feel-good" messages rather than truth if that truth is painful and calls for a change. Real prophets must deliver Godís message. It is a mistake to think that God only has "Good News" today. Hirelings and amateurs seldom deliver heavy packages to their own door. Hirelings are naturally cautious when it comes to being too critical of their employer. While amateurs may not preach for money (as many a preacher has been so accused) they often preach and teach for fun. When it is no longer fun they look for more enjoyable things to occupy themselves with. A prophet and a preacher must sometimes speak out of a burdened heart, and  Oh to God, that the people might listen.