Being & Building Followers & Friends of Jesus
Amos ~ The Active Disciple ~ a prophet for our time.
Amos from Tekoa a day’s journey south of Jerusalem lived in the southern kingdom of Judah. The break into two kingdoms came about post Solomon (about 933-31 BC). Amos ministered so far as we know only in the northern kingdom of Israel. Bethel had become the northern kingdoms religious centre and Gilgal [Amos5:5b-6a] was important too; they had also become the focus of institutional life.
Their religious life had diverged from true religion as shown in 2Kings14:23-24 also 2Kings17:28–33 where we see a description of the society of the day.
Amos began his ministry in the eighth century BC, probably just before Hosea, and a few years before Isaiah. We cannot be precise as the systems of dating related to kings and events rather than any calendar we would recognise. They were prosperous days for Israel, with Jeroboam II (793-753) on the throne and their enemies defeated. The most important fact to take in is this: Amos was an ordinary man; a shepherd and dresser of Sycamore Fig trees. He was a skilled landsman rather than a professional cleric (as was Isaiah) or even a professional prophet. A professional prophet would be paid in coin or goods for his words; not so Amos.
God the Father sent Amos, how difficult would that have been it’s one thing to be sent to one’s own kith and kin even one’s near neighbours but we see Amos responding in obedience. It is the going that marks out the active disciple. Amos exposed the people's comfortable illusions. As they listened to him denouncing the sins of other nations, they would not have expected to hear ‘The people of Israel have sinned… And their hopes for a future ‘day of the Lord’ were confounded when the prophet foresaw a day of darkness rather than light. They would have nodded sagely as Amos listed the misdoings of the surrounding nations ‘For three sins even for four…’ a way of announcing excessive sinning. It is clear that monetary wealth and possessions had taken over as the focus of the peoples desires. ‘Careful’ did I hear someone say, ‘Careful you’re getting close to where I am…’ They even enslaved their own people! There could be no security when wealth was for the few and the many were denied justice. This was not and is still not God's way.
Amaziah, the priest at Bethel, who was in the pay of the king of Israel, told Amos to pack up and take his message back to Judah. If a professional cleric dismisses the word of God through one of His prophets it will have given legitimacy to the people’s refusal to listen or follow the prophet’s declarations. All people in leadership need to heed the warning and not easily dismiss what any messenger of God may be saying for they will be held accountable. So too ordinary mortals should not listen uncritically to pulpit pronouncements but check them out against the scriptures to see if they be true.
The people [potential disciples] of Bethel and Gilgal (the religious centres) turned a deaf ear, as they did to his contemporary, Hosea. Who I wonder do we hear as prophets of God today and what attention do we pay to them? Thirty years after Jeroboam's death the Assyrians destroyed Samaria and took the people into exile. Israel ceased to exist. Do we [the disciples of today] have the patience to listen to God’s word through his prophets now and will we have the memory and the patience to recognise the fulfilment of God’s prophetic word 30 years hence in the 21st century? But Amos the prophet has I believe a word for any nation in Israel's condition. Put his descriptions into 21st century dress and those words still strike home.
God the Father is NOT absent. He is always on the watch, and will judge the nations for their lack of mercy. Christians must work to transform unjust social structures, to eliminate the need for military powers which consume millions of pounds/dollars and millions of lives, and as disciples of Jesus should seek to create a new social order. From Amos we see that the poor, the weak and the down-trodden are God's chosen agents in bringing about this dream. (John 10:10b I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.) Moved by faith in Jesus Christ, and not by human ideologies, they will work to make this world a better place to live in. This God, who became man among the poor, gave his own life for human-kind and He desires that all people should be fully human; willing and able to be His voice to the world today.
Jn.17:21b just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.