People Show Up In Unexpected Places Doing Unexpected Things!

Scripture Study:  Amos 1:1-2; 7:10-16

Have you ever noticed how sometimes people arise out of the strangest corners of society, making a great splash, getting involved in things you never expected, and doing quite well at it?

Take for example Bill Gates, one of the wealthiest men in the world, who in his 30’s, soft-spoken, came out of nowhere, a college drop out and started “Microsoft”.

It happens with political figures and it happens in sports.  When people like this show up on the scene making a big splash, and succeed, generally it’s a pleasure to watch it all unfold.  It also makes good fodder and coffee shop talk.

But sometimes, it can be quite annoying, as well.

People show up in unexpected places doing unexpected things, and we don’t like it.

They can be intimidating. They’re a nuisance.  It rubs us the wrong way; it goes against the grain.

Take AMOS, in the Bible –

A PROPHET who came out of nowhere into a Nation going along quite smoothly at the time, speaking a MESSAGE that was…quite disturbing?  And doing it rather effectively.

The people didn’t appreciate him!

The authorities certainly were irritated!!

Understanding Conditions In The Time of Amos –

HE PROPHECIED…

Amos 1:1-2 (AMP) –

[1] THE WORDS of Amos, who was among the herdsmen and sheep masters of Tekoa, which he saw [in divine revelation] 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.  [Zech. 14:5.]

[2] And he said, The Lord roars out of Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem; then the pastures of the shepherds mourn and the top of [Mount] Carmel dries up.  [Isa. 42:13; Jer. 25:30; Joel 3:16].

GOD’S WORD OARS LIKE A LION

AMOS began prophesying during the reigns of King Uzziah and Jeroboam II around 760-750 BC.

It was a time of great prosperity in the land.

If Israel and Judah had the Stock Market back then, it would have been breaking all previous records.

Economically, politically, and militarily, things were going well for both Israel and Judah.

However, all that said, it was also a time for IDOLATRY…extravagant indulgences in luxurious living, immorality, corruption, and oppression of the poor.

ISRAEL, God’s chosen people, were living high on the hog.  They knew it and were smug about it.

Now the GLORY was present alright and the Israelites figured by looking around at all their successes, God was on their side.

They deserved the BLESSINGS they got.  Nobody and nothing would ever take it away!

Into that kind of cesspool of SIN & ARROGANCE stepped Amos, one shepherd of Tekoa.

Don’t think of Amos in the same breath as the shepherds of Bethlehem–a lowly bunch of farm hands, rejected by the population at large.

The word used in chapter one for “shepherd” is also used with the reference to the King of Moab–2 Kings 3-4.  There its translated as “raiser of sheep”.  [footnote [1].]

Amos, like the King of Moab, was a sheep dealer or trader, one significantly more wealthy than a mere shepherd or hired hand.

Amos was a man of means.  That’s also verified in chapter 7 of Amos (Amos 7:12-14).  

He is not into it for the cash.  “I was a herdsman and took care of sycamore-fig trees.”

A Shepherd Gone ‘NUTS’? …

In study and putting things together about Amos…it appears that he was a man of diversity; rather a wealthy agriculturist of sorts.

Now it is this man, who knew his livestock, who had diversified his interests of fruit-growing, that was CALLED BY GOD and compelled by the Holy Spirit to speak to Israel.

Into a nation with a well-established system and hierarchy of prophets and priests and kings, a nation of wealth and power and terrific esteem wanders this merchant from Judah–an unlikely man with an unlikely MESSAGE in an unlikely way!

“Are you nuts, Amos?”

Why, do you think, he does it?

I had to ask the question myself.

Why lay aside a profitable business to head north and then rip a strip off of the people who could easily ruin him economically, or even kill him at the drop of a hat?

Let’s face it.  Being a PROPHET coming out with guns blazing on God’s behalf as Amos does, was no small matter.  It wasn’t without considerable risk!

Amos was quite aware and acquainted with the culture of the day from all his business trips within the borders of Israel and her surrounding heathen neighbors.  The practices and injustices of the day would have been seemingly obvious to him.

And then, as one unknown bible teacher remarked,  “One day the word of the Lord came to him.  Amos heard God speaking to him, just as clearly as one might hear a lion roaring in the wilderness of Judah.  God had a task for Amos; he was to speak to Israel.  He was commanded to bring a message from God as he made his trips to the markets.  In God’s name, he was to protest against the sins of Israel.  He was to announce God’s judgments.”  

Amos 7:15 (AMP)…

[15]  And the Lord took me as I followed the flock and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to My people Israel.”

As had happened before…

Happened again to other men and women in the history of God’s people.

God’s Holy Spirit spoke to Amos’ spirit giving him an unmistakable MESSAGE of what would happen if things didn’t change quick.

It came in the form of thoughts, strong compulsions, and vivid visions.

POWERFUL…Like the ROAR OF A LION!  (Amos 1:2)

And AMOS couldn’t–he just couldn’t–ignore and leave it alone!

If A LION ROARS…who doesn’t fear?

If GOD SPEAKS…who can BUT go out in OBEDIENCE & PROPHECY?

This was a rare occurrence.  Amos lived in the Old Testament era, where the movement of the Holy Spirit within someone was rare.  Only a select few were touched by the LORD.  Only a select few ever received guidance from Him.

Amos lived in the same covenantal age as did Moses, who cried out “Are you jealous for my sake?  I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit on them!”  (Num. 11:29 – NIV)

So this unlikely candidate–a farmer, not a PK (preacher’s kid), not a seminary student or a son of a priestly family, or someone with a prophetic lineage–this unlikely candidate heads out with a message of the Lord, a stern message!

THE LION ROARED through Amos…(verse 2)

Mount Carmel would wither.

CARMEL, was, by the way, an important mountain in Israel, a place of great fertility–strategic for agriculture, a symbol of the lands well-being.

Their  ‘well-being’, in other words, was about to come to a screeching halt.

So as you might suspect, Amos’ message wasn’t well received.  That is extremely clear when looking at Amaziah’s response to the MESSAGE in Chapter 7.

Amaziah represented the Israelite establishment, the power-brokers.  He was an office-bearer, anointed as PRIEST, representative of the King.

Here comes AMOS…

Amos’ message condemns the religious life of the people in which Amaziah was in charge of caring for that “religious life.”  Of course, he’d be upset.  I mean, who wants to hear negative things said about you and your people?  If God wanted to speak, let Him do it through the proper, designated channels.

Says Amaziah,  “Go home, Amos.  Take your silly games and pronouncements and go back to Judah.  Quit dabbling in what you don’t know anything about.”

Amos responds, “Sorry.  No can do.  When God says ‘Go’, you don’t say ‘No’.  Oh, and by the way…Your goose is cooked!”

AMOS, A Fellow Colleague of Ours –

Yes, I said that.  A fellow prophet, just as we are PROPHETS!

I mentioned that Amos lived in the time when the Spirit of God came only occasionally to people, the time when few were prophets.

That has all changed!

The CRY of Moses,  “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!”  has been answered.

PENTECOST has come.

The Holy Spirit has descended and indwells ALL who are BELIEVERS in Christ Jesus.

As Peter says in Acts 2:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, God declares, that I will pour out of My Spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and your daughters shall PROPHESY [telling forth the divine counsels], and your young men shall see visions (divinely granted appearances), and your old men shall dream [divinely suggested] dreams”  (Acts 2:17 in the Amplified Bible).

WE ARE IN THAT AGE–every believer a PROPHET.  You and me too!

In many ways we are like Amaziah,  We like things neat and orderly.  If messages of a spiritual nature have to be spoken, let them come in the right way at the right time from only the right people.  Anything else is somewhat irksome…or, we shrug it off as irrelevant.  We read scripture that says, “Always be prepared to give an account of the hope that is within you”;

AND…

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though Christ were making His appeal through us”; and somehow we seem to always manage to discount that.

  • I’m no good at that.
  • That’s the job for the Pastor.
  • I don’t know anyone I could speak to.

We might even mutter under our breath, “Who do they think they are, anyway?  Who gave them the authorization?” — words that echo Amaziah’s words, “Who does this sheep-herder think he is, anyway?”

Do we stand as BELIEVERS more with Amos or Amaziah?

Are we willing to take up the mantel…to accept the fact that being a Christian in the New Testament age means to have the Holy Spirit, and to have the Holy Spirit means that we are Prophets and that we are PROPHETS means, WE MUST SPEAK!!!

We find ourselves in a day and age relatively complacent and comfortable in our beliefs.

In the midst of that COMFORT, there are people wandering in all manner of spiritual directions…

IN DARKNESS, away from a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  The end result of the wanderings is certain–DEATH.

Though they may not hear it themselves, THE WORD OF GOD ROARS LIKE A LION, searing the top of Carmel.

That WORD has been given to us!

So as Amos replies to Amaziah with a somewhat sarcastic retort,  “How can we BUT prophecy?”  

IT WON’T BE EASY…

The reaction from others is often similar to Amaziah’s reaction to Amos’ message.

And so the question for you and I as we stand in the tradition of AMOS is:

  • To whose DRUMBEAT will we march?
  • Whose CALL will we listen?
  •  For whom will we SPEAK?

It’s going to feel awkward, strange, even out-of-place at first. 

But then, it wasn’t much different with Amos.

And the God who called him, who spoke through him, who cared for him in the entire process, is the same Living Creator God who CALLS US, and who promises to care for us as we walk into our communities as PROPHETS of His, SPEAKING His Word…

– –  At the grocery store,

—  At the coffee shop,

—  In our neighborhoods.

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** CREDITS & FOOTNOTES **

Footnote [1]:  “Shepherd” – Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary – Old Testament words.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV).

What’s the ‘FINAL STRAW’?

Well, it’s finally the end of football season except for the playoff games and of course…The Super Bowl.  We all have our favorite teams, and I’m no exception.  My Seattle Seahawks, again are in the playoffs, and the 12’s, the Seahawk Fans, are ‘Ready for some football’!

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The old Monday Night Football song featured Hank Williams Jr. singing, “Are you ready for some football?”, was something I looked forward to every week.  And for the most part, the games were absolutely worth waiting for.  They were PREMIER MATCHUPS of equally matched teams, bound to have some wonderful surprises with some extraordinary highlights.

In THE BOOK OF AMOS in the Old Testament, we can also see a premier matchup of teams NOT equally matched at all.  

BUT…there are still bound to be some probably NOT so wonderful surprises but some extraordinary highlights!

TEXT:  AMOS 5:18-24 (NIV)

The Day of the Lord

[18] Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord!  Why do you long for the day of the Lord?  That day will be darkness, not light.

[19]  It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him.

[20]  Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light–pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?

[21]  “I hate, I despise your religious festivals, your assemblies are a stench to me.

[22]  Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them.  Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them.

[23]  Away with the noise of your songs!  I will not listen to the music of your harps.

[24]  But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

First, let’s look at the prophet Amos:

Contrary to what you might think, AMOS was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet to begin with(7:14).  He was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees…actually, a wild fig or mulberry fig tree.

sycamore

A DRESSER is better translated as a bruiser.  Sycamore trees had a fig-like fruit.  In order to make the fruit ripen and sugar content, he would take a long stick and tap them and bruise them.  AMOS picked these for a living and since the FRUIT wasn’t particularly good tasting, only the poor people ate it.  [See footnote [i] ]

So while AMOS was tending sheep and dressing trees…he became aware of the conditions of his day.

Today’s awareness of surrounding world conditions, might be around the water cooler.

Amos’ day conditions were discussed around a sycamore tree or while he was herding the sheep as caravans passed along a well-traveled highway.

WHAT WERE THE CONDITIONS?

Wealth abounded…actually, it was an either or situation.  On one hand there was luxury and self-indulgence, and on the other…there was absolutely miserable poverty.  I’m sure you have seen videos of the homeless camps fixed under overpasses in our cities today.

  • The GOVERNMENT was corrupt…there was evidence of extortion…there was riots and violence in the streets and CLASS was hated.
  • Dishonesty was the rule rather than the exception and there was also a gross indifference to the suffering.

The RELIGIOUS conditions followed the same pattern

Outwardly, it seemed that RELIGION was thriving in and around the center of population…attendance soared while the treasuries bulged…BUT…inside there was sickness.

The priests were professional leeches.  They would preach exactly what would tickle the ears of the people.

IMMORALITY was practiced in the name of Jehovah God…

There was so much hypocrisy and insincerity in the assemblies while real RIGHTEOUSNESS was hated and oppressed, sometimes violently.

In my study this past week, all this became painful for me to read and understand. This period of PEACE and God’s GRACE…instead of being grateful to God for their peace and prosperity He had given…they used this time to plunge into the pool of sin.

Much like America is today…outwardly it seems like things are going pretty well…BUT on the inside, decay and rottenness.

AMOS saw the JUDGMENT of God coming upon the nation but the greatest threat, then and now, lies in the religious community!!!

In Chapters 1 & 2…AMOS speaks of JUDGMENT on the surrounding nations. The people really like that part.  Notice that Amos repeats the phrase, “For three sins…even four” (vs. 4, 6).

He uses this formula to focus attention on the FINAL ITEM–GOD’S ‘FINAL STRAW’!

AMOS doesn’t list the first three sins, but moves directly to the fourth, bringing the JUDGMENT of God down to the actual audience to whom the message is directed–ISRAEL.

That brings me to the ‘Final Straw’ portion of this blog-study:

THE DAY OF THE LORD (Chapter 5):

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Israelites of Old Testament times looked for the day when God would intervene in the affairs of the world, righting the wrongs and establishing His rule on the earth.

For the first time in Scripture, the concept of the DAY OF THE LORD is introduced. The term appears only in the prophetic.

What do we think when we hear the term?  Do we think of the time when JESUS will come back for His bride, the church?  Or, that glorious time when we’ll leave this old world and go to heaven?  “Oh, what a glorious day that will be!”

AMOS gives us a clear picture of what the Day of the LORD would be like for the people.  1st it would be a time of DARKNESS–not light.  

People thought it would be a bright, happy time of celebration…tickertape parades…dancing in the streets, etc..  Instead, it would be a time of unparalleled hopelessness…There would be no place for them to escape the JUDGMENT OF GOD!

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He says it would be like a man who would run from a lion only to meet a bear; from something ferocious to something even worse!

In desperation this man manages to reach his house–a place of safety and shelter. He arrives breathless, leans his hand against the wall to catch his breath…and as he does, hidden in some crevice, a snake bites him.  The DEATH he thought he would escape awaited him at his own house.  NO SAFETY…NO ESCAPE anywhere!

Verse 20:  Not only DARKNESS…

[20] Don’t you realize the LORD’S day of judgment will bring darkness, not light–gloomy blackness, not bright light?  (NET Bible)

This is a far cry from the joyful expectations the people of Israel had.

In VERSES 21-24, AMOS gives details of some of the things that helped bring on this JUDGMENT…THE FINAL STRAW:

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Each of the ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS of their worship was examined and in each case…they were totally rejected by God.

What God required was not the RITUAL or the OFFERING, but rather RIGHTEOUSNESS in the courts, in the marketplace, in every aspect of their conduct, because this is what it takes to WORSHIP GOD…not the outward show.

But these “saints” all still performed their duty on occasion…and think it will be enough to cause God to overlook the SIN in their everyday life.

But their COMMITMENT to God is revealed in their lifestyles.

They pretended to REJOICE, to Praise the LORD…they had their solemn assembly for their worship.  ALL the right moves…ALL the right notions…

BUT God HATED and DESPISED it.  He said take it away…Get it out! (verse 22).

How About the WORSHIP MUSIC in the Congregation?

Vs. 23 – Away with the noise of your songs…

MUSIC was an important part of their worship, as it is today in our church services.  —HOW COULD THEY MESS THAT UP?

It had all the right words…the music was sweet to the ears, but it wasn’t offered to God…it was just the next step in the process.

–HOW ABOUT US?

When we sing, do we mean what we say?

Now, this has not been all too pleasant reading so far…it’s been pretty negative.  But when God deals harshly with His people, it’s always REDEMPTIVE in nature.

It’s never meant to beat you down…rather, it’s to help us get our focus back on Him.

That brings us to VERSE 24 – BUT…LET JUSTICE ROLL!

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What is AMOS referring to here?

He wants us to do a turn-around!  Act justly.  Be honest!  That means in our everyday life, in our dealings with others…whether business or social relationships.  Don’t take unfair advantage and treat everyone as God Himself would treat them.

It also means being HONEST before God…recognizing our true nature–who we are in Christ Jesus.

RIGHTEOUSNESS like a never-ending stream.

JESUS said, “He that drinks of the water that I give…out of his belly shall flow rivers of living waters”  (John 7:38 – KJV).

That’s what is available for you and I today.  We need to examine ourselves where we are in life…examine our motives–honestly, and make whatever adjustments the Holy Spirit tells us to do.  And then, and only then, can we truly long for THE DAY OF THE LORD.

 


CREDITS –

Photos:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV), except where noted.

Footnote [i] :  Dr. Claude Mariottini – Professor of Old Testament, AMOS’ Occupation, June 17, 2014.