Lord, give me discernment to detect when the religious system is off of the rails.
Read AMOS 7:1–17
Locusts, Fire and a Plumb Line
7 This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: He was preparing swarms of locusts after the king’s share had been harvested and just as the late crops were coming up. 2 When they had stripped the land clean, I cried out, “Sovereign Lord, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!”
3 So the Lord relented.
“This will not happen,” the Lord said.
4 This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: The Sovereign Lord was calling for judgment by fire; it dried up the great deep and devoured the land. 5 Then I cried out, “Sovereign Lord, I beg you, stop! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!”
6 So the Lord relented.
“This will not happen either,” the Sovereign Lord said.
7 This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. 8 And the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Amos?”
“A plumb line,” I replied.
Then the Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.
9 “The high places of Isaac will be destroyed
and the sanctuaries of Israel will be ruined;
with my sword I will rise against the house of Jeroboam.”
Amos and Amaziah
10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent a message to Jeroboam king of Israel: “Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. The land cannot bear all his words. 11 For this is what Amos is saying:
“‘Jeroboam will die by the sword,
and Israel will surely go into exile,
away from their native land.’”
12 Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. 13 Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”
14 Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. 15 But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ 16 Now then, hear the word of the Lord. You say,
“‘Do not prophesy against Israel,
and stop preaching against the descendants of Isaac.’
17 “Therefore this is what the Lord says:
“‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city,
and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword.
Your land will be measured and divided up,
and you yourself will die in a pagan country.
And Israel will surely go into exile,
away from their native land.’”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“But when I see thee as thou art, I’ll praise thee as I ought” (John Newton, 1725–1807). Praise God for his great mercy towards his children.
Amos is a shepherd, a very ordinary person not trained for the ministry, yet someone who was passionate about God. He is also compassionate and, perhaps because of his agricultural experience, he could empathize with those suffering the devastation of locusts or fire. In response to Amos’s first two visions (2,5) and his visceral intercession for Israel, the Lord relented (3,6). God listens to human appeals.
There was a third vision, however, and this time there could be no intercession because measured by God’s standards of righteousness and justice, the wall of Israel’s political and religious life was shown to be tilted beyond repair; it had to come down. Demolition is always a messy business, a dire threat to the corrupt priest Amaziah’s anger. King Jeroboam I had founded a state religion that was different from that of Israel’s covenant past; Israel’s king and Israel’s worship had become inseparable. Notice that Amaziah blames Amos, not God. There is still incredulity that Amos’s seemingly madcap prophecies could ever be fulfilled. But Amaziah will soon discover that God is backing Amos, not the religious system!
Amos is quite courageous. He is also completely sure that God has called him to this special task of prophesying to Israel. Is God calling you to a new role in his service? Do you feel too ordinary? Trust him and go with it! If you are a church leader, are you ordinary enough to empathize deeply with those in your care? Do you intercede for them, like Amos, with a passion borne of a genuine understanding and affection?
What unpleasant words from a genuine man of God have your heard lately that made you squirm a bit?
Lord, may I listen to You and follow Your leading in a sinful society.