Questions: Why does God withhold judgement? When doesn’t He? How do we react to news of God’s impending judgement? What qualifies someone to carry that message? What is the price for not listening?
“Read More” to pursue answers from the Prophet Amos.
Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love.
Draw me into your Presence
And fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I would know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ
In this world, and the world to come. Amen.
Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me; and, behold, he formed grasshoppers in the beginning of the shooting up of the latter growth; and, lo, [it was] the latter growth after the king’s mowings.
And it came to pass, [that] when they had made an end of eating the grass of the land, then I said, O Lord GOD, forgive, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he [is] small.
The LORD repented for this: It shall not be, saith the LORD.
This chapter begins with a terrifying premonition — but one that, apparently due to the prophet’s intercession, does not come to pass. A surprising turn of events — which happens again:
Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me: and, behold, the Lord GOD called to contend by fire, and it devoured the great deep, and did eat up a part.
Then said I, O Lord GOD, cease, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he [is] small.
The LORD repented for this: This also shall not be, saith the Lord GOD.
Okay, so what’s going on here? I can see several possible motivations for this interplay:
- Telling us that Israel deserves far worse than he’s getting
- Showing Amos’ compassion for his counntrymen
- Teaching us of God’s mercy
- Demonstrating how we should intercede in the face of judgement
I suspect it is a little of all of these, plus others I haven’t even considered. For example, perhaps those two priors episodes took place over an extended period of time, and now God’s patience has completely run out:
Thus he shewed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall [made] by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand.
Huh? After locusts and fire, a weighted rope seems kinda anti-climactic. But there’s more going on here than meets the eye:
And the LORD said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more:
Ominous words. Moreover, God himself is putting a stake in the ground, rather than calling insects and elements to do his dirty work for him. And the end result won’t be pretty:
And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.
As one might imagine, the powers that be don’t like this defeatist talk:
Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words.
For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land.
Not an exact translation, but neither is it entirely out of context. What Amaziah really misconstrues is not so much Amos’ words, but his motivation. I don’t know whether Amaziah is going out of his way to paint Amos in the worst possible light; more likely, I think he simply reacted emotionally to Amos’ words, automatically assumed the worst, and is responding accordingly:
Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O 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 king’s chapel, and it [is] the king’s court.
Intriguingly, Amaziah doesn’t actually question Amos credentials (at least to his face). Rather, he’s trying to push Amos off to the sidelines, where he doesn’t mess with the kings “turf.” In fact, one could could consider this a precursor of [an extreme form of] the doctrine of church-state separation!
What Amaziah fails to understand, though, is that Amos is not speaking of his own volition, or under his own direction:
Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I [was] no prophet, neither [was] I a prophet’s son; but I [was] an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit:
And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.
It is a fascinating contrast. Amaziah seems to think of prophesy as a job, and wishes Amos would practice it somewhere more convenient. Amos makes it quite clear that being prophet was the last thing on his mind until God told him to do it. And having received that command from the LORD, who is Amaziah (or the king) to countermand that?
Now therefore hear thou the word of the LORD: Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not [thy word] against the house of Isaac.
‘Tis a dangerous thing to get in the way of a living God:
Therefore thus saith the LORD; Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.
Ouch. A harsh punishment. Or is it? It is just a prophecy of what was going to happen anyway? Or, more soberingly, was Amaziah’s denial itself part of the core problem which led to Israel’s destruction?
I can’t help but wonder what ‘might have been’ if Jeroboam had godly counselors who pursued repentance (rather than rebukes) after receiving a severe prophetic word. Alas, it seems that even the schools of the prophets had dried up by this time, which is why God had to turn to a humble, earthquake-shocked shepherd to find someone willing to speak the unpleasant truths. The leadership had become so corrupt and inward-focused they couldn’t recognize the voice of God if it came up and slapped them in the face.
O Lord, save us from that fate!
God, like Amaziah, I too often resent the word of God, rather than receive it with all humility. Have mercy on me, O my Father. Spare me and mine from the judgement we deserve, for we seek refuge in you. We entrust ourselves to your goodness and greatness, not our own. Grant us the grace to submit to you and glorify you in all that we do. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
About the Title:
Today’s title is from the tired idiom.