FFF 13:7 (Aug-Sept 1967)
The unpredictable way in which God raises up and uses His servants has led to the remark, “The lion’s share of God’s work has been performed by the laity.” So often the formally trained and office-holding church dignitaries are by-passed and the Word of God comes to those who are void of the requirements that are so highly prized by men. The prophet Amos tells us that he was a farmer and that he spoke his message only because of the irresistible urge resulting from being given God’s Word.
In other words he was a man that had received a call. This, along with his message, was his only credential. From all accounts he maintained his original means of livelihood while prophesying. His position and message touched the mainspring of all that the priest of Bethel, Amaziah, represented (Ch. 5:10-13). Amos was keenly conscious of sin. In the first two chapters of his book he takes Israel’s neighboring nations to task. From the 4th verse of chapter 2 and through the remainder of this written ministry he is concerned with Judah and the Northern Kingdom, designated as Israel. The surrounding nations had less light and therefore a corresponding responsibility. With Israel much had been given, consequently much more was expected. Amos found Israel in great default. His divine call was doubtless coupled with his observations of sin and hyprocrisy. He says, “The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” (3:8). Our prophet was unlike many of our moderns who find excuses for sin, or call it by some other name, it was his reason for prophesying. His intellect and emotions were happily blended as he says, “I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins” (5:12). Only as we are personally victorious over sin and in touch with God’s Word about it will we begin to know its true character. Actually redemption is only appreciated to the extent that we have discovered the meaning of sin. Amos, who reveals a very practical acquaintance with the outdoors observes that lions do not roar without occasion (3:4). Are we in such a state that it is “woe is me if I preach not the gospel?”
It is not hard to surmise that Amos had spent long seasons alone as a herdsman in the open spaces near his home in Tekoa, which was surrounded by large unpopulated pasture lands just south of Bethlehem. He had observed the stars at night (5:8) singing and saying, “The hand that made us is divine.” He was in touch with the Creator of the stars as he admonishes, “Seek Him that maketh the seven stars and Orion.” For him the visible things revealed the invisible God (Romans 1:19-20). This herdsman’s simple rustic meditations did but collaborate with his inherited Jewish faith. His God was not only transcendent, but a God to be known personally. Lamenting that Israel had not walked with God following the exodus, Amos then raises the question, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (3:3). The nation had long since broken off the communion, but this did not prevent Amos from walking on good terms with his God. It seems quite natural for him to add, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets.” We will never know distance from God unless there have been times in our experience when we enjoyed closeness. If it has been lost naught else can replace it; nor is there rest until the lost communion is regained. It is the source and spring of all Christian action. Such enriching experience is for all of God’s people, but only known and enjoyed by the diligent.
Amos soon found himself in conflict with the prevailing religion of his day. Bethel had very adroitly been settled upon as a place for one of Jeroboam’s golden calves (1 Kings 12:26-33). It had patristic associations (Genesis 13:3; 28:19); furthermore, a feast substituting and aping the passover had been aligned to its ritual. This was a sufficient show of orthodoxy to make Bethel a substitute for Jerusalem. This cunning mixture had gone on for nearly two hundred years when Amos pronounced his satire and thundered the Lord’s judgments on Bethel and all that it represented. “Come to Bethel and transgress” (4:4) is the Prophet’s ironic remark. The outcome of a visit to the sacred site was but to increase the danger of incurring more sin. Into this center where sin and religion were on the best of terms Amos provoked a vigorous hostility. The high priest of Bethel, Amaziah, hurried off to the king with his official report, “Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words” (7:10). Then Amaziah proceeded to give a misquote of some of these words calculated to further insure the king’s disfavor of Amos. The king and priest enjoyed a common interest and Amaziah appears to return to Amos with the king’s commission, “Flee 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” (7:12-13). In spite of this official attempt at silencing and commanding him to go back to his native Judah, Amos lives on and prophesies. He was immortal until his work was done. Not so Amaziah with all of his present plush privileges; said Amos to him, “Thou shalt die in a polluted land.”
In the last chapter Amos sees the judgment of the Lord catching up with every deserving sinner. “Though they dig into hell, thence shall my hand take them.” To sin in spite of light is serious business. Yet, this judgment would eventually prove to be remedial as far as the nation is concerned, “I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in the sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.” Then follows the prophecy concerning the “tabernacle of David that is fallen.” When Amos gave these words the decendents of David were occupying the throne. Later it fell under the strokes of Nebuchadnezzar, and is still seen unrestored after the first advent of Christ (Acts 15:16-17). From James’ application of the prophecy it is only natural to gather that the restoration of the Davidic kingdom will be just as literal as its fall. Contingent upon this is the millennial picture that follows when, “the ploughman shall overtake the reaper” and Israel will be planted, “no more to be pulled out of their land.” Israel as a nation has forfeited all grounds for God’s favor. The future rests in the disposition of their Messiah toward them. He will yet be gracious unto His ancient people. So, today, “The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose, He’ll never, no never, forsake to His foes.”