Summary: This world is filled with Amaziahs. They’re people (including ourselves) who think they can have spirituality without the light of God’s Word.
If you could be any person from the Bible, who would it be? Would you like to be Adam or Eve barefooting around the Garden of Eden with no fear of stepping on a rusty nail or a thorn? Wouldn’t it be an experience to play with a full-grown lion the way you would a kitten? Both would have been possible in the Garden of Eden before the fall into sin. Or would you like to stand in the sandals of Moses – arms outstretched as the waters of the Red Sea part before you and a couple million Israelites stream past you to safety? Or maybe you would like to be the beautiful and clever Queen Esther – matching your wits against the schemes of Haman. There are so many interesting people in the Bible. There’s Deborah, David, Daniel, Mary, Amos, Amaziah…Amos and Amaziah? Who are those guys? That’s what we want to find out today because we want to be like the one but not the other.
You probably remember hearing the name Amos before. An Old Testament book of the Bible bears his name. Amos was a prophet who lived about 750 years before Christ was born. Although he was from the southern kingdom of Judah he had been sent to preach to the northern kingdom of Israel. Outwardly things were going well in that country. King Jeroboam II had expanded the borders and the economy was humming along. But while things were going well on the surface, they were atrocious when it came to inward, spiritual matters. Materialism was rampant. Concern for others was low. People were still active in worship but they were just going through the motions. Anyway they were worshipping at a temple that hadn’t been approved by God. This temple, or shrine really, had been built by King Jeroboam I to keep his people from traveling to Judah to worship in Jerusalem. I suppose it would be like the city of Morinville building a Walmart to keep its citizens from spending their cash in St. Albert.
You think it would have been obvious to the people of Israel that it was wrong to worship at the shrine in Bethel. After all Jeroboam had installed an idol there – a golden calf. But the priests who ran the place inisisted that the calf was not there to be worshipped but to carry their invisible God whom they were to worship. Still, what they were doing wasn’t right. God wanted all the Israelites to offer sacrifices to him in one place and one place only: Jerusalem. So God sent Amos to tell the people at Bethel to change their ways.
It usually doesn’t go over very well, does it, when someone from “corporate” shows up to tell the staff at the district office that their way they’re doing things is all wrong. That was the kind of reception Amos received. After hearing that if they would not shape up, God was going to destroy their country and send them into exile (Amos 7:9), Amaziah, the resident priest at Bethel, blasted 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” (Amos 7:12, 13).
If this was all we knew about the incident, you might cast a beleaguered Tom Hanks to play the part of Amaziah while some stuffy corporate type would stand in for Amos. But we would have it all wrong. Amos was not a suit from headquarters. “I was neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son,” said Amos “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” (Amos 7:14, 15). Amos was hardly a professional – much less a career prophet. He was a shepherd who also ran an orchard. He had not made the trip to Israel because he thought he could make a quick buck preaching there or because he enjoyed stirring the pot. He went because God told him to deliver a message. Earlier in his book Amos explained with picturesque language why he, an “amateur,” was delivering a sermon in Bethel. “The lion has roared— who will not fear? The Sovereign LORD has spoken— who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8)
Amos was more like a whistle-blower who shows up at corporate to set things straight. Amaziah, on the other hand, was the corporate fat cat whose livelihood was threatened by Amos’ revelations. As far as Amaziah was concerned, Amos needed to be silenced otherwise the priests at Bethel would lose their positions and prestige.
Amos or Amaziah. Which are you more like? When a little voice pipes up from the back seat and says: “Dad, you’re driving over the speed limit.” Do you ease off the gas but only with some annoyance? When your mom says, “That’s not a T.V. show that honors your heavenly Father. Please turn it off.” Do you whine because now you won’t be in the know with your friends who do get to watch that show? Or have I ever said something from the pulpit that rankled because I applied a section of God’s Word that condemns something you do in private? This feeling of anger is not unlike Amaziah’s reaction to Amos. Amaziah was perturbed that someone would suggest that he wasn’t really worshipping the Lord. Wasn’t he a priest? Hadn’t the king of Israel given him his job? Surely his religion must count for something! Unfortunately it didn’t. Amaziah’s homespun “spirituality” was worthless. Worse than that, it was offensive to God.