Summary: When God calls you, don’t think about your faults, what sins you’ve committed or education or experience that you don’t have. Thank God for His calling, and just do it. God will take care of the rest.
Last week we discussed Jonah. I call him the “Running Prophet”. You all remember the story -- God called Jonah to preach to the city of Nineveh, but he ran away and was punished for it. Eventually, he came to his senses and went to Nineveh to deliver God’s message.
This week, I want to share the story of another of the so-called “minor prophets”. He was just a “regular guy,” but God called him just the same. Turn with me to the book of Amos (between Joel and Obadiah in the OT).
In 7:14 Amos gives an accounting of his professional life: 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.
Amos 1:1 shows that he was from the town of Tekoa, just south of Jerusalem in the nation of Judea. Remember, at this point in history, the kingdom of Israel was split after a civil war -- Israel to the North, with the king in Samaria, and Judah to the South, with the king in Jerusalem. Judah and Israel were almost constantly at war with each other. So, by his own description, Amos was a good ol’ farm boy from the deep south. Just a regular guy.
But look at what happens next. In verse 15, But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ Amos received his calling in the middle of his life! He was tending his flock when God called him, doing what he was “supposed” to do. Sometimes, God’s calling can be very interrupting to our lives. But Amos listened to his calling, and dropped what he was doing to fulfill God’s calling.
But what was his calling? Well, it wasn’t easy. Amos was told to go north to Israel and preach the destruction of all of the nations surrounding Israel! Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, and even Judah received notice of God’s wrath. Remember, Israel and Judah have been at war for years -- can you imagine what these people thought when they heard him saying this? They were like, “Yeah, man. Preach it! Those people are evil! They’re crazy!”
Think about it in modern terms -- if someone came up to you and said, “Iran is evil! Palestine is evil! North Korea is evil!” You’d probably agree, right?
Well, what if that same person went on and spoke at length about how the US was evil? Your own country, under judgement from God? How would you react?
Probably the same way that the Israelites reacted in Chapter 2 verse 6 -- pretty much until the end of the book. At this point, Amos begins to really get into the meat of his calling -- God had something He wanted to say to the Israelites!
God called them out on everything they were doing! Listen to some of the stuff they did: slavery, injustice, prostitution, loan sharking, bribery (both making and accepting them), idolatry, treating the poor differently than the rich...the list goes on (Amos 2:6-8).
So why is this interesting? I mean, all over the Bible we see example after example of prophets speaking the Word of the Lord to Israel, but they never really listen and simply go back to their evil ways after the prophet leaves, right? We see this time and time again. What makes Amos different is that God is telling the Israelites that they are no better than the pagans who surround them. He’s saying that just because they’re God’s chosen people, that doesn’t mean they get to sin whenever they want to with no consequences!
Pretty heavy stuff -- and here poor Amos is, probably not really sure what he’s doing, just trying to obey the calling on his life as best as possible.
But get this -- despite the difficulty of his calling, Amos sticks to it. He insists that the Israelites listen to the Word of the Lord! He even argues with God in chapter 7, verses 1-6, preventing two different plagues from striking Israel. Israel -- his home country’s enemy! When Amos received his calling, he didn’t do it halfway. He went all out, to the point where he argued with God himself to prevent some of the punishment Israel so richly deserved.
What a guy.
Despite all of this, though, the priest of Bethel, a temple in Israel devoted to worshiping a golden calf idol, decides he’s going to tell Amos to stop prophesying! In fact, he goes to Jeroboam, the king of Israel, and tells him that Amos is conspiring against Jeroboam! He tells Amos to get lost: “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”. So how does Amos react throughout all of this? Let’s face it -- it would be entirely too easy for him to act like he was “SuperJew” and say, “Look, God chose me to do this because you simply were not good enough. You are too sinful, so God sent me, a nobody, to set you right! I’m better than you!”