Last night I grabbed a copy of the Tanakh (the Jewish Bible, JPS translation), settled into my grandmother’s chair and read the book of Amos. (Now, before anybody gets the idea that I am boasting about having read an entire OT book in one sitting, bear in mind that Amos is only nine chapters long and a very easy read – even if you slow down to absorb the message, which I would hope we all do when reading Scripture!)
You gotta love Amos, the Non-Prophet Prophet. You would have had to have been called by God to be an OT prophet. Makes for a great episode of “Dangerous Jobs.” Ride into town, give God’s Word to the people, find yourself boiled in oil or dismembered or being fated to any one of a number of painful, ghastly endings. When Amaziah seeks to run Amos out of town, I love the prophet’s response: “I’m no prophet! Nor am I the son of one! I’m just a shepherd and fig farmer.”
Then Amos explains why he is in town to spread such a dire message of impending doom: The LORD told him to leave his flock and his figs and warn the people of Israel. Let them know what’s about to happen. Explain how their wickedness has led to this. Make them understand their destruction is at hand. And let them know there is still hope.
Israel has become deeply sinful. Great gain brought with it great pride, immorality and faithlessness, The rich prey on the poor. Sexual immorality and “carousing” now prevail. They are no purer than the godless nations that surround them. Worst of all, God has been all but forgotten. Service to the LORD has become empty religious exercise. Does any of this sound familiar?
God has sent painful circumstances to get their attention: hunger, thirst, failed crops, locust… He is trying to get their attention. The LORD is trying to get them to understand that they need Him. They cannot simply rely on their riches and strength. Does any of this sound familiar?
Since they refuse to turn away from their wickedness and turn back to God, He will destroy them and leave them for dead. Israel will no longer exist in the form that it has. Mourning and misery will reign. Indeed, very soon this all came to play when the Northern Kingdom was invaded and subjugated by the Assyrians.
But still… there is hope.
“Seek the LORD and live.” If Israel will repent – turn away from evil and run back to God, wholeheartedly, truthfully… they will live. It is the same message Jesus gives us: “Seek first his kingdom, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33, NIV).
Seek God’s ways first. Follow His Word and do not reject it. Do not follow the feel good path of self indulgence, but do what God calls you to do. Seek Him and live!
Does any of this sound familiar?