Amos was a farmer. He grew figs and herded sheep, and yet he ended up delivering some scathing prophecy to Israel. At one point the priest for the idol Israel set up at Bethel tried to kick him out of the city, claiming that he was conspiring against the king and saying he should take his prophecies to Judah.
With an open invitation to hightail it to safe territory, Amos stood his ground. He wasn’t a professional prophet. The king didn’t have him on retainer and no one had hired him to do freelance prophecies a la Balaam. Rather, God took him from his day job and said, Go, prophesy. So that’s what he did.
I love his unwavering obedience. I also love his amateur status. It reminds me that God essentially takes believers in Jesus Christ out of our day jobs and tells us to go make disciples. That appointment is for fig growers and doctors and electricians and social workers and teachers and carpenters and writers. And yes, for some professionals, too.
The other thing I’m mindful of is that Amos was commissioned to deliver bad news — Israel was to be judged and they were destined for exile. The Christian, however, gets to deliver good news — the way of escape from judgment and the hope of an eternal heavenly home.
Amos didn’t mince words. He got right to it, telling Israel that God loathed their arrogance, that those most at risk were the ones comfortably rich who closed their eyes to the need for repentance. They cheated the poor, accepted bribes, and hated reproof.
To Amos’s credit, he interceded for Israel and twice God relented of the judgment He had disclosed to Amos through a vision. But the third time, He said, enough.
Then the LORD said to me, “The end has come for My people Israel. I will spare them no longer.” (Amos 8:2b)
Still, Amos went to the people and pleaded with them to repent.
Seek good and not evil, that you may live;
And thus may the LORD God of hosts be with you,
Just as you have said!
Hate evil, love good,
And establish justice in the gate!
Perhaps the LORD God of hosts
May be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. (Amos 5:14-15)
They did not, and judgment came. But perhaps the harshest part was the famine God proclaimed:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD,
“When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.
People will stagger from sea to sea
And from the north even to the east;
They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD,
But they will not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12)
That passage reminds me of Romans 1 where God says He gives man over to his sin because he rejects God, choosing instead to worship the creature instead of the Creator (vv 24 ff).
It’s not a happy picture, but that’s the one Amos the unprofessional prophet was assigned to deliver.
How much better is our assignment today! The unprofessional Christian gets to say, Guess what? The One you rejected is the One who loves you and who died to redeem you from your sins, if you will but believe.
I’d say we have the better part, so I wonder why it seems so hard to do the work of evangelism.
This post first appeared here in May 2012.