Change, Christmas

A Change of Heart

In grade school, many of us learned how to absorb just enough material to get by. Yes, there were the few amazing students that the rest of us envied who actually enjoyed the discipline of learning. They enjoyed the process of sitting in class, listening to the teacher, doing homework, and studying. Spelling tests were a breeze, multiplication tables and photosynthesis didn’t faze them one bit.

And then there were the rest of us.

I didn’t care to absorb much in grade school; I cared more about running outside, getting an ice cream from the ice cream truck that passed by the house every day. When time came to go to school in the morning, I dragged myself to class and daydreamed of the moment when I could be back outside playing.

The day of reckoning came, however, when report cards came home. The inevitable lecture and consequences became a familiar round of talks throughout the years at home. Internally, I didn’t want to be corrected. Who were all these people to know what was best for me?  Didn’t they see that playing outside was much better than studying at school?

Thankfully as the years went by I learned that it was far better for me at home to do well at school. It took me time but I found out that if the report card was good, everyone at home was exceedingly happy. By the time I graduated high school I was on the honor roll. Yes, I had a change of heart and turned into one of “those” students who was grade motivated. I wish it hadn’t taken me as long as it did. Thankfully, my 3 older children made it better than I did and even our nearly 9-year-old is much easier to convince to study than I ever was.

Why is it that we are so easy to reject correction or warning? Why are we so sure that our own ways are the best?

The book of Amos in the Bible is considered to be a “minor” prophet due to the length of the book (only 9 chapters); however, the content of the book is far from minor in importance. At the time it was written, Israel was enjoying a time of relative peace and prosperity and they (mistakenly) assumed that this prosperity was a sign of God’s blessing.

It was Amos who was assigned by God to rattle their cage by telling them a very uncomfortable truth: that their lives were a mess and needed attention. Idolatry was rampant, the justice system was corrupt, immorality raged, and the poor were oppressed as the rich enjoyed their lavish lifestyles. Sounds familiar to our world today.

Amos was possibly the least likely candidate for such a mission. He was not a prophet by trade; there were schools for prophets in those times and it would appear that even those schools had been touched by the hypocrisy of the time. This may be this is why God moved outside of “normal” settings since He couldn’t use His own prophets. God chose someone from among His people without natural qualifications to deliver a particularly searing message: the people needed a change of heart or judgment would knock on their doors.

Much like my attitude in grade school, people didn’t receive Amos’ message with joy. He was told in chapter 7 of Amos to leave and “earn” his living prophesying elsewhere. They didn’t want to be told what to do; they wanted to go outside and wait for the ice cream truck to arrive so they could play.

Amos seems like a person who didn’t really care if people believed that God had sent him or not:

Amos 7:14,15a NLT “But Amos replied, ‘I’m not a professional prophet, and I was never trained to be one. I’m just a shepherd, and I take care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord called me away from my flock and told me, “Go and prophesy to my people in Israel.” Now then, listen…’”

We know that Israel’s history was one of sin, grumble against the prophets God sent, reject their messages, fall into judgment, and then repent – rinse and repeat. Their repentance never seemed to take hold for more than a few years at a time; they were busy doing what seemed right and comfortable to them. The change of heart that God was looking for was a rare occurrence and all the while Israel would boast of being God’s people making great pomp and circumstance around their religious rituals.

The message is simple and has always been simple, love God, live by His law and love what He loves: people (Amos 5:23,24). May we learn from Amos and the history of Israel, this year especially as the world as a whole turns in agony, live to reach the unreached, unloved, and marginalized. It’s what we’re destined to do anyway and if we continue to reject His loving promptings to have a change of heart, there will come a time when He will have to go elsewhere to find someone to answer His call to bring His love to the rest of the world.

Amos 8:11,12 NLT “The time is surely coming, says the Sovereign Lord, when I will send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from border to border searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it…”

5 thoughts on “A Change of Heart”

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