In grade school, many of us learned how to absorb just enough material to get by. Yes, there were the few amazing students (you know, one of “those” 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 Much
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 merry-go-round to me. Internally, I didn’t want to be corrected because I didn’t care much, if at all, about school. Why didn’t everyone understand that playing outside was much better than studying at school?
A Change of Heart
Thankfully, as the years went by, I learned that it was far better for me at home if I did 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 three older children were all better students than their mother. Even our youngest 13-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?
A Minor Prophet With A Major Word
The book of Amos in the Bible is considered to be a “minor” prophet due to the length of the book (only 9 chapters). While he might seem minor, his word is major. At the time it was written, Israel was enjoying a time of relative peace and prosperity. 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 preaching 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 much like our world today.
Least Likely Candidate
Amos was possibly the least likely candidate for such a mission. He was not a prophet by trade. In those days, there were schools for prophets 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.
Not A Professional
Amos seems like a person who didn’t really care if people believed that God had sent him or not. He was one of “those” prophets:
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. They grumbled against the prophets God sent and rejected their messages. Then they would 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 more than what Israel was ready to do. All Israel seemed interested in doing was boasting of being God’s people and making great pomp and circumstance around their religious rituals.
The Message Is Simple
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, especially now as the world as a whole groans in agony. May we live to reach the unreached, unloved, and marginalized. This is our, the church’s, destiny. 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…”