Bible Experiment Amos
For the last year or two (3? Seems like forever) I have been going through book after book of the Bible, starting in Genesis and working my way through the Old Testament and am on my way (eventually) to Revelation (which, I actually can’t wait to do – so much fun there… but that is a different topic for a different day.) But so far, the story has been – God has created the earth, His people, and ever since the fall (you remember the apple bit? yeah, that fall) God has desired to restore us to our original state, to restore us to relationship with him. Daily, walking with him. Daily interacting with him and him with us.
I know that a lot of people, when they think of the Old Testament, all they think about is stonings, murder, judgement, pain. But that isn’t what the Old Testament is about at all. Like, not even close. The Old Testament is book after book after book (so much so, that it’s surprising just how intensely repetitive this message is) of God saying aloud, “COME BACK TO ME, TURN AWAY FROM YOUR SIN, YOUR IDOLS OF WOOD, YOUR BROKEN CISTERNS THAT HOLD NO WATER.” And occasionally (rarely) the people would go… yeah… totally… we get that. This crap just doesn’t matter… we really do need to rush back to our one true love. But normally they didn’t do that, and then warnings would come from prophets, or God himself, that kingdoms were coming, that they would carry them into bondage if they didn’t listen.
And that is again, where we are today. Amos is yet another minor prophet, that was called to go and to talk to the people. To go and convince them to change their ways. To go and speak on God’s behalf. But this time? The most fascinating thing about Amos is Amos himself. Who was this guy? Where did he come from?
Who Was Amos?
Amos was a shepherd, from the city of Tekoa. And just like that, you missed about 99% of the context of why Amos is so different and so cool. So let’s back up even though we are less than 10 words in. Shepherds were nobodies. Like literally, no one. The closest correlation today would be like a quarry worker in India. (Don’t get me wrong, the ministry I work for reaches out to these slaves and we try to break them free from this cycle – but my point is still valid). In America even a Garbageman doesn’t even come close to comparing. Garbagemen can vote. Garbagemen have rights and are seen as legitimate people under the law here in America. But back in the Old Testament? Shepherds could not testify. They couldn’t vote. Zilch. They were seen as nobodies.
Amos was also called a dresser of sycamore trees. Eh? What’s a dresser of sycamore trees? I didn’t know either. But apparently, in order to prepare the small fruit on the sycamore tree (which isn’t known for being really very good taste wise to eat) a dresser would climb up into the tree and puncture the fruit in order to help it ripen a couple days before the fruit was to be picked. So Amos spent his life in fields, and crawling around in the tops of trees. He wasn’t a King. He wasn’t a significant military leader. He wasn’t a religious leader. And his father wasn’t a prophet (which is how most prophets were chosen actually). He had grass stained hands and was comfortable with animals and trees. He was poor. He was used to no one listening to him.
Now, what about his home town? Tekoa? Tekoa was high in the hill country, something like 5 miles north Bethlehem. Amos’ home town overlooked the wilderness of Judah. Tekoa was all about flocks, sheep, goats, and herds. It was a backwater town. It was nothing.
So to kick of our story – we have a backwater town of zero importance. And we have a backwater hick, doing a backwater job watching sheep and climbing around in trees. And as Amos was “following the flock, the Lord said to me ‘go, prophesy to my people of Israel'” *
Amos’ Prophesy Begins
And then, over the next couple of chapters, we are off with one of the greatest turns of phrases in all the Bible… ‘Yay even four’. So good is it, that one of my best friends and I have taken to using it as a standard colloquialism. And we use it along the same lines of Boromir’s great line in Lord of the Rings, ‘One does not simply walk into Mordor’… Here’s how Amos utilized the phrase:
“For three sins of Israel,
yay even for four, I will not relent.
They sell the innocent for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals.
They trample on the heads of the poor
as on the dust of the ground
and deny justice to the oppressed.”
What an indictment. They sell the innocent, they trample the poor, deny justice for the oppressed. And on and on it goes for every nearby country that surrounded Israel Amos calls out their terrible and oppressive ways. But will God do? What will the result of this oppressive evil be? How will God respond? Well he did… he had been throughout the ages and no one listened
“I also raised up prophets from among your children
and Nazirites from among your youths.
Is this not true, people of Israel?”
declares the Lord.
“But you made the Nazirites drink wine
and commanded the prophets not to prophesy.
So wait, what? God sent Nazirites to warn them. He sent prophets to clearly tell them. But they got the Nazirites drunk – and they ordered the prophets to shut up. Really? Could they have been so freaking obtuse? Well yes! We do it today. In our modern world we have replaced God’s wisdom for our own cleverness. Which is right stupidity. In the words of Nietzsche we have declared that ‘God is dead, and we have killed him.’ And yet, still God holds the world together in spite of our declarations. And yet, here He remains, calling us back to our one first love… calling us back to Him.
Over the last week alone, I have had the opportunity to tell three different people about God’s love for them. Not in a short, insignificant way… but in sprawling stories and long conversations. And yet they don’t hear it. I don’t blame them their right to disavow God, but I my heart does break for them. I will continue to pray for them that God opens the eyes of their heart.
Well, as a result of their oppressiveness, God declared there would be a punishment… a swift and awful punishment.
“Now then, I will crush you
as a cart crushes when loaded with grain.
The swift will not escape,
the strong will not muster their strength,
and the warrior will not save his life.
The archer will not stand his ground,
the fleet-footed soldier will not get away,
and the horseman will not save his life.
Even the bravest warriors
will flee naked on that day,”
… declares the Lord.
And not that I’m anyone… but I would hope that you (whoever you might be) would realize that Amos isn’t just for the people of the world 4,000 years ago… but for today. It’s meant for every single generation. It’s a warning. We can choose to live Life with a capital L, or we can miss out on the entire purpose of this experience of life. And eventually, if we refuse to acknowledge God as our God, to acknowledge our need for Him… we will be on the naked end of this stick… fleeing for our lives.
Here, this last scripture is the entire point of the whole of the book of Amos. No, this scripture, if I may be so brash, is the entire point of entirety of the scriptures.
“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!” (Amos 5:14)