Amos said, “I was neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son, but I was a shepherd, and
I also took care of sycamore fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock
and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’´ He really was saying, “It wasn’t
my idea, it was God’s.” Amos was saying, “Look, this wasn’t my idea. Not at first,
anyway. Now I have to proclaim this because God keeps making offers to me and people
like Jonah that we just can’t refuse.” (The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:16 said,
“Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.” He was saying it wasn’t his idea either.
It was God’s.)
It isn’t our idea. The true and only God comes to us all with his idea. His idea
is that we go and “prophesy to his people.” What that means is that we tell the
people that God wants to talk and he wants them to listen.
IT WASN’T OUR IDEA
1. God wants to talk
2. We need to listen
1. God wants to talk
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s
own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men
spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20,21)
Those words were spoken eight hundred years after Amos said, “It wasn’t my idea.”
They are words the Apostle Peter spoke, and really, he was saying, “It wasn’t my
idea. It never is the prophet’s idea. It is God’s idea. He tells us to speak.
I was a fisherman and he said to me, “I’ll make you a fisher of men. So I went
and I speak…and it’s his idea. Amos didn’t wake up one morning and yawn and say,
“I think I’ll turn into a prophet and go down and get myself in trouble with the
King of Israel.” It wasn’t Amos who wanted to say something in Israel to the political
and religious leaders there, it was God himself. Amos was the prophet.
The words before us this morning from Amos take place in a political context. You
have two kingdoms at this time. You have the Kingdom of Israel with the ten tribes.
(On a timeline this is very close to 722 B.C. when the ten tribes would be taken
forever into captivity.) There is also the Kingdom of Judah with the two tribes,
Judah and Benjamin. Into the mix put some pseudo-religious leaders. That comes
out in the first sentence, “Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent a message to Jeroboam
king of Israel: “Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel.
The land cannot bear all his words.” And God is aware of the politics of it all.
It wasn’t the first time that there would be this tension between his church and
its leaders and the world or rulers and kingdoms all around. Jesus taught us to
pray “Thy kingdom come.” There are other kingdoms around who don’t want his kingdom
coming. So we pray like we pray and we pray what we pray.
The problem with churches and countries that are out of line with God is that they
want to do the talking and they want God to listen. They think it is about them.
God in Heaven thinks and knows it is not about them but about Him. The theocracy
of the Israelites was the only God-ordained form of government and even it didn’t
work very well. Essentially, the problem was: the people wanted to talk and did
not want to listen. So probably, we can continue to expect that government is not
going to be completely happy with what the church is saying…because the church if
it is saying what God is saying is saying things that impact the government. And
the church is saying things that impact the church! Both need to know that there
is a God in heaven who wants to talk and wants them to listen.
And in view of this fact and the tension that comes because of it, we hear the words:
“Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do
your prophesying there. Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s
sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”
God needs to talk. But do you hear the response? “Get out! Go back! Talk someplace
God is going to win out in this…make no mistake about it. He is going to have his
say. It is surprising in the first place that he wants to have a say. But he does
and he will. Right now God is talking. He is talking to us through his Word and
through those who continue to speak faithfully and fearlessly from his word.
What a privilege and honor that we have a God who wants to talk to us. Think of
the honor he pays us---what he says---when he comes to us and says, “I want to talk
to you.” This puts him in a class all by himself. No other gods come to their people
and say what he says. The big Buddhas in their silent temples don’t say anything.
Materialism’s shiny and new smelling god doesn’t talk…other than money talking.
We know that little conversation all right. The Mormon god doesn’t talk either.
At least it doesn’t talk intelligibly. Mark Twain, who also didn’t believe the
true God when he talked (he was an atheist or agnostic), called the Book of Mormon
“an insipid mess of inspiration.” He could see that there was something amiss there
with the god Joseph Smith talked about and wrote about.
2. We need to listen
There are things you need to listen to. (Not just hear mind you, but listen to.)
“Now then, hear the word of the Lord.” This is a very important part of these words.
The “now then” means we are starting to get it. The “now then” is the light bulb
going on. Oh, you mean I am not supposed to be doing all the talking? Do you mean
that I am supposed to be listening because God has important things he wants to say
to me?” Now we’re getting it! The “now then” means we are saying, “It isn’t our
idea, but it is your idea…now then, talk on and we’ll listen.” There has been a
change of thought and mind. We now want to listen to God talk to us. We ask him
to talk to us and we, like Job, put our hands over our mouths and say, “I’ll be quiet
now and listen.”
Politics is really about yourself…about getting your way. It really is a great mistruth
to say that politicians are the servants of the people. They are interested in getting
something for themselves…popularity, power, money, seeing their ideas implemented.
Boycotting and lobbying is really about yourself…getting what you want.
You don’t get a vote. This isn’t going to go your way. Your way isn’t the right
way. In all these things, God wants to have his say…and his way. He says that to
us all through another prophet (Isaiah), “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, “ declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8) But know this!
Know what God’s good way is! His way is that you be saved. His way is that you
know his good way. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to
be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4) This is the truth.
This is the Truth!
It does come down to a political issue. Kings came along who wanted to be their
own kings. Kingdoms threatened God’s people---Assyria, Babylonia, Media, Persia---who
wanted things their way. They didn’t want to acknowledge a God in heaven who lays
claim to everything they have and are. There was a tension always between the Romans
and the Jews…between the Jewish leadership and Christians. The problem was that
all wanted to be ruling. Every city the Apostle Paul came to in his missionary journeys
resisted in one way or another. People didn’t want God telling them what to do,
didn’t want God doing all the talking. They wanted to do what they wanted to do…all
the time and in all the ways. They wanted to be in charge of the religious scene.
And it was that way here with Amos and Amazia the priest of Bethel and the king
whose name was Jeroboam. You can hear the response, “Get out, you seer! Go back
to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don’t
prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of
the kingdom.” We do things around here our way. That was the essence of the tirade.
All the nations of the world want things their way. But God says, “That isn’t on
the table. That isn’t possible. That isn’t good. That isn’t right. I will not
give my kingdom to another. You need to listen to me.”
There is never a polling of sheep by the shepherds to see what it is the sheep would
like to suggest and do in regards to their pasturing and care and leadership. It
has never happened. Not even once. Sheep listen and follow another’s direction.
That is the definition of a sheep. Sheep are followers. Sheep are listeners. Jesus
said about them, “My sheep hear my voice!” Jesus said, “My sheep follow me.” Sheep
say---happily and rejoicing!!!---the Lord’s my Shepherd. I’ll not be afraid. I
won’t lack. I won’t fear death because he is with me there. I don’t have to make
tough decisions. At all the forks in the trail, he makes the decision. I don’t
have to fret and stew and provide for myself. He does it…day by day. The landscape
doesn’t have to be cluttered with storage barns for me. He provides daily and if
there isn’t anything there that day, he’ll create it out of nothing and give it to
me. Even in the presence of my enemies he prepares these banquet tables. In the
most unlikely places and in the most uncertain of times, he provides for me. In
the valley of the shadow---tzal maveth!---he provides company and comfort.
But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me,’ Go, prophesy to my people
Israel.’ Now then, hear the word of the Lord.”
It is always important to know what the “therefore” is there for! It is also important
to know what the “now then” is there for too.
We need to listen! We want to listen! God saves us when we listen! Amen.