A COUNTRY PREACHER GOES TO TOWN

Tucked within the pages of the OT is a little-known book that bears the name Amos. Amos is one of those forgotten prophets of the Bible. He is called a minor prophet as the result of the length of its pages as compared to books like Isaiah or Jeremiah, but Amos is a Major Leaguer in what he had to say. He hit a homerun every time he opened his mouth! In fact, Amos is considered to be the first of the classical prophets. If this be the case, Amos is the oldest collection of sermonic literature that we possess.

Amos made his home in a place called Tekoa, about five miles south of Bethlehem. He was a keeper of sheep and a tender of Sycamore fruit. His background was that of agriculture, which when meeting him was evidenced by his speech, his smell and the clothes he wore. While his rough speech and tattered attire led those to whom he encountered to jump to the conclusion that he was an uneducated “country preacher,” yet found in the book of Amos is some of the best Hebrew in the OT.

Amos’ ministry spanned from a period of about 780-752 BC. Having a life-altering encounter with the Lord (7:15), he was commissioned to carry a much-needed message to those who lived in the Northern Kingdom, Israel. His name means “burden” or “burden-bearer.” And a passionate burdened he had for his kinsman. Amos lived in a day of religious and social decay, moral and religious degeneration, the rich were oppressing the poor, injustice prevailed in the courts, there was violence in the streets, robbery was a daily occurrence, dishonesty in leadership was commonplace, adultery was accepted as normal, true religion was mixed with pagan practices, abnormal behavior was accepted as normal, and while all the right religious rituals were being conducted outwardly there was no inner faith. Evil had become deeply entrenched, blinding the people to their own plight. While outwardly there was prosperity, Amos saw beneath the material prosperity to the poverty of morality, ethical integrity and spirituality that  pervaded society and the lives of the people.

Amos had a fire in his bones to speak out against all the moral, ethical and spiritual declension he saw flowing like an out-of-control river. The preaching of the country preacher was not received very well. He was called a rabble-rouser, a trouble maker, one who stirred the pot when all appeared well on the surface. Amos chapter 7 is a picture of how his message was received. He was at Bethel preaching against the sins of the nation and that judgment was coming unless there was repentance and a return to the Lord God of heaven. Amaziah, who was the polished, politically correct paid priest, didn’t like what he heard from the lips of Amos. Amaziah was a people pleaser, who preached the message that the people wanted to hear: sin is a word of the past and it matters not how you live, God will not judge sin so let go and “just do it,” mixing Judaism with paganism is permissible for we have to be tolerant, repentance is unnecessary and negative talk of judgment only hinders one from reaching their full potential. Amaziah was guided by political-correctness not by principle.

The message of Amos was just the opposite. Amos could not be bought. He preached that God is holy, righteous, and of moral character who calls on this creation and creatures to conform to His holy, ethical and moral order. Amos preached man is sinful, which is the root to all greed, dishonesty, abuse of others, adultery, violence, robbery and all the other destructive behavior seen in society. Amos preached that the only hope for humanity is to repent before a holy God, and if not, judgement will be the natural outflow and reaction of holiness against sin. Amos preached engaging in empty religious ritual is worthless if there is no genuine inner faith that leads to a relationship with the Living God. Amos was not concerned about political correctness, but divine principle.

Amaziah personally confronted Amos and told the “country, hay-seed preacher” to shut his mouth and go back to his sheep and fig-picking. When Amos courageously refused to curtail his message, Amaziah mailed a letter to the King Jeroboam II and told him Amos was conspiring against him by speaking negative words of judgement because of the sins of the nation and the people. Amaziah sought to use political leverage to hush-up Amos. With divine unction, Amos continued to proclaim the message given him by the Lord until, as tradition records, he was either beaten to death or pinned to a wall by a spear.

The conditions in which Amos lived truly resemble the conditions in which we live today. Sin and self-indulgent living flow in the streets like a river overflowing its banks. Like in the days of Amos, we have forgotten God and even dare Him to judge us…if after all there is even a God. We want “preachers” to preach messages that make us comfortable in our sins and that is tolerant of our unrighteous behavior no matter how abnormal it is. Political correctness trumps biblical correctness, and those who dare disagree are vilified. Evil has become deeply entrenched, blinding people to their own plight. We want “preachers” to tell us no matter what “religion” you embrace, they all will lead to the same god who doesn’t demand repentance or an inner faith that is anchored in a relationship with the Living God. And if an “Amos” proclaims a message other than what “Amaziah” proclaims they are called rabble-rousers, and efforts are made to silence them.

Amos needs to become the prophet of our age. Though efforts are continually enacted to silence the message that God is holy, man is a sinner, sin is destructive, and judgement is sure if repentance is not forth coming, we need preachers to don the mantle of Amos to unapologetically and lovingly proclaim the truth. How fierce the fires of judgment as Amos so clearly painted with his poetic words. Yet here is the Good News, our sin and the judgment of our God met on Calvary’s Hill, offering forgiveness and reconciliation to all who will embrace His atoning work. And in His resurrection, He was triumphant over sin, death and the devil, and to all who encounter Him in faith become partakers of His victorious life. The sufficiency of the Christ Event, from which flows so great a salvation, is driven home to our hearts and minds as we hear and heed the words of Amos, overwhelming in their divine intensity and long overdue in their necessity to be faithfully proclaimed.

It is past time that more “country preachers” go to town!

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

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