I was no prophet
by Glenn Pettit
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10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, "Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words.
11 "For thus Amos has said:
'Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
And Israel shall surely be led away captive
From their own land.'"
12 Then Amaziah said to Amos:
"Go, you seer!
Flee to the land of Judah.
There eat bread,
And there prophesy.
13 "But never again prophesy at Bethel,
For it is the king's sanctuary,
And it is the royal residence."
14 Then Amos answered, and said to Amaziah:
"I was no prophet,
Nor was I a son of a prophet,
But I was a sheepbreeder
And a tender of sycamore fruit.
15 "Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock,
And the LORD said to me,
'Go, prophesy to My people Israel.'"
So often when we think of the Great Commission, we think of it as a call to missions work abroad. At the end of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations..." (Matthew 28:19a) And Mark records that moment with Jesus saying, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15) We look at those and think about all the far-off places, the dark places, the unknown places where the gospel of Jesus Christ needs to be preached. Our view of mission work is skewed outward, with nary a thought for the fact that "all nations" and "every creature" includes the people in our own communities and even in our own homes. That is not to say that we shouldn't send people out on missions to far-flung corners of the world to share the gospel. We most certainly should, and we do. But are we remembering to be prophets in our own homes?
The prophet is never welcomed by his own people. Nowhere in the Bible do we find a prophet or apostle welcomed with open arms. Even Moses' own siblings, Miriam and Aaron, grumbled at his leadership and tried to usurp his place as God's chosen leader of Israel. (Numbers 12) Elijah was constantly pursued by agents of Ahab and Jezebel. Jeremiah was pursued and imprisoned in a dungeon pit. (Jeremiah 38:6) The apostles were often stoned and beaten for their evangelism and prophecies. Yes, a prophet is never a popular guy with his own people, and sometimes not even with his own family.
So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house."
The people of Nazareth were offended that Jesus--whom they knew as the Son of a carpenter, and whose family still dwelt among them--should be able to teach with wisdom in their synagogue. As He had done elsewhere, Jesus no doubt taught about the gospel--the good news of salvation through repentance and faith--and while the people probably welcomed the message of redemption, they didn't want to hear it from someone they knew. After all, what gave this Man they knew so well the authority to tell them what they ought to do to get closer to God? So the people of Nazareth and Galilee rejected Jesus' teachings and refused to listen to someone so close to home.
The prophet Amos faced a similar problem. Like so many of God's faithful servants, Amos was called out from his simple life of common labor--in his case, as a shepherd and tender of wild figs--to become a prophet to Israel. At a time when the kings of Israel were prone to worshiping false gods and persecuting the prophets of the one true God, Amos would never have chosen the role of prophet for himself. He wasn't even a priest! But the Lord called him out to speak, and he was then persecuted by the king's own priests.
In our verses today, we see how the priest Amaziah spoke out against Amos to King Jeroboam, and then he flat-out told Amos to leave and go to Judah to prophesy. The telling moment for Amaziah is when he tells the king, "The land is not able to bear all his words." In other words, the land of Israel could not bear to hear what Amos had to say, and Amaziah told Amos to take his prophecies elsewhere, away from "the king's sanctuary." The command from Amaziah is a plea to not hear what the Lord has to say. Rather than plugging the king's and the people's ears, Amaziah orders Amos not to speak things which the people would rather not hear. King Jehoiakim of Judah, the son of Josiah, had a similar reaction when Jeremiah prophesied against him.
21 So the king sent Jehudi to bring the scroll, and he took it from Elishama the scribe's chamber. And Jehudi read it in the hearing of the king and in the hearing of all the princes who stood beside the king.
22 Now the king was sitting in the winter house in the ninth month, with a fire burning on the hearth before him.
23 And it happened, when Jehudi had read three or four columns, that the king cut it with the scribe's knife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.
It is tempting to think that we can avoid the Word of God simply by burning it or sending it elsewhere, but we cannot. The judgments of God are no less sure if we simply ignore them or persecute the ones who bring them to us.
In our modern age, many speak out against the Bible, trying to suppress the sharing of the gospel and the true Word of God. The atheists and secular humanists try to say we don't need to know God's statutes, commandments, or prophecies. Even in some churches in America, sin and salvation are separated and ignored, and pastors speak only of the promises of God without ever mentioning that we are called to repentance and called to live according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. The saddest thing in the modern church of our Lord Jesus Christ is that His own ministers are refusing to speak the whole of God's Word, refusing to "offend" the people because "the land cannot bear" all of God's Word. And rather than face the same condemnation that Jesus faced in Nazareth--"Is this not the carpenter's son?...Where then did this Man get all these things?" (Matthew 13:55-56)--today's preachers would rather soft-peddle the gospel message of repentance and righteous living for a gospel of tolerance, a gospel of liberation, a gospel of prosperity, or a gospel of worldly peace.
34 "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.
35 "For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law';
36 "and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.'"
With the Great Commission weighing upon us just as it once weighed upon Amos and Moses and scores of other prophets and apostles, what gospel do we then preach at home? Is the message we bring to our families and communities the same as the message that may be heard from the mouths of missionaries in Africa, Asia, or the Amazon? Some indeed are given to be full-time prophets, evangelists, and teachers of God's Word "for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." (Ephesians 4:11-16) But how do we propose to train up our children in the way they should go if we are not teaching them the whole Word of God--complete with the gospel of repentance and faith? Are we prophets in our own homes?
We who are called to "preach the gospel to all creatures" cannot avoid our responsibility to share the gospel at home by simply sending it abroad. And we cannot get away with saying, "Oh, I am not a priest nor a pastor, not a prophet nor an evangelist." Amos and Moses were shepherds! Peter was a fisherman! Matthew was a tax collector! Paul was probably the only one of the apostles who actually knew the Bible well BEFORE he was called to preach the gospel--and he needed to be re-taught by the Spirit of God Himself. All the rest of those called to God's service were "amateurs" just like you and me. When confronted by Amaziah, Amos responded, "I was no prophet" (v.14), and then he went on to speak the prophecy all over again! He didn't stop when confronted with persecution and rejection, and he didn't suddenly remember his place and where he came from and how apparently unqualified he was. Amos continued to prophesy right where he was. He didn't go somewhere else, he didn't send the words by messenger, and he didn't back down.
We are called to be prophets in our own homes, to teach the Word of God to each generation (Deuteronomy 6:7), and to share the good news of Jesus Christ with everyone. (Mark 16:15) The temptation is to then set ourselves up as somehow holier than our families, but the Word of God tells us that what made Moses so special in his own family was that he was HUMBLE, "more than all men who were on the face of the earth." (Numbers 12:3) When Jesus spoke of turning families against one another with the sword that is the Word of God, He went on to say that we must lose our lives, be willing to humble ourselves to carry our own cross. (Matthew 10:37-39) The role of prophet is not a proud one but a humble one, a role of submission to the will of God to speak His Word with truth and integrity, to speak as one who does not judge others but as one who loves others so much that he would rather not see them condemned. (1 Corinthians 10:32-33)
This day and every day, let us reflect upon our role as prophets in our homes and communities. Let us study the whole Word of God, and rely upon the Holy Spirit of God to guide us as we teach these things to our families and friends. Let us remain humble enough to know when we ourselves must be taught by those whose calling is to be prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Let us look at the example of Amos, a simple shepherd called by God to boldly and yet humbly speak the Word to kings and priests. As we remember that we are called by Jesus Christ to make disciples and preach His gospel, let us remember how Amos preached where he was called, even when the land itself could not bear the words of reproach and repentance that he spoke. May we never be afraid to say, "I was no prophet, but I am called by my Lord to share His gospel with you."
Holy Lord God, for too long have I shirked my responsibility to share Your Word, to stand among others and speak the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ. Renew my fervor, Lord, and re-energize my ministry among my closest circle: my friends and my beloved family. Help me, Father, to be Your prophet to them, sharing Your whole Word as You will. I pray, precious Lord, that although I was not a prophet, I may now be one to whomever You set in my path, that they may come to that saving knowledge of the grace and mercy of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. In His humble name I do pray. Amen.
© 2011 Glenn A. Pettit-Noel
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