Amos 7:10-17, 9:13-15
Return to Loyalty
July 8, 2001. © 2001, J.W. Carter
www.biblicaltheology.com Scripture quotes from KJV
Amos was a prophet who preached of Israel’s destruction by the Assyrians throughout the Northern kingdom of Israel. God had given Amos two sets of visions, the first set taking place prior to chapter 7, and the second set taking place after chapter 7. Israel was in a time of peace and complacency, moving further and further away from dependence upon God, and further and further away from obedience. Their complacency and self-sufficiency led to an end of faith-based worship, replacing it with meaningless ritual that was practiced only for anticipated personal benefit. The rich and controlling facet of society got richer by abusing and oppressing the poor.
By the time we get to Chapter 7, Amaziah, the priest of Bethel gets involved. This Amaziah is not to be confused with Amaziah who was the King of Judah, Ninth king of Judah, the son of Joash and father of Uzziah (797-767 B.C.). Bethel is the center of the religious culture in the Northern kingdom of Israel, and Amaziah was its priest who supervised the sanctuary, or the temple of the Kingdom. Some scholars think that Amaziah actually owned the sanctuary, adding to his possessiveness and need for control over it.
Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words. 11For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land.
There is no record of Amaziah’s response to Amos’ prophesy until this point where the prophesy against Jeroboam, the king, had been pronounced. Amaziah wanted to silence Amos, and now saw his chance. However, quite unsurprisingly, Amaziah’s report to the king was an inaccurate, carefully worded political attack that was meant to put Amos on the defensive and lead to his persecution. What was Amaziah’s message to the king in verse 10? He referred to Amos’ activity as a conspiracy against the king, raising support from within Israel itself. What was the inaccuracy of this statement? There was no conspiracy of any kind. A conspiracy is an event where people get together to collectively execute a controversial plan. Amos was simply reporting to the people of Israel the content of the visions that God had given him, visions that warned of Israel’s destruction by a God that was holding them responsible for their sin. If there was any threat involved here, it was a perceived threat to Amaziah as this prophet was speaking a message that was contrary to the position of the priest, thus undermining his authority, and exposing him as a fraud to all the people. Consequently, Amaziah was acting in the harshest way possible.
We should expect that we will be criticized when we take a stand for the truth. When such criticism (or even persecution) is realized, from whom does it come? It is going to come from those who are most threatened by the truth. They might be religious leaders in your community who are out of God’s will. They might be church members who are entertaining specific sin in their lives; sins that are directly in conflict with the truth that is being preached or taught. They might be people who are outside the body of Christ who see truth as a light shining on their dark desires, exposing them for what they are, and threatening the lifestyle or actions that they desire.
In this case, Amaziah is attacking Amos by pitting him against the king through false testimony. When we take a stand for the truth, that loyalty to God can easily be construed by those who are threatened into a false testimony, leaving us not only to maintain the truth, but to expose the lie from a position of defense. Many Christians have experienced such attacks.
Did Amos’ declaration of the truth have power? When we take a stand for the truth, does it have power against the forces of evil? Amaziah stated that Israel could not bear his words. He felt that Amos’ words had the power to bring him down, and bring down the entire country. Certainly, words have power and when used against the forces of evil, they appropriate the power of the Holy Spirit, and the gates of Hell cannot prevail against such an attack.
For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land.
The lie of Amos’ conspiracy is compounded by a lie concerning his message. Did Amos prophesy that Jeroboam would die by the sword? Amos’ prophesy concerning Jeroboam is in verse 9:
Amos 7:9. (KJV). And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.
The difference between what Amos said, and what Amaziah reported is significant. Amos was referring to violence coming to the house of Jeroboam, that is, on his ancestors. Actually, Jeroboam later died a natural death and was succeeded by his son, Zechariah, who was assassinated after only six months as king. (2 Kings 5:8-10). As king, Jeroboam’s grandfather, Jehu, had destroyed the dynasty of Ahab, one of the worst kings to ever rule Israel. Ahab had brought Baal worship into the temple. Jehu banished it from Israel, and as a reward, God promised four generations of rule. The death of Zechariah was the end of the fourth generation. God promised that Jeroboam would complete his rule, and a prophesy from Amos to the contrary would destroy his integrity as a prophet. This was what Amaziah was attempting to do. Amaziah wanted to present Amos as a traitor against Israel and its king.
Amaziah had taken Amos’ words and “blown them out of proportion,” or taken them out of context for his own purposes. We can certainly expect that when we stay loyal to the truth of God, our words will be used against us in the same manner. What we say will be taken out of context to serve the purposes of the persecutor. As Amaziah was grossly misrepresenting Amos to the king, we can find ourselves grossly misrepresented by those who would seek to destroy our message, placing us in a defensive posture, causing us to rely more on God for His help and guidance.
Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there:
It appears that Jeroboam may have known Amos, and had no conflict with his message, because we see no evidence of Amos’ indictment by the king. Amaziah did not seem to even wait for an answer from the king, but as the priest, took matters into his own hands, attempting to remove Amos himself. Amaziah’s first attack was on the identity and person of Amos, referring to him as a professional prophet, one who makes his living by telling people what they want to hear, much like the “psychic” frauds that prey on people today. From such a position, Amaziah demanded that Amos leave.
Though he referred to him as a prophet, he was doing so in a derogatory manner. We can expect that, when we take a stand for the truth, we will be personally attacked, and we will be accused of being someone we are not. Our assailant will do everything to destroy and demean our position. One of the most insecure jobs in our culture is that of a church pastor. Usually, pastorates are ended when similar attacks take place. When a pastor reveals a need for change, those who feel threatened by that change will demand that the pastor leave, rather than deal with a truth that they do not want to confront. It is easier to destroy the messenger than it is to deal with the truth of the message.
But prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court.
The metaphor of the persecuted pastor and his church is applicable to Amaziah’s declaration in the temple. He is literally saying, “this is my place, get out!” Amaziah is confusing the king’s sanctuary and the temple of God, as he is referring to both as the same place. Who owns the temple of God? Obviously, the temple does not belong to the King (or to Amaziah as some think.) Likewise, the church and its facility does not belong to a subset of its people. A lot of church conflict arises from this misunderstanding. Those who are not happy with their lack of control in the church claim, “this is our church, and we will do things our own way.” No folks, this is not your church, and the disunity that you engender by such a statement is as evil as the attack of Amaziah, and seeks to divide and destroy the church. This is a very serious issue that should be sought after with much prayer and repentance. Unfortunately, where such conflict exists, such a call to repentance is treated exactly the same way that Amos’ call was: by persecution and attempted disbarment from the fellowship.
Let us remember this truth when we find ourselves involved in such a conflict: a pastor or leader points out a need for change and a subset of the people declare their possession of the church, demanding that the pastor or leader either relent or resign. Listen to the message and remember that the church does not belong to any person.
Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdsman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: 15And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.
Many of us can be encouraged by these words of Amos: “I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet.” According to Hebrew tradition, Amos was not a prophet. Their religious culture had raised prophets to an elevated position, and to become accepted as such, one had to attend the “school of the prophets,” or the prophet’s seminary. This seminary training is referred to by Amos as “prophet’s son” (see 2 Kings 2:5). An apprentice prophet would sit under the teaching of another and attain the credentials necessary to be rewarded with the responsibilities and privileges given by man to the intended, ordained, individual. This is not much different from the polity of many of today’s churches. Someone is not considered to have any spiritual authority unless they have been ordained by a process of man’s invention. We have divided the ministry of the kingdom between two camps: the clergy and the laity.
By that definition, Amos was a layman. What was Amos’ profession? He was a shepherd and tree farmer, a position considered at the bottom of the social ladder. Why was Amos preaching in Israel without the credentials of the school of the prophets? Amos’ calling came from God, not from man. Likewise, the calling to ministry of every Christian comes from God. Seminary training is a great advantage to those who can make use of the training attained there. Ordination to the ministry, however, carries no such intrinsic advantage. Ordination is only a declaration by a group of Christians that they support the ministry of another. Unfortunately, our church culture has placed ordination, and often seminary training, in a context much like the school of the prophets that ordains and supports people who are not necessarily called by God. One lay person who is ministering in response to God’s call is of far greater value to the kingdom than a hundred seminary-trained, ordained men or women who are ministering without God’s call. Likewise, the prophesy of Amos was not shared by the school of the prophets in either Israel or Judah. The message of this one layman had power, where that of the school of prophets was silenced.
Now therefore hear thou the word of the LORD: Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac. 17Therefore thus saith the LORD; Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.
Amos did not cower to Amaziah’s demands. He was not a pastor who depended upon his congregation for his livelihood and feared his own firing, pressured to back down when challenged by wicked church leaders. If he had been, and responded in the way he did to Amaziah, he would probably be looking for another church. First, Amos repeated Amaziah’s own words so that he could contrast them with the truth. There was no denying what Amaziah said, for to do so would discredit Amaziah and end the conflict. Amos declared to Amaziah that he would be held responsible for his words. Remember, Amaziah was the priest over Bethel, and as such held in his hands the responsibility of spiritual leadership. By rejecting and attacking Amos, God’s prophet, he was rejecting God, and failing to lead Israel into repentance, assuring their destruction. Amaziah would be held responsible for his sin, a sin that impacted an entire nation.
Amos’ prophesy about the judgment to come upon Amaziah was particularly personal. His children would die when the city would fall to the Assyrians. He would be taken prisoner, and his wife would be left behind with no husband, no children, and no land. She would be forced into prostitution. Finally, his land would be divided and distributed to others. Everything that Amaziah considered of personal value would be lost, his land, his descendents, and his marriage. Finally, he would die in a pagan country, a further insult to his identification as the priest of Israel. He would not only be separated from his land and his family, but in his mind he would be separated from God. He would further suffer the humiliation that would come upon exiled leaders, paraded and abused as a trophy of war.
Amos 9:13-15.Following the visions of destruction is Amos’ last vision, one of hope. God has always preserved his remnant (Ezra 9:8, Isaiah 1:9, 10:20-22, et. al.) Whenever the people turned away from God, there has always been a core group who remained faithful, and would carry on the message of God’s purpose of Grace until Jesus comes at the end of the age. When we look closely at the return of Israel that is promised in these verses we find a significant truth. The prosperity that is described is beyond anything they had ever experienced, wine flowing from the mountains, reapers overtaken by plowmen. The key to understanding this prosperity is in verse 15, where Israel will NEVER again be pulled up. There is only one Israel that is eternal, and that is the church that will be present at the parousia, the second coming of Christ, when the final judgment will take place, and the New Jerusalem, the church, will be present, in fellowship with God forever. This is the hope of Israel, the hope of all Christians.
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. 14And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. 15And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.