AMOS, THE PEASANT-PROPHET
FOR OUR DAY
and after reading this article I would urge you to read carefully and
prayerfully the whole prophetic book of Amos, as well as the following
passages from 1 Kings: ch.11 vs. 26-40, ch.12 vs.25-33.
is the fruit of several months of, as it were, "soaking" in
this prophetic book, and seeking revelation concerning its essential
relevance and application to our contemporary religious situation. I
am not asking that you uncritically accept the light which I have on
it, which I share here, but that you humbly and honestly consider it
before the Lord, enquiring of Him what He is saying through this Old
Testament prophet, both to you personally and to contemporary churches.
In a previous
message on Hosea chs. 1-3 I wrote of that prophet's revelation regarding
the way of restoration and renewal for a harlot people, and concluded,
in the light of his prophecy, that we can hardly expect instant revival
such as is being predicted in some evangelical and charismatic circles.
To underline and reinforce that message I invite you to look with me
into the prophecy of Amos.
Promise of Revival
In Amos 9:11-15
there is an exciting vision of a powerful outpouring of God's Spirit
producing a thrilling renewal and revival amongst God's people, with
a great harvest ingathering. The vision centres on the raising up again
of the tabernacle or tent of David which had fallen. This prophetic
word has been seized upon with great eagerness, and has been much preached
about in recent years. Some have even claimed that their particular
"stream" of Pentecostalism is part of the fulfilment of it.
Those predicting imminent and overwhelming revival would seem also to
be laying claim to it for today. No doubt we would all rejoice to see
and live in such a day, and it would be wonderful to know that it was
about to arrive. But, it seems to me, that in their desire for revival
such interpreters are ignoring 95% of Amos message. The promise of revival
at the end of the book follows eight and a half chapters of awesome
prophecies of judgment .
Humanly-Devised Religious System
The main thrust
of the revelation given to this shepherd-prophet concerns the pulling
down and the rejection of a religious system that had no authorisation
from the Lord, and which was lacking in intimate personal relationship
with Him. The religious institution in Israel against which Amos so
powerfully prophesied had two hundred years of history and tradition
behind it. It had its beginnings when the kingdom divided and Jeroboam,
heading up ten of the tribes, set up the golden calves at Bethel and
this critical event God, through the prophet Ahijah, gave Jeroboam an
amazing promise. Here it is: "If you will hearken to all that I
command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes
by keeping my statutes and my commandments as David my servant did,
I will be with you, and will build you a sure house, as I built for
David, and I will give Israel to you." (1Kings 11:38) Instead of
simply walking in trust in that word, Jeroboam, leaning on his own understanding,
and taking secular counsel, set up all the framework of a humanly organised
religious system. Look at 1 Kings 12;25-33 and note all the words so
characteristic of organisational religion. "Jeroboam built";
"Jeroboam said in his heart"; "He made houses on high
places"; "He appointed priests"; "He appointed a
feast"; "Her placed in Bethel the priests of the high places
that he had made"; "He went up to the altar which he made";
all of which "He had devised of his own heart."
I Will Build
of God was not good enough for Jeroboam. He was not content to walk
in humble obedience as the Lord required of him and let the Lord build
the house. No, he himself proceeded to build, set up, appoint, put in
place, in other words to establish a humanly devised and controlled
religious institution. Now, is that not an almost exact parallel to
what has happened regarding the Church? Jesus said, plainly and unequivocally,
"I will build My Church." He also promised and gave the Holy
Spirit, the all-sufficient agent through whom the promise would be fulfilled,
as believers walked in simple trust and obedience. The architect and
the builder was to be the Lord. It all started off just as God intended
on the day of Pentecost and in the early years, but before too long
men, just like Jeroboam, began to follow the devices of their own hearts,
to build houses (religious buildings), raise altars and appoint priests
(ecclesiastical hierarchies), and set up calves of gold ( ? denominational
systems). Jesus did not leave or intend to leave a humanly devised institution,
let alone the thousands of institutions such as we now have in Christendom.
His purpose was to leave a single, united, living, organic Body, obedient
to Him as Head and Chief Shepherd ruling from His throne in heaven through
the promised Holy Spirit living in His people. So, is God going to grant
an Amos 9:11-15 revival to these multiplied institutions, organisations,
ministries etc.? Well what has Amos got to say?
of the Religious System
It is evident
that the religious system in Israel in Amos day was doing very well.
It bore the marks of success. There were plenty of activities, daily
crowded services, financial prosperity from tithing and freewill offerings,
celebrations and gatherings with great music and praise and worship,
affluent leaders made rich by the offerings extracted from
the people, great houses with every modern comfort, powerful priests
and all under the patronage of the king himself. Read all about it for
yourself, and draw the more-than-obvious parallels with today's systems
and the way they operate.
this peasant from over the border in Judah. He has no credentials acceptable
in that religious world. He has been to no "School of Prophets",
and he has not attended "how-to" seminars. He comes right
to the power centre of this successful, wealthy, well organised religious
system crying, in effect, "It is all to be pulled down and utterly
destroyed. You claim that God is with you, but He hates and abhors your
system. He has tried again and again to get your attention, but you
would not turn to Him." (Ch.4:6-12) Amos clearly saw that, amidst
all the well-oiled mechanics and activities of their beloved church,
the one thing needful was absent, a personal loving, life-giving relationship
to God. (Ch.5:4, 5,6,14,15) There was to be no revival for that system.
It was destined to be utterly destroyed and dismantled, its strongholds,
its great houses and small houses all included. Only a remnant would
survive that judgmental catastrophe. The prophets of the system were
proclaiming "the Day of the Lord", thinking it would be a
day of unprecedented blessing, but Amos had to tell them that instead
it is a day of judgment and darkness, a day of spiritual famine and
thirst. His prophetic word comes to a climax in ch.9:1-10, where he
sees the Lord standing beside the very altar that Jeroboam had raised
up two hundred years previously, and proclaiming the total demolition
of all that had been so carefully and religiously erected. It is an
awesome prophecy. Only a remnant come through.(Ch.9:8b)
Confronts High Priest
In ch.7 there
is an account of a most dramatic and instructive encounter between the
prophet, Amos, and the chief representative of the religious system,
Amaziah. See how Amaziah reacts with high indignation and jealous protectiveness
of his religious empire, and how he pulls rank and tradition in rebuking
this insolent peasant who dares to impugn this prosperous and flourishing
church system and to foretell its certain overthrow. "Get out Amos
! Don't ever come here with your prophecies again! Who do you
think you are?" The peasant-prophet truly commissioned by God,
and the humanly appointed Pope of the system! Transfer the situation
into modern terms. Imagine an Amos, bearing a similar word, coming into
some of our plush carpeted sanctuaries, with their costly sound systems
and upbeat music and high-profile preachers. Look out, any modern Amos!
Your reception will be less than friendly! But who has the truth? That
is the crucial question.
in Jerusalem a similar confrontation took place, Jesus and the highest
religious authorities of the land. They claimed to be the guardians
of truth. They "knew". "You are mad. You have a demon."
That was their reaction. Who had the truth?
those same leaders had another encounter, this time with the Apostles,
"unlearned and ignorant men" in their opinion, but they "had
been with Jesus." Who had the truth? The learned, educated, powerful
religious leaders, or the simple Galilean fishermen?
And what is
the truth concerning today's religious systems? Are they destined to
experience glorious revival, or are they conceivably under the judgment
of God, despite their apparent prosperity and success? Or is revival
only promised to that remnant who come through a time of judgment yet
to fall on mens' systems? You must decide for yourself in the light
of God's word.
seems to me, to come out from the systems and institutions which men
have built and control, and simply and humbly to "Seek God and
live." as Amos urged, and to pray that we may, by the mercy of
God be part of that "remnant of Joseph" who, when the judgment
is passed, will go on to experience the promised and sure-coming restoration
of ch. 9:11-15. in the Sovereign God's chosen time. What are you going
to do? I have made my choice. You must make yours.
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