The near misses of my life are broad and varied, open doors I almost ignored. One of my dearest friends nearly slipped past me in 9th grade because she was and is, a quiet person of depth. I initially said a hard no to a great teaching job once, due to the size of the school. Other near misses came close to robbing my life of people, richness, and unique opportunities, the most recent one being the purchase of our new home.
Two years ago, the Lord granted us a green light to sell our house and move nearer Lake Michigan and our kiddos. My initial giddiness waned swiftly. We realized we entered a seller’s market with high prices and rapid sales, great on the selling side, lousy on the buying end.
Our long-suffering real estate agent cheerfully endured tours and critiques of dozens of homes. Our must-have criteria included a fenced in yard or the ability to install one, and a walk-out ranch on a large lot. Repeatedly, we smacked into association rules banning fences, sheds and the like, often unknown to the sellers until we started making offers and investigating.
When we did find a few homes that fit the bill on paper, they turned out to be in poor condition for the price. Other homes exceeded our budget. In desperation, we decided to look at an over-budget house anyway. It languished on the market for a month (a lifetime in our area) so we wondered what its ailments might be.
The house didn’t show well. As soon as I entered it, though, I saw the possibilities of what could be. Signs of excellent maintenance and “good bones” abounded everywhere. Outside, the generous lot made my heart swell with all the possibilities for gardens and outdoor rooms.
The price snapped me back to reality, and I slipped into a funk. I barely examined the house, while Ken ran around doing all the measuring and note taking, we normally did together. The asking price soared above our means, so I didn’t see the point. Thank God my gloomy attitude didn’t destroy Ken’s enthusiasm for placing a low offer, one which the owners accepted. This optimistic approach is one of the many reasons I adore that man. I hope I’ve finally learned that often the best people and opportunities come in unassuming ways. Given my track record, though, I’d write off Amos the shepherd-prophet, just like the Israelites.
Amos lived an unnoticed life until God called him up to the show. “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.’” Amos 7:14 In Israel, most prophets belonged to the school of prophets or came from a prophetic bloodline. In modern terms, Amos worked as a farmer and gardener. Israelites thumbed their noses at him because of this. Before you judge, how might you respond if your lawn service guy, or maybe the lady selling you tomatoes at the farmer’s market, started sharing prophecies with you?
Amos himself lived in the Southern kingdom of Judah, but the sin of the Northern kingdom of Israel grew so great, God hauled him up there to warn the wayward Jewish nation. Well, they didn’t take kindly to that at all and tried to write him off as a goofball.
Isn’t this exactly the way another shepherd’s brothers treated him when the prophet Samuel sought out God’s anointed king and then later when David turned up to fight Goliath? “When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are…” 1 Samuel 17:28.
Also, remember that most of the religious establishment rejected The Good Shepherd and mocked his humble ministry, like the fact that he rode a donkey into town instead of charging in on a white horse to overthrow the Roman government. I wonder how many times we miss Jesus entirely because he comes to us riding humbly on a colt instead of sweeping in on a stallion?
The people of Israel rejected Amos and his serious warning from God about their impending destruction. They judged the package and ignored the message. Let’s not do the same thing. Amos’ prophecies are critical for the church today and still sound an alarm about sins all too common in our church culture. We will be discussing them in the next few posts. I know at first glance, the minor prophets seem too cryptic and irrelevant to us. I assure you they are not.
Despite our best efforts, God will not be boxed in by our personal preferences and expectations. God chooses to move as he will, with whom he uses. Each minor prophet earned a place in the Bible due to the timeless value of their messages. We can experience a powerful, authoritative and fulfilling life on the front lines of the kingdom, if we discern his voice and movements in unexpected places from unassuming people.
Lamp and Sword
****Resources for study and reflection****
“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” Hebrew 4:12
Metaphors and similes create word pictures that helps us understand an idea better. Isn’t it interesting that this rejected shepherd-prophet was a poet like shepherd turned king, David? Here’s a chart that I’ll fill in partially, with the metaphor on one side and the meaning on the other. Can you figure out what point Amos was trying to make with the ones I’ve left blank?
“Now then, I will crush you as a cart crushes when loaded with grain.” 2:13
The Israelites are at the end of God’s mercy and now face his judgement.
“The lion has roared-who will not fear? The Sovereign Lord has spoken-who can but prophesy?” 3:8
Amos feels tremendous pressure to communicate the message the Lion of Judah has given him.
“As a shepherd saves from the lion’s mouth only two leg bones or piece of an ear, so will the Israelites be saved. 3:12
“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” 5:24
“Then the Lord said, ‘Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.” 7:8
“This is what the Lord showed me: a basket of ripe fruit.” 8:1
“…and I will shake the house of Israel among all the nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, but not a kernel will fall to the ground.” 9:9