I see in the Nooksack Valley the beginnings of a revival. You are here for a purpose, keep up the good work. The good work of hope, the good work of faith. I see a lot of hurting folks that are getting back to the foundation of what it means to be alive. “Come back to the Lord and live” the prophet Amos shouts.
I like Amos. Today we begin a series of message from Amos. Amos is a prophet, or is he? When challenged by the king of Israel, Amos says, “I’m not a professional prophet, and I was never trained to be one. I’m just a shepherd, and I take care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord called me away from my flock and told me, ‘Go and prophesy to my people in Israel.’" (7:14-15 NLT). So what’s a prophet? I am not a professional theologian, I am a pastor. I have a craving to understand the bible so that it makes sense for me and how it applies for our community.
Amos is the earliest of the writing prophets…
Part of the technical definition of a prophet, as compared to a priest: A priest represent people to God and a prophet represents God to the people.
I do not believe there will be any more prophets who speak with the same authority as the biblical prophets.
Here’s a simple untechnical definition of what it means to be a prophet. Prophets are able to see clearly through the eyes of God and communicate truth to the world. Politicians and pundits can debate all day long about what is happening with the economy, what’s going on with the stock market, housing, jobs; we are all correct to have concerns and we should be motivated to make a difference to those who are struggling. But the role of the prophet is to be able to look around and see the spiritual needs, to see God at work in the midst of it all, and communicate truth to the world. Other problems will come and go, but the ultimate question is what do you do with God.
I like Amos because he says I am just a regular person called by God, I was a truck driver hauling goods back and forth and the Lord spoke to me, I had a farm and God got hold of me, I raised children and took care of the house and the Lord stirred my spirit, and now I see through the eyes of God what is most important to him. A prophet is one who speaks with clarity and simplicity the truth of who God is and what he is doing.
I am intrigued by a phrase by C.S. Lewis: God Without Disguise.That’s what Amos does for the people whom he is called to speak – to make God clear, to demystify God, to call people to account and to know God: Come back to the Lord, and Live, the Prophet shouts. This is what C.S. Lewis says, When the author walks onto the stage, the play is over. God is going to invade, all right; but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else comes crashing in? This time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. That will not be the time for choosing; It will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side.
God without disguise. That’s a prophet. To show people who is this God whom we worship. The world is far less complex than what our confused minds want to make it. The role of the prophet is to demystify God, to take away the misconceptions, and to remind people of God’s desires, God’s passions, God’s character, and God’s ways. For many people, God is hidden. For some of you,God is confusing. It’s not that God is hidden from us by design, but we let our problems get in the way and life gets in the way. You know what it says in the N.T.: “but now, Jesus Christ is revealed…”
Sometimes we don’t see God because life is too good. Why does it take a crisis for God to get our attention? Amos was called to a people where the leaders thought everything was going too well. So, it is Amos that speaks of those who are sitting in ivory towers, not aware of the needs of the common folks. Amos just speaks boldly, simply, and picturesquely. It is Amos that calls the wealthy woman, “Cows of Bashan.” No wonder Amaziah tells him to go away, to leave the country and don’t come back.
Amos lives in the 8th century b.c.. At that time, Israel is two nations, Judah in the South, and Israel in the North. Later, after Amos, the Assyrians rise up as a world power, the Assyrians invade Israel in the North and destroy Israel. Amos, a resident of Judah, was sent from the southern nation, to the foreign nation of Israel. Israel is becoming complacent, even arrogant; Amos is sent by God to warn of their complacency, and to tell them they are setting themselves up for destruction. Amos bursts the bubble of Israel’s self-deception.
After a few years of preaching in a variety of cities in Israel, Amos got the attention of the people. Perhaps there is a lesson in the fact that it is the priest Amaziah, that goes to the king and complains. The religious leader objects. I know I’m ahead of the times because Jesus has not yet been born, but let’s just call him the Christian guy. The Christian guy doesn’t see any merit in what Amos is preaching. The Christian guy wants to keep God disguised and declare that all is well. The Christian guy does not want to upset the order of things in the land, after all, everything is in place, the world is at peace, and so Amaziah, the Christian guy says to the king, “Amos is hatching a plot against you right here on your very doorstep! What he is saying is intolerable. He is saying, ‘Jeroboam will soon be killed, and the people of Israel will be sent away into exile.’” (Amos 7:10-11, NLT).
The Christian guy knows how to spin words and say the right things. “A conspiracy” he says to the king. Yes, Amos is being so secretive as he shouts on the street his warnings to the people (sarcasm). Amos may be doing a lot of things, but plotting a conspiracy is not one of them. The king gives his consent to have the Christian guy confront Amos: “Get out of here, you prophet! Go on back to the land of Judah, and earn your living by prophesying there! Don’t bother us with your prophecies here in Bethel. This is the king’s sanctuary and the national place of worship!” Amos 7:12-13, NLT). Do you hear what the priest is saying to Amos: "You are not sincere, you are doing this for money and power." Amaziah hurls charges against Amos that sounds like the worlds accusations – its all about money and power.
Amos is a man of integrity. His mission is to present God without disguise. He counters with a simple declaration of who he is and how he was called (Amos 7:14-15). Amos is confident. Amos may be a simple shepherd, but God can do amazing things when he gets hold of you.
In sermons to come we are going to examine the need for justice, Amos 5:24 is an awesome verse, “Let justice role on like a river, and righteousness like an never-failing stream”. We’ll look at complacency, asking the Lord to open our eyes to those around us. Another message will be a call to repentance. The final message will be a vision of the future. Amos may have a harsh message at times for the people, but the book ends with an awesome vision of God’s recreation among his people – God without disguise, God uncloaked.
A lot of folks believe in God, but they don’t see God as personal. Maybe they think God is punishing them, or God is distant, or God doesn’t have time, or I’m not good enough. Our role in this world is to show God for who he is. In the case of Amos, he is sent to proclaim the true God, the God of justice that cares for all people, the God who loves the average person and not just the leaders, the God who you cannot take for granted, the God of hope and restoration. Amos says to the people of Israel, 1:2 “The Lord roars from Zion” When God utters, his voice reverberates across the earth and across the plains, “the pastures of shepherds dries up.” The voice of God thunders from Zion in the south across Judah, across the pastures of Israel, and is heard on Mt. Carmel in the North as “the top of Carmel withers.” Let's rewrite Amos 1:2 for us: “The Lord roars from the summit of Mt. Baker, and thunders across the valleys through Sumas and Everson and Nooksack, the raspberry fields and the farmlands dry up, and the waters of Birch Bay are stirred.” This is our calling, to declare to our community the truth of God, so that more and more people will have transformed lives, to come to know the Lord.
I am not prepared to declare any individual a prophet of modern times, but I believe prophecy is to be spoken and God is to be presented without disguise. Declaring the truth of God to the world is our role as a church, and it is the role of all Christians. The world needs to see God without Disguise. May the voice of God be spoken with clarity, a loud voice to the people of Nooksack Valley.