Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

I gotta admit, the prophets of the Old Testament are starting to get to me a bit. There's only so many times that I can read of all the woes awaiting the people of Israel, Judah etc. before, and I'm just being honest here, it all starts to merge into one.

Looking back through my notes, I see that I've read Hosea previously, but flicking through it now I can't recall any of it. But then, I suppose that if all these prophesies were in fact from God, then confusing them all with each other may not be such a bad thing. After all, it's not really about the messenger(s), is it?

Certainly I don't want to become deaf to the message these people were preaching though. While I see the original messages as being appeals to the people of that time to avoid the coming discipline by learning to do the right thing now, I also see them as lessons to us today of how God's 'mind' (if you will) works.

And more and more, I don't think God has the whole future set in stone...

This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: He was preparing swarms of locusts after the king's share had been harvested and just as the second crop was coming up. When they had stripped the land clean, I cried out, "Sovereign LORD, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!"

So the LORD relented.

"This will not happen," the LORD said.

This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: The Sovereign LORD was calling for judgment by fire; it dried up the great deep and devoured the land. Then I cried out, "Sovereign LORD, I beg you, stop! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!"

So the LORD relented.

"This will not happen either," the Sovereign LORD said.

This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the LORD asked me, "What do you see, Amos?"

"A plumb line," I replied.

Then the Lord said, "Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.

- Amos 7:1-7 (NIV)

Further on in the same chapter, these rather general statements, perhaps perceived at the time as meant for other people but not the listener, are made personal...

Then Amaziah said to Amos, "Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don't prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king's sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom."

Amos answered Amaziah, "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.' Now then, hear the word of the LORD. You say,

" 'Do not prophesy against Israel,
and stop preaching against the house of Isaac.'

"Therefore this is what the LORD says:

" 'Your wife will become a prostitute in the city,
and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword.
Your land will be measured and divided up,
and you yourself will die in a pagan [Hebrew an unclean] country.
And Israel will certainly go into exile,
away from their native land.' "

- Amos 7:12-17 (NIV)

I don't believe this is God proving that he knows the future. I believe this is God emphasising the importance of turning back to him, also known as turning away from treating oneself as most important.

Finally, the book of Amos also helps me to see all the complicated rituals of the Old Testament in a little clearer context. You've probably read these words from God before:

"I hate, I despise your religious feasts;
I cannot stand your assemblies.
Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, [Traditionally peace offerings]
I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!

- Amos 5:21-24 (NIV)


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