One of the biggest challenges of preaching is having to do biblical triage. No sermon can adequately explore every nuance of a text. This is even more true when we have the space of 30 minutes to survey an entire book of the Bible. Inevitably, much is left on the cutting room floor.
As we journey through six of the Minor Prophets this summer, I would like to share some key ideas (or maybe a few facts or rabbit trails) that are raised in these books that did not make it into the sermon on Sunday.
1. Amos was not a prophet.
Okay, that’s not quite true. In Amos’ day, there were professional prophets. These individuals usually were employed by the royal court or the temple. Some of these prophets include Nathan and Samuel. Amos was unique because he was not in vocational ministry. Instead, God called Amos (a shepherd) and gave him a special assignment that took him to the northern kingdom to preach. His ministry probably lasted about a year. So now you know.
2. Does Amos agree with Amos?
If you read the entire book of Amos (hint, hint) you may come across some passages that seem to contradict the big idea of the prophecy. As we discussed Sunday, the message of Amos is the northern and southern kingdoms’ coming destruction. However, what are we to make of the end of the prophecy?
“I, the Sovereign Lord, am watching this sinful nation of Israel. I will destroy it from the face of the earth. But I will never completely destroy the family of Israel,” says the Lord. (9:8)
So, which is it? Is God going to destroy the nation or isn’t he? There is an undeniable tension that we desire to resolve. But what if the tension is something that God wants us to live in, rather than to eliminate?
3. Amos reveals that God’s judgement is never the final word.
“In that day I will restore the fallen house of David. I will repair its damaged walls. From the ruins I will rebuild it and restore its former glory.” (9:11)
For the recipients of Amos’ prophecy, their story was indeed over. Judgement was on its way. However, God’s story of redemption would continue. If destruction is how the story ends, then sin has won. Of course, this message of hope should never change the urgency of repentance and fidelity to God’s commands.
- Election equals responsibility.
Amos 3:2 scares me.
“From among all the families on the earth, I have been intimate with you alone. That is why I must punish you for all your sins.” (3:2)
God wants his people to know that their covenant relationship with Him guarantees that they will be judged along with the nations. This makes sense, when you think about it. God’s people were chosen to receive a unique blessing and to be a blessing to the whole earth (Genesis 12:1-3). However, great privilege comes with great responsibility. Israel is expected to honor their side of the covenant or to suffer the consequences.
The New Testament tells us that this principle is still in effect. 1 Peter 4:17 says that the Church (the new people of God) will be the first to be judged. We cannot allow ourselves to be complacent in our faithfulness to the gospel.