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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Prohibited Prophet and Condemned Priest


In the last Bible study, which covered Amos 7:1-9, we learned God showed three visions to Amos about His judgment of Israel. The first vision showed God allowing locusts to consume everything above the ground. It would affect the food supply for the Israelites. Amos intervened for Israel and asked God to pardon them. He recognized their sin and interceded for God’s mercy. The second vision showed God sending a fire that consumed everything above ground and below such as underground water sources and the roots of the plants. Again, Amos interceded for Israel asking for God’s mercy upon Israel because they were too small to withstand such devastation.

The third vision the LORD showed Amos was of a plumb line and a bulging wall. GOD would stand upon the wall-Israel-and let His plumb line fall beside it. The bulge in the wall that showed when the plumb line lay against it revealed the wall was not up to standards, was not “true”. God would destroy the wall down to below the bulge and rebuild it. He and His righteous laws are the standard and Israel did not meet those standards. They rejected the LORD. With this vision, God showed even the leaders of Israel were not straight and Jeroboam’s house would fall by the sword because of it. In this vision, too, the LORD said He would bring judgment on even Israel’s high places, the places of idol worship. With this vision, Amos realized the LORD’s judgment was just, and he did not intercede for the Israelites this time.

With the rest of this chapter, verses ten through seventeen, Amaziah, the high priest of Bethel, reacted to Amos’ prophetic statement of God’s revealed visions to him. In these final eight verses, Amaziah reported to King Jeroboam about Amos. Next, he forbade Amos to prophesy in Israel. Amaziah tried to persuade him to leave Israel. In the end, Amos spoke a prophecy against Amaziah and the priesthood of Israel.

Amaziah’s Report to Jeroboam

After hearing of the third vision God gave to Amos, Amaziah, the chief priest at Bethel, realized God threatened the king and himself. Out of fear, he had to do something to save himself and his means of income. Remember, God did not appoint the priests of Israel and provide for them through His laws. The kings appointed priests and paid them from their treasury. These priests worked for their living instead of serving the LORD. Amaziah owed his allegiance to the king since he appointed him. Earlier prophets’ words in Israel and surrounding nations brought conspiracy against rulers and helped destroy dynasties while starting new dynasties. Because the king of Israel controlled the religion, Amos’ words threatened Amaziah’s income. Amaziah sought to protect the king’s reign. He did two things: 1. Report to the king and 2. Persuade Amos to leave Israel.

Verses ten and eleven contain Amaziah’s report to King Jeroboam. In these verses, Amos said,

Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent word to Jeroboam, king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is unable to endure all his words. For thus Amos says, ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword and Israel will certainly go from its land into exile.’” [NASB]

Interestingly, Amaziah’s name means “Jehovah is mighty,” yet his life and service refuse to recognize Jehovah. To understand this passage, we must remember Amaziah was the chief priest of the priesthood in Israel, whom the king appoints and pays. This rule of the king over the nation’s religion began with Jeroboam I and the founding the northern kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 12:31-32 and 1 Kings 13:33). Jeroboam II charged Amaziah with obeying his rules of religion and leading the other priests and citizens to obey him as the sovereign ruler of the land. Amaziah’s devotion should be to the king first. From this understanding, we can recognize his reactions to Amos’ visions as being self-serving and kingdom-keeping.

In verse ten, Amos recorded Amaziah sent word to Jeroboam about him. What did Amaziah tell the king? He told him Amos conspired against him in their own borders. The word “conspired” comes from the Hebrew word qashar and means to bind together or be in league together with others. Amaziah told Jeroboam Amos conspired to remove his family’s reign from Israel and install new rulers. He tried alarming the king so he would come and put an end to Amos and his prophesying. Amaziah accused Amos of treason against Israel. He sought to bring alarm and fear in Jeroboam’s heart to excite him into action.

Should that statement of Amos conspiring against Jeroboam not excite the king, Amaziah added more. In verse eleven, he said Amos said Jeroboam would die by the sword and Israel would go into exile. We must recognize what Amaziah told Jeroboam was a lie. In verse nine, Amos said, “Then I [God] will rise up against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.” In the Bible and other writings when a person spoke of rising against a house with the sword, it meant an army or a person would kill another person and his family. Still, Amos did not say explicitly that Jeroboam would die by the sword as Amaziah reported. When Amaziah told the king that Amos said Israel would go into exile, he reported correctly. He said they would go into exile from their specific plot of land given to them by their tribal leader from the Promised Land Yehovah gave the Israelites. Amaziah exaggerated so it would incite the king to act against Amos who threatened the king, Israel, and himself.

·         Have you ever exaggerated to get someone to sympathize with you and join you in your anger or vengeance? Maybe your boss reprimanded you then you spoke to your coworkers to get them to agree the boss wrongly charged you. From that, people would talk about the boss and disrespect him.
·         Have you ever spoken against someone so you could steal their friends or position in the community or in an organization?
·         Have you ever told someone something bad about your sibling or parents to get people to side with you and agree you were right when you chose not to talk to that person?

Amaziah’s Persuasion of Amos

In verses twelve and thirteen, Amos recorded Amaziah’s attempt to persuade him to stop prophesying against Israel, the king, and him. In verses twelve and thirteen, Amos said,
Then Amaziah said to Amos, 

“Go, you seer, flee away to the land of Judah and there eat bread and there do your prophesying! But no longer prophesy at Bethel, for it is a sanctuary of the king and a royal residence.” [NASB]

When giving a persuasive speech, the speaker speaks to logic and emotion. In these two verses, Amaziah touched on both. He called Amos a seer. This comes from the Hebrew word chozeh. This word was not the most commonly used word for prophet, but when the message of the chozeh was spiritual, the people recognized this person as a prophet. Typically, chozeh denoted someone who saw or perceived and then advised like a king’s paid counselors or advisors.

In verse twelve, Amaziah alluded to both interpretations of chozeh. Firstly, Amaziah recognized Amos’ message was a spiritual message, one that affected the spiritual part of a person. He wanted Amos to leave so as not to persuade Israelites to follow Yehovah instead of Jeroboam’s instituted gods. As to persuading because of logic and emotion, Amaziah appealed to his logic and said Amos would not receive payment in Israel for his services as a prophet because no one followed His God. He would starve to death in Israel. Amaziah appealed to Amos’ emotion and told him to return to his own country where people accept him and want to hear of their God. He feigned concern for Amos’ income and sustenance. Food/income and acceptance are big inducers for jobs. They were Amaziah’s own concerns in being a priest. In this verse, we recognize a dichotomy and a misunderstanding by Amaziah. Amaziah assumed Amos prophesied for payment. He erred in this understanding because in Israel prophets and priests received payment for their services. This understanding showed the dichotomy of the offices of priests and prophets in the two kingdoms. Amos did not prophesy for Yehovah because of promised payment. He prophesied because the LORD called him to do it.

With verse thirteen, Amaziah gave the real reason he wanted Amos out of Israel. He prohibited Amos from prophesying in Israel. Amaziah tried to prevent him speaking for Yehovah not recognizing the greater purpose for the prophecy-repentance, forgiveness, and mercy. Just like the Israelites caused the Nazirites to drink wine and commanded the prophets not to prophesy in Amos 2:12, Amaziah commanded Amos not to prophesy. Had Amaziah not heard Amos earlier? Did it only then and not earlier in Amos 2:12 affect his understanding of his sin and cause him to forbid Amos to speak? Possibly. Still, Amaziah’s reason for prohibiting Amos to prophesy testifies to his lack of understanding. He told Amos Bethel was a sanctuary for the king so do not prophesy there. To Amaziah, Bethel was the high holy place of Israel and the place where their king worshiped. Amaziah’s reason for prohibiting Amos to prophesy at Bethel was political. It was the king’s sanctuary, sacred because of the king, not because of Yehovah’s residence there.

 Amaziah tried persuasion to get Amos to flee Israel. Whether he cared about Amos’ welfare or not, he wanted Amos out of his country. Amaziah thought Amos’ removal would solve his problems. He did not consider his and his peoples’ sins as the real problem, just Amos’ meddling. His solution to Amos’ prophecy against the high places of Isaac as stated in Amos 7:9 was to forbid his prophesying in Bethel. Amaziah’s futile attempt to stifle the LORD’s called prophet and His own judgment against the religious and political powers of Israel would not occur by banishing Amos.

·         Have you ever dealt with a problem and thought, it would go away if you don’t think about it? Did your problem go away?
·         Did anyone ever confront you about your character and you jump and lash out at him for “attacking” you? Was what the person said accurate? Did you grow from the way you reacted to the person’s positive critique?
·         Have you ever noted a message a teacher wrote on your paper and changed your style or content for a subsequent paper then noticed your grade improved? This shows growth and respect for the experienced teacher or leader.

Amos’ Reply to Amaziah

Amaziah spoke to the king and to Amos in verses ten through thirteen of chapter seven. With verses fourteen through seventeen, Amos replied to Amaziah’s misunderstanding of his “job” and the LORD’s unequivocal judgment of Amaziah. Amos 7:14-17 says,  

Then Amos replied, “I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet, for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs. But the LORD took me from following the flock and the LORD said to me, ‘Go prophesy to My people Israel.’ Now hear the word of the LORD: you are saying, ‘You shall not prophesy against Israel nor shall you speak against the house of Isaac.’ Therefore, thus says the LORD, ‘Your wife will become a harlot in the city, your sons and daughters will fall by the sword, your land will be parceled up by a measuring line, and you yourself will die upon unclean soil. Moreover, Israel will certainly go from its land into exile.” [NASB]

God’s Calling of Amos

In verses fourteen and fifteen, Amos told Amaziah who he was, what his job was, and by whose will he prophesied. Forthrightly in verse fourteen, Amos said he was not a prophet. The Hebrew word used here in nabiy and means a spokesman or prophet, one who “bubbles up” with declarations from God. It is the most common Hebrew word used to speak of a prophet in the Old Testament. Notice Amos did not use the word chozeh like Amaziah did. He differentiated between a paid advisor and a true prophet of God who bubbles forth with the words of the LORD. Still, Amos said he was not a prophet. Amos meant he was not of the tribe of Levi and thus a priest/prophet in that way, nor was he a prophet called by God to prophesy exclusively during his life like Isaiah or Elijah. Amos explained this further for Amaziah. He said he was not the son of a prophet and did not go to a prophet school to learn how to be a prophet. Amos received no payment to be a prophet like the students in the school of prophets written about in 1 Samuel 19:18-24, 2 Kings 2, and 2 Kings 4:38-34. His title at that point came not from an inherited position from his own father. Instead, Amos explained his job in Judah before God called him to go to Israel and speak for Him. He was a herdsman of sheep, goats, and small cattle, and a grower and tender of sycamore figs. Amos’ job was not as a paid prophet upon which he lived, but instead as a manual laborer.

Through verse fifteen, Amos explained how he came to speak as a prophet for God to Israel. Even though he was a manual laborer, God chose him. Amos recognized his calling came from Yehovah, the existing One-I AM. He said GOD took him from tending the flock and fig trees. The word “took” comes from the same Hebrew word, laqach, that Bible writers used when GOD took Elijah and Enoch to heaven in Genesis 5:24 and 2 Kings 2:11. Amos did nothing purposely to get God’s attention and get the job as prophet. GOD saw him and took him; He chose him. Amos came from a similar background as David, a shepherd, and became the man GOD called to speak to and lead His people (2 Samuel 7:8). David recognized his calling by GOD, too, in Psalm 78:71. Amos’ authority as a prophet came from God, not from a school. He had a divine call, and this verse is the only place Amos references his call. He told Amaziah, “The LORD said to me, ‘Go prophesy to My people Israel.’” The word “said” comes from the Hebrew word ‘amar and means commanded. The LORD commanded Amos to go prophesy to His people Israel. Amos could do nothing but go. GOD’s calling was like a fire burning in his bones, as Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 20:9. The LORD’s calling on Amos’ life compelled him to go. GOD commanded him to go.

One final word. Notice GOD did not tell Amos to go to Israel. He said to go to My people Israel. God still loved Israel and called them His own. He would do much to save them and keep them as His own. The Lord today does the same for us. He keeps calling to His children who have strayed. As a last recourse, the Lord allows hardships to occur in hopes the person will turn back to Him, repent, and seek to follow Him again. God sent many prophets to call Israel to turn back to Him. He loved His people and wanted them to return to a right relationship with Him. God, as loving and righteous, would allow the enemies of Israel to come against and conquer them to punish them and get their attention so they would turn to Him seeking help, confessing their sins, and renewing their relationship with Him.

Amos and the Prophecy Against Amaziah

In verses sixteen and seventeen, Amos spoke to Amaziah. The LORD did not direct this statement of judgment against others, but directly at the high priest of Israel. With verse sixteen, Amos gave the reason for the judgment. Verse seventeen relates GOD’s judgment against Amaziah.

Just as Amos began the other prophecies he spoke in the first six chapters of this book, he began this prophecy against Amaziah. He wanted the high priest of golden calves to realize this prophecy came from Yehovah, the I AM of whom he learned and would recognize. The prophecy stated this way should have made the priest tremble because he would have known about Yehovah and His history with the people of Israel. Besides this, with Amos’ statements above, he should have known Amos was truly a called prophet of the LORD, not an educated, self-chosen prophet for money.

Of what then did GOD charge Amaziah? God said Amaziah told Amos and His other prophets not to prophesy or speak against the house of Isaac. In Amos 2:12, GOD charged the Israelites with commanding His prophets they could not prophesy in Israel. They forbade them to speak GOD’s words-His charges and judgments. Besides this, GOD charged Amaziah with saying Amos “shall not speak against the house of Isaac.” This judgment of God specifically affected Amaziah. The word “speak” comes from the Hebrew word nataph and means to drip or flow. Often Bible writers used it to speak of preaching or prophesying. By using this word, God said Amaziah told Amos he shall not drip/drop words like a refreshing rain or like a bomb against the people, which they would not want to hear. Amaziah censored Amos. He kept his people from hearing the truth and ruffling their feathers so they would not question the worship of idols in Israel, which he led.

For this serious sin of prohibiting God’s called prophet to speak to the Israelites, GOD judged Amaziah harshly. He said through Amos in verse seventeen that Amaziah’s family would experience His judgment of him. Amos relayed God’s words and said, “Your wife will become a harlot in the city.” This spoke of the time of their future capture. It could have meant Amaziah’s family would become so destitute during and after the siege of Israel that to have money to feed her family, his wife would prostitute herself. The other meaning is that Israel’s captors would make Amaziah watch his wife’s dishonor as they forced her to be their sexual toy. He would be unable to prevent her dishonor. Either occurrence showed the depths to which Amaziah, the chief priest of Israel, would fall because of GOD’s judgment of his sins. His family would be poor and dishonored. This judgment is like what Hosea said in Hosea 4:13-14.

Amos continued to relay GOD’s judgment about the devastation upon Amaziah’s family in verse seventeen. He said, “Your sons and daughters will fall by the sword.” His children would die violently by the hands of their enemies. The people Amaziah loved most would die a horrific death. His future would not exist because the enemy killed his children. Amaziah’s line would end. For what use then was he teaching false religion and earning money if he would not have descendants? God’s judgment affected his wife and his children in terrible ways.

Next GOD spoke judgment regarding Amaziah’s land. He said, “Your land will be parceled up by a measuring line.” The word used for land here is the Hebrew word adamah. It means a specific plot of land, not a nation or territory, or earth in general. The verb “parceled up” means to divide, plunder, or assign by a conqueror. The enemies would take the land Amaziah’s family received from their tribe leader when the Israelites entered the Promised Land. God’s judgment would take their inheritance of His promise with Abraham away from his family line. This spoke to GOD removing His promise and His hand of protection from them. The Israelites took for granted God’s covenant with them. They considered He would protect them without faithfully keeping their covenant with Him as their ancestors promised in Deuteronomy 28. God’s judgments now horrendously affected Amaziah’s wife, children, and land. His present, and future blessings became curses because of his sins against GOD.

Finally, if these three judgments against Amaziah did not cause him to repent and return to GOD, the last one should have. GOD told him, “You yourself will die upon unclean soil.” The word “unclean” means religious or ritual uncleanness. A priest would make sure to always be “clean.” He would perform each of the rituals to become clean so he could go before his god. With this part of his judgment, Amaziah would live in an unclean, heathen nation. He could not get ritually cleaned. His ministry would remain tainted in his exile. In 2 Kings 17:6, the writer noted Assyria captured Samaria and took the leaders of Samaria into captivity. Ezekiel 4:13 notes the sons of Israel would eat their bread unclean among the nations where God banished them. God’s judgment of Amaziah affected his family, his honor, his inheritance, his descendants, and his income. God would take away each of His blessings to Amaziah. The removal of His blessings and His presence would cause curses in Amaziah’s life.

The words of Amos were not just the words of a man. They were GOD’s words and should have caused Amaziah to turn toward GOD repenting. Amaziah did not examine himself and his nation regarding covenant blessings, faithfulness, and responsibility. He, like the rich people of Israel, felt secure behind the walls of Samaria and behind the rituals of his king-instituted religion. Amaziah remained blinded by these human achievements-fortresses and religiosity.

·         On what do you count to show your rightness when defending yourself against charges from people? Would these acts of rightness stand up to God’s standards or would God consider you unrighteous?
·         When someone brings an error of yours to your attention, do you go on the defensive or justify yourself? Have you considered the possibility the person is trying to help you grow beyond yourself?
·         On what part of your life has God been speaking to you to change? Have you listened to Him, sought His will, and grown? Have you justified yourself and kept walking in your own way? If the latter, you are like Amaziah and many people.
·         We each sin and try to justify our thoughts, words, and actions. God is the standard. Can our thoughts, words, and actions meet His standards? Not in our own they can’t. We cannot justify ourselves before God.

Consider this passage from Romans 5:1-3. 


Amos spent much time prophesying to the people of Israel and explaining about their sins of which God charged and judged them. With Amos 7, God gave him three visions of His judgment on His people Israel. He withheld His judgment by locust and fire because of Amos interceding for Israel. The final vision of the plumb line would occur. Amos saw the depth of the Israelites' sins and did not intercede for them after the third vision.

After the third vision and its message that God, through Israel’s enemies, would destroy their sanctuaries and rise up against the house of Jeroboam with the sword, Amaziah the high priest sent a report to King Jeroboam II telling him about Amos and that he conspired against the king. Next Amaziah tried to persuade Amos to leave Israel feigning concern for his income and his ability to buy bread. He compelled Amos not to prophesy in Bethel. Amaziah stated Amos was a prophet for hire and did not recognize GOD called him to the position for that time.

Amos refuted Amaziah explaining his calling by GOD to go to Israel and speak His prophecies of judgment against them. He told him his job was as a tender of flock and fig trees. Amos said he did not inherit the position of prophet, nor did he attend a prophet’s school. He then prophesied the total destruction and dishonor of Amaziah, his family, and his land. Because of his misdirection, the man to whom a nation looked for spiritual direction would receive a critical, dramatic judgment from the LORD.

Conclusion and Relevance

God calls to each of us to be in a relationship with Him. He speaks to every person to follow Him and grow more like Christ each day. God pricks each person’s conscience when he or she faces temptations to sin against Him and other people. He sends people into our lives to teach or preach His Word so we grow and become strong enough to overcome any temptation we meet. These people come into our lives as God’s voice to teach us so we feel pricks from God to our consciences, feel God’s sadness at our disobedience, and turn back to Him repenting. At times, we are the people growing, being tempted, overcoming temptation, or sinning. Occasionally, we are the people God uses to speak His Word so others may grow and conquer temptation, or repent from sin and return to the Lord.

For his time, Amos was that man of God to Israel.

For our time, we know of people like Billy Graham, Charles Spurgeon, and Charles Swindoll.

For our time, God may also use any of us to speak to people-to teach and testify about Him.
For all time –
Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
is the teacher and Savior from God.
He not only came to teach, but to be the final sacrifice needed for our sins to redeem us from slavery to sin and defeat the penalty of death our sinning causes us to deserve. Because of God’s love for us, His mercy and lovingkindness, He provided a way for each of us to be in His presence, to experience eternal hope and joy, and to live eternally with Him. Jesus justifies us to God through His death on the cross.

A passage in the Gospel of John speaks about this. John 3:16-18 

For God so love the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the word, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [NASB]

Jesus was not just a teacher to tell us about God; He showed God to us here on earth through His life, love, death, and resurrection. Jesus died so we can have eternal life.

His life was a testimony to us about how to live and overcome temptation.

His death and resurrection were an act of God’s love and mercy to us to save us.

We each must decide if we will believe in Jesus Christ and accept His love and forgiveness.

Will you heed the words of Amos, the testimony of Jesus’ life, and receive the love, forgiveness, and eternal life Jesus’ death and resurrection give from God?
It’s your choice.