The Prophet Versus the Establishment
2009-07-09 by Pat Harbison
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I’m first struck by God’s words: “I will never again pass them by.” Does this mean that God will NOT ignore them/ neglect them/ walk by them again? -OR- as in the Message, does this mean that God will not ‘spare them again’ -OR- does this refer to a theophany as when God passed by Elijah when the prophet was in the cave or when Jesus was about to pass by the disciples when they were in the boat and Jesus walked to them on the sea?? The latter two fit the rest of Amos’s prophetic words. It seems that God has had enough of the people’s unfaithfulness. God will no longer spare them and will no longer favor them with God’s presence. Furthermore, their ‘holy’ places will be destroyed.
Amos and his prophecy come in direct conflict with the religious establishment which seems to be telling the people what they want to hear. The established priest of Bethel, Amaziah, informed the king of Amos’ message and sent Amos away so that he would no longer speak such difficult words. Amos retorted with, ‘I’m only doing what God has called me to do. Amos does not claim the role of prophet for himself, but identifies himself as one who was minding his own business, doing his own thing as a hersdman and dresser of sycamore trees when God gave him the words to speak. Ironically, his obedience to God put him in danger as he clashed with worldly powers.
Several issues arise:
1. Places designated as ‘holy’ by the people may not be considered holy by God.
2. Amos is a prophet by God’s calling not by his own self-identity.
3. The ‘established’ priest was in tight with the king.
4. Obedience to God requires risk (cf. John the Baptist, Amos)
Might this narrative be morphed into a message for the church today? Could the mainline, American church be in decline b/c the high places we have established for ourselves are being torn down by God so that we might hear the prophetic challenges of God’s desire for God’s people? Has God decided to not ‘pass us by’ - that is, not show us God’s presence - until we act according to the prophetic word of justice and true holiness?
Holy God, help your church hear the prophetic word then give us courage to respond in fiathfulness.
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