Amos—The Non-Professional Prophet
Amos was a shepherd from Tekoa, a town about six miles south of Bethlehem, in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. God called him to prophesy in the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the time leading up to the demise of that kingdom through the onslaught of the Assyrians. Amos’ prophetic mission in Israel probably went on between 765 to 760 BC.
When Amaziah, a corrupt priest of a corrupt religious system based in Bethel told Amos that he had overstayed his welcome in their country and that he should go back and be a prophet among this people of his own land. Amos gave this reply; “I’m not one of your professional prophets. I certainly never trained to be one. I’m just a shepherd, and I take care of 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). There is nothing official or professional about him. Simply, God’s anointing had come upon him and called him to speak out. God called him to leave behind his own land, at least for a while, and go proclaim the Lord’s prophetic message in a neighboring country.
Is there any such thing as a professional prophet? As John Piper says, “The mentality of the professional is not the mentality of the prophet. It is not the mentality of the slave of Christ. Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence of Christian ministry. The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake.” (‘Brothers, We Are Not Professionals’, p.1) There are no professionals in the life of faith, prayer and listening to God. Those who lead the way in this kind of life cannot do it professionally. They are simply those that have been walking this road faithfully for a while. They may be spiritual mothers and fathers, but they are not professionals. It appears to me that the only professional prophets in the Bible are false prophets!
Though we don’t know much about Amos’ life, what we do know we glean from this little book that carries his name. We know he was a shepherd and fruit-picker. He was an ordinary, everyday, working class guy who knew the Lord. Then a time came when God called him to proclaim a prophetic message in the capital city, Samaria, and at their corrupt religious shrine at Bethel. It appears that this period of ministry in his life only lasted for a few years.
Is it possible that the Lord could take years of doing a preparatory work in one’s life, for a short season of fulfilling a particular mission God has for them? What Amos was called to do on this occasion undoubtedly took some serious preparation and maturity. It also took some holy boldness when God said, “Now it’s time to go!”
Amos cried out against injustice and the abuse of power. He took up the cause of the downtrodden and raised his voice for those who had no voice. He especially went after abusive religious power, which is a most horrible brand of oppression and injustice in the world. Amos proclaimed a message that indicated that God not only holds individuals accountable for their actions but also whole people-groups, cities and nations.
Amos also gave wonderful prophetic promises of the restoration of the people of God and of His plan to bless the nations through them. The book ends with the Lord’s promise of supernatural harvest in the earth (9:11-15). At the Council in Jerusalem, James understood that the fullfillment of Amos’ prophetic vision of unprecedented harvest was the gathering in of people from every nation into the church (Acts 15).
Amos’ story is that of a humble man that God called to do a great prophetic work. He proclaimed both God’s righteous judgment and gracious salvation among a people of another land who had lost their way. I’m convinced that the Lord is continuing to call people to this kind of prophetic mission today.