Amos: The Courage to Speak Out

Take Courage

Amos may be the one in our series with whom people are most unfamiliar. Yet his is a powerful example of one who had the courage to speak out – to proclaim the truth and condemn error.

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”’ 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.’

Then Amos replied to Amaziah, ‘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”’” (Amos 7:10-15).

It is not always easy to speak out when the truth is unpopular and unwelcome. This is the situation in which we often find ourselves today. It was also the situation for the prophet Amos. If we are to have the courage to speak out today, we would do well to remember the example of Amos.

The Background

Amos described himself as “a herdsmen” (Amos 7:14). He was “among the sheepherders from Tekoa” (Amos 1:1) – a relatively insignificant village of Judah at the edge of the wilderness. Though he was from Judah, God sent him to prophesy primarily to the tribes of Israel (Amos 3:1; 4:1; 5:1; 7:8-9; 8:1-2; et al.).

Amos also said that he was “not a prophet” (Amos 7:14). Of course, he was a prophet in the sense that he spoke from God (Amos 7:15), but he was not a prophet by profession. In that time, prophets were often employed by rulers, such as the “450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who [ate] at Jezebel’s table” (1 Kings 18:19). Amos did not make his living this way. Instead, he provided for himself in his work as a herdsman.

Amos was also not the “son of a prophet” (Amos 7:14). He was not referring to the fact that his father was not a prophet. He was referring instead to what we might call the “schools” of the prophets where they would be trained to do the work. The “sons of the prophets” trained under an older prophet (cf. 2 Kings 2:15; 4:1). Amos did not receive such training.

Amos also prophesied during “the days of Jeroboam son of Joash, king of Israel” (Amos 1:1; cf. 2 Kings 14:23-29). Jeroboam “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 14:24), yet the nation enjoyed a degree of success during his reign (2 Kings 14:25, 28). This was done, not by the might of Jeroboam, but by the will of God (2 Kings 14:26-27). But the nation had been blessed, compared to former years, while a wicked king ruled over them. It is often difficult to find support in criticizing a ruler during such times of economic or military success. Yet this was the position in which Amos found himself.

Why This Took Courage

Let us notice five reasons why it took courage for Amos to speak out in the way that he did.

First, Amos’ message was against everyone. We sometimes hear the phrase, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” This suggests that we can often find support from the enemies of those whom we criticize. Paul used this tactic to his advantage as he briefly won the support of the Pharisees against the Sadducees (Acts 23:6-10). Yet Amos would have no such allies. His message would have made him the “enemy” of all. He condemned the surrounding nations (Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1). He condemned his home nation of Judah (Amos 2:4). He also condemned the nation to which he was sent – Israel (Amos 2:6-8; 3:1). Amos would have no allies among these nations.

Second, Amos’ message was not “politically correct.” He would have offended certain people, particularly those he referred to as the “cows of Bashan” (Amos 4:1).

Third, Amos’ message was not his preference. When God showed him visions that signified the destruction of the people, he protested: “Lord God, please pardon! How can Jacob stand, for he is small?” (Amos 7:2; cf. 7:4). He did not want the prophecies to be true. But eventually he could no longer protest. Once God introduced “a plumb line” into the vision (Amos 7:7-8) – a clear, fixed standard – Amos understood why God was right to punish the people that the prophet first hoped would be spared.

Fourth, Amos’ message was unwelcome. Amaziah made it clear that Amos was not welcome there: “Go, you seer, flee away to the land of Judah… But no longer prophesy at Bethel, for it is a sanctuary of the king and a royal residence” (Amos 7:13).

Fifth, Amos’ work of prophesying was uncompensated. Amaziah suggested that Amos go to Judah “and there eat bread and there do your prophesying” (Amos 7:12), implying that he needed to go to Judah if he hoped to be compensated for his work in prophesying because there would be no such support in Israel. Yet Amos was not a prophet because he received support (Amos 7:14). He did the work even though he received no financial compensation for it.

Amos Took Courage

Amos knew what was right. Being a prophet in the literal sense, he received the word of God directly from the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21).

Amos believed it was better for him to serve the Lord than to enjoy the benefits of serving a wicked king. If he simply prophesied what Jeroboam would have liked to hear, he may have been able to “eat bread” at his table (Amos 7:12; cf. 1 Kings 18:19). But he chose instead to be faithful to the Lord and reveal His message without compromise.

Finally, Amos took courage and spoke out. Without any formal training or compensation, he went out to prophesy. It was not because he had nothing else to do – he could have stayed plenty busy in his work as a herdsman without also doing the work of a prophet. But he went because God called him to go (Amos 7:15).

Application for Us

Even though we will not be personally called by God and given a message directly from the Holy Spirit, we can certainly make applications from Amos’ example.

First, we must remember that our message is against everyone. Or course, in reality, the gospel we preach is for everyone (Mark 16:15; Acts 10:34-35). But it will be perceived as being against everyone – against the atheists because we affirm that it is “the fool” who says, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1; cf. Romans 1:20); against the world religions because we declare that salvation is only in Christ (Acts 4:12); against the denominations because we teach that there is just one church (Matthew 16:18), and that every church of man will be “uprooted” (Matthew 15:13); and against our erring brethren because we implore the ones who have “left [their] first love” and have become “dead” to return to the Lord (Revelation 2:4; 3:1), follow the New Testament pattern (2 Timothy 1:13), and do everything by the authority of Christ (Colossians 3:17). Though our message may not be popular, “we cannot stop speaking” about the word of God (Acts 4:20).

Second, our message will not be seen as being “politically correct.” Probably the most notable example of not being “politically correct” is teaching what the Bible says about homosexuality – that it is unnatural, indecent, and error (Romans 1:26-27); it is unrighteous and will keep one out of the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10); and it is “contrary to sound teaching” (1 Timothy 1:10). Many will be offended by one who teaches these things – even some in the religious world. But we must teach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27, NKJV), even if it is offensive to some.

Third, our message may not be our preference. It might be nice to believe that salvation could be by faith alone or that once one is saved, he cannot be lost. We could believe in the eternal security of more of our friends and family that way. But these ideas are contrary to the word of God (James 2:24; Hebrews 4:11; et al.). We must “speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11, NKJV). Our way is not better than God’s (Proverbs 14:12).

Fourth, our message is often unwelcome. Many will not want to hear what we have to say. Paul said, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). We need to remember that the message of the gospel is not designed to please men, but to save men (Romans 1:16).

Fifth, we must not speak out in the hopes of obtaining some financial gain. Even for those who dedicate their lives to the preaching of the gospel, while it is right for them to “get their living from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14), they may not always receive such support (1 Corinthians 9:6, 12, 18). But regardless of whether one is a gospel preacher or a Christian teaching his friends, family, or co-workers, we should not be motivated by the hope of gaining something in this life. Instead, we are to “store up…treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20), and “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). We strive to “persuade men,” not to receive some material reward, but to help prepare as many as we can for their appointment “before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11).

Conclusion

Though he had a message that was offensive and unwelcome, Amos spoke out. Despite the fact that he had no allies and no financial support to ease his burden, Amos spoke out. And even though God called him to deliver a message of judgment that he wished himself was not true, Amos spoke out. Let us learn from the example of the prophet Amos so that we will also have the courage to speak out, no matter what the consequences might be.


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