Lately I have been reading from Amos the prophet. He was a dresser of sycamores, and a shepherd. A dresser of sycamores is a fig farmer, this Amos made his livelihood from working the land. He was not a scholar, or member of a royal court. Amos was not a prophet by title, but he spoke and wrote and travelled to prophesize none the less. Interesting. An amateur prophet perhaps? Why would a worker of the land prophesize and what would cause him to write about the fate of the nations? To the civic leader, a prophet is an advisor as they discern the pulse of a nation for good or bad. A false prophet is often a criminal offense. To speak out can always land someone into trouble. Prophetic wisdom is a risky affair. What would cause a humble worker of the land to be a prophet?
I read a little about the time Amos was active. The Prophet Amos lived during the long reign of King Jeroboam II. It was a time of prosperity as the King drove many of Israel’s enemies from the land. That king also worked on relations with Judea. The prosperity even formed relations with the Phoenicians, known as great sailors and merchants. All sounds good, or not.
Prosperity does cause a few problems, people flaunted their wealth. Power was king. The poor were neglected. Trade with the Phoenicians brought a mingling of cultures, and a mingling of cultures brought the worship of false gods. Worship of Canaanite gods prospered. Even the golden calves gained a new popularity as idols. Idolatry flourished. That and money are the hazards of a flourishing international economy. Morality sank and the commandments and Torah were ignored. But it was a prosperous time. I wonder what the mood of the common man was during that age of luxury? I wonder how that age compares to today, a free wheeling, progressive and liberal secular society.
Though on the surface it seemed a time of wealth and prosperity, a farmer began to preach that people return to their God. He prophesized what loomed on the horizon. What’s a killjoy, is that what his contemporaries thought of him? I wonder if people listened. His writing was beautifully poetic, certainly that must have enticed some. A rich society became a decadent society. The sins of wealth and prosperity. They thought they were going in the right direction and celebrated. I wonder how many like Amos prophesize today and I think that might be my interest in this farmer known as a minor prophet. In thinking of Amos, I think of all of the “letters to the editor.” People who comment with emotion. Odd thing with Amos, his commentary was not simply directed at his own. He admonished the cultures that surrounded Israel, warning them of the consequences of their actions. A fig farmer hits the international stage, and then he addresses his own. First one can notice that Amos urges people to correct their ways, second one notices Amos is the common everyman. The power of the person whose eyes are fixed on the LORD. I think I can hear people like Amos today, they rumble in the background, a noise heard beneath the clamoring politicians. Rumbling and churning making themselves known.
A boat begins to cross a rough and choppy sea. Mt 14:22-36 Peter spots the LORD walking on water and calls out “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus says “come.” Peter begins his journey but becomes frightened and calls out “LORD save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hands and caught him. Amos lived in a time of stormy and troubled waters, even though many saw a sea smooth as glass. Like Peter, Amos cried out so that the people might gain salvation. Amos kept his eyes fixed on the LORD and with that was granted the gift and obligation of prophesy. Odd that a time of wealth and prosperity can be likened to a stormy sea. Yesterday and today.