WORD STUDY – SELF SEEKING – עמרr
Amos 2:12-13: “But you gave the Nazarites wine to drink and commanded the prophets, saying, ‘Prophesy not.’ Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves.”
Amos is a contemporary of Isaiah, Micah, and Hosea. He came from a little farming community in Judah known as Tekoa, just a little south of Bethlehem. Yet, he was called to prophesy to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He prophesied about 750 BC which was just three years before the first invasion of Northern Israel by the Assyrians.
It took 28 years for the Assyrians to finally conqueror the entire nation. In 740 the Assyrians carried away the people of Reuben, Gad and ½ of Manasseh in one invasion. They spent the next 15 years just picking away at the remaining 7 ½ tribes until they finally laid siege on Samaria, the capital city of Israel for three years. In 722 the city fell under Sargon II.
During all this time God’s prophets were warning of a coming captivity. Amos 3:7: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealed his secret unto his servants the prophets.” Yet as we see in verse 2:12, the prophets were silenced. Prior to 740 the nation of Israel was at the zenith of their prosperity. They had managed to reclaim all the land that they lost to reach borders not seen since David and Solomon. They were major importers of wine and oil. Many lived as share croppers and were forced by wealthy landowners to produce products for import rather than to feed their own families. Although the nation was rich, the average person lived in poverty and near starvation. The gulf between the rich and the poor was at it widest point.
Amos was a shepherd and a tender of sycamore fig trees. He knew the suffering first hand and when God gave him his vision, he went to the rich and powerful and gave them the message of God of coming natural disasters and conquest by foreign powers.
Uzziah was the king of Judah at this time and it was at this time that he seized the role of High Priest and was struck with leprosy. You would probably think such a king would not be interested in hearing what a prophet had to say. You may wonder how a dirt poor, peasant farmer managed to get the ear of the king? The Talmud gives a simple answer to that. Amos had a vision of an earthquake and two years after the vision it happened just as he predicted. This gave him quite a bit of credibility and resulted in many disciples spreading his message. Yet, the message still fell on deaf ears. Mostly it was rejected as it was a message of doom at a time when the Assyrians had retreated due to internal conflict and the nation was experiencing its greatest financial boom. No one could believe that the balloon would bust. No one cared to hear from a dooms day prophet especially since it was believed that it was the prophet who made thing happen. They had this sort of Word Faith thing going where if a prophet spoke it it would take place. So you certainly did not want any negative talk.
There was, however, a handful who believed the message of the prophets, they became the remnant, the ones to whom God gave a song as mentioned in Isaiah. They faithfully preached a message of repentance. Amos’s message was threefold. His first message was against the wealth and prosperity of not only the rich merchants but the religious leaders who became richer at the expense of the poor making the poor poorer. His second message was for the lack of justice for those who were doing the right thing. These were the ones who sought to help the poor, the innocents, the ones who could not help themselves, these righteous people where thrown in prisons, tortured and beaten because they were a threat to the rich and powerful. Finally, the message of Amos was directed to religious ritual devoid of true faith. This was ritual performed to win some favor with God and not done to seek the heart of God.
Amos, as a farmer, used a strong agricultural motif. In 2:13 he declares that God is so hurt by the rejection of the message of his prophets and the dedication of his servants that he feels like a cart that is pressed down full of sheaves. The word sheaves in the Hebrew is ‘amar. This word has a double meaning. It does mean stalks of grain tied together, but it is also the same word used for those who are self seeking. The word pressed is ‘avak which has the idea of burdened with pain. God is saying that the rejection of the message of his prophets by those who are self seeking has burdened his heart down with pain. He sent the prophets and the Nazarites to warn and be an example to the people, but they were rejected.
Today we have many who feel they are called to be a prophet and are giving messages similar to that of Amos. I do not oppose any message that calls for a nation to repent and will indeed support such a message. However, I would like to point out one trait that Amos possessed that our modern day prophets should give serious consideration to in regards to their own calling. Amos differed from many who felt compelled to give a warning. Verse 2:13 shows us that Amos knew the heart of God. He was not preaching a God of anger and wrath but a God who had a broken heart. What made Amos different from many prophets was that he prophesied not only on behalf of the suffering, but also from a desire to protect the heart of God. Next time you speak out against the sin of our nation ask yourself why you are speaking out. Is it from a fear that you will be swept up in judgment and lose your comfortable life style? Or is it because you feel the heart of God breaking and you want to protect His heart.