Was Amos a Cowboy?
"Woe to them that are at ease in Zion . . ." (Amos 6:1)
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; . . . and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God." (Amos 9:13-15)
Amos was a contemporary of Isaiah, that great prophet who was related to kings, and knew his way around kings' courts. Amos made no pretensions of being anything he was not, but clearly and plainly stated his background. This is how he described himself: "I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel." (Amos 7:14-15) A "headman" was someone who tended cattle or sheep. Perhaps today, if he lived in the American West, he would be called a "cowboy."
As we all know, the Lord God chose to use the prophet Isaiah in a wonderful way. You may recall some of his inspiring passages telling of his call to the ministry, foretelling the birth of the Messiah, or giving insight into the wonders of Christ's millennial kingdom. Could God also use in a wonderful way Amos, this "cowboy" who would have felt strangely out of place in kings' courts?
Yes, the Lord could and did use Amos in a wonderful and remarkable way, as a look at just a few of the remarkable passages from his nine rather brief chapters in the Bible will quickly reveal. You may have sometimes wondered if the Lord was not calling you to His service, and have felt that you are in no way fit for such duties and responsibilities as that would entail. Not so. You may not be the son or the daughter of a prophet, but if the Lord has called you, He can use you also in a wonderful way in His service. Have you come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? Has your heart and life been transformed by His cleaning blood? Then He can use you in some way for the upbuilding of His kingdom.
Recently I read about a woman in the Philippines who passed away in January of this year. She was not the daughter of a prophet, but she had been eager to share her faith in Christ with her neighbors. During her funeral service many "of her friends gave testimony of how [she] shared Christ with them. Many became Christians because of her visits, [and] her desire to share the Bible with them."
Someone else who was not "the daughter of a prophet" was Malla Moe. She was born in Norway, and as a young girl she came under the influence of the Gospel and accepted Christ as her Saviour. She was not much interested in school, but was willing to work hard physically. Later her parents died, and she and other members of the family went to Chicago. While there she came under the influence of D. L. Moody, who encouraged her to let her light shine for the Lord. She did. She was working in a laundry, and spoke to each employee about his or her soul. Then, although she had had so little formal education, she was urged to go to South Africa as a missionary.
At first things did not go too well, for she did not know the language of the people or their customs. Little by little she became more confident in urging the people she met, at first mostly women, but later anybody she came in contact with, from the humblest person along a jungle trail, to native queens and kings, or high government officials or army officers. One of these was the famous General Allenby, who later liberated Jerusalem. Day after day, year after year, wherever she was, she endeavored to lead those she met to the Saviour. What an example for you and me.
Getting back to the prophet Amos: Are you familiar with the interesting tool known as a plumb bob? If you have ever closely watched a building crew put up a wall, you may remember seeing them make use of a cord or string with a plumb bob at the end, helping them make sure that the wall was straight. Years, or even decades ago, I well remember the late Nathaniel Wilson, who designed and constructed one or more of the early transmitters for KPOF, Denver, our pioneer Christian radio station, as well as for WAWZ, Zarephath, New Jersey, of which he was for many years the chief engineer. He was not only proficient in technical matters: he was an able Bible teacher and preacher as well. The message I so well remember was about the plumb line of the prophet Amos.
Let us look at that passage in Amos 7:7-8. "Behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand. And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel." Do you know that the Lord has set a plumbline for you and me? It is, of course, His Word, the Bible. Are you and I striving to make our lives conform to His demands, or are we satisfied with an empty profession of belief in Christ, with no attempt to be obedient to His will?
A recent volume has come into my hands telling story of Satan and his chief devils in a strategy meeting in hell. They were deciding how to be the most successful in deceiving people, and causing them to lose their souls eternally. One of the imps suggested telling people that there was no God. It was pointed out that that would not work. Every intelligent person knew there was a God! Even they themselves had to admit that. Another suggested that they tell people that Jesus never existed. Have you heard that fanciful suggestion? It was pointed out to this imp that Jesus was the most notable person in history. Everybody knew that He had lived on earth! Still another suggested telling people that death ended everything.. This, too, would not wash, for God would have been a fool to create mankind only for the life on earth. Then came the proposal that was unanimously decided on. Tell the people that there is a God, that Jesus Christ died to save all mankind, that they could be saved by professing to believe in Him, and then continue living the sinful life they had been living!
It may not be phrased in just that way, but any time it is suggested that one does not have to live a Christian life, daily and hourly, and strive to love and serve the Lord, be quick to realize that someone has fallen for Satan's lie.
The children of Israel had to be reminded from time to time, in both Old Testament and New Testament days, of the miraculous manner in which the Lord has brought them out of Egypt, the land of their slavery. The Lord spoke through Amos to the people in this manner: "It was I who brought you up out of Egypt, and for forty years led you in the wilderness, to take possession of the country of the Amorite; I raised up prophets from among your sons, Nazarites from among your young men. Israelites, is this not true? says the Lord." Then the message continues: "But you have made the Nazarites drink wine, and said to the prophets, 'You are not to prophesy.'"
In essence this very thing is happening today. In spite of the fact that wine and other alcoholic beverages have caused deaths by the tens of thousands: in automobile accidents, pedestrian accidents, family violence, and otherwise, every now and then the news media will come out with a study purporting to show that drinking a certain amount of wine every day may be helpful in preventing heart attacks, or the like. One such news account, referred to in headlines on the front page of a daily newspaper, ended with the frank observation that if someone was not drinking at the present time, it would be most foolish to begin on the outside chance of helping prevent heart trouble, since the evil effects of drinking were all too evident, or words to that effect.
Then too, some popular sins of today are so well accepted in high places that a minister or a concerned layman who boldly and courageously takes a stand against such a glaring violation of God's commands in the Bible as homosexuality, may be threatened with personal harm, or even legal action. "You are not to prophesy," is what is being said, in so many words, for the term "prophesy" means, not only foretelling the future, but also means, as St. Paul later pointed out, speaking "to edification, exhortation, and comfort." (I Cor. 14:3
"Seek good, and not evil, that you may live, that the Lord, the God of Hosts, may be with you, as you claim he is. Hate evil, and love good; establish justice in the courts; it may be that the Lord, the God of Hosts, will show favour to the survivors of Joseph. . . . Let justice flow on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing torrent." (5:15, 24) Isn't that exhortation applicable to our nation today?
It is very disappointing when a judge, a police officer, or someone else who is sworn to uphold the law, does not do his duty, or set the right example. Did you happen to notice the account of the Denver judge who pled for a new liquor store in his neighborhood? Hundreds of the residents of that area were up in arms. The man who wished to open the new liquor store had illegally made repeated efforts, within a short period of time, to secure approval for this liquor outlet. Each time the people rose up to oppose granting of another liquor license in their neighborhood. And now the judge wants to make it easier for himself to buy liquor on his way home, regardless of the wishes of his neighbors. What an example he is setting!
You may have heard about another judge who recently allowed criminals to go free who were in the very act of passing on to others a large quantity of drugs. They were approached on an unrelated matter by police who noticed their suspicious behaviour. When the police came upon them and searched their vehicle they began to flee. Then one of the criminals confessed what they were doing. The judge decided that it was perfectly reasonable for the drug pushers to be frightened by the police, since some police were corrupt and unprincipled, and that therefore the police had no justification in making a search of their automobile! How foolish and unreasonable can an appointed official be?
At the very end of the book of Amos we have a beautiful prophecy of the coming of the Messiah, and His glorious kingdom. It may also be read to describe the beauties of the Christian life. (9:11, NKJV)
"On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old;"
Then, notice the abundant crops that are foretold for that period: (v. 13)
"Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord, "When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; The mountains shall drip with sweet wine, [non-alcoholic] and all the hills shall flow with it."
The last two verses, our second text, give additional details concerning that time so far in the future in Amos's day, but evidently so close at hand today. (vv. 14 & 15)
"I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them," says the Lord your God.
Let us come to an end by looking once again at the beginning: our first text, "Woe to them that are at ease in Zion . . ." (6:1) What a tragic thing it is for someone to become careless, complaisant, and easy going, thinking that all is well, that there is no need to be much concerned about the spiritual condition of others, or even of himself. Recently a long-time preacher of the Gospel gave an insightful, and encouraging testimony of the way in which the Lord had revealed to him, some time ago, that he had cooled off in his ardor, and had become perfunctory in his duties toward God and his flock. Then he had reconsecrated himself to God and His service, and now his testimony is up to date: his love for God and His cause, and for people, is warm and tender. How wonderful! All Christians need to beware of the blandishments of Satan, who would cause all, if he could, to "take it easy," and slack off in prayer, Bible study, and concern for others.
Is it well with your soul, dear reader? If not, make it a matter of first priority to "make your calling and election sure." (2 Peter 1:10) Jesus is standing at your heart's door knocking and seeking entrance, but you have to open the door. Notice His loving words, found in Revelation 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Come to Him today.