There is a Yiddish story about a man who spent all his free time at the shtetl kretchmeh (in Yiddish, a tavern doubling as an inn; in Polish karczma or in Ukrainian корчма). His wife bitterly complained about his all too frequent absences, asking him what he does there anyway with all his spare time. He offered her to come and see for herself. They entered and sat down at a rough wooden table. He ordered an overflowing flagon of beer for her. She took one sip and spit it right out with a sour face. The husband commented with a smile, “Nu, du maynst ich lek honik?” – “So, you think I’m sitting here licking honey?” What may be enjoyable to some, may actually be bitter to others.
Some of us imagine prophets and the prophetic ministry and gifts in an enjoyably ethereal way. The actors on our stage are mystical heroes like King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table. waxing poetic about prayer or worship or specific catastrophes about to occur on specific dates. These idealized prophetic utterances often focus on repentance or encouragement. This newsletter offers a slightly different and perhaps more broad biblical perspective on what prophets are often called to be and do.
Aslan on the move
Amos was not a professional minister. He was not a card-carrying member of the Union of Judean Prophets, and had not paid his dues to the Seer’s Guild. He confesses when challenged, “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 YHVH took me from following the flock, and YHVH said to me, ‘Go prophesy to My people Israel’” (Amos 7:14-15). A gentleman farmer from Tekoa, Amos was abruptly turned into a man ‘on a mission from God’ (Amos 1:1). His prophetic ministry began when he heard the thunderous roar of the Lion of Judah: “A lion has roared! Who will not fear? YHVH God has spoken! Who can do anything but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8).
Amos of Judah was ordained by the hand of YHVH to deliver a message to the rebellious ten tribes of Israel. He had to cross the ‘DMZ’ (from Judah in the south to the Northern Kingdom) to communicate God’s words, perspectives, rebukes and Last Days prophecies to King Jeroboam II at the royal palace and citadel of Bethel (Amos 7:12-13). His 100% accurate message was vehemently rejected by King Jeroboam II and by Amaziah the Aaronic priest in charge of the Bethel sanctuary.
Stop with the conspiracy message!
Before Amaziah threw Amos out of Bethel, he made doubly sure that he and King Jeroboam were on the same page. “Then Amaziah, the Kohen 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!’” (Amos 7:10).
What was this message that so upset the king and the religious authorities? The answer is found in Israel’s behavior Amos chapters 1 through 7:
- charging interest (exorbitantly so) and exploiting the poor
- seizing their pledges and property
- engaging in sexual impurity and immorality which profaned God’s name
- spending evilly gained profit on personal luxuries and pleasures
- lavish worship, improvised songs, Davidic instruments without compassion for the Jewish people as a priority value
- public sacrifice and religious gatherings combined with hypocritical hearts and relationships
- hostility toward the righteous
- perverting justice
It is worth noticing that these eight points have to do with business ethics, sexual morality, narcissism, external but not internal spiritual-religious behavior, speaking the truth in governmental dealings, and caring for the physical welfare of the Jewish people.
Shutting down the prophets
The spiritual and religious leaders in the Northern Kingdom of Israel were trying to shut the mouths of those who spoke for God to their own people. In this biblical period there was also censorship: Israel’s leaders forced Nazirites to violate their vows and to compromise the source of their strength and purity (see Numbers 6; Judges 13:5; Luke 1:15). Prophets who refused to toe the line and parrot what society’s leaders told them to say, found themselves removed from the public social media of their day (Amos 2:12; 7:12-13). Israel’s leaders had rejected the Teaching (Torah) of Moses, their national constitution and legal protection. So it was not surprising that kings and priests also rejected God’s faithful prophets who were bringing the word of the Lord.
Specifically, these leaders wanted to totally shut down the prophetic message of coming judgment on Israel’s kings and priests (Amos 5:12-13, 27; 6:7; 7:17; etc.). It is sobering to note that immediately after Amos’ argument with YHVH over the possible divine destruction of the Jewish people (Amos 7:1-9) – right after Amos’ Abrahamic-style intercessory bargaining with God to spare His own people – Amaziah and Jeroboam commanded Amos to shut his mouth and flee back to Judah. By spurning Amos’ words of warning, they thereby sealed the deal on their own destruction.
God’s prophetic word to a disobedient nation
In his day, Jeremiah had to contend with men prophesying false messages in the name of YHVH. The God of Jacob Himself described these people as false dealers, greedy for gain (Jeremiah 6:13-14), bringing only superficial healing to their people (8:11), speakers of falsehoods, false visions and deception (14:13-14), ministering from the stubbornness of their own hearts (23:17). YHVH adds that they have misled the people and have whitewashed the true nature of the problems facing Israel (Ezekiel 13:9-17).
We should not be surprised when, in our day, God raises up prophetic voices to address the sins of our world in general and of our cultures specifically. When dishonesty, the profit motive, false solutions and deception characterize governmental decisions and decisions of those entrusted with the public welfare and health, be sure that you will hear Aslan roaring His heart, His word and His strategies over the nations and their leaders.
“These are the things which you shall do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace at your gates. Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury. For all these things are what I hate!” (Zechariah 8:16-17). Those who minister YHVH’s prophetic word are not always licking honey, but they know that a time is coming when God Himself will “reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18).
How should we then pray?
- Pray for boldness, courage, humility and accuracy for those who have been given a divine trumpet at this time
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army throughout the earth
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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