Tuesday, May 12, 2009

the prophet and the priest

From Amos, chapter 7:

Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, "Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said, "'Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.'" And Amaziah said to Amos, "O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom." Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, "I was no prophet, nor a prophet's son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel.' Now therefore hear the word of the LORD. "You say, 'Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.' Therefore thus says the LORD: "'Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.'"

If you have read the prophecy of Amos at all, you know that he is not exactly a cheerful guy. Basically he was a farmer that the Lord called out of the fields to proclaim His judgments against the house of Israel. Really strong stuff. Here in chapter 7, we find that a priest has gone to the king, and said, “We need to get rid of this guy. He is telling the people that they are in sin, and that God is getting ready to bring down some heavy discipline. This is really negative, discouraging stuff, and the people can’t take it.”

The priest wants to shut down the prophet because he is upsetting the status quo. He didn’t see things from God’s point of view, and therefore didn’t embrace the word of the Lord. There is a great danger of that scenario replaying itself in our generation. That which we call “the church” is a thriving business in American culture. However, much of it bears little resemblance to that which we see in the scriptures. Instead of calling out disciples to follow Jesus in His counter-cultural kingdom, we teach people how to enjoy all that this world has to offer, and then go to heaven. We teach them how to live for themselves in Jesus name. That sells much better. Draws bigger crowds, brings in bigger offerings.

And then a voice rises up, exposing the deception, and calling His “followers” to actually follow Him. This world and its system and values are exposed as “under the power of the evil one,” and bringing us into enmity with God. There is a call to repentance, to the true holiness of passionate love for our awesome King. There are warnings of the coming discipline of the Lord in our generation.

And what do we hear from those who make their living from this religious system masquerading as the gathering of Jesus’ family? “Legalism! Religion! Bondage!” Grace is perverted to allow people to walk in unrepentant, willful rebellion against His teachings while claiming to be His followers.

And the priests once again try to silence the prophets.

Some things never change.

The end of this passage is the scary part, though. God’s response to the priest who would run off the prophet couldn’t be stronger. He declares another judgment, and this time it’s against the family of the priest. Prostitution for the wife, death for the children. It’s tragic beyond words. I wouldn’t begin to suggest that this is how God would deal with undiscerning leaders of our generation, but there is a lesson here. The status quo is not sacred. Peace and prosperity in the present are not the priorities of the One who sits on the throne. He is determined to have a pure and spotless bride for His Son. He will do whatever is necessary to prepare her, and He will not allow even the leaders of His people to stand in the way of His plan to bring that to pass.

Lord, give us wisdom, understanding, and discernment of your ways for our times.

Have mercy.

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