AMOS 7-9 In 7: 14-16, we read the details of Amos’ call to prophethood. He was a farmer, not a professional, trained prophet, which raises the question of who were the professional, trained prophets, and how were they trained? Amaziah (ch. 7) was such a one, employed as a booster and spokesperson for the royal/religious cult. We meet such court prophets in Kings, Chronicles and among the opponents of Jeremiah.
Amos’ prophecy against Jeroboam II (7:17) would come start to true within a generation, which is all the more startling when one considers that the Northern Kingdom of Israel reached its height of power and prosperity during his reign.
“The Day of the Lord” and “that day” figure prominently in Amos’ prophecy and give it a budding sense of eschatology, or “the last things.” Evidently, fellow Hebrews were talking about “The Day of the Lord,” but in accordance with their pride, presumption and complacency. Amos turns the tables on such talk, warning them that it will strike them first (5: 18-20). “Judgment begins in the house of God,” (I Peter 4:17), Amos would concur. But so does redemption (Amos 9:11-15).
OBADIAH brings us to the end of the saga and struggle between Jacob and his twin brother, Esau. The Edomites, whose complete and final downfall is foreseen in this short prophecy (the shortest book of the Old Testament), were the descendants of Esau. Though Jacob had reconciled to Esau and restored what he had taken by way of Esau’s birthright (Genesis 32-33), Esau went his way, “went pagan,” and his descendants continued to thwart, raid and fight Israel and Judah, during and after the Exodus. Ps. 137:7 gives a glimpse of the official policy of Edom toward Judah and Jerusalem. Perhaps Obadiah’s prophecy comes from such a time, after the Exile. An implicit eschatology shows in v. 15, and “The Day of the Lord,” a day of judgment for all nations (even the Gentiles) according to what they have done. This theme gets picked up again in the story of judgment between the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. The last surviving and documented remnant of Edomites disappeared with the Roman sack of Jerusalem, in 70 AD.
JONAH 1-4 highlights a crucial element of biblical prophecy: compassion. Even when God uses a prophet to call people to account for their sins, or to warn them of judgment, that prophet must also embody and communicate God’s passion and compassion for the people under judgment. Such was sorely lacking in Jonah’s ministry. In fact, there are moments when the pagans come across as more godly than the prophet, at least insofar as compassion is concerned. The pagan boat crew who tries to save Jonah’s life even shows some spiritual sensitivity to match his. If we are tempted to laugh at the hard-heartedness and hard-headedness of Jonah, in contrast to the care and sensitivity of the pagans around him, its okay; the humor is intentional.
The miracle of Jonah’s life being spared by a giant fish (the text does not say “whale”) is superceded by one even greater: the repentance of Nineveh, from the king on down. When in the history of the otherwise brutal, corrupt, arrogant and idolatrous Assyrian empire this could have happened is not clear. But Jonah’s hard-heartedness led to disaster for Israel, for at a later time, this same empire conquered and exiled the northern kingdom, and nearly did the same to Judah and the southern kingdom. Had Jonah been ready and willing to reply graciously to a repentant nation, and to follow up his ministry with even more ministry, what might have been the outcome in salvation history? What such opportunities are we ignoring or overlooking today? Proclamation is only 1/10th of evangelism. The rest is preparation and follow-up. Jonah lacked the greater part, because he lacked a greater heart.
Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah (8th C. B.C.), but the focus of his ministry was as much to the Northern kingdom as to the Southern. Like Isaiah and Jeremiah, he was in contest with false court prophets, the boosters, chaplains and cheerleaders for corrupt royalty and their allies in the priesthood, whether in Jerusalem or in Israel’s competing and syncretistic sites like Bethel. Micah also took the nations to task for luxury at the expense of the poor, oppression, syncretism and idolatry, injustice and religion for personal gain, without sacrifice. He even had the temerity to foretell the doom of Judah, Jerusalem and the temple. So, “judgment begins with the household of God,” as Peter wrote.
….gives us multiple elements of peace, or shalom. Those include worship and a right relationship (vv. 1-2)) of awe and wonder with God (“the fear of the Lord” v. 8), confession and forgiveness (v. 3), the stilling of the waves and the sea, which in the Bible are often connected with, symbolically, the nations (v, 7), and the fruitfulness of the earth (vv. 9-13). This is a holistic picture of peace, sometimes repeated in the prophets, that we would do well to take to heart in the western, dualistic world. For we all too readily separate the spiritual from the material, faith from Creation, grace from nature and worship from stewardship of the earth. Like Icarus, who in the Greek legend flew too close to the sun, so that the wax holding the feathers to his wings melted, leaving him to plummet to the earth, we too so readily forget that life, peace and justice can rise no higher than the soil for very long.