Daily Bible Study Tips: The Prophets
Primary message of Pre-Exilic prophecy

The Prophets, Miscellaneous Comments

Primary message of Pre-Exilic prophecy:
Amos 1:1-2; 2:1-16; 7:14-15
Amos 3:1-2; 9-15; 4:1-3, 12
Amos 5:4-15, 24
Amos 9:9-15
Hosea 1:1, 4:1-19, 5:6-7
Hosea 1:2-2:1, 3:1-5

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Amos 1:1-2; 2:1-16; 7:14-15 “I, the prophet, have a message from God for you, you sinner.”

This week and next week we are going to read from Amos and Hosea.  These prophets spoke to Israel prior to the deportation and dispersion of that nation.  The two books are short, but they contain every aspect of the prophetic message to God's people.  This week we are looking at the four basic ideas of pre-Exilic prophecy.  Amos is our example, but Hosea, Isaiah, and the other pre-Exilic prophets say pretty much the same thing.

You know the old story about the preacher who went to a farmer and asked him, "Brother, if you had $100, would you give $10 to the church?"  The farmer answered, "Well, I reckon I would."  So the preacher said, "Well, if you had $50, would you give $5?"  The farmer thought it over and agreed that he would do that, too.  Then the preacher said, "If you had 10 pigs, would you give one to the church?"  The farmer replied, "Well, now you've left off preachin' and gone to meddlin', because you know I've got ten pigs!"

The people of Israel are in much the same situation.  Amos comes to them and tells them about the sins of Syria, and then Philistia, and Phoenicia, and Ammon (all in Ch. 1), and Moab, and even Judah.  And they are saying, "Right on!"  And he talks about the punishment all those nations will receive.  And they are all jumping up and down and yelling, "Preach it, Brother!"  And then he starts talking about the sins of Israel!  Amos had left off preachin' and gone to meddlin'.  He tells the nation of Israel, "I didn't even want to be a prophet, but God sent me with a message for you."

Amos 3:1-2; 9-15; 4:1-3, 12 “I, God, am angry.”

Well, what do you think?  The prophets spent quite a lot of time talking about God's hatred of sin and his righteous anger about sin.  There is a school of thought that this is all anthropomorphizing. This school holds that we get angry, or sad, or happy, or whatever, and therefore we attribute all these human emotions to God, who actually doesn't have any of them.  I dunno.  The older I get, the more I'm convinced that the Bible is not a book about anthropomorphizing God, it's a book about theomorphizing God's people.  I see a pretty consistent message throughout the Old and New Testaments that God hates sin, and sin makes Him angry.  Read Matthew 23, for example, and try to believe that Jesus wasn't angry about sin.  Mark 3:5 says clearly that Jesus was angry and grieved by sin.  To become Christlike is, in part, to come to hate sin.  Amos talks about some of the sins we should hate, in ourselves or in others, because they make God angry:  ingratitude, theft, violence, dishonesty, apostasy, lack of generosity, mistreating the weak, oppressing the poor, and self-indulgence at the expense of others. 
Amos 5:4-15, 24 “Repent or die.”

Did you ever hear the saying, "That's not a threat, that's a promise!"  What it means is that even though it may sound like a threat, it is actually a prediction.  "Repent or die" falls into this category of predictions that sound like threats.  A student once asked me, "Why did God say that Adam and Eve would die if they ate the fruit?  They didn't die.  Did God lie?"  No, God told the truth.  To separate yourself from God is to die, right then.  Maybe your body – like Adam and Eve's – hasn't caught up yet, but you are dead in your sin.  The good news is, God can restore you to life. 

"Come to me!" God says.  "I don't want you to die."  The call to repentance and life is as old as Genesis.  "I know how bad you've been, but come back to me and change, and I'll forget all about it.  If you don't come back to me, you'll die."  That's not a threat, that's a promise.

One of the Bible's most powerful statements of what it means to repent and live is in today's passage:

Hate the evil,
Love the good, and
Establish judgment in the gate:
Let justice flow like water,
And righteousness like a mighty river.
Amos 9:9-15 “If you do repent, I will bless you.”

The sections of pre-Exilic prophecy that are devoted to the blessings that God's people will inherit if they repent are typically short compared to the descriptions of their sins and of what will happen to them if they don't repent.  In the passage on blessings from Amos, we see several points. 

Hosea preaches to the last of the Northern Kings

Hosea 1:1, 4:1-19, 5:6-7 The crimes of Israel

There was once a church whose pastor preached a steady stream of hellfire and brimstone about the sins of his parishioners.  No one liked him very much.  They got a new pastor, who preached a steady stream of hellfire and brimstone about their sins.  They all loved him.  When asked what the difference was, one elderly man replied, "They say the same thing to us, but this new fellow says it with tears in his eyes."  This is the primary difference between Amos and Hosea.

If the Bible is God's love letter to His people, there is no more poignant record of rejection, loss, and the possibility of reconciliation than the book of Hosea.  Israel is God's adulterous wife:  "Like a woman who becomes a prostitute, they have given themselves to other gods," and "They have been unfaithful to the LORD; their children do not belong to him."  Hosea preached at about the same time as Amos (vs. 1:1), and his list of the sins of the people and the nation is much the same as Amos's list.  But where Amos was angry about the sin itself, Hosea is heartbroken by the effect of sin on the relationship between God and His people. 
Hosea 1:2-2:1, 3:1-5 The prophet Hosea takes an adulterous wife.

Hosea lived his life as a parable of God's love for His people.  Israel had deserted God for the baals, and remember that baal can mean husband.  Israel had committed adultery against God.  Hosea married Gomer, a "woman of adultery."  Scholars are divided about whether this means she had an adulterous nature or whether she actually was a prostitute when Hosea married her.  Gomer had three children.  The text is a little unclear about whether all of the children were Hosea's.  Hosea named the children Jezreel, Unloved, and Not-My-People.  Everybody in Israel knew that Hosea was a prophet, and they knew that the children's names were God's message to them.  Gomer ran away and went back to prostitution.  She ended up for sale as a slave.  Then an amazing thing happened!  God's great redemptive love for His people was acted out as a parable when Hosea bought her back – not to be a slave, but to be his wife again.

Copyright 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 by Regina L. Hunter.  All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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