Prophets and prophecy often get a bad rap.
Today, I want to give some basic facts about prophets of the Old Testament. For many reasons, prophecy in the New Testament probably needs its own discussion which may come sometime in the future.
Who are prophets, and what did they do?
The prophet Amos is the first “canonical prophet,” meaning that he has a book by his name in the Bible. The word “canon” originally referred to a measuring rod. Amos preached in the eighth century BC, somewhere around 750 BC.
Amos 7:10-17 records the “call” of Amos to be a prophet. If you read the first seven chapters of Amos, you will see why this passage is recorded.
Amaziah the priest warned Jeroboam the king of Israel that Amos was preaching harmful words about the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel. He also ordered Amos not to preach in Samaria.
Amaziah assumed that Amos was preaching for money and if he wanted to receive a stipend, he should go to the Southern Kingdom (Judah) where they would be happy to hear a message about the destruction of Samaria (the Northern Kingdom or Israel). No wonder prophecy often gets a bad rap!
Here are somethings Amaziah assumed:
- Amos was about himself and not about God. It may be that Amaziah did not know any genuine prophet.
- That the spoken word had to come to pass. If Amos preached judgment, it would happen. For this reason, most kings had their own prophets who they paid to say good things.
- Amaziah did not have any experience with what Amos described, that is, that Amos was a prophet because God set him apart to preach God’s Word. Amos preached the word of the Lord (that is the proper definition of a prophet). He was God’s spokesman.
Amos describes how he came to do what he did. He did not choose to be a prophet. God chose him.
“Then Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son;’ but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ ” (Amos 7: 14-15).
This the man of God, and this is the way we should look at a prophet.