An Evangelical Response To The Preaching Of Amos -- By: Thomas John Finley

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 28:4 (Dec 1985)
Article: An Evangelical Response To The Preaching Of Amos
Author: Thomas John Finley


An Evangelical Response To The Preaching Of Amos

Thomas John Finley*

Preaching demands a response. The listener can ignore what is said, reject it as false, or accept it as truth and let it work toward a change in behavior. The OT often allows the reader to see how Israel or Judah reacted to the preaching of the prophets. The book of Amos mentions only the response of one individual: Amaziah the priest of Bethel. Presumably he was acting officially on behalf of the government of Jeroboam II. Amaziah told Amos to go back to Judah and preach, because Bethel, against which Amos had been preaching, was “a sanctuary of the king and a royal residence” (7:13).1

Evangelicals, with their belief in the absolute authority of Holy Scripture, need to accept the deepest demands of God’s prophetic word through Amos. Understanding of a message is surely prerequisite to response. As one of the “minor” prophets Amos is preached only occasionally. Yet his message has much to contribute to discussions of social justice. Carl Henry raised a challenge a decade ago: “A high responsibility presently rests on evangelical clergy to deepen the awareness of churchgoers—and their own expertise as well—in what the Bible says about social morality.”2 His challenge still remains, and a good place to begin to meet it is to ]earn from the herdsman from Tekoa.

I. The Preaching Of Amos

Amos the preacher came with a message of inevitable judgment. God would not turn back because the transgressions were too many. The element of hopelessness is symbolized well in the vision of the basket of summer fruit with its wordplay between “summer fruit,” qayiṣ and the “end,” qeÐ̄ṣ. “The end has come for my people Israel,” intones Yahweh with heavy words of doom.

This emphasis on judgment is occasioned by a continual barrage of accusations against Israel. The people’s rejection of Yahweh’s covenant and his repeated warnings have made the coming destruction inevitable (cf. 4:6–13). The accusations Amos makes fall into two broad categories. He cries out against practices that were harmful to the poor among the Israelites, human relation-

*Thomas Finley is associate professor of Semitics and Old Testament at Talbot Theological Seminary in La Mirada, California.

ships being at the heart of the covenant.3 The Israelite who opp...

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