It is striking to note the first and the last words of the first verse of this prophecy: “the words of Amos … two years before the earthquake.” It is given to some people to speak in earthquake kinds of times. An earthquake comes with unexpected suddenness and renders its victims absolutely helpless. It is not without deeper significance that Amos’ message precedes by two years an earthquake, for Amos was God’s kind of person for earthquake times. Politically, the foundations were already quivering beneath the nation of Israel. Economically, just around the corner, there yawned a chasm of fiscal and economic judgment. The underpinnings of the well-constructed society that had been Israel with its capital and bureaucracy in Samaria three decades after Amos spoke in 722 or 721 BC. The ten tribes of Israel found themselves in ruination out of the ashes and depression, they fought to find words that would interpret their experience. Someone noted that Amos had said something and that it had been written, and it was out of the Book of Amos that the subsequent disastrous generation came to know what it was to live in earthquake times.
Someone has written a book entitled The Prophets, Our Contemporaries. Are things really so different 2,800 years after Amos’s message? Politically, have we not known what it is for the ground to quiver beneath our feet? Economically, do we still not sense the possibility that economic judgment or catastrophe could yawn at us like a gaping chasm just around some corner of the road? Is there no indication at all that our well-structured society might come unraveled? Just as Amos spoke to earthquake times in his generation, he speaks to ...
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Dr. Joel C. Gregory is Director of the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching, holder of the George W. Truett Endowed Chair of Preaching and Evangelism at Baylor's Truett Seminary, and the founder of Joel Gregory Ministries.