Amos is one of my favorite minor prophets in the OT. He was not from the religious elite of the day. He was a simple fig tree farmer and shepherd. He was far from having a celebrity pastor status or following, didn’t have the right qualifications on paper or initials behind his name, had no academic achievements to boast about, literally he was an unknown. I have a special place in my heart for unknown rock solid people/leaders of God who desire to be faithful in the simple context that God has placed them in. So, when I studied Amos and his writing this past week for seminary, knowing his background, my ears perked up like a puppy who has seen her favorite toy and wants to play.
The other night after praying with my son before bed, he started crying for what seemed to be no reason. You know…the kind of crying that happens when one can’t catch their breath between sobs. After comforting him and attempting to gently probe into the reason for his sudden and overwhelming sadness, in his attempt to hold it together long enough to tell me what was going on in his mind and heart, he recalled seeing a picture on the internet of a mouse used in an experiment. The mouse had tumors the size of its own body. The tumored out mouse traumatized him and I had to explain how companies use mice to test chemicals or medicine and he thought that was the worst kind of evil.
“I just don’t understand why God allows evil. Why doesn’t God just end it all. He’s God. He can do anything. Why doesn’t he just get rid of all the evil in this world?”
My heart sank.
It sank, but not out of sadness because I didn’t have an answer for him or that he came across a picture of something that shattered his world for a bit. It sank with thankfulness that his 10 year old Lego loving, Star Wars obsessed mind contemplates deeply the things of this world and how these things relate to God. I was able to answer his question about evil and sin because as a first generation Christian I have made an intentional effort to get as much information in my mind about God in such a way that it attaches itself to my heart so that when, not if, my kids ask hard theological questions, I have the ability to give them concrete answers.
1st Peter 3:15 tells us that we ought to be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks us for the reason for the hope that is in us. I know that this defense is directed toward others outside our home, but it definitely doesn’t negate us as parents to have a defense for our children, especially if we want to lead them well.
I have been preparing for their answers even before they knew what to ask. I don’t leave that responsibility to Sunday school teachers, youth group leaders or other people in our local church. It is MY job to be prepared with answers to their questions….from the easy ones to the hard one, yes…..even the hard theological ones. It’s a responsibility I take quite serious. But I seem to always doubt my answers and fear that they are never enough.
Which leads me to the reason for this post.
After getting a bit of schoolwork in with my son this morning, we stopped for a short lunch break. As I was smearing mayo on his bread for his sandwich, it occurred to me that all those minor prophets that I have been reading and studying about had moms — moms who probably made them sandwiches, or at least something equivalent to a modern day sandwich. I mean I knew the prophets had mothers, or else they would not have been alive to even write such harsh rebukes to Israel and Judah but I don’t think I have ever really contemplated, much less appreciated or recognized those dear mothers of those strong bold prophets.
Who were those mothers who nurtured, comforted, taught, and loved on her boy to the point that he eventually became a rock solid faithful servant of the Most High?
Unlike most of the prophets that God called and used, Amos didn’t go to “prophet school”. He was a working boy. He tended sheep, probably like his father. He cared for and nurtured fig trees, showing that he had working man’s hands and deep quiet enduring patience to see things grow from little fig plants to massive fruit producing trees.
For Amos, spending most of his life away from the hub of cities probably gave him a unique perspective on life. Children raised in places where they are allowed to connect with dirt daily, trees, wide open spaces, and animals other than domestic dogs or cats are a bit different, but not in a bad way. Life is just slower. Deep pondering comes easy or at least there are more opportunities to think about things outside of immediate circumstances.
Granted our country life is very different from that of a shepherd family or fig tree farmer in the 8th century B.C. However slowness of life is probably a tiny bit similar. For instance the excitement of our day today was when the boy discovered a dead possum in our little forest and we all gathered around it to figure out what caused its demise. We think it might have been a racoon.
Oh, another exciting moment in our day was watching my husband spray wasp killer on several wasp nests on our deck and worrying about our nosy chickens wanting to come check things out. Needless to say, we kept them far away from the dead wasps and the pesticide. Those pesky wasps dominated our deck area and it was nice to see them go.
Amos was a country kid who grew up and became a country man whose norm was to have dirt under his nails on a daily basis. He probably smelled of sheep or had chronically sticky hands from handling those plump juicy figs. I’m sure he had seen his fare share of dead animals or had to figure out a way to control the bee population around the fig trees. Though not formally taught, he was educated to the degree that he was able to pen the words of God vividly. Where did he learn how to read and write with clarity if he was not a product of the education system of the day? I venture to say his parents.
God called Amos from a serene and quiet life to a place that was foreign to him. Not only geographically foreign, meaning he left his home in southern Judah and traveled to the northern country of Israel, but also culturally foreign. He left country life to go tell people living deep in the heart of Bethel, which was a great city, a few cutting words from God. This would have been the equivalent of a country boy traveling to Washington D.C. to tell the people and the country officials that they were failing to meet God’s covenant demands. Not only was his message unpopular, his words were given at a time when Israel was experiencing a time of great financial prosperity and he used the word exile in his sharp rebuke.
They must have thought Amos was crazy for using the word exile to explain what was going to happen to them if they didn’t change their ways.
They surely didn’t have time for Amos’s message. A priest, probably one with the proper academic credentials or schooling, eventually goes to Amos and tells him:
flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom (Amos 7:14)
Amos didn’t budge and dug his heels in even more.
So again….what kind of mom raises the kind of boy, who grows up to become a man with an unwavering affection for God’s ways and God’s character? Amos knew that in the norms of the culture the people were very religious but it was in their religion that Amos saw hypocrisy. He saw and rebuked God’s covenant people because they were not exhibiting God’s character rightly. He saw and spoke against their injustice, their crooked court system and gave them a harsh tongue lashing because luxury was seen as more important than right dealings with people. He admonished them for their complacency when injustice occurred to the poor and needy and if that were not enough, he had the boldness to call the women of the day “cows” (some translations use “fat cows”) for exhibiting an entitled demeanor as they demanded their husbands wait on them while they got drunk on wine (Amos 4).
Trust me, I’m not making this up.
Who would have thought that back in the day there would be middle to upper class complacent entitled women who had a little habit, ahhhem, I mean “hobby” of drinking wine and demanding that their husband’s treat them like “princesses” or “queens”? When faced with the reality concerning how women behaved back in they day, my thought is always the same –> how could the culture in 760 B.C be so different yet still very much the same?
Amos saw it and called it, without hesitation or reservation. He was not afraid of isolating himself for bringing hard truths because he was already used to a life of isolation. He was free from being a slave to popular opinion, political correctness and whether or not people liked him or accepted him.
Even though most of Amos’s message was hard to hear, and he sternly warns the people of Israel of impending destruction, he shows God’s love and faithfulness by pointing to an upcoming Branch from David’s family line that will restore and make things right, and we all know that Branch is our King Jesus.
Yes, God gave Amos words to speak but before he was a man used by God, he was a boy, who had a mamma. And God used the mamma of Amos, and many other faithful mammas to raise up boys for his glory.
What kind of mom raises that kind of boy?
What kind of mom raises a boy whose life was going to end tragically proclaiming God’s words? Some prophets suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:36-38)
If the mom of Amos was anything like Naomi from the book of Ruth, she had resolute and undeviating faith. She understood the sovereignty of God to such a degree that when faced with suffering she accepted whatever it is that God dished out, good or bad. Not only did she accept God’s providence, she praised him for it and through it. She knew her faith in God was the deep slow moving undercurrent of her life and it was evident when she cooked her meals, washed the clothes and tended to her children. Her entire life exemplified her faith and if her children had any questions regarding anything in particular, they were sure that their mom would always point them to God. And when Naomi’s husband and son’s were taken from her, the faith and trust she had in God remained unshaken to the point that Ruth was drawn to the God that Naomi worshiped.
I pray that in my boy raising, regardless of where we raise him, in the city or the country, along with my comforting, nurturing, teaching and loving….
through my reliance on God, though imperfect….
following my husband’s lead, though at times a struggle….
we can raise a boy who:
1) will grow up to be the kind of man that sees injustice and tries to fix it
2) is aware of what entitlement and complaceny looks like and fights against it
3) seeks to care for the poor and the needy in such a way that is meaningful enough to point them to a Savior who will give them what they ultimately need
4) repents often to God and to his loved ones
5) loves and cares for his family in a God-honoring way
6) ** bonus for this mom —> is called by God to pastor a church or officially minister somewhere in the world leading other men to Christ and preaching Gospel truths. Why? Because when men know Christ, wives and children will follow. Meaning families stay will stay intact.
Whether living life in the city or the country, laying a foundation in the heart and mind of our boy concerning God’s truth through a Savior and King who will one day make all things right to all the yuck, junk and injustice in this world is pretty important to us. Intentionally building on that foundation is also pretty important to us too. It does not and will not happen 5 minutes here or 5 minutes there once or twice a week.
Being first generation Christian parents, it hasn’t always been easy for my husband and I to figure out what Christian parenting looks like, but it’s so worth the imperfect effort that we put into making it happen. It also means that my husband and I, must….meaning its a necessity, know the Word ourselves. We cant teach what we don’t know.
I pray that in our boy raising, he grows up to be the kind of man, that if the situation arose, he will always preach a crucified Christ, even if his life was threatened the way the prophets of old were threatened for bringing hard truths to rebellious religious people.
I just don’t want to have the right answers to my boy’s theological questions. In conjunction with my sandwich making duties, I want my life to give him answers to questions that he does not yet know how to ask.
I want our lives to point him to a Savior because my husband and I show, without a shadow of doubt, that Christ is enough.
That Christ is enough…even for the unanswerable questions.