4.

Joel / Amos

Mike reviews the lives, ministry, messages and times of both Joel and Amos – two of the 12 Minor Prophets.
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I want to clarify some information concerning the order, time, and object of each minor prophet's ministry, as well as how they are to be read. Now, there are various opinions as to when they lived and carried on their ministry with three possible periods:

  1. Before the fall of the Northern Kingdom – 721 B.C.
  2. Before the fall of the Southern Kingdom – 587 B.C.
  3. During the time of the return from exile – 450 B.C.

I've read several commentaries that place Joel, for example, in the time before 721 B.C., while others argue for his appearance during the Jewish return from exile in the 5th century B.C.

I've chosen to follow the order that the books were arranged in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament as the historical appearance of each prophet. This means that Hosea, the first book listed in the group of twelve was also a prophet who appeared before the Northern Kingdom fell in 721 B.C. Using this approach, the second prophet mentioned would also have lived and worked in and around this early date and not in the late period (450 B.C.) as some have suggested.

Another feature of the minor prophets is that the Hebrew Bible, all twelve, are included in a single book and meant to be read in that way – with each prophet being a single chapter of a book with twelve chapters – and not as twelve individual books.

Aaron Ventura writes in his overview of Joel:

Often a book will begin by picking up where the previous one left off. For example, Joel ends with, 'For the land dwells in Zion' Joel 3:21, and Amos begins with, 'The Lord roars from Zion…' Amos 1:2
- localchristendom.com/joel-overview

Our study will review the same elements in each book – the prophet, his time, message, order of his book, and main lessons, however if we keep in mind that all of these were designed to form one overall book/message we will be able to keep an eye on the bigger picture and the main message that all twelve were bringing.

Now in our last lesson we studied the first of the Minor prophets, Hosea, and the unusual way that God made him act out in his own marriage and family life, the unfaithfulness of Israel (Northern Kingdom) in its relationship with God.

In today's class we continue with the next two prophets listed: Joel and Amos.

Joel

1. The Prophet Joel

His name is a Hebrew word which means "Yahweh is God" or "The Lord is God". He lived sometime before the key date of the fall of the Northern Kingdom (721 B.C.) and may have been a contemporary of Hosea, the prophet, who proceeded him and prophesied concerning the Northern Kingdom of Israel. However, Joel lived in the Southern Kingdom of Judah and his message was directed at the people of the Southern Kingdom. Not much is known about his occupation, background or calling as a prophet.

2. The Prophet's Time

No information is given about a specific historical time or is any king mentioned, although it is supposed, given his position in the list of the twelve that he lived during the reign of king Joash (835-796 B.C.). It would make sense that Joel doesn't mention a king in his writings since at that time Joash's grandmother, Athaliah had crowned herself queen after having killed off possible heirs to the throne. However, Joash, her grandson, had survived the coup and was hidden and protected by priests and other officials until he, as a legitimate descendant of king David, was crowned king when he was seven years old. This ended the reign and life of his grandmother, Queen Athaliah, who had been the only woman to rule the Jewish people. Although Joash was formally crowned as king, because of his youth, the affairs of the Southern Kingdom were managed by the priests of the Temple and other officials of the royal court until he could take full control. This may explain why Joel does not mention any king in his prophetic writings.

3. The Prophet's Message

Joel's book focuses its prophetic judgment on the Southern Kingdom of Judah with frequent references to Zion and temple worship.

Zion – root word "castle" or "High Point". Name of the Jebusite fortress captured by David (Isaiah 5:6-9) and became the city of Jerusalem which contained the seat of military power (royal throne) and spiritual power (temple). Eventually the term was used as a metaphor for a place where the Lord protects His people from the evils of the world. The physical city of Jerusalem was symbolically referred to as Zion – the City of Holiness or Zion – the City of Refuge.

Because of its status the Jews who lived there believed that it was impenetrable by enemies. This also explains why the people of the Southern Kingdom did not heed the warnings of the prophets thinking that God would never let Jerusalem, the holy city of Zion, fall.

In the present era the term "Zion" or "Zionist" refers to the effort made to reclaim the ancient territory of Biblical Israel and create a modern state in this ancient territory. This was accomplished after World War II when the allies repatriated Jewish refugees from Europe back to the original territory formerly known as Israel. The term is still used today (Zionist or Zionism) to refer to Jewish nationalism – a modern political movement that believes that the best way to protect Jewish culture and religion is to maintain a strong Jewish nation settled in the Biblical homeland of Israel.

A. Summary of Joel's Preaching

Like many other prophets Joel's preaching revolves around three main themes:

  • God's judgment due to sin and unfaithfulness.
  • The need to repent.
  • A promise of blessings and restoration.

Content of the Book of Joel

1. Locust plague and famine

He begins by describing a devastating locust plague that struck the land of Judah. This has caused great destruction leading to famine and economic hardship.

2. Call to repentance

In response to this disaster, he calls on the nation to turn back to God with fasting and weeping in order to receive God's mercy and forgiveness.

3. Day of the Lord

Joel prophesies about the "Day of the Lord" which refers to God's judgment which could simultaneously refer to a present event, a near future event (70 AD destruction of Jerusalem), or the end of the world. Each of these are examples of the Day of the Lord.

4. Promise of restoration

Along with a warning of judgement there is also a promise of both physical and spiritual blessings for those who repent.

5. Outpouring of the Spirit

There is a messianic prophecy in Joel 2:28-32.

28"It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
29"Even on the male and female servants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
30"I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth,
Blood, fire and columns of smoke.
31"The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood
Before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.
32"And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Will be delivered;
For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
There will be those who escape,
As the Lord has said,
Even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.
- Joel 2:28-32

It promises that when the Messiah comes, everyone will have the Spirit of God enabling them to lead holy lives and serve God, not only occasional prophets, kings, or special servants called on at various times to serve the nation (Samuel or Samson, etc.).

This prophecy is quoted by Peter on Pentecost Sunday (Acts 2:17-21) to explain the dynamic work of the Spirit giving the Apostles the gift of speaking in different languages in order to preach to the many nations gathered in Jerusalem on that day. Peter explained that this evidence of the Spirit empowering ordinary men was the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy.

4. The Prophet's Book

  1. Locust plague and call to repentance – Joel 1:1-20
  2. The Day of the Lord and Divine judgement – Joel 2:1-17
  3. Promises of restoration and outpouring of the Holy Spirit – Joel 2:18-32
  4. Judgment on the nations and final restoration – Joel 3:1-17
  5. Final deliverance and blessings for the faithful – Joel 3:18-21

5. The Prophet's Lessons

1. Try Repentance

The locust infestation and the broken economy were not only physical/natural difficulties, they were also an attention getter for people to examine their conduct. Sometimes sickness and trouble are just challenges in life we have to meet and overcome. However, there are times when what's needed is not just quiet suffering but rather a careful examination of our conscience and honest review of our conduct to see if repentance on our part is not in order. It's not unheard of in this day and age that God permits trouble and thorns to force us to stop and review our thinking and conduct to see if some repentance is not in order.

2. The hope that Joel spoke of then is still our hope today.

Everyone can attain the pouring forth of the Spirit today by obeying the same gospel preached by Peter.

37Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?" 38Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 2:37-38

The Spirit in every Christian is the agent Who will raise us up to eternal life!

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
- Romans 8:11

3. God will make things right.

In chapter 3 Joel speaks of the Judgment of the nations of that era that God would accomplish – especially of those people who had mistreated God's people in one way or another (Joel 3:1-3).

This is a preview of the final judgement that God will perform at the end of the world when Jesus returns.

10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.
- II Corinthians 5:10-11

So, don't be dismayed by the seeming victory of evil over good, of gross injustice, of political corruption, of all that's ungodly and unholy that you see every day in the media. God, through His prophets, promises that there will be a reconning.

Amos

1. The Prophet

His name comes from the Hebrew word "Amas" which signifies carrying a burden or a load. The significance of Amos' name is that it was a reflection of his real life's mission of carrying the heavy burden of responsibility of delivering a challenging and significant message from God to the people, calling them to righteousness and accountability before God.

Amos was a shepherd and farmer from Tekoa, a small town in the Southern Kingdom located about ten miles south of Jerusalem. His prophetic ministry was directed at the Northern Kingdom (even though he lived in the Southern Kingdom).

During the time of Amos' ministry (786-746 B.C.) there were other prophets delivering messages to different regions and communities:

  • Hosea – Northern Kingdom
  • Isaiah – North and South Kingdom
  • Micah – Southern Kingdom
  • Jonah – Assyria (Nineveh)

Amos preached during the reign of Jeroboam II's rule over the Northern Kingdom and king Uzziah's over the Southern Kingdom. Amos was not a trained teacher, nor did he come from a family or line of prophets.

He described his background and calling by God in the following verses:

The words of Amos, who was among the sheepherders from Tekoa, which he envisioned in visions concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.
- Amos 1:1
14Then Amos replied to Amaziah, "I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet; for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs. 15But the Lord took me from following the flock and the Lord said to me, 'Go prophesy to My people Israel.'
- Amos 7:14-15

2. The Prophet's Time

Amos prophesied during the rule of Jeroboam which was a time of economic prosperity and military success for the Northern Kingdom.

  • Jeroboam extended the borders of the Northern Kingdom producing more agriculture, trade, and taxes.
  • Israel enjoyed a period of peace which allowed for a focus on internal growth and development.
  • The Northern kingdom also benefited from many trade routes across its territory which brought wealth and resources into the kingdom.
  • Jeroboam had established alliances with other nations which fostered political stability.

However, not all was well since these alliances were accompanied by social injustice, moral decay, and unfaithfulness to the God of Israel Who had originally brought them out of Egyptian slavery and settled them in a prosperous land.

Amos spoke to a nation guilty of the following:

  1. Social injustice – The rich were exploiting the poor and openly perverting justice.
  2. Idolatry and false worship – Jeroboam maintained the worship of the golden calves in Bethel and Dan set up by his father. The people continued to mix pagan religious practices with the worship of Yahweh.
  3. Luxurious lifestyles – The rich indulged themselves and ignored the needs of the poor.
  4. Corruption and bribery – The legal system was compromised by bribes and perversion to benefit the rich.
  5. Military success and complacency – The nation believed that their armies protected them without reference to God.
  6. Dishonest business practices – False weights were used to exploit customers.
  7. Refusal to repent – Despite the warnings of the prophets the people continued in their sinful ways refusing to turn back to God.

3. The Prophet's Message

In response to these moral, religious, and social evils, God chooses a simple shepherd and farmer from the south to prophecy against the sinful elites of the Northern Kingdom. Amos denounces social injustices, economic exploitation, religious idolatry, false worship, and the people's refusal to turn back to God. Despite warnings of a judgement to come, Amos presents a message of the hope of a renewed relationship with God and blessings for those who sincerely turn back to Him.

Note again the three main themes:

  1. God's judgement due to sin
  2. The need to repent
  3. A promise of restoration and blessings

4. The Prophet's Book

A. Outline

The Book of Amos, one of the Twelve Minor Prophets in the Bible, can be outlined as follows:

1. Introduction (Amos 1:1-2)

  • Identifies Amos as a shepherd from Tekoa.
  • Establishes the historical context during the reigns of Uzziah in Judah and
  • Jeroboam II in Israel.

2. Oracles Against the Nations (Amos 1:3-2:16)

  • Pronounces judgments against neighboring nations, including Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab.
  • Highlights God's judgment on these nations for their sins.

3. Oracles Against Israel (Amos 3:1-6:14)

  • Emphasizes Israel's special relationship with God and the responsibility that comes with it.
  • Condemns social injustice, oppression of the poor, and corruption.
  • Warns of impending judgment and calls for repentance.

4. Visions of Judgment (Amos 7:1-9:10)

  • Amos receives a series of visions symbolizing God's judgment, including locusts, fire, a plumb line, and a basket of ripe fruit.
  • Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, opposes Amos and rejects his message.
  • Amos prophesies the downfall of the religious sanctuaries and the exile of the people.

5. Future Restoration (Amos 9:11-15)

  • Concludes with a message of hope and restoration.
  • Promises the rebuilding of the fallen tent of David and the agricultural abundance of the land.
  • Expresses God's faithfulness to His covenant.

B. Special Features

The Book of Amos in the Bible exhibits several distinctive features that set it apart within the prophetic literature:

1. Social Justice Emphasis

  • Amos is known for his strong emphasis on social justice. The famous phrase "let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:24) encapsulates this theme.

2. Universal Accountability

  • Unlike some prophets who focus primarily on the chosen people of Israel or Judah, Amos extends his message of judgment to surrounding nations. He proclaims God's universal sovereignty and holds all nations accountable for their actions.

3. Confrontation with Religious Institutions

  • Amos confronts the religious institutions of his time, particularly the sanctuaries in Bethel and Gilgal. He criticizes the people for engaging in empty religious rituals while neglecting justice and righteousness.

4. Amos' Background

  • Amos introduces himself as a shepherd from Tekoa, emphasizing his humble background. This distinguishes him from the professional prophets and priests of his time and underscores the idea that God can call individuals from any background to deliver His messages.

5. Dialogue with Amaziah

  • The book includes a unique dialogue between Amos and Amaziah, the priest of Bethel. Amaziah opposes Amos and informs the king about his prophecies. This interaction highlights the tension between the prophetic message and the religious establishment.

5. The Prophet's Lessons

1. Commitment to Social Justice is not only for the Politically Minded

Amos's messages highlight the importance of social justice in the eyes of God. Today, the call for justice and compassion remains relevant. As individuals and societies, we can learn from Amos to actively address issues of inequality, poverty, and exploitation.

Our goal as the church is not political but spiritual. We want to reveal Christ by serving our society as Christ served His. We have no miraculous power to feed 5000 with a few loaves of bread and fish but we can feed those in need, visit the sick, comfort those who are in sorrow, stand up for what is right even to our hurt.

2. Authentic Worship is Confirmed by Actual Righteousness

Amos condemned empty religious rituals divorced from genuine righteousness and ethical living. In the contemporary context, the lesson is clear: authentic worship extends beyond rituals to encompass how we treat others and live out our faith. An actual approach to righteousness involves ethical conduct, compassion, and a genuine concern for the wellbeing of others. This challenges us to align our beliefs with our actions and to live out our faith in practical, loving ways that prove in deeds our search for a maturing righteousness.

3. We are Responsible for the Vulnerable (Matthew 25:31-46)

Amos directed his attention to the plight of the poor and vulnerable, challenging individuals and societies to take responsibility for those who are marginalized or oppressed. Today, we tend to leave this work to secular charitable organization who do good but give no glory to God.

The benevolence ministry of the church should be as dynamic as the Evangelism or Worship ministry because it is in this area of ministry that we put to the test the sincerity of our worship rituals and the truth of our gospel message.

If God gave His Son so that we might be saved, we should be able to give up much of our resources to lessen the pain of those who are suffering in this world. In this God is glorified. We also need to remember that God can and does use anyone in any way glorify Himself.