Availability Trumps Training

Amos 1:1 “The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa…what he saw concerning Israel” (NIV).

Observation: Amos is a book of prophetic doom and judgment to be brought against both Israel andJudah. Both nations were experiencing a season of prosperity. In their pursuit of comfort, they had become increasingly secularized. They forgot God’s provision, and memory of  His past disciplines dimmed. It is onto this stage that Amos stepped, identified as a shepherd from Tekoa, near Bethlehem.

Application: The essence of Amos’s message is found in Amos 3:1-2, “Hear this word the Lord has spoken against you…against the whole family I brought up out of Egypt: ‘You only have I chosen of all the families on the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins.’” The rest of the book is largely given to a description of the methods God would use to discipline those He loves.

See how God uses an obscure shepherd from an out-of-the-way town to thunder warning to His people? The fact that Amos was merely an insignificant shepherd and orchard tender is emphasized again in chapter 7 when Amaziah, a royal priest, denigrates Amos’s message based upon his day job: “Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I was neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people”’” (vv. 14-15, NIV).

In this ancient story of Amos’s call is a lesson of enormous import for me today: availability trumps training. A man or woman attuned to hearing God must above all else be interruptible. We know nothing of Amos’s early life except that he did not spring from the ruling or religious elite of the day. But his response to God’s call suggests he had not only learned to hear God’s voice but was willing to have his career cut short by submitting to divine calling.

The profound conviction in all this is not that one calling is more important than another. Whatever my vocation, whether shepherd, homemaker, or high-powered mogul, I must at all times be interruptible. If I am truly His, then my marching orders must come from Him alone. No human argument to the contrary may be allowed to override the Lord’s nudging to drop everything and go in a different direction if He so orders.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, it is staggering to realize that You change the course of nations through the most ordinary of individuals, people who simply have a heart to hear and obey. Attune me to respond as Amos responded, to lay aside the comfortable and familiar in obedience to Your leading.

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