It was in the year 2000, after some years studying the Jewish prophets, that I first felt I must speak a message of a severe impending national judgement. I called it “The Amos Word”. Let me explain this “Amos word”. Prior to one of the worst national catastrophes that the Jews have ever suffered, namely the destruction in 722 BC of the historical Kingdom of Israel and its capital Samaria, God had given a word of warning to Israel that such a blow would fall. That word came through Amos, and was epitomised in a simple but remorseless and repeated pronouncement, “I will spare them no longer”. The sins calling for this destructive judgement were outlined by Amos, and his prophetic contemporaries. Reading through them I realised they were strikingly and precisely the sins which were being so blatantly and increasingly practised in our own nation and throughout the western world. At that point I became profoundly impressed that the “Amos Word”, “I will spare them no longer”, was God’s word for our own generation. We, too, were facing a devastating cataclysm**; we would not be spared. So I spoke about this and eventually wrote a pamphlet explaining more fully this “Amos Word” and its relevance to our own times, and gave it the title “Living in Amos’ Times”.
However, it is now 2017; things appear to be very much the same, so people might happily conclude that the message was all a big mistake and just the consequence of a personal pessimistic moment that had no real substance. Certainly not many people were inclined to take note of such a message in those early days or give it more than a passing thought. It was actually difficult to find an audience! Over the years I have been left with it to ponder over and wrestle with. Perhaps by now I should be sensible and consider it as something dead and buried!
Yes, perhaps I should – except, however, for one crucial thing, and this one thing also sprang out of Amos’ own experience. It was the startling fact was that the word of judgement which Amos first preached about 750 BC was not fulfilled until some twenty five years later, in 722 BC, when the whole land of Israel was completely devastated and the nation was taken into captivity by the Assyrians, a disaster of unbelievable proportions. In other words, fulfilment only came twenty five years after the prophetic word was first spoken!
Happily, (or unhappily!), when I first spoke out this “Amos word” in 2000 I had already become aware of this time gap between word and fulfilment. In fact I wrote a pamphlet about those long years of delay and gave it the title “Countdown to Chaos”. In it I made some analysis of what was happening in those years; I felt it could be very illuminating. They were marked by a continuous increase in the very things that Amos had been warning Israel about – the gross moral decline in the nation, its increasing rejection of its traditional Jehovah religion with its strong ethical base, its love of money, its unjust accumulation of huge wealth by a few at the expense of the poor, and its ever increasing craving for drink, pleasure and high living. All these things were getting worse. These 25 years were also years characterized by a collapse of principled and wise political government. In other words instead of heeding any word of warning about the nation’s behaviour, the nation was blindly and persistently getting worse. The nation was in fact getting riper and riper for judgement. I knew that such a delay would be part of the process we were involved in.
It is important to note, therefore, that a long time delay does not mean that a prophetic word is wrong. In the case of Amos it simply meant that God was slowly setting the stage for the judgment which had been prophesied. Had the nation repented in those “25 years of grace” rather than just going on as usual, God might have mitigated the judgement (as with Jonah and Nineveh). But instead of repenting, there was hardening. So the stage was set for the eventual emergence of a very aggressive, powerful Assyria which would which would be the instrument of judgement, destruction and exile.
So, No! I do not consider the message of 17 years ago as void. On the contrary I see that everything that happened in Israel after Amos’ prophesying has been happening in our own country (and in the West generally!). We have been in a “Countdown to Chaos” of our own. Ten years after 9/11 I wrote a pamphlet entitled “The Contemporary Countdown to Chaos” in which I tried to make some assessment of what had been happening to our society over those ten years. Five features stood out: futile foreign ventures (Iraq etc.), financial crash (the fiasco of 2008), growing corruption and conflict in high places, fast moving moral degradation (especially sexually) and a growing exclusion of God (the Judeo-Christian framework collapsing). The last six years since then have seen a marked further downward trend in all those areas.
So, 17 years on, I feel a very strong need to revisit a message which I feel is ominously on course for fulfilment. I want to consider its implications in the weeks and months ahead.
I understand that there may be people reading this who struggle to make the personal direct application of Amos to our own times that I have made. For those I would simply say that the study of the Old Testament prophets for themselves will none the less be an eye opener on a panorama of how God deals with nations. He is the God of the nations and has dealings with them. The large section of the Old Testament which is given over to the prophets is very important in our global age. Study them and let God speak through them.
Next week, in addition to the blog, the first of a two weekly Bible Page will be published on the site. It will be on the subject of “The Fear of the Lord”. Next week’s blog will explain.
** I use the word “cataclysm” carefully and advisedly. I would use this word for such events as the wholesale slaughter of men in the trenches of W.W.1, the utter destruction of German cities and populations in W.W.2, along with the devastations perpetrated on Russia, and the appalling devastations in China following the Japanese invasion in the 1930s. Large and widespread natural disasters could also be called cataclysmic.
N.B. All the titles in bold print are pamphlets which can be read, listened to or downloaded from the website