Recently I’ve been reading a book on the Minor Prophets, well to be honest I have been reading it for a while, because each chapter I am drawn to nuggets of truth I had missed before. This past week I was reading of Amos, and I was blown by the willingness of his heart to follow the path God laid before him, when he was unequipped, when he was ‘just’ a shepherd. When he had no idea what the plan would look like. But within this book it mentions how Amos cried out for the people. On more than one occasion God is preparing a judgement and so Amos stands in the gap between the people and God and pleads for them (Amos 7). Reading these words I was drawn to think of Jonah and his choice in regards to the path God has lain before him.
The call of God was evident in these men, simply put; God spoke directly into their lives with a simple request; to preach Gods grace and see the kingdom of God extended the purpose in their lives for this moment was the same. They were chosen out of everyone else God could have selected. But let’s see the difference in their character.
Amos 7:14 finds Amos admitting to his lack of skill, acknowledging his current trade, a shepherd, by no means would he have been equipped to speak the words of God and yet to God he wasn’t ‘Just’ anything- he was an open and willing vessel that could be used by God to save these nations no matter what trade was connected to his life. It was Gods plan for him to show them the error of their ways and so Amos went, with the people on his heart.
Jonah however was more than equipped, 2 Kings mentions a previous prophecy that he had spoken and one that had flourished seeing boundaries restored. Jonah was equipped; but where does he go? Jonah does not get up and speak the words God has placed in his heart; instead he looks for a boat to Tarshish. Instead of travelling 500 miles east to a city where the souls would be lost without these words, he travels to the sea and attempts a 2500 mile journey in hiding and in annoyance with God. He actually believed he could outrun God, only to find himself in the belly of a great fish, after being thrown overboard by a few sailors who feared for their lives. The fish might I add was God’s grace. Do you think Jonah deserved it? Stamping his feet and acting like a child? God didn’t have to step in but after three days in the belly of what some would call a whale he was spewed onto the beach where he then headed to Nineveh.
All looked well with Jonah, it appeared he was in an attitude of Grace, and standing in the presence and will of God, but as the people of Nineveh come and find the Grace God was extending to them Jonahs mood changes, and all of a sudden we find ourselves in Jonah Chapter 4 with Jonah wishing he was dead. God had extended a gift of love to a city of idol worshippers, and sinners, and Jonahs first response was anger? What a poor character…! Chapter 4 tells us why, he says to God ‘I knew that you were a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity’. In paraphrase, I knew you would show them kindness and I didn’t think they deserved it. For God loved them, but Jonah didn’t.
Then lets see Amos, God is prepping to bring judgement on a people, on a nation, and Amos stands against him, “Sovereign Lord Forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small” Amos 7:2. You see while Amos was willing to preach to the people on behalf of God equipped or unequipped, he had the people in his heart, he wanted to see them revived, and restored, his heart was of love for both the God he served so willingly; and the people God loved so deeply. It wasn’t an idol preach or a tick of a box for Amos but it was a cry of his heart that these people would return to God and live righteous lives before him. The fact that he was willing to challenge God for the people tells me, he and God walked together long before this moment, he had a healthy relationship with the Almighty.
In these books we find two men, two examples, one with a character built up because of relationship with God, and showing love for a sinful nation. The other was a man with skills but a heart only for his own nation, a man who could not fathom a God who would want to shower love upon another sinful nation.
I suppose the question this rough attempt at contrast raises is which man or women are you? Would you step up if God spoke into your life? Are you attempting to build up a Christ like character? Or would you put your personal feelings before Gods call? Are you an obedient servant to God no matter how obscure the request, no matter how daunting the call? Amos or Jonah, Obedient or disobedient, loving or conceited, willing open vessel or stubborn closed book?