Sunday, May 6, 2018

Consequences of Squelching Prophets

10 Then Amaziah the priest of Beth-el sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words.
11 For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land.
12 Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there:
13 But prophesy not again any more at Beth-el: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court.
14 Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit:
15 And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.
16 Now therefore hear thou the word of the Lord: Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac.
17 Therefore thus saith the Lord; Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land. (Amos 7:10-17)

In these verses, Amos is complained of to the king of Israel on the grounds that he is conspiring against the king just because he has said the Lord would raise a sword against the house of Jeroboam.

Who is the complainer? None other than Amaziah, the priest of Bethel. It is not clear whether Amaziah is an idolatrous priest or a priest of Jehovah, but either way, it is ironic that a priest thinks the land can’t bear all Amos’s words. Amaziah also tells Amos to go elsewhere—to Judah, for instance—and prophesy there, but not in the king’s particular place of worship. Amaziah says

Amos responds to Amaziah’s opposition with a prophecy just for Amaziah: that his wife would be a harlot, his children would fall by the sword, his land would be divided among others, he would die in a polluted land, and Israel would go into captivity.

Because Amaziah can’t bear Amos’s words and thinks the land can’t bear them either, Amaziah is not going to tell the truth that needs to be told. That means even if his family begins to sin, he won’t try to stop them, and his family will do worse and worse things.

If Amaziah thinks the land can’t bear the truth, then he’s not going to teach it, and people won’t get a chance to hear the principles that could correct their errors and learn about the Messiah who can save them from their sins. If he doesn’t call for justice and righteousness, then eventually the injustice and wickedness will affect him, and his land will be taken away and divided among others. The people will get worse and worse and go down to destruction.

Even today there are people who, though they call themselves spiritual, can’t understand the scriptures.

Hosea wrote, “I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing.” (Hosea 8:12) Some of the things that are most often counted strange from the Law of Moses are the strict prohibitions and penalties against sexual sin or death penalties for sins that are considered trivial today—Sabbath-breaking, dishonoring parents, speaking evil of the leaders of the people, blasphemy.

It’s common to think about the consequences and shudder at the idea of what it would be like if those who were currently in violation were to have the penalties enforced, but who thinks about why such strictness was necessary or whether there was an instructive purpose to it? Whoever considers trying to fit themselves to the principle rather than rejecting it just because the penalties seem fearsome?

It is wonderful to know that commandments are for our blessing, not to ruin our fun. They show us a higher way to live, a way to find an optimum level of happiness that doesn’t injure ourselves or others with excess. They guide us so we can come to find greater long-term happiness, even if the short-term sacrifices look hard. They help us avoid carnal pleasures that would result in long-term suffering and regret.