• Service times

    Services times are:

    Saturday night 7:30 pm for our Chinese/English service [except for the second Saturday of every month when the service starts at 6:30 pm and is followed by a shared meal]. (Pastor Daniel Choi.)

    Sunday 10 am for our English language service (Pastor Jeff Whittaker).

    Sunday 11:30 am for our Chinese (Mandarin) language service. (Pastor Daniel Choi.)

  • Contact details…

    Physical and postal address:
    4 Inverary Avenue,
    Epsom,
    Auckland 1023,
    NEW ZEALAND.

    Email:
    epsombaptist@clear.net.nz

    Telephone:
    (0064 9) 6306010

    Contacts:
    Rev. Jeff Whittaker
    Pastor Daniel Choi

  • Church Officers…

    Church Treasurer: Ann Guan

    Church Secretary: Margaret Whittaker

    Church Deacons: Anne Bartley, Ian de Stigter, Kristy Choi, Helen Evans, Willa Hui, and Alfred Zhou.

The calling to be a prophet…

I am partway through a sermon series on the book of Amos. It’s not an easy book to preach on. I was interested to find in my background reading that the book of Amos was neglected for centuries because of the absence of positive material. It seems that only a growing interest in social justice issues over the last couple of centuries has resulted in a re-discovery of Amos’ challenging words.

 Prophet Amos

My intention here, however, is not to examine the contents of the book of Amos. Rather, I want to reflect on the role of the prophet as we see it lived out in Amos and other biblical prophets. Now, there is little biographical information about Amos the person in the book. But that’s OK. We don’t need to know about the person of the prophet to be able to look at what the prophet does. From looking at Amos (the book), and other biblical prophets, I believe that there are five key components in the role of prophet, viz:

  • Reluctance: Most of the prophets are described as having been highly ambivalent about the call placed on their lives by God to act as a prophet. (This seems to be in marked contrast to today, when people seem to expect honour upon labelling themselves a prophet, rather than the opprobrium that was the biblical prophet’s typical lot.)
  • Diagnosis: Walter Brueggemann’s writings on the prophets make it clear that they were not people plucking ideas out of the spiritual ether. Rather, the prophets were people immersed in the details of the covenants enacted between God and God’s elected people. The condemnations announced by the prophets are thus found in general form in the covenants, particularly in the so-called curses that became active in event of failure by the elected people to uphold their side of the covenant agreement. The prophet’s unique calling was to see how these curses would work out in the milieu of the day.
  • Proclamation of God’s judgment: This, of course, proceeded from the diagnosis described above. The proclamation was made in words, yes, but often acted out in some symbolic way as well. (Many today seem to aspire to this aspect of prophetic ministry. Somehow they miss the fact that God often warned his prophets that they would be ignored – at best – or killed if things went badly.) The proclamations were often ambiguous, meaning that the prophet’s were able to ‘see’ in a general sense but not in detail. For example, Amos predicts that the king of Israel would fall by the sword. He didn’t. But his end did come.
  • Intercessor: Next, Shalom M Paul in his commentary on Amos from the Hermenaia series points out that many of the prophets were called to intercede for the very people to whom they were sent. That is, the prophet was not given the luxury of remote and uninvolved condemnation. They had to enter into the agony of wrestling in prayer on behalf of those who more often than not hated them violently.
  • Living sacrifice: Lastly, I believe that the prophets had to see themselves as living sacrifices, if they were lucky. We can see this in the book of Jonah, where Jonah tells the sailors to cast him into the sea so that they will be safe. If unlucky, the prophet became of real sacrifice as they were killed by those enraged by their message of condemnation. But whose sacrifice were they? I believe that they are God’s sacrifice of Godself (in the person of the called prophet), showing the lengths to which God goes to keep the covenant relationship alive.

Realistically, who would want to be a prophet without a calling from God? And yet many declare themselves so appointed. Let’s not take such people at their word. Let’s discern according to the criteria listed above whether or not God really has called them, or whether some other more base motive is involved.

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