The Missing Flannelgraph

I started on Amos this morning. The Minor Prophets have a bit of a bad reputation because they’re perceived to be all doom and gloom.  Except Jonah who is probably the only Minor Prophet to get his own flannelgraphs and Veggie Tales episode. And he was the biggest jerk of them all. Christians. Sheesh.

True to form, Amos starts in on judgment: “For three transgressions of _____, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment” is the repeated refrain. Amos doesn’t understand marketing, that kind of thing just doesn’t make for good “Kidz Fun Zone” (or whatever your children’s ministry is called) material. It seldom makes it into the adult Sunday school program for that matter. But it should. The Minor Prophets are speaking God’s word to his people every bit as much as the Major Prophets are and therefore we need to hear them.

To begin to make Amos accessible it helps to understand when he wrote and who he wrote to.  In chapter 2 the woes fall to Judah and Israel. That means that Amos wrote before the Assyrians took Israel into captivity in about 722 B.C. Given the two kings mentioned in the first verse, it is most likely that Amos wrote around 760 B.C. As I’ve noted, his message is largely judgment and though he rails at  a handful of nations in the first chapter and mentions Judah in the second chapter, the bulk of his message is aimed at Israel, the northern ten tribes.

And that’s what makes the first few chapters most remarkable to me. Israel is prophesied against using the same “formula” the prophet used against the other nations, even Judah. This is the general judgment when everyone stands before the LORD and gives account. God’s people and strangers all. No one escapes. But that isn’t it. The unjust are dealt with and then God turns toward his own. Judah is judged. But God’s greatest complaint is against Israel.

This kind of reminds me of how the church will be judged but won’t be condemned because of Jesus.  God looks at Judah and announces his displeasure.  The then most chilling part of the judgment. There will be those who remind Jesus that they worked miracles in his name and he will tell them “I don’t know who you are. You have nothing to do with me.”

Now that isn’t what was going on in Israel. They were pretty rotten from the moment the nation split. They were guilty of flagrant idolatry from the beginning. And Judah wasn’t a shining example of piety either. They had their ups and downs and judgment would come to them in a short order. So the picture painted (or flannelgraphed) by Amos isn’t a perfect image of the final judgment, but you should expect to find the basic shape of the judgment to be the same as the final judgment. I mean, it is the same Judge in both cases. And that’s what stood out. God judges his people just as he judges the nations. But he expects more from us.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. – 2Co 5:10

For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” – Heb 10:30

So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. – James 2:12

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. – James 3:1

And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile – 1Pt 1:17

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? – 1Pt 4:17

And the good news for us is “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) Amen.

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One Comment

  • I can hardly wait for your flannel graph set! Well stated.

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