The words of Amos, who was among the sheepherders from Tekoa, which he envisioned in visions concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.
I was only a few words into this verse when I felt that there was something here that bore note. It is not the kings during whose reigns these visions came to Amos, though knowing the time frame is helpful — Amos was a contemporary of Isaiah, who saw his vision of God in the temple in the year that King Uzziah died (Isaiah 6:1). . It is not the earthquake, especially since earthquakes barely register to a born and raised Californian. What caught my attention is that Amos was among the sheepherders from Tekoa.
Tekoa was in Judah, pretty squarely in the middle of it. This does not mean too much, except to say that it is not the most famous part of the area. Bethlehem and Jerusalem are in the same vicinity and are far more notable locations. This area had, however, been a place from which a wise woman was taken to speak to King David and it had been built up as a fortified city.
It is possible that the bad reputation of shepherds had not yet taken hold in Amos’ time. The memory of King David, who had been a shepherd in his youth, was probably still reasonably strong. Despite this, I doubt that shepherds were held in high esteem. David was the youngest sibling and was catching the undesirable duties, as the youngest child is wont. Amos is likely in the same position, doing a necessary job that most folks find undesirable.
All of this brings me around to what this verse spoke into my heart this morning. God can and does use anyone. God had taken Israel’s second king from the sheepfolds and God, in Amos, reaches back into the sheepfolds and draws out a prophet. There are a few things that I find likely to be true about Amos that give, to me, an indication of why God would choose to use a virtual nobody — especially in light of the fact that God was already using Isaiah at the same time — to deliver His messages.
First, Amos was not averse to work that no one else wanted. Amos was with the sheepherders. Sheep herding is, by all accounts, labor intensive. Not a lot of people want strenuous labor with long hours for an uncertain payback. Amos, on the other hand, did the work. I do not know his reasoning for doing so, only that he did it. God may have chosen Amos because God was looking for a heart that was willing to work — and work in capital letters. This begs the question: Am I willing to work for God? Amos, I am convinced, was absolutely willing.
Second, being out with the sheep meant that Amos was away from the distractions of city life. While the days would be laborious and long, the nights would be spent watchful. And it may be this watchfulness and stillness that allowed God to get through to Amos. Which brings up another question: Is there time and space in my day when I quiet myself; a time when I push away the distractions of the day and focus? Amos had this time every day.
Third, shepherds are all about their sheep. It is not about self or about advancement for a shepherd. There is no room for that. If the focus is not on the sheep all day every day then sheep are lost to accidents and predators and other mishaps. Perhaps God chose to commission Amos because God knew that Amos would be all about God’s message. Which brings up the third question for this morning: Am I all about God’s message? God is all about saving souls and that message needs to be communicated. Rather than send angels, God sends people like me.
Finally, Amos was, in his day, a nobody. Shepherds were not praised or looked up to. They still are not. There are plenty of jobs to which a young person might aspire, but shepherd is seldom, if ever, on the list. Amos is a reminder that God can and does use anyone to accomplish His work and deliver His messages. It occurs to me that God, when He puts on human flesh, chooses to once again have shepherds deliver the message. Amos must have done an excellent job.
To wrap this up, Amos was not a “somebody” by the standards of just about any historical epoch. He was, however, dedicated to his work, willing to work hard, and had a regular habit of being watchful and focused. God can, I think, use anyone with those qualifications, regardless of education or social standing. God can use anyone. Am I ready to be anyone?