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It's hard to be humble

As with all of the prophets, Amos was a man with a mission.  He was to speak to Israel (7:15), and that’s exactly what he did.  His message at Bethel, in the form of three visions (7:1-9), was that God had given Israel numerous opportunities to repent and they had not availed themselves.  Judgment was imminent and the sword would come against the family of Jeroboam 2 (this was fulfilled in the death of his son, Zechariah - 2 Kings 15:8-12).

Apparently Amos’ message had upset some important people.  Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent a message to Jeroboam 2.  The prophet’s words, says Amaziah, have pierced “the very heart of Israel,” (v. 10), and the land itself was unable to bear them.  Amos was raining of their parade! 

Amaziah then confronted Amos.  He demanded that he return to Judah (Tekoa – 1:1), and do his prophesying there.  Amos’ reply was that he hadn’t chosen to be a prophet and there was nothing in his upbringing to make him want to be one (or perhaps he is rebutting Amaziah’s charge of conspiracy by telling him he is not associated with any of the prophetic groups- 2 Kings 6:1,9:1).  He was a shepherd and farmer.  But it was God who had told Him to prophesy and therefore only God could make him stop.   

Don’t you love that?    

I heard someone once make the remark that, as humans, it’s never our place to judge anyone on any matter.  He noted however that when the Almighty had spoken explicitly on something it was certainly okay to quote Him! 

It occurred to me that he was saying something of critical importance concerning humility.  Humility has a couple of sides to it.  It takes humility to recognize and admit to our limitations.  To acknowledge that we’re not all-knowing, to remember that there have been times when we thought we knew something and we really didn’t, to live without a “swagger,” – all of these are important aspects of what it means to be humble. 

But that’s not everything that’s involved.

The other side of humility is accepting what God has said (James 1:21).   This can be a real struggle for His word can be:

*      unsettling (Hezekiah),

*      painful (Josiah),

*      convicting (David),

*      and demanding (Jonah).

In such cases, it is not at all what we wanted to hear.  We may not like it, agree with it, or appreciate it.  It takes humility to set these things aside and receive the word. 

It also takes humility to do what Amos did and share that word with someone when you know it will be unpopular, unpleasing, and probably unheeded.   

And this is exactly the point that is missed when people like Amaziah accuse the messenger of trespassing on royal territory (7:13).  The messenger (in this case Amos), is labeled arrogant, judgmental, intolerant, etc., - but never humble!  (And the irony is that to do what Amos did was an extreme act of humility).  Those who say worship at the temple in Jerusalem or calf worship at Bethel are equally okay claim the humble position.  After all, the message given by God is open to several interpretations and who is to say which, if any, is correct?  (And if God had not spoken on the matter or it was open to interpretation, they would be correct).  But He has spoken on the matter so what they have done is to mistake ignorance for humility. 

Chesterton was right when he observed that “we are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.”  We’ve overshot humility and landed in a swamp of silliness when we claim that it’s arrogant/intolerant to say anything is wrong.  In our enthusiasm to admit man’s limitations and correct the errors of the Enlightenment, we’ve gone too far and limited God by (in effect), saying that the people He made are incapable of possessing any type of absolute knowledge from Him. 

There’s nothing humble about it when we end advocating a position opposite of God. 

The humble position is to share the message of God with grace, compassion, and mercy.  Even when someone else thinks it’s arrogant.     

In a world where people in false humility claim that they are absolutely sure there are no absolutes, God has spoken and we can know what He said.

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