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Seek the Lord and Live! (Amos)


"Seek the Lord and Live! (Amos)"

May 4, 2013


The Common and the Simple

In 1972, journalist David Halberstam published The Best and the Brightest, a book on the architects of U.S. policy in Vietnam in the early 1960s. Halberstam's title refers to these individuals having received the best education in the best institutions of higher learning; additionally, most had achieved, prior to their involvement in the emerging U.S. Vietnam strategy, notable successes and triumphs in business, government, and academia. Why then, Halberstam asked, did the policies, formulated and implemented by these scholars, prove to be disastrous?

We could argue that war was not their forte; however, what made these men successful in one field did not, in fact, carry over to another. Halberstam made the point clear, that the best and the brightest can be a hindrance to a project or a nation. 

If you look at biblical history, God rarely chose “the best and the brightest." And when “the best and the brightest" have stumbled as it were into the sacred story, they have often proved not so bright after all.  Examples include, King Saul, Judas, and Solomon, who for all his wisdom is described as an old fool, because he departed from God until his old age. In contrast, some of God’s best servants often haven't started out so well.  Moses, a prince, committed murder, fled into the desert, and attempted to talk his way out of his mission.  Jonah fled in the opposite direction of his orders to avoid confronting his discouragement, fear and bigotry.  Paul was a persecutor and an enabler of mob violence.  God humbled these servants that they might see their ongoing need of absolute dependence on Him.

Many of God’s chosen ones had humble beginnings.  King David started as a shepherd, and most of the Apostles were fishermen -- not exactly the best and brightest, they were common and simple people.  The prophet Amos was no exception; he was a farmer. We read in Amos 7:14-15:

“Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdsman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.”

Amos did not choose to send himself, to prophecy unto Israel. Instead he was given heavenly credentials and authority, as were the later William Miller and Ellen White. Similar to Amos, William Miller was untrained in theology, and was also a farmer, but he was a studious man whom God used to preach the nearness of Christ’s Second Advent based on the 2300 day prophecy.  Another of God’s servants from humble beginnings was Ellen White. She, unlike William Miller and Prophet Amos, was not a farmer. Instead, she was a young woman who, unable to study beyond elementary school due to her injury, God imbued with His Spirit and with power.  She was given many revelations from God to assist His people on their journey to the kingdom. To the world, most of the advent pioneers were not accomplished or polished, but God chose to use them.

Christ Himself also chose to come to this world as a common and simple man.  In Isaiah 53:2, we read that Christ grew up “… as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.”  Indeed, Paul says of Jesus in 2 Corinthians 8:9 that “… though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor...”  And in Matthew, Christ said He had no place to call his own – “… The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). 

Now, you would expect that a people who profess to know and worship God, would understand that this is the way He works. He chooses whom He will, and imbues them with His Spirit and with power. But unfortunately, we in our pride often resist those sent by God because they do not meet our standards, and come with a message we do not want to hear. Amos himself gave the reason,

Amos 5:10: “They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly.”

Throughout history, professed followers of God have done whatever was in their power to stop the one who came in the name of the Lord with rebuke.  Ellen White says, “…those who are true to God will be persecuted; their motives will be impugned, their best efforts misinterpreted, and their names cast out as evil”  Acts of the Apostles, p. 431.  “Those who hate the preachers of righteousness, hate righteousness. Thus, we can see how God’s messengers were killed by those to whom they were sent.  Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Christ was despised and rejected of men, esteemed not, oppressed, and brought as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:3 – 7). 

Hebrews chapter 11 depicts the Hall of Faith, where are cataloged many of the feats of the faithful. And yet, in verses 36-38, we see that (earthly) success was not the fate of all. Let us read,

“And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

Were these men and women not God’s servants? Yes they were, and like the ‘best and brightest’, their missions also seemed to fail– so where’s the difference? We know these missions did not fail because God’s Word “prospers in the thing to which it is sent…” Isa.55:11; but to the world, the life and work of God’s servants is indeed a failure.

This kind of spirit of rejecting God’s messengers was present in the Minneapolis 1888 conference.  Ellen White said that it was the Lord that sent the young messengers.  She said, “The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones” Testimonies to Ministers p. 91. Several times Ellen White reiterated that the message presented by these two fellows had heavenly and divine credentials.  However, Waggoner and Jones were seen by the brethren as unseasoned young upstarts. How dare they oppose those who had been present at the Great Disappointment of 1844?  These brethren forgot that in 1844 they too were considered unseasoned young upstarts, preaching foolishness about the end of the world and Christ’s return.  These very pioneers treated the young preachers as they were treated 44 years earlier, somehow missing the irony. 

Ellen White did not mince any words rebuking the brethren for their attitude and behavior.  She was adamant that the brethren rejecting the message had the same spirit as that of the Jews who crucified Christ (Testimonies to Ministers 79, 1895; Special Testimonies, Series A, No. 6, p. 20).  Furthermore, she warned them that they were ignorant of their true spiritual condition, and were on the brink of committing the unpardonable Sin. 

Where do we stand?  What if God were to send us young men and women from the poorest parts of the world to give us further light, how would we receive them? Would we allow prejudice to take over?  Would we, like good people of Laodicea say, “we have all the light we need, we have no need of more?”  Or would we humbly go to the Lord and ask Him, “Is this from You?  Did You send these messengers?”  I pray we respond the humble way. 

-Raul Diaz