When you hear the word “prophet,” what comes to mind? I think most would say that it invokes the image of a grizzled old man with a long gray beard, where birds might build a nest. He would be dressed in clothes made of animal hair or some simple natural fiber.
He might carry a staff because he would need to do a lot of walking. His sandals would be well-worn. His feet dirty. Personal grooming — lacking.
The message he was called to deliver would not broadcast via television, radio or social media. It was given through simple means of personal contact or written word.
This character would certainly not be the shy reclusive type. In fact, the prophet would be quite the opposite. Perhaps he had formerly been like this but not after he had received his call directly from God.
The prophet would boldly proclaim the Word of God to a largely non-receptive audience; a mouthpiece of God’s scathing rebuke for abhorrent behavior.
The prophet would not win a popularity contest, but he would not have a need to be liked or loved. He would likely die a violent death at the hand of his critics. He would be labeled a “loser.”
When I think of the Old Testament prophets, there is the obvious choice of Isaiah. In part, because John the Baptist was seemingly a reincarnation of the man, the very least in his outward appearance.
For me, the Prophet Amos comes in as a close second. Why? It is because a key part of God’s message delivered through Amos was in many ways universal in nature. It has been present in every age of man. It is a message that will always be largely laughed at, rejected and dismissed by those whom it condemns.
The prophet delivered a message calling for justice. Amos 5:24 says, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
What were the sins of the people that God was warning about? The list included greed, self-righteousness, deceit, callousness, arrogance and the oppression of the poor by the rich.
The eventual outcome of continuing to go down this path was the demise of the people. Yes, they would scoff, taunt and laugh at the prophet, and then kill him, but his message would come true.
I do not believe that God necessarily snapped his fingers to make such happen. It could have simply been a self-fulfilling prophecy. That sadly happens in every age of man.
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for 30 years.