This is the first of two posts this week. This post will provide a general background on the emergence of the prophets who we will study over the next couple of months. The second post (coming shortly) is our lesson for this week. The information contained in this post will be helpful to you, but you may also want to check out this video, done by my friend and a fellow minister in Durham, it works through the political realities at play as Israel and Judah head toward exile and the prophets (from the time before, during, and after the exile) confront the rulers and people. The video is 15 minutes and well worth your time!
Today we work with a favorite Biblical book of mine (I wish we had time to spend multiple weeks here!). Amos was one of the earliest prophets. Dating to the 8th century B.C., Amos was a farmer, and was from the Southern Kingdom of Judah, but preached in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Okay, we are a bit ahead of ourselves, let’s find out how that Northern Kingdom/Southern Kingdom thing happened.
As you may remember from Vacation Church School this past year (We Want a King!!!) and from our first couple of lessons, Israel, now located in the Promised Land after their time of wandering begins to ask for ” a king like other nations.” They are, at the time, overseen as necessary by judges, leaders in battle and moral exemplars who remind the people of who God was and hod God wanted them to be God’s people. Eventually, Saul rises to power as Israel’s first king. During this time (which we have covered in recent weeks), we begin to see the first prophets–those we have been talking about, among them Nathan and Elijah. The prophets in this case confront those in power and call them to account. Stories and legends make up the accounts of their lives and they confront those in power, holding the monarchy accountable to God’s ways.
During Solomon’s reign, there is a shift in Israel and increased tension between the Israelite tribes in the North and those in the South, especially as it relates to the politics of temple building–taxes, human labor, centralized worship, etc. The North succeeds from the South (where Jerusalem is located) and this inaugurates the time known as the “divided Kingdom” (Israel in the North and Judah in the South).
Among the prophets are those we will focus on for the next several weeks (Amos first, since he is the first!) In the new order, the role of the prophet in relation to the people shifts in interesting ways and we see prophets confronting the lavishness and wealth of the people and their oppression of the poor, widowed, orphaned, and helpless–in short, the people have failed to love God and their neighbor fully, they have broken the law. These prophets see God’s judgement looming in the distance and they attempt to warn those in power and the congregations of Israel that times are changing.
More information coming. Remember to watch the video above. It’s packed with excellent information that you will want to have this Sunday and those that follow!