The Prophet & Shepherd, Amos, speaks in striking language when he says: The Lord ROARS FROM ZION; Shepherds mourn; the top of Carmel withers. “Roars from Zion” is attention getting, but the top of Carmel withering should cause anyone who attends or is concerned about their Church to stop and dig deeper into it. It did me. I have been digging into this for a week and am challenged deeply by what I found.
“Top of Carmel” was the place of training/learning and sometimes residence of the Prophets of the Old Testament. Many of the Prophets were contemporaries of Elijah himself–many others came after. The “Prophet” was more of a category of calling. The “Office of the Prophet” sums it up–requiring a life long commitment of training, learning, and growing. Interestingly, many of the Prophets of the Old Testament times don’t have any “Books” in the Old Testament. The Prophet was called by God into a special ministry to address and redress the culture of the times. The “Top of Carmel” was a revered place of valued spiritual vitality. The “withering” of the top of Carmel indicates that slow downward vortex of losing the luster of spiritual vitality–the condition Amos addresses by naming geographical neighbors to Israel (Judah in his text) with his main concentration on the “sins” of Israel itself.
When I got to examining Amos’ use of “the top of Carmel withering” I realized he was not talking about a event, but a process. He is addressing the slow degenerative loss of the “Office of the Prophet” in the culture of ministry. By the way, when I write, speak, or refer to the “Office of the Prophet” I am not talking about some cult-like “Fore-teller of the future,” rather, I am talking about the front line, spiritually up-to-date, “FORTH-TELLER.” The modern day Prophet lays it out for God’s people. He/She challenges us with spiritual concept and understanding. Is the modern day Prophet a “perfect person?” No. Used by God? Yes. Does their walk match their talk? Hopefully–but the character of the Prophet is not near as important as the challenge the Prophet brings.
The “top of the Carmel whithers” because the Prophets are not addressing the sins of the culture. “Addressing” the sins is an intentional term. “Address” is different from CONDEMNING. When you (condemn) you take away any space for redemptive change. “Address” is different from JUDGMENT. When you (judge) you are creating a condescending culture of pride. “Addressing” the sins of the culture, like Amos does in chapter one and two of his Old Testament book, gives those who are transgressing the opportunity to realize the sin, repent, and feel true redeeming qualities in their life once again.
“Addressing” the sins of the neighbors (we will look at the “neighbors” in a moment) is only part of the issue with the “withering” of the top of Carmel. The other issue is–what happened to the Prophet that the top of Carmel would wither? It is NOT the Prophet that is absent (today); It is NOT the Office of the Prophet that is absent either; It is the ATTENTIVENESS OF THE PROPHET that is missing. The Prophet is “missing in action” because the modern day Prophets are more concerned with things like:
COLLABERATING WITH THE “CREATIVE TEAM” THAN COLLABERATING WITH GOD.
CREATING A PITHY NEW SERIES THAT WILL “GET THE ENERGY UP” WITH PEOPLE RATHER THAN SEEK THE FLOW AND DIRECTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
FINDING THE RIGHT “BRAND” SO THAT “THE COMMUNITY WILL BE EXCITED BY WHAT IS HAPPENING” RATHER THAN SPENDING TIME ALONE WITH GOD.
The modern Prophet has “withered” the top of Carmel by being more concerned about keeping people happy (and attending) than confronting them with going deeper spiritually. The “pleaser” essentially “withers” the top of Carmel.
Amos addresses the sins of the neighbors and then bears down on the sins of Israel. The parallel is: When Amos addresses the main sins of Damacus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab, he is addressing the general spirit of sin that has emerged in the culture. When Amos addresses the seven or so sins of the seventh (his beloved people, Israel) he is bringing it into our inner lives.
The thing about the “Office of the Prophet” is how CURRENT the ancient (and even the ancient of the ancient) things seem. Here they are in Amos Chapter 1 and 2:
- DAMACUS 1:3–“SIN OF EXCESSIVENESS”: Interpreted by the way Amos uses the concept of “threshing.”
- GAZA 1:6–“SIN OF POLITICS”: Amos talks about the concept of “deportation.” Inside the idea emerges how corrupt politics is at its core. The modern day Prophets have allowed politics of the Church to control what they say and do. The politics of the world have corrupted everything we do and say.
- TYRE 1:9–“SIN OF FAVORITISM OR ‘BACK SCRATCHING'”: “Didn’t remember the covenant of brotherhood” comes from what Amos is describing.
- EDOM 1:11–“SIN OF ABUSIVENESS–PHYSICAL OR EMOTIONAL OR VERBAL”: Amos says, “pursued his brother with the sword” which prophetically describes abuse.
- AMMON 1:13–“SIN OF ABORTION”: “Ripped open pregnant women”
- MOAB 2:1–“SIN OF CRUCIFYING THE CHARACTER OF OTHERS”: Amos description is the “descretion of the corspe of the King” and burning his bones. Prophetically this addresses how we speak of our leaders–any leader (any where). We need to be very cautious in the use of our words.
- ISRAEL 2–“SIN OF IDOLATRY”: The breaking of the first (and greatest) command–“Have no other gods before me” has been broken and not challenged. The Prophet has allowed selfishness to rule the day, and is himself/herself self absorbed as well. The idolatry of selfishness is described 7 ways by Amos–
a. Not keeping the Word of God central in all areas of life. 2:4
b. Lying. Twisting the truth–spinning the truth. 2:4
c. Unteachableness. 2:4
d. Money. Selling out for money. 2:6
e. Sexual impropriety. 2:7
f. Disrespectful and Drunkards. 2:8
g. Pride. 2:9
Let’s knock it off and get with it! BRING BACK THE TOP OF CARMEL–LISTEN FOR THE ROAR OF THE LION OF JUDAH OUT OF ZION. If not now, when?