Amos 3:7-9; Joel 2-3

Introduction

President Ezra Taft Benson gave this important reminder regarding the responsibility of a prophet and the frequent response of the people to his words: “As the prophet reveals the truth, it divides the people. The honest in heart heed his words, but the unrighteous either ignore the prophet or fight him. When the prophet points out the sins of the world, the worldly either want to close the mouth of the prophet, or else act as if the prophet didn’t exist, rather than repent of their sins.

Popularity is never a test of truth. Many a prophet has been killed or cast out. As we come closer to the Lord’s second coming, you can expect that as the people of the world become more wicked, the prophet will be less popular with them” (“Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” in Speeches of the Year, 1980. [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1981], p.29). This truth is specifically illustrated in the lives and teachings of the two prophets we will now examine, Amos and Joel.

“Minor” vs. “Major” prophets

There are twelve “minor” prophets books [referred to as minor-meaning small’] signifying the quantity rather than the quality of these books. Their messages are as vital as those of the major (‘large’) books. These prophets in order are: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. We have already addressed the messages of Hosea, Jonah, and Micah, and will later address the messages of Zechariah and Malachi.

Ministry of Amos and Joel

As noted in the Gospel Doctrine Teachers manual, 1996, p.171), Amos “ministered to the people of the Northern Kingdom from about 800 to 750 B.C.” or approximately thirty years prior to the end of the kingdom’s existence in 721 B. C. The period of the Prophet Joel’s ministry is in question. Dr. Sidney B. Sperry notes, “[Joel’s ministry] has been dated from before 900 B.C. to 400 B.C.” (Sidney B. Sperry, The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1952], p. 288). The Chronology found in the Bible Dictionary, of the Holy Bible containing cross references to the Standard Works of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1989, p. 638, places Joel (?) at 856 B.C. followed by Hosea, Jonah and Amos. Because the writings of Joel have specific relevance to the latter days, Amos’ teachings will be addressed first. It is important to remember that while a prophet may be directly addressing a transgression of his time, he may also be providing a warning regarding conditions that will occur at a latter date.

The Book of Amos: Three distinct parts

Daniel Rona provides an excellent outline of the Book of Amos in his book, which is as follows: “The Book of Amos has three distinct parts: 

I. “The first prophecy is a warning to Israel’s neighbors—Syria and others condemning their violence and aggression especially against Israel. The exile and destruction foretold for the nations of the Near East were prophesied for Israel too, for similar sins against its own people.

II. “The second section condemns the selfishness of the wealthy who regarded their affluence as a sign of God’s favor. The idle rich oppressed and ignored the misery of the masses of poor people. Amos cried out against the careful observance of the Temple ritual when it ignored morality as an integral part of religion. Ritual alone does not please God, who demands that it go hand and hand with mercy and compassion.

III. “The third section foretells disaster-earthquake, pestilence, famine and the ultimate calamity of exile, with Israel scattered among the nations unless they would return to God..Israel may not take for granted that God will never be angry with them, no matter what they do, just because they are the Chosen People.The book closes with the promise of reconciliation-that God will rebuild the fallen Tabernacle of David, and that his people will inherit all the land (Amos 9:12-15).(Daniel Rona, Old Testament Supplement Study Materials: Holy Land and Jewish Insights. [Salt Lake City: The Ensign Foundation, 2001], pp. 103-104. divisions added).

Two Most familiar Scriptures

Amos 3: 6-7

“Shall a trumpet be blown [The sign of alarm and invasion] in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not [known] it?

“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, [until] he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets?” {[JST]: Amos 3:6-7}

The Prophet Joseph Smith stated, “According to the testimony of the Scriptures in all ages of the world, whenever God was about to bring a judgment upon the world or accomplish any great work, the first things he did was to raise up a Prophet, and reveal unto him the secret, and send him to warn the people, so that they may be left without excuseProphetswarned the people[even when] theygave no heed[and] rejected their testimony;[then] the judgments came upon the people ” (History of the Church of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, vol. 6. [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1950] p. 23).

Amos 8:11-12

“Behold, the days come, said the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord;

“And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it” (Amos 8:11-12).

This prophecy uttered by the Prophet Amos was fulfilled by the fact that there was no prophet to speak the word of the Lord from Malachi till the coming of John the Baptist, a period of approximately 400 years.


  The famine of God’s word was only interrupted by the Savior establishing His Church upon the earth, however as the Apostle Paul noted the famine would resume

“Be not soon shaken in mind, or troubled, neither by spirit, not by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day [the return of the word of the Lord] shall not come, except there come a falling a way first” (2 Thessalonians 2:2-3).

Once Christ’s Church was destroyed and His apostles killed, again there was a famine upon the earth which according to Dr. Kent Jackson lasted from “about A. D. 100—until the time of the Restoration, beginning in 1820” (Kent P. Jackson, From Apostasy to Restoration.[Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1996], p. 10).

This loss was further noted by “Roger Williams, pastor of the oldest Baptist Church in America [who] resigned his position because said he,

There is no regularly constituted church on earth, nor any person authorized to administer any church ordinance; nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church, for whose coming I am seeking” (Roger Williams, Picturesque America, p. 502 quoted in Man May Know For Himself: Teachings of President David O. McKay, compiled by Clare Middlemiss. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1967], p. 164).

Most of the world today does not yet recognize that God has once again called a prophet to speak in our day. Dr. Jackson notes, “the Apostasy [famine for the word of the Lord] continues today” (Kent P. Jackson, From Apostasy to Restoration. p. 10).

The Prophet Amos Speaks

Amos begins his ministry by first addressing “the neighboring nations that did not share any heritage with the descendants of Abraham (Syria, Philistia, Phoenicia)[H]e then warned some of the other tribes descended from Abraham (and Lot) of the judgment of the Lord coming to them” (Victor L. Ludlow, Unlocking the Old Testament. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981], p. 208).

Having addressed the neighboring nations, other tribes descended from Abraham and Judah, Amos now turns directly to the sins of Israel. In Amos 2:6-12, he states that “the wealthy mistreat the poor and humble, prostitution is rampant, the people are wine-bibbers, prophets are disregarded, and young men are made to break their covenants” (Sidney B. Sperry, The Spirit of the Old Testament. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1970], p. 153).

We learn from the Book of Mormon that as the result of “the prayers of the righteous” that the lives of the wicked may for a period be spared (Alma 10:23). However, the Lord has a higher standard for the righteous and when they become wicked, they are “in an awful state, and [are] ripening for an everlasting destruction” (Helaman 6:40). In this light, read the words of Amos to the Israelites:

1 Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, o children
of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt; saying,
2 You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. (Amos 3:1-2).

The women, as well as the men, are too held responsible for Israel’s downfall. The “sin of these sleek women consisted in their tyrannical oppression of poor people in that they requested their husbands to procure them wine bought with money squeezed from their victims” (Sidney B. Sperry, The Spirit of the Old Testament, p. 153). Amos speaks directly to these women and compares them to fat and well fed cows.

1 Hear this word, you kine [cows] of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their master, Bring, and let us drink.
2 The Lord God hath sworn by his holiness that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks and your 
posterity with fishhooks.

In the following verses, God continues to hold out to Israel the possibility of repentance in spite of their moral decay:

4 For thus saith the LORD unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and 
ye shall live.
14 Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.
15 Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate (Amos 5:4, 14-15).

While holding out the opportunity for repentance, God through Amos tells what will be the result if Israel does not repent:

11 Jeroboam [II] [King of Israel] shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land. (Amos 7:11).

You will recall the words of Ether to Coriantumr as recorded in the Book of Mormon. The Prophet Ether told Coriantumr “that, if he would repent, and all his household, the Lord would give unto him his kingdom and spare the people—Otherwise they should be destroyed, and all his household save it were himselfAnd it came to pass that Coriantumr repented notand they sought to kill Ether” (Ether 13:20-22).

The Book of Ether records that Coriantumr, after a major battle in which “there had been slain two millions of mighty men, and also their wives and their children” (Ether 15:2) that Coriantumr, “.began to remember the words which Ether has spoken unto himHe began to repent of the evil which he had done; he began to remember the words which had been spoken by the mouth of all prophets, and he saw them that they were fulfilled thus far, every whit; and his soul mourned and [he] refused to be comforted” (Ether 15:1,3). Unfortunately, neither the Israelites nor the Jaredites heeded the words of their prophets and repented, and the words of the Lord as spoken by his prophets were verified.


The Book of Joel

Dr. Sperry observed, “The Book of Joel must ever remain to the Mormon people one of the most important prophecies of the Old Testament” (Sidney B. Sperry, The Voice of Israel’s Prophets, p.302). Part of its importance is that when the angel Moroni appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith on the evening of September 21, 1823, he quotes Joel 2:28-32.

Dr. Sperry continues, “My interpretation of the passage from Joel quoted by Moroni to Joseph Smithmay be summed up as follows: 1. The pouring out of the lord’s spirit in the latter days, 2. Signs to be given in heaven and on earth of coming judgments, 3. The Second Advent of the Lord in judgment, 4. The righteous, especially the remnant’ or elect’ of Israel, to be deliveredMy belief is that this passage is practically an epitome-a summary or condensation of the whole Book of Joel” (Sidney B. Sperry, The Voice of Israel’s Prophets, p. 292, 294).

According to Dr. Kent P. Jackson, the Book of Joel carries even greater importance for the Latter-Day Saints, for “I believe that aside from the names of Joel and his father in Joel 1:1, every word in the book refers to the latter days-from the time of the Prophet Joseph Smith into the Millennium” (Kent P. Jackson, ed. Studies in Scripture, vol. 4: 1 Kings to Malachi. [Deseret Book Company, 1993], p. 359-360).

Outline of the Book of Joel

Dr. Jackson offers the following outline of the Book of Joel:

I. “A Day of Darkness and Gloominess (Joel 1:1-2:27)
II. Wonders in Heaven and Earth (Joel 2:28-32)
III. In the Valley of Judgment and Decision (Joel 3:1-16)
IV. The Lord Dwelleth in Zion (Joel 3:17-21)” (Kent P. Jackson, Studies in Scriptures, vol. 4, p. 360, 351,363, 364).

Events of the Final Battle

Once the little country of Israel is established, made productive and becomes powerful in politics and warfare, events which are now unfolding before our very eyes, the nations of the earth will be formed in battle against her. Why, you may ask, would the world care about a country as small as Israel? Charles Penrose, later to serve as assistant Church Historian (1896-1899), offers the following explanation, “the bankrupt nations, envying the wealth of the sons of Judah, will seek a pretext to make war upon them, and will invade the holy land’ to take a prey and a spoil'” (Millennial Star, 10 September, 1859, pp. 582-583; also Institute Old Testament student manual; 1 Kings-Malachi, [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981], p. 295).

The prophet Joel, using the symbolism of the four stages in the developmental life cycle of the locust, describes the devastation of the army as it marches toward Jerusalem:

4 That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten (Joel 1:4).

According to Dr. Jackson, “The plague of insects now become, a nationstrong, and without number whose teeth are the teeth of a lion’ (Joel 1:6). They strip the bark off trees, dry up the vines, and wither all the trees of the field’ (Joel 1:7, 12). According to Joel 1:17-20, seeds rot, grain withers, herds and flocks are decimated, and the rivers are dried up. In the destructive march of this army, fire devours all that it touches. Though the land was as the garden of Eden before them,’ behind them it is a desolate wilderness;’ (Joel 2:2-3). They look like horses, gallop like horse-warriors, sound like crackling fire, climb walls like men, never break ranks, and are immune to the weapons of those whom they attack. At their approach, the earth quakes, the heavens tremble, the sun and the moon become dark, and the stars cease to shine (Joel 2:4-10)'” (Kent P. Jackson, Studies in Scripture, vol. 4, p.360). 

Elder Bruce R. McConkie, referring to the imagery of Joel, suggested that “it is not improbable that [this] ancient prophet was seeing such things as men wearing or protected by strong armor; as troops of cavalry and companies of tanks and flame throwers; as airplane and airborne missiles which explode, fire shell and drop bombs; and even weapons yet to be devised in an age when warfare is the desire and love of wicked men” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, vol. III: Colossians-Revelation. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft Publishers, 1973], p.503).

While we may tremble at the power and ferocious army that will lay siege to the land of Israel, Joel gives hope to the righteous. He states: “Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly” (Joel 2:15). Brother Ellis T. Rasmussen offers the following commentary: “In order that all who will hearken may hear in time, the herald trumpet in Zion is to call them to fasting and summon them to the solemn assembly. The priesthood leaders are to lead the prayers for protection and salvation-for a manifestation of the hand of the Lord. Then the Lord will show his zeal in behalf of the righteous” (Ellis T. Rasmussen, A Latter-Day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1993], p. 640).

The Lord in turn will “remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate” (Joel 2:20). The Lord will fight righteous Israel’s battle for her, “the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in Zion” (Joel 3:16-17). In the words of young David to Goliath, then “all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Samuel 17:46).

Conclusion

Brother Duane S. Crowther notes that the criticism of the book of Joel “centers mostly on the date of the book and in discussions of whether chapters one and two are historical description, allegory, or prophetic descriptions of events of the last days” (Duane S.


Crowther, Prophets and Prophecies of the Old Testament. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1966] p. 630. For some, this same criticism is directed at the entire Old Testament: Is it historical, allegory or prophetic? It is as if uncertainty can be created regarding the meaning of the word, then maybe we will be excused for not giving heed to its message. Surely, some add, God will not hold us accountable for that which we don’t understand! I believe however that it is important to make every effort to understand and that as we do so, God will also reveal His secrets to us.

Our eternal salvation and happiness, like that of Israel, depends upon our giving complete obedience to the warnings of the prophets of old as recorded in the scriptures as well as to the counsel of our living Prophet. How blessed we are There is no famineThe God of Heaven speaks today!