Dear friends,

“Amos is a weird book. It is too weird to read. The most we can hope for is a few good quotes.” This is a common belief of many people when they try to read Amos or any of the minor prophets. The book is filled with odd place names and people with odd names and we do not know who or what they are.

The book of Amos was written sometime between 793BC and 739BC. For the sake of conversation, let’s say it was written in 750BC – that is almost 3000 years ago! How do we read such an old book and how do we “get” anything out of the process?

First. Remember the words of Jesus after His crucifixion and resurrection in Luke 24: 25-27; 44-47. The Old Testament speaks of Jesus and we are to use its books to bear witness to Jesus and know Him. So while it may take more work, it is not futile work. Jesus tells us there is relevance and value in our study of the Old Testament – so read Amos in hope.

Second, invest in a good, inexpensive study Bible like the ESV (English Standard Version) Study Bible or the new NIV (New International Version) Study Bible. The “notes” will be of some help in understanding the old place names and people names. The introductions also will help you place the book in the “history of salvation”. In other words, how does the book of Amos fit into the overall flow of the Bible story?

Third, commit to praying for Daniel and me as we preach through the book of Amos. Pray that the Lord will help us to listen deeply and truly to His Word written. Pray that we can explain the text simply and clearly and faithfully. Pray that we can help people “connect” to the text. Pray that the Lord will use the sermon time to make the text come alive to you. Plan to attend or listen to the sermon afterwards online at  http://www.messiahchurch.ca/sermon-archive/series/amos or via podcast (subscribe to Church of the Messiah on iTunes).

Fourth, pray that bridges are built. John Stott came up with a famous analogy. The book of Amos was written almost 2800 years ago in a foreign language and a very different culture. First, we need to try to understand the Biblical text in and of itself and in its own culture and context. This means reading each part of Amos carefully and in light of the Old and New Testament. Then, and only then, do we prayerfully “build a bridge” from Amos to life in Ottawa in 2016. Here are some sample questions in building such a bridge. What human problems is the Bible addressing here? What human longings or fears are being addressed here? What human questions is the Bible raising or addressing?

One final note. Amos, like most prophetic books, uses lots of images and metaphors. To read Amos literally does not mean to treat an image like a fact, but to read Amos on its own terms, letting an image/metaphor be an image/metaphor and learning what it is pointing to or telling.

George