“The words of Amos, who was among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.” (Amos 1:1)
What kind of person does God use? We sometimes think God uses the brightest and the best. He must choose the most holy and talented to deliver His message or to advance His kingdom. The writings of the prophet Amos show us that this isn’t true.
The name Amos means burden or burden bearer. Since most of the prophecies of Amos concern coming judgment on either the nations surrounding Israel or judgment on Israel itself, he was a man with a burden.
The man God chose to carry this burden was among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa. It seems that Amos had no formal theological or prophetic training, though there was a “school of the prophets,” whose members were known as the sons of the prophets at that time (for example, see 1 Kings 20:35 or 2 Kings 2:3-15). Amos was a simple man, a farmer, who had been uniquely called to ministry. He was not a priest, a Levite, or a professional pastor, but just among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa.
Amos spoke of his background and calling in Amos 7:14-15: “I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.'”
Amos used an unusual word to describe his occupation. Instead of calling himself a “shepherd,” the literal ancient Hebrew used here called Amos a “sheep raiser.” Amos probably chose this title to emphasize the fact that he really was a shepherd, and that he did not mean “shepherd” in a symbolic, spiritual sense. The way God used Amos reminds us of the way He used the twelve disciples of Jesus, who were common working men God used to do great things.
God gave this simple man a big job to do. Amos was a prophet to the 10 northern tribes, the kingdom of Israel. In the days of Amos Israel had one wicked king after another. Yet because of the weakness of their larger neighbors, this was a time of peace and prosperity.
Do you see the picture? God called a simple farmer to preach to a prosperous nation who had forgotten Him. We might think that the successful times needed a sophisticated preacher, a smooth talker who graduated from a top theological academy. Yet God had another plan. God knew He could use this unlikely man in a great way.
Perhaps it is time for you start thinking outside the box. Perhaps you have thought that God could only use you in ways that seem logical and reasonable. God can and will use you in ways that makes sense; but you need to also think outside that box, considering that the most important qualification is the call of God. Not only can God use humble people like Amos, He specializes in it. Remember the principle: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).