6.16 Amos -- The Lion Roars
We get a sense of prophetic passion in Amos -- the Spirit of God doesn't merely rest upon him and inspire his speech. Rather, the Spirit burns in his spirit and rushes out of his mouth in fury:
The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem;
the pastures of the shepherds dry up, and the top
of Carmel withers (Amos 1:2).
Wow! And that's just his introduction. Later, he adds,
The lion has roared- who will not fear?
The Sovereign Lord has spoken -- who can but prophesy? (Amos 3:8)
The significance of prophecy is not just the content, but also its compelling urgency. There may be a different emotion in other prophets: anger, yearning love, sorrow. Jeremiah and Ezekiel were also passionate prophets of God. The prophet is not a robotic voice for the divine will. The Spirit of God who inspires him expresses the personality of God through him in all its dynamic vigor. This power can be lost on someone just reading the text.
One of the best books on OT prophecy is still Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets (1962). Heschel, a Jewish scholar, refused to accept the scholarly fads of the early twentieth century that either saw the prophets as sick in some Freudian way or, following models from ancient Greece, as frenzied, possessed “ecstatics.” Heschel says, e.g., “An analysis of prophetic utterances shows that the fundamental experience of the prophet is a fellowship with the feelings of God.... The typical prophetic state of mind is one of being taken up into the heart of the divine pathos” (p. 31). Again, “The words of the prophet are often like thunder; they sound as if he were in a state of hysteria. But what appears to us as wild emotionalism must seem like restraint to him who has to convey the emotion of the Almighty in the feeble language of man. His sympathy is an overflow of powerful emotion which comes in response to what he sensed in divinity. For the only way to intuit a feeling is to feel it” (p. 395).
Along with Jeremiah, Amos and Hosea are outstanding examples of this understanding of prophecy.