“I was no prophet.” (Amos 7:14)

When we get sick, have legal con­cerns, or want investment advice, we consult professionals with expertise in those areas. In a similar way, we may refer religious matters to trained specialists who have spent years studying theology and Scripture.

That’s what it was like in ancient Israel as well. Groups of profes­sional prophets worked together and even formed communities with each other. They supported themselves by providing services like foretelling the future and finding lost objects. It was easy to tell who they were by their lifestyle, their dress, and their way of speaking. These proph­ets served a different function from the priests attached to local places of worship. They spoke God’s word, while the priests offered sacrifices for the people.

One such priest, Amaziah, had no use for Amos. Amos was an out-of-town prophet who dared to foretell the downfall of Amaziah’s employer, Jeroboam, king of Israel. But Amos stood his ground. “I am not a professional prophet,” he said. “I was just an ordinary farmer. It was God who called me and sent me to give you this message, whether you decide to listen or not.” But Amaziah couldn’t accept Amos’ words, because he didn’t look or sound like a professional prophet.

In a similar way, we may expect God to speak to us in the language of experts, with all the ceremony we would associate with religious things. But there are times when reli­gious language is so familiar that it goes in one ear and out the other!

Of course God can—and often does—speak to us through church leaders and trained theologians. But we should never limit him. He also speaks to us through family mem­bers, street people, children, even unbelievers. What we need to hear at any given moment may come from the most unlikely source.

God’s clear voice is everywhere for those who have ears to hear him. He is always talking to us, sending us words of love, encouragement, redi­rection, and inspiration. With open ears and humble hearts, we really can hear him. And hearing him, we really can be changed by his words!

“Lord God, thank you for the many ways you speak to me. Help me to be humble enough to accept your word, even if it comes from the most unlikely place.”

Psalm 19:8-11; Matthew 9:1-8