Sayings for Everything

“Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything: how to how to eat, how to sleep, how to wear clothes.” In the opening scenes of Fiddler on the Roof Tevye spoke of his tight knit little community, and the traditions that bound them together keeping them in their place before God. “Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as... as a fiddler on the roof!” In Christianity today we have “sayings for everything”. We have pet Bible verses for any occasion. Passages we can whip out and sling at anyone stepping out of line on any issue. Most of these passages are completely out of context. “No matter”, we claim, “it is still the Bible”. We believe we are fully justified in quoting them anyway. After all, it is God’s Word and it can go anywhere we think it fits.
In a recent post “Where two or three go to Church” I examined this very thing (passages to keep people going to “church”). There is another such passage we have all become well acquainted with as well. We throw it out there any time we need defense for our presuppositions. Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” This passage just seems overly obvious to any interpreter, that unless Christians all believe the same way, we cannot have fellowship one with another, right? I have heard this passage used this way so many times my stick has splintered from shaking it so much. Is that what this passage is really speaking about?
God forbid we ever read the whole chapter of a passage we quote instead of just quoting it. My guess is that most who use this passage (usually to justify breaking fellowship with someone of differing doctrinal or theological opinions) probably couldn’t guess even the book where it is found.
First off, there are many ways this specific text is (can be) translated:
ESV Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?
GWN Do two people ever walk together without meeting first?
LXE (English translation of the Septuagint) Shall two walk together at all, if they do not know one another?
NAU Do two men walk together unless they have made an appointment?
NIV  Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?
NLT Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?
There are a few things that could be said about this passage, but the way it is generally handled, is not one of them.
You will notice (if you read the chapter) that Amos is speaking the Word of YHVH, as it is being declared against Israel. There are some statements made, kind of like parables to bring the people to attention. If you examine chapter 6, you find, “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and to those who feel secure on the hill of Samaria.” You will also find the general attitude toward the prophets and their message was ever less then hospitable (1Ki 22:18, 24, 27; Je 43:2). Jesus spoke the same when condemning his generation (and their fathers) for the death of the prophets “from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar” (Matt 23). 
Amos 3 also goes on to state, “The Lord God has spoken; who will not prophesy?” Deuteronomy 18 lays out the groundwork for recognizing a “true prophet” of the Lord, and one who carries the message from the mouth of YHVH. In this context (of Amos 3) and the question of “two men”, the question naturally becomes “how could God’s prophets all be speaking the same message (prophesying) against them(Israel), if it were not by the Spirit of the Lord joined with them”? Otherwise their prophecies would be false (they would be speaking “presumptuously” – Deut 18:22).
If one truly carries the “Word of the Lord” it cannot fail, because it is not the prophet’s word. He is merely the deliverer (Ex 4:12; Je 1:8; Mt 10:20). If the prophets were not unified (agreed) with God (and each other) they would not be able to tell the future, because it is only God who speaks that which is in secret (Daniel 2).
In the history of the scriptures, chapters and verses are a relatively new creation. Naturally the chapter before 3 plays a part in what is being said here. In 2:12 it states that they “commanded the prophets: Do not prophesy”.
 Ultimately Amos is asserting unity of mind and direction with YHVH, and claims it is origin for his prophecy (John 17).
My point is that we often try to support our claims for why we do or do not do by citing passages that really have no relativity or context to that which is at hand. It is like Tevye continued to quote at his peers dismay, “As the Good Book says, if you spit in the air, it lands in your face.” 

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