Last week's commentary on the powerlessness of God's disciples is verified in Sunday's Amos (7:12-15) passage. But before we get into prophetic helplessness, there's something we must understand about a biblical prophet's ministry.

Notice how often prophets operate in shrines or temples. Rarely does Yahweh send them to "bad" people. They're commissioned to go to the "good folk" - people who think they're already doing what God wants them to do, but in reality are far off the mark.

Such people hang around shrines and temples; and, like all good Jews, they presume prophets will inform them of God's will. The only problem is that priests and kings have figured out how to beat the prophetic system: They hired their own "prophets" to tell people what they wanted the people to hear.

Every palace and shrine had prophets, paid to deliver the party line. Those are the prophets Amos is referring to when he tells Amaziah, high priest of the Bethel shrine, "I am no prophet, nor do I belong to a company of prophets." He's saying, "I'm not your prophet. You have no right to tell me what to say."

God-given clout
In the accepted hierarchical shrine system, Amos has no clout. No authority figure is going to back up his statements. Yet he's convinced Yahweh, not Amaziah, called him, and it's Yahweh who gives force to his words, even though most Bethel pilgrims simply regard them as the words of an uncouth shepherd.

Remember the scene in the old movie "Oh, God!" when John Denver asks George Burns (God) for a sign he's actually given him the message God wants him to proclaim?

Burns assures him not to worry. "Just show them this," he says, and hands him a calling card with just one word on it: "God." "They'll believe you when they see it." Poor Amos didn't even have one of Yahweh's calling cards to show Amaziah.

The Twelve must have also felt powerless when Jesus sends them out on their own for the first time (Mark 6:7-13). This is an important Gospel event, demonstrating that Jesus' ministry isn't a one-man show: What He does, He empowers His followers to do.

But notice what they're to do: get rid of "unclean spirits."

In Mark's Gospel, Jesus' first miracle was exorcizing a demoniac in the Capernaum synagogue. That sets the theme for the entire Gospel.

Eradicate evil
Since demons were regarded as causing all evil, not just moral evil, the gospel Jesus is telling His followers that their ministry should revolve around eradicating as much evil as possible - a powerful task for people as powerless as Jesus' followers.

Yet, just as Amos was convinced Yahweh called him, so Christians must always be aware of their God-given calling and dignity. The disciple of Paul responsible for writing Ephesians (1:3-14) doesn't want his readers to forget that.

He's convinced "God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing, as He chose us in Him...to be holy and without blemish before Him....He has made known to us the mystery of His will...that He set forth in Him as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth."

As Paul said in last week's II Corinthians passage, our weakness is a sign Jesus is working through us.