Amos Commentary – Reed Lessing Interview

Reed Lessing the author of the Amos commentary in the Concordia Commentary series. He is also the Senior Pastor at St. Michael Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Previously, he was the Professor of Exegetical Theology and director of the graduate school at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He studied at St. John’s College, Winfield, Kansas (B.A.), and Concordia Seminary (M. Div., S.T.M., Ph.D.). Dr. Lessing is married to Lisa and their marriage has been blessed with three wonderful children. He enjoys jogging, biking, camping and following the St. Louis Cardinals.

7 Questions on Amos in the Concordia Commentary Series

amos commentary reed lessingRecently, Dr. Lessing kindly answered my questions about his Amos commentary. Readers will learn how this commentary came to be, what is unique about it among Jonah commentaries, and how the project edified him personally.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Amos

My first academic exposure to the book of Amos was in a class taught by Dr. Paul Raabe (author of the Anchor Bible Commentary on Obadiah) at Concordia Seminary in 1994. His insightful and enthusiastic presentation of Amos motivated me over the years to dig deeper into Amos—a minor prophet with a major message. Furthermore, my published dissertation, Interpreting Discontinuity: Isaiah’s Tyre Oracle, introduced me to Hebrew poetry and rhetoric as well as prophetic oracles against nations—a genre that appears in Amos 1:3–2:16. My first commentary on the book of Jonah piqued my interest in the Book of the Twelve.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

The commentary targets pastors and theologians with a working knowledge of biblical Hebrew. That said, since the commentary separates grammatical from interpretive notes, those with no knowledge of Hebrew will also benefit from the book’s insights.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Amos?

The commentary approaches Amos as part of the Christian Bible. It therefore makes numerous connections to Jesus, the New Testament and Christian life in the twenty-first century. Moreover, nine excurses address issues such as the church’s response to ethical issues, the prophets and Israel’s worship and preaching like Amos.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

The only narrative consists of Amos 7:10–17. It is my favorite part of the book. The uncredentialed and unconnected Amos confronts Bethel’s power brokers and shatters their entrenched assumptions. Amos refuses to allow the public square to remain naked. The Lion roars there as well. Amos not only denounces the empire, he also models a different way to live. The prophet says, “If you are tired of what the empire has to offer, I invite you into a different way of life where the last are first and the first are last; the poor ones are blessed and the mighty are cast from their thrones.” Jesus Christ came inaugurated this radical kingdom.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

One of the most famous verses in Amos is in 3:8 where the prophet asks, “The lion roars, who does not fear? Lord Yahweh has spoken, who cannot but prophesy?” The Lion’s roar awakens believers from apathetic slumber; from what has grown ordinary and stale and routine. Most of the prophet’s preaching is radical, subversive, and unsettling. In all likelihood many who heard Amos considered him a fool or a fool. But I thank God for Amos because the Holy Spirit has used his words to enable me to hear the roar of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, whom John identifies as Jesus (Rev 5:5). It is because this roar was dead and is alive forevermore that this commentary was written.

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Amos?

Andersen, Francis and David Noel Freedman. Amos. New York: Doubleday, 1989.

Motyer, J.A. The Day of the Lion: The Message of Amos. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1974.

Paul, Shalom. A Commentary on the Book of Amos. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I’ve finished a commentary on Zechariah and plan to begin editing it late this year. You can follow my work at

https://books.cph.org/concordia-commentary

Own Reed Lessing’s Amos commentary

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