Amos 3:1-2, 5:7-24
God speaks against those whom he had chosen! He had rescued Israel from Egypt, intended them to be a blessing to other nations by reflecting God’s glory. God ‘knew’, ‘cared for’, ‘been intimate with’ variously translates the verb. He had been with them in the past. Now God says “I must punish you” – how did it come to this?
On my walk today I saw a large eucalyptus tree fallen in a popular park. Nearby, more than a dozen trees of the same species stood strong and healthy. This particular tree had been dead for some years but yesterday it was standing tall. Today, fallen! I saw that its exposed roots were completely rotten. No nutrients nor water had been drawn up for many years, no strong root system to support it. Presumably a disease, fungus or pest had started its decline, slowly its life was lost.
God’s reprimands Judah and Israel for telling God’s messengers to ‘Shut up!’ and twisting religion for their own pleasure and pride (2:4-12). It is the religious leaders and the wealthy who are the focus of God’s condemnation. It was an extended time of relative peace and prosperity yet the poor are being oppressed. The poor are those likely turn to God, seeking that help from the priests and teachers and from worship. But what was left of God in the perverted and hollowed out religion? What body and soul care for the poor? The wealthy flaunted their life-style, they had no need really for God. In short, being God’s chosen people had no substance, they were not a light to the surrounding nations.
Amos comes as an outsider. He’s not a professional prophet - he’s worked on the land (7:14), he knows the danger of lions attacking the flock (3:12) and the devastation of drought and plagues. He speaks plainly and powerfully about how the Lord is judging his people (4:6-10) so that they may return to the Lord. He knows that the Sovereign Lord has spoken; hence he must share God’s message (3:8). He sees what God sees, “My people have forgotten how to do right, says the Lord” (3:10). He knows how nature works, you can’t fool it, and so believes that God must act when his covenant is trashed.
Reading Amos helps me recognise that the society we live in today is little different to how it was then. The contrast between what God seeks and how they lived is clear, Chapter 5 brings that into focus. What we know of God’s grace in Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is so much deeper and amazing than the best of the OT covenant. It is a message we, like Amos, must share, to those who do not yet believe in Jesus (OUT), but also among ourselves (IN), lest we become complacent like Israel and Judah had.
The response God asks of us is true worship. In Amos 5:24, God calls not for an outward show of religion, but “Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.” (NLT). Do read Romans 12:9-21 which shows this worked out in the corners of daily life; remembering verse 1 which is its basis, “give your bodies (lives) to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is the true way to worship him.” (NLT).
That ‘flood of justice … river of righteous living’ will reach
and touch others. Jesus has promised streams of living water will flow from each person who believes in him and drinks from him, picturing how the Holy Spirit can touch others through us, John 7:38-39.