For Amos, religious fidelity and social immorality are not really two different realms of sinfulness. They are inextricably linked to one another, and this is one of the really important ways that the book of Amos confronts us in modern Western Civilization. Theology implies ethics, and ethics depends upon theology.
Apparently what we had to say on natural disasters and the judgment of God has struck a chord with some people.
You might think food and water are what sustain your life, but in fact it is the Word of the LORD that created those things and provides them to you, just as the Word of the LORD created and sustains us. The worst kind of famine, then, is where God is no longer speaking into your life, or where we find ourselves no longer sensitive to his voice.
Yahweh is not only the Creator but the sustainer of all that is. To try to live without the Creator while holding onto the creation is folly. In the same way, to try to hold onto peace and joy without source of all peace and joy is folly. Humans were created to be joyful, but when we displace God from the throne of our life, joy goes with him. It can be no other way, because he alone is the source of all joy.
In the aftermath of Harvey, the question we need to be asking ourselves is not, “Why did God punish the people of South Texas and Louisiana?” The question is, “How has God judged me and judged us as a community, as a nation, as human beings?” How has he brought to light things that were lurking deep within your heart? How has he called to you and to all of us to purify ourselves? How has he revealed the light and the darkness within our community and within our nation?
When you love money, you cannot love God. When you love money, people become numbers, commodities to be bought or sold in the marketplace. Contracts become technicalities to be danced around and manipulated. Societies that become dominated by this spirit are inviting God’s judgment.
In Amos 8:1-7, God uses a vision of a basket of summer fruit to say that the end has come for Israel. Why? In part, because of their greed. For the greedy merchant in ancient Israel, days of rest and holidays were not blessings but irritations, much the our greed pushes us towards a “24/7” society.
Being “poor in spirit”, as Jesus talks about in Matthew 5:3, is about realizing that we are bankrupt without God. When we deny the illusion that we are the masters of our own fates and confess our brokenness to God, the good news is that God is near to the brokenhearted, and where God is, there is the kingdom of heaven.
Amos’ confrontation with the priest Amaziah illustrated how his prophecy acted as a plumbline in Israel, clearly demarcating the innocent and upright from the guilty and crooked. The proclamation of the gospel of Jesus has the same galvanizing effect on an unjust society today.
A new round of Biblical Hebrew starts on Thursday, August 24.