In Amos 7:1-9, God shows the prophet three versions of judgment, the last of which is the famous plumbline vision. Not only do we see in this exchange an example of prophetic intercession for a sin-sick society, we also see God’s plan for “separating the wheat from the tares” using prophets and their message as the litmus test – those who accept the prophet will be spared, while those who reject the prophet will be punished.
Modalism is a mistake because, in the name of preserving the simplest possible concept of God’s unity and defending the totality of God’s presence in the Incarnation, it subjects God to time and space.
With Amos, the modern Christian must believe and proclaim that a prosperous economy cannot be built on a unjust society, because the foundation of peace and prosperity can be only justice, and especially justice that is built upon the acknowledgement that God is God and we are not.
Even after the destruction of Samaria, Amos is depicting the Israelites as not only not returning to God but actively avoiding turning to God out of Genesis 3-like fear. Rather than turning to God, those with wicked and foolish hearts look at their sufferings, which they brought on themselves by their own wickedness and foolishness, and they blame God.
Whatever strength you feel you possess that you can boast in, God does not think much of it. God is not against your strengths and talents, but when you rely on them rather than on him to secure and defend your prosperity, God says that all your excellence, all that in which you would take pride, is nothing next to his power. Your mighty fortress will not secure you against his justice.
There was a willfulness to the ignorance of the wealthy Israelite elite. It is not simply that they were unaware of the problems of their people and of their time. The evidence was all around them, as Amos had been pointing out, yet they were refusing to acknowledge that evidence, choosing instead to live in a constructed reality that was favorable to them. They only saw their own wealth and apparent safety, because that was all they wanted to see.
The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel (1951) is a classic of modern Jewish spirituality that has a lot to say as a dialogue partner for Christians wishing to explore what Sabbath observation might mean for them. At the heart of Heschel’s view of the Sabbath is a dichotomy in human life between space and time. Whereas humans in their empire building focus all of their energy on conquering the spatial dimensions by building monuments, sanctifying spaces, and rushing to and fro in search of material prosperity, the Sabbath Day is a palace or a cathedral in time.
The CEB Study Bible is a well designed and excellently written study bible that distinguishes itself from the crowd by taking a more open-minded approach to the historicity, date of composition, and authorship of debatable sections of the Bible. However, the appeal of this study bible may be narrowed by its inextricably being tied to the CEB, a translation whose eager pursuit of a laudable goal (to produce a truly fresh translation free from wrongly embedded conservative Evangelical ideas) unfortunately results in uneven quality.
The defining characteristic of the Common English Bible translation is its willingness to revisit and re-render traditional translations of well known biblical passages. While this is often a strength, it seems to be driven by a desire among those who commissioned the translation to distance themselves from conservative evangelicalism, and in many places this results in replacing good (albeit traditional) translations with highly questionable ones for no apparent scholarly reason.
Using a heavy dose of sarcasm, Amos challenges the idea that Israel and Judah are the greatest nations on earth and that nothing could harm them.