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.
Karl Barth’s sermon from August 2, 1914, encourages his listeners to have confidence in God and God alone in the face of the coming war. The 19th century liberal idea of human progress had been proven to be a faulty foundation for hope. Instead, one’s hope must come via a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
What we do for God is important and God appreciates it and takes it seriously. However, unless we are treating our fellow humans with fairness, kindness, and generosity, God doesn’t have any use for our tithes and offerings.
Karl Barth’s sermon from July 26, 1914 (just days after Austria-Hungary’s ultimatum to Serbia and just days before World War I finally erupted), is a reflection on the seeming incongruence of Ephesians 2:4-7 – and especially the idea that God has set us in the heavenly realm with Jesus – with the fearful turbulence of the times.
God’s unconditional love does not imply that what we do doesn’t matter. Nor does believing that what we do matters imply that God’s love is conditional. The biblical truth is that God loves us unconditionally, and that is precisely why what we do matters.