God alone is sovereign. This means (1) that there is no point in trying to appeal to other deities, and (2) that God is the God of the whole world. This means that when God’s covenant people become no different in their conduct from the nations of the world, they cease to be in any substantial way unique and are nothing more than just another “sinful kingdom.”
Amos 9:1-4 recapitulates many themes from earlier in the book of Amos for climactic effect and even intensifies these themes. Amos says that a fate worse than death is coming for the Israelites, and this fate is absolutely inescapable.
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.