Second Monday of Advent
Read Amos 3:9-15
The prosperous, wealthy kingdom was about to be brought low by the Lord.
(Interesting: God does everything He does in order for the world to see and understand Him. Even as He’s about to bring Israel down, he invites the power brokers from rival nations (Philistia, Egypt) to gather on the hillsides of Samaria – like festival seating – and watch the collapse.)
Their impending doom is coming from the outside – from the Assyrians, who will break them down and seal their possessions. But, make no mistake: The primary cause of Israel’s downfall is internal. “See what great tumults are within it, and what oppressions are in its midst. They do not know how to do right, says the Lord, those who store up violence and robbery within their strongholds.” They were rich and strong, but their moral compass was lost.
(Grace: A central theme of the Old Testament is tucked into v.12. The word “rescue” leaps off the page with some unexpected hope. It won’t be most, and it won’t be many, but there will be a remnant from this beleaguered nation that will live on in fulfillment of God’s covenant. Amos uses the gruesome analogy of a few limbs remaining after being eaten by a lion. He also says that their beloved prosperity will be whittled down to “a corner of a couch, and part of a bed”… but they will live on.”)
Back to the judgment at hand. Two specific targets of God’s wrath are highlighted in vs. 13-15. First, Amos says God is going to “punish the altars.” He’s angry at the compromised religious practices. Second, God is going to tear down the residences and riches of the upper class. He’s angry at the economic inequality made possible through oppressive economic practices.
Can I just say it? I don’t see how 21st century citizens of the U.S. can read this, and think that we’re in some way different than Amos’ Israel. The inequity between the riches of the upper-middle class and the experience of the national poor (much less global) far exceeds that described in these Old Testament verses. We enjoy opulence that would make the Caesars envious. And the corruption of our faith practices is as plain as the growing noses on our faces. How does God feel about “His people”, cruising to their prosperity gospel churches in their expensive clothes and cars, to hear a message about “God’s favor”, while glorying in the “God-given” strength of our super-power nation? I’m sure the idea of a nationwide internal implosion would be scoffed at just as it was in Amos’ day. But might it be inevitable?
More to our Advent point: Is there anything we can do to repent and turn the tide before the destruction commences? Could we return to the rigorous truths of God in His Word? Could we cease striving for the prosperity of the American Dream, and instead live for the Kingdom of God, and its righteousness?
May we be part of the solution … or at least a part of the remnant of grace.