Advent Friday 1
Read: Amos 2:6-16
Today, Amos, the Judean bumpkin, turns to his primary audience: the northern Kingdom of Israel. God is not pleased with them, and it is Amos’ job to tell them so. Israel had grown confident in its prosperity, its politics, and its spirituality. But God sees things quite differently. What was going so wrong?
(By the way…do you love your country? If so, are you even open to critical assessments of your country? How about when they come from a representative of your bitter rival across the border? And when they meddle with some of your dearest values?)
Economics: Like the U.S. Christmas shopping season, buying and selling had become paramount for the Israelites. They were vigorously chasing after their gift lists (precious metals, shoes, clothing, wine). And their minivans were full (v. 13). This may have seemed innocent enough … except that the upper class had become rich at the expense of the poor. They had “sold” them, “trampled” them, “pushed” them, “fined” them. They didn’t do these things literally, but were victimizing the poor through their selfish economic policies. But, hey, it’s a free market right? Aren’t they entitled to whatever prosperity they can engineer for themselves? If the poor want things to be better, they should just work hard and work the system like the rich, right?
Social Issues: Standards of appropriate sexual conduct were unraveling. The parameters of “family” were being redefined based on gratifying desires of the flesh. And the people didn’t realize that their conduct was a slap in God’s face. But we should be free to “love who we want”, right? If I feel like doing something, who is this “God” to tell me how to live?
Spiritual Things: Worldly standards had crept into their faith, and they had taken to dabbling in all kinds of disparate religious practices. Their spiritual gatherings looked like Happy Hour. And they simply didn’t want to be bothered by the traditional truths of the faith that was supposed to identify them. “You command the prophets, saying, ‘You shall not prophesy!’” Enough of this God-talk, especially if it cramps our style. We’re free to choose whatever faith we want (they all point to the same God, right?). We like what we like. And we prefer a faith community that makes us feel good (is that a cab or a merlot?).
Through Amos, God essentially says, “Remember me? You were lost, and I saved you! All those impossible victories I gave you? And this unlikely prosperity you now enjoy … you know that was my gift to you, right? I established you as an upstart colony! The land, the freedom, the spiritual revival … Is it not indeed so, O people of Israel?”
They had forgotten, and gone astray. What will be God’s response?
Very interesting. Not an invasion. Not economic collapse. Not a pestilence. Instead, God promises internal decay. Israel will lose its strength, its speed, is skills, their heart.
When I look at life in our contemporary, post-Christian, western culture, I get very pessimistic. We’re off the rails just like the Israel of Amos’ prophecies. We too have some bumpkin voices crying in our wildernesses. But those shouts are growing fewer and fainter. And our godlessness increases with incredible brashness.
Is there any chance we’ll listen to the Amos among us? Advent would be the ideal season to do so.