Friday, February 5, 2010

A Warning From Amos

I, the Sovereign Lord, am watching this sinful nation of Israel. I will destroy it from the face of the earth. But I will never completely destroy the family of Israel” says the Lord. For I will give the command and will shake Israel along with the other nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, yet not one true kernel will be lost. But all the sinners will die by the sword all those who say, ‘Nothing bad will happen to us.’ Amos 9:8-10

Anyone who has studied the Old Testament will tell you that Israel had a bad habit of turning its back on God whether it be worshiping other Gods, idols or claiming that sin was being carried out with God's approval. But as one reads the Prophets especially Amos, one realizes that God will not hold back judgment because Israel refuses to listen to the prophets and even goes so far as to try to silence them (2:12, 3:8, 7:10-17).

Needless to say, Amos's message of social justice and retribution was not welcome in Israel. Amos is thought to have been set sometime around 750 B.C.E. During this time, Israel, the northern kingdom (presently most of Lebanon) had gone astray. The urban elites through credit manipulation and debt instruments, were able to drive the farmers away from their land and amass ill-gotten fortune for themselves. The elites had become smug to the point of mocking Amos's pleas of justice. The court system similarly was corrupt and unduly influenced. "They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name." Amos 2:7

The central idea of the book of Amos is that God puts his people on the same level as the nations that surround it - God expects the same purity of them all. As it is with all nations that rise up against the kingdom of God, even Israel and Judah will not be exempt from the judgment of God because of their idolatry and unjust ways. The nation that represents Yahweh must be made pure of anything or anyone that profanes the name of God. God's name must be upheld above all else. These themes are very much relevant to today's world. Committing atrocities in the name of God will not absolve individuals or nations of their sins.

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