6 October 2007Amos 5:18-24
"Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream". (v.22-24)
We have here the first mention in the Hebrew Bible of 'the day
of the Lord'. This was to be an occasion on which the enemies of
God would be judged and the people of God would be delivered and
enjoy great harvests and victories. As such it was a day to which
the people of Israel looked forward.
The words of Amos must have come as something of a shock. In his eyes many Israelites had made themselves enemies of God through their corrupt behaviour. For them, therefore, the day of the Lord should not be eagerly anticipated, for it will be one of darkness, not light.
What was particularly galling for Amos was the cloak of religious observance that masked the corruption. His is an impassioned plea for social justice and a reminder to the people of the social implications of their traditions and the law. Religion that fails to see the important relationship between justice and worship is not acceptable to God.
Amos was a radical and courageous figure, speaking out, often in isolation, against a society that had lost its way and those within it who wielded power. His aim was to rebuke in order to reform and to align himself with the poor and the oppressed in order to effect change.
The view still persists in some quarters that religion and politics should not mix; Amos would be baffled by such a stance! But how should the two relate to each other?
The prophetic voice is often radical and unpopular. Is there a need for the church (including you) to be more prophetic in its utterances and behaviour - and if so, in what ways?