1 July 2010

Amos 5:14-24

"But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." (v.24)


The book of Amos is full of warnings and condemnations directed particularly at the people of the northern kingdom of Israel, who were seen very much as 'second class Jews' by the 'proper' Jews of the southern kingdom of Judah.

But Amos also offers words of hope and encouragement. If Israel will "seek good and not evil" there was still a chance that God would show mercy to "the remnant of Joseph" (the northern tribes). But there had to be true repentance marked by "wailing, mourning and lamentation" throughout the land. Only a genuine change of heart and mind would avert God's righteous anger.

The "day of the Lord" was originally a national religious festival that celebrated God as Israel's victorious king, when Israel first conquered its enemies and settled in the Promised Land. It later came to have a new significance as the longed-for future event when God would restore Israel's fortunes. But if Israel still thought that the day of the Lord would be the answer to their problems they were very much mistaken... The day of the Lord would bring judgement and destruction. The threat from their Assyrian enemies was as nothing compared to God's righteous anger, and no amount of pious religious activity could avert that. Be careful what you wish for.

In the eyes of Amos, and of the Jews who worshipped in the Jerusalem Temple, the festivals, assemblies, offerings and psalms of the northern tribes were an affront to God. Their only hope was to "let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream". Even if the prophet was motivated by a traditional dislike of Judah's northern neighbours, his words have stood the test of time as a solemn reminder to those who take refuge in 'religion'.

To Ponder

How seriously do you take the call to repent?

When Christians pray in the Lord's Prayer "Thy kingdom come" do you think they know what they are asking for?

"Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." How high does this come up your list of priorities?

Bible notes author

The Revd David Rhymer

The Revd David Rhymer has done a number of things over the last 40-odd years - including teaching (science), publishing (theology), full-time ministry (Baptist and Methodist) and national Methodist Team work (training & development officer for Cornwall). More recently he has been responsible for a part-time theology degree course at Exeter University, and until 2017, was involved with teaching students preparing for ministry in the south-west.