5 June 2014Amos 8:1-14
“Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land” (v. 4)
How often do we hear the accusation that religious people are hypocrites, going through the motions, but not really practising what they preach? In this passage Amos condemns those who demonstrate religious fervour, but do not live up to what God expects of them.
No work was permitted on the day of a new moon, for example, but Amos singles out the merchants who "observe" holy practices, whilst being impatient to then practice injustice. In the market these merchants were under-selling grain, practicing fraud through the use of weighted scales, and exploiting the poorest who had no choice but to buy "the sweepings of the wheat" (v. 6).
Such injustices have not only a social dimension - increasing inequality and poverty in society - but also a religious one. Pretending to be pious in one's observance, whilst all the time plotting how to ruin the poorest, offends God. Worship requires one to offer the whole of one's self before God, not just on holy days.
Amos is clear that judgement - complete, devastating and total - is inescapable for the people of Israel. God's people have abused the covenant, and as a result the end has come for them. The consequences of refusing to listen to God's word through the prophets means there will be an end to the divine word in Israel. God will never again show them favour, and the injunction "Be silent!" (v. 3) is a horrifying realisation that there is nothing more that can be said. No intercessions, no repentance will be able to repair the breach.
The devastation described by Amos is almost like creation being put into reverse: "I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight" (v. 9). The people of Israel will be put into mourning, both for what they have lost - food, plenty, a home - but also for the word of the Lord. Wrongdoing against God has serious consequences.
- How would our churches measure up to Amos's charges of hypocrisy today?
- Mother Teresa wrote: "As for me, the silence and emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear." Many of us experience God's silence sometimes than we ever dare admit. In the light of reading today's passage, Have you ever felt God's silence? What did it feel like? And what (if anything) have you discovered from it?
- What examples of present day injustice should we be prophesying against?