Saturday

19 May 2018

Amos 9:1-15

“The time is surely coming, says the LORD, when the one who ploughs shall overtake the one who reaps and the treader of grapes the one who sows the seed.” (v. 13a)

Psalm: Psalm 66


Background

This dramatic reading brings our journey through the book of Amos to a close. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride!

Amos looks to the future, and as with some other Old Testament prophets like Hosea, he speaks of a somewhat happier time for the people of Israel. After all the dreadful warnings about judgement and destruction which have pervaded the earlier chapters, this passage ends in a more upbeat fashion.

However, there is still work to be done before we get to the ‘happy’ ending. At the beginning of the chapter, Amos’ words are still bleak. Even if the people travel down into the depths (Sheol) (verse 2) or to the top of the highest mountains (Mt Carmel) (verse 3), God will still find them and bring them to judgement. Throughout the book of Amos, the people of God and of Israel are found wanting because of their complacency and lack of compassion for the poor.

The next section emphasises God’s control over nature – “who touches the earth and it melts” (v. 5). It may be that various natural disasters are being described here, such as earthquakes and floods. The previous assumption that the people of Israel are God’s chosen people is also casually dismissed – with the suggestion that they may not be all that special, indeed God has also helped other tribes and races (verses 7-8).

But it is here that the narrative starts to shift. According to Amos, the people of Israel, the house of Jacob, will not be completely destroyed (verse 8). The image of a sieve (verse 9) is important here – it implies that the people will be tested, but no more.

The final section of the passage presents a vision of restoration, a promise for the future, using many images with which Jewish readers would have been familiar. “The booth of David” (v. 11) refers to the booths traditionally put up during the Feast of Tabernacles and may be an oblique reference to the temple in Jerusalem, or indeed Jerusalem itself. Territories will be restored, most notably from the neighbouring Edom (verse 12). Again, images from nature and especially the countryside at harvest time are used to point to a better future.


To Ponder

  • How does Amos challenge Christians today?
  • Now that Christian Aid Week has ended, how will you continue to seek justice for the poor?

Bible notes author

The Revd Mandy Briggs

Mandy Briggs is a Methodist minister who can usually be found at the New Room (www.newroombristol.org.uk) in Bristol, where she is the Education Officer, working with schools and groups to tell the story of the Wesleys and Methodism in Bristol and beyond.