Friday

02 July 2010

"We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practise deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat." (v.5-6)

Background

Although we tend to read a book like Amos as one single piece of unbroken writing, it is perhaps more helpful to think of it as a series of linked oracles, but with gaps where the response of the hearers was assessed. In this case it appears that the warnings went unheeded, because in this passage they are repeated in even more stark and solemn terms.

The charges are the same as before in the book of Amos: the rich are exploiting the poor while trying to maintain the appearance of religious piety. Very neatly Amos describes the corrupt business practices that God hated - selling reduced amounts of inferior goods for inflated prices. "We will make the ephah (the unit of measure) small and the shekel (the price) great, and practise deceit with false balances."

God takes an interest in economics and business it seems. What would Amos have to say to our discredited banking and financial institutions today? 'Fair trade' is something to be taken very seriously - as God does. To disregard such things, says Amos, is to risk disaster. Perhaps the wealthy West is discovering this today to our cost.

The consequences of such disobedience to the clearly-revealed will of God are described in ever more apocalyptic terms - "On that day, says the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight". And, perhaps worst of all, they will have no more chance to repent and change their ways, because the prophet will speak no more and the word of the Lord will be but a cold silence. And then it will be too late.

To Ponder

Amos' most serious prophetic warnings are addressed to those who get rich at the expense of the poor. This, above all, incurs God's anger. Is this something we take seriously enough?

If we do take this seriously, how might it show in our words and actions?

Do you think it is ever too late to repent? Why?

Bible notes author: Revd David Rhymer

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