Saturday

07 June 2014

“I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them” (v. 14)


Background

Imagine living in captivity. You had always believed that you were God's chosen people, given a land to live in. Yet you are now in exile in Babylon, fearing that you have been abandoned by your God.

The prophet Amos had warned of the destruction and devastation which awaits the people of Israel who have broken their covenant with the Lord. Here, at the end of the book of the Bible which tells of his prophesy, we have a later editor who writes of the restoration of Israel which is surely to come.

The description of what Israel will be like again is homely: people will rebuild ruined cities, they will have their own homes again, they will plant vineyards and drink their own wine, make gardens and eat their fruit. This is almost a humble vision, not of a great nation, but of a people who have come home again. There are echoes of the rainbow in the story of Noah (Genesis 9:8-17) - the rainbow is a sign that God will never again destroy all life with a flood, whereas this passage promises that the people of Israel will never again be plucked out of the land given to them by God.

Amos does not suggest that this restoration is dependent on the people of Israel repenting. Instead it is a picture of a God who is recreating the covenant made with the people. It is a picture of a God who yearns for the best for God's own people, and offers enduring love and grace, despite their disobedience.

Here there are echoes with the New Testament story. God's son is sent to a people who had forgotten God, out of God's love for them. But this was not to restore the people of Israel alone, but rather all of humanity, living and to come, bringing them into a loving relationship with God.


To Ponder

  • Have you ever felt exiled from God? What has given you hope?
  • What is your image of a God-given home? Is it an individual vision, or is it one for a whole community?
  • How has this story - and the others we have considered this week - affected your understanding of God?

Bible notes author: JPIT (Joint Public Issues Team)

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