Tuesday

03 June 2014

“But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood” (v. 12)


Background

You can understand why the rich and powerful didn't like Amos. In this passage he issues a severe warning to those who feel secure and complacent in their riches. To the "notables of the first of the nations" (v. 1) he asks them whether Israel really is any different from places such as Calneh and Hamath, also complacent in their power, but also soon to be stripped of their independence. The people of Israel, who have broken the Covenant with God, have made Israel into nothing special.

Then Amos turns his attention to the idle rich (verses 4-7). In scathing tones he criticises those who are so profligate as to eat meat regularly, rather than offer it up in sacrifice or save it for days of rejoicing.

The rich and powerful feel secure in their positions. Israel is peaceful, even prosperous. But whilst they have been enjoying their riches, they have been ignoring what has been happening to Israel. They haven't been disturbed by the mistreatment of the poorest. They have turned "justice into poison". The covenant with God is all about inter-connectedness. The quality of Israel's relationship with God depends to some extent on the relationships within the community. Amos warns here that the wealthy have separated themselves from the needs of others. God's distress at the mistreatment of those who need justice will result in terrible judgement - not just for the individuals concerned, but for the whole nation.

The idle rich who were the first to benefit from the good times will be the first to be hit by the devastation and exile promised by God (verse 7).

This resonates with the message of churches in response to the economic crisis: that those who gained least during the boom years should not suffer first and most during a recession. Sadly the growth in poverty - and inequality - in the UK suggests we have not learned this lesson.


To Ponder

  • How do you think Amos was heard by those who felt comfortable or had earned their position?
  • What do you put your comfort and security in? Do these come from God?
  • What challenges do this passage offer our society and world today?


Bible notes author: JPIT (Joint Public Issues Team)

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