Monday 02 June 2014

Bible Book:

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (v 24)

Amos 5:18-24 Monday 2 June 2014


In the Lord's Prayer we ask for "your kingdom come, on earth asit is in heaven". But here the prophet Amos warns those who desirethe day of the Lord. Why would the people of Israel not want theLord to come, and grant Israel ultimate victory over its enemies?Amos's answer is that Israel has moved so far from what God wantsof it, that it can no longer assume that God's enemies are the sameas Israel's enemies - in fact Israel has become God's enemy. Thisis a great threat of judgement.

In today's passage Amos warns against worship being offered as asubstitute for upholding the covenant - the language is strong: Goddespises festivals, assemblies and sacrifices, everything that thepeople of Israel would expect to please their God. But God is notsaying that worship is worthless; rather that it cannot be asubstitute for the covenant between the people and their God.Worship cannot hide a lack of justice and righteousness in asociety.

If God is to take notice of worship, Amos says, it must come outof a commitment to justice. However much praise is offered insolemn assemblies, if the people are indifferent to what is goingon in the world outside, to the oppression and corruption beyondthe walls, they are not only wasting their time, but they arebringing the judgement of God upon their heads.

Amos notes that Israel is obeying the instructions that God gavethem about observing religious festivals and feasts. However thepeople are forgetting a related and no less important command: toensure that their ritual is not divorced from a concern for thepoor. And it's this failure that provokes the withering dismissalof their songs, and a demand that justice will flow down.

In a land where streams were mainly wadis, streams which driedup in the summer, the image of an "ever-flowing stream" would be arare and comforting one. But the reference to justice rolling downcould be taken as far from comforting. Either the people are calledto practise justice - or God will send down God's own justice,which threatens to wash away all those who do wrong. No wonder Amoswarns that "the day of the Lord" will be dark and full ofterror.

To Ponder

  • Do we long for the day of the Lord, or secretly dread it? Whymight that be?
  • What is your response to the image of God's justice rollingdown "like an ever flowing stream"?
  • How far is your church - and personal worship - infused with acommitment to justice?
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