Monday 17 May 2021

Bible Book:

'Seek me and live' (v. 4)

Amos 5:1-17 Monday 17 May 2021

Psalm 132


Amos, a sheep breeder from Judah was probably active as a prophet around 750BC, perhaps for one festival in the shrine of Bethel in the Northern Kingdom. In previous chapters, we find oracles where Amos condemned the social injustices of Israel.

In this passage, Amos invites his hearers to lament Israel’s sin using the meter of a funeral dirge. He spoke as if Israel was already dead and predicted she would be will be decimated in military defeat (verses 1-3).

Verses 4-7: Amos seemed to suggest a possibility that Israel could live: “Seek me and live...”. The irony of using a liturgical phrase was suggested when Amos said there was no point “seeking God” in (empty) worship at the shrines which would be destroyed in the defeat. If Israel didn’t seek God through living a ‘just’ life, rather than simply in formal worship, judgement would come in devouring fire. ‘Wormwood’ in verse 7 was a bitter-tasting herb. Justice in Israel was such a sham, it left a bad taste in the mouth.

Verses 8-9: These may be a liturgical interlude. Amos reminded Israel that the creator God who created light in the beginning could also bring back darkness; who created the waters that covered the earth, could make them flood over the strong. The Israelites needed to be in awe of the ‘just’ nature of the God who created them.

Verses 10-12: The theme of the social injustices committed by Israel returns. Court sessions (composed of the elders of a town) were held in the city gates. The elders hated someone trying to bring a wrongdoer to court and speaking the whole truth. They trampled on the weak in society with excessive taxes and took bribes. Although these elders had expensive stone houses, they wouldn’t live in them or drink the wine from their vineyards. The coming judgement would make their unjust labours pointless.

Verse 13: This was probably a later edition, suggesting that it was prudent not to seek justice in such corrupt courts.

Verses 14-15: God’s covenant promise of blessing required that Israel respected the good, loving and just ways of God for all people (especially the weak). If they did this, it might be that God would be gracious to some of Joseph’s ancestors. Most of Israel at this time would have imagined themselves doing very well as a nation.

Verses 16-17: Amos seemed to suggest that repentance might be too late for Israel to avert disaster and the judgement of God.

To Ponder:

  • If you were one of the elders at the gate, what might you say to Amos?
  • Is it sometimes tempting to point your finger at ‘the injustices of the system’ and excuse yourself for not always being squeaky clean? What sort of justifications would you say to yourself?
  • If you are in a position of authority in your organisation, family, or church what safeguards do you put in place on your own exercise of power?

Previously published in 2018

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