Tuesday 27 May 2014

Bible Book:

"Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals." (v. 6)

Amos 2:1-16 Tuesday 27 May 2014


The origins of the book of Amos lie in the ancient tensionsbetween the northern tribes of Israel and the southern tribes ofJudah and Benjamin, which were largely to do with competing claimsabout sacred places and shrines. These things can matter a lot toreligious people, of course.

The opening two verses of Amos set the scene. The shepherd/prophetAmos is a 'southerner' living in Judea, who firmly believes thatGod is to be found in Jerusalem, from where God "roars" (Amos1:2) like an angry lion. Amos' condemnations are largelyaddressed to the northern kingdom of Israel as the first chaptermakes clear. God, says Amos, is angry with them for theirtransgressions, and he anticipates that their king will soon bedefeated in battle with his Assyrian enemies. And in this passagethe focus is entirely on Israel and its failure to live inaccordance with God's will.

There are hints here of the old religious rivalries... Verse 8refers to "every altar" and "their God", as opposed to 'our altar'and 'our God' in Jerusalem. But the real condemnation is moral, notreligious. The righteous and the needy are being exploited forfinancial gain. The poor and the afflicted are ignored anddowntrodden. Young women are sexually degraded and religious taxesand offerings made at the shrines are misused.

And yet, the northern tribes shared the same spiritual DNA asJudah. God had delivered them from Egypt in the 40 years of theexodus and had given them the promised land of Canaan (tough on theindigenous Amorites, but that's another story). They had no excusefor their behaviour because God had even given them their ownprophets and holy men (the ascetic teetotal "nazirites"). But eventhey had been corrupted.

So God's wrath would soon be unleashed, and Israel would behumbled by its enemies - says the Lord.

To Ponder

  • Which is more important - right belief or right behaviour?Why?
  • Whose spiritual DNA do you share?
  • How do we know if these words are genuinely "says the Lord"rather than "says Amos"? Does it matter?
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