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Devotion, Not Devotions - Right, Not Rites
Q: What do you get when you cross Amos, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Soren Kierkegaard, Jesus Christ and the children’s toy known as Weebles with one another? A: Insight into social justice!
Who was the prophet Amos. n n n Found in the Old Testament he was a sheepherder of sorts from the town of Tekoa, in Israel just southwest of Jerusalem well educated his time (circa 560 BCE) Amos was a revolutionary. n He brought a new message from God; one that prophets before his time had not yet spoken of and that many prophets after him would reiterate.
The supremacy of Social Justice Amos focused on the social justice laws that can be found in the book of Exodus chapter twenty. He went to the Northern Kingdom of Israel to claim that because of their lack of scruples towards the poor, they would be driven into exile in a most gruesome manner. Furthermore, even though the Southern Kingdom of Judah was sinning and the other pagan nations around them were as well, it would be Israel that would received the damming privilege to be brought to task and punished first.
Israel’s Behavior The people of Israel were enjoying about 40 years of peace and prosperity. This ‘Silver Age’ in their history saw old borders reestablished and new ones forged. Unfortunately it also saw a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. The haves had developed a sense of entitlement about themselves that had long since angered God and thus Amos was sent to put matters strait.
Amos tells us: 2: 6 -7 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—they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way; 3: 15 I will tear down the winter house as well as the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall come to an end, says the Lord. 4: 1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on Mount Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, “Bring something to drink!” 5: 10 -13 They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth. Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate.
6: 1 -7 Alas for those who are at ease in Zion, and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria, the notables of the first of the nations, to whom the house of Israel resorts! Cross over to Calneh, and see; from there go to Hamath the great; then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are you better than these kingdoms? Or is your territory greater than their territory, O you that put far away the evil day, and bring near a reign of violence? Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the stall; who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, and like David improvise on instruments of music; who drink wine from bowls, and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile, and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away. 6: 12 -13 But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood—you who rejoice in Lo-debar, who say, “Have we not by our own strength taken Karnaim for ourselves? ” 8: 4 -6 Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver.
Any similarities? Amos tells us that: n n n the Israelites had no ones interest in mind but their own they were not even remotely concerned for the poor or needy or anyone else that did not represent some kind of personal gain for themselves they barely recognized the poor as human, often treating them like belongings to be tossed away when they became of no particular use This fell entirely on deaf ears. Are our ears still deaf to God’s heart and commandments over 2000 years later? Our culture and unfortunately many Christians still act in this manner. The west is certainly the most prosperous of any nation and we barely lift a finger when tragedy strikes a nation that brings no gain or potential gain to the table and when we do there are often strings attached.
What does God say about this? Exodus 22: 20 -28 “Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the Lord alone, shall be devoted to destruction. You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. If you do abuse them, when they cry out to me, I will surely heed their cry; my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children orphans. If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them. If you take your neighbor’s cloak in pawn, you shall restore it before the sun goes down; for it may be your neighbor’s only clothing to use as cover; in what else shall that person sleep? And if your neighbor cries out to me, I will listen, for I am compassionate. You shall not revile God, or curse a leader of your people. ”
All are broken! Idolatry (5: 26, 8: 14 Oppression of aliens (5: 12 b) Abuse of widows and orphans (2: 7) Mistreatment of debtors (26 b) Reviling God and cursing a leader (7: 16) The only law in this passage which is not directly broken in Amos’ book—although not mentioned, is most likely not being followed either—is the cloak law in v. 26.
Serious Business This small list of laws found in Exodus happens to contain the most important laws in the Kingdom of God. To put them into perspective read the discerning words of Jesus from the Gospel of Mark 12: 28 -33. “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. ”
Prepare to Meet Your Maker The seriousness of Israel’s prideful sins is now properly understood. They are breaking the ‘greatest’ of the commandments, and it is God himself who will kill them. God is making good on this promise when the prophet Amos declares, “therefore thus I [God] will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel. ”
First Place! For the special nature of their sins, Israel will “be the first to go into exile, ” with the wealthy oppressors among them being taken “away with fish hooks. ” The reference to ‘first’ is commonly connected to Judah’s up-coming exile, but it also may be referencing all of Israel’s neighbors that Amos lists in his oracles at the beginning of the book. Israel, God’s first love and chosen people, is about to be punished first, even before the pagan nations; in the eyes of God her sins are greater than those of her enemies are!
Jesus’ Reminds Us The call of Israel to be a moral and just people is re-introduced in the book of Amos and its theme will be carried on by future prophets; none more important than Jesus who said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did to the least of these who are members of my family, you did to me” in Matthew 25: 40.
It is devotion that God wants, not devotionals - right more than rites God says through Amos in 5: 22 -24, “Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like the waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. ” Divine election does not automatically imply divine protection. God’s people—and for that matter, all nations—must take heed of these laws if they wish to fall under God’s protection.
Thomas Hobbes In his book Leviathan, Hobbes postulates several ‘Laws of Nature’ that he argues must be followed if people are to coexist peacefully and safely on this planet. n Law number five states that, “a man who strives to retain those things that are superfluous (exceeding what is sufficient or necessary) to one self that are necessary to others” should be cast out of society.
John Locke “it was unequivocally wrong for one man to deny or take away the things God bestowed on all of us through his promises to Adam and Noah. ” John Locke
Soren Kierkegaard preaches a hard hitting sermon in his treatise call Purity of Heart Is To Will One Thing in a section called Live as an “Individual. ” In it, Kierkegaard effectively points outs that God will not fall for these types of arguments and that God will judge us in the last days as Individuals and not a corporate units. Thus it does not matter what the world or even your culture or subculture is doing, we are called to be set apart, in the world and but not of it. We are called to bring the light of the truth of God and that light includes social justice and concern and compassion for the needy in every aspect.
Christians are not called to materialism Here enters the Weebles are deigned with sooth sides with their arms only being painted on. This mean they can not carry anything or gather to themselves. Place anything on a weeble and it has it only for as long as it takes to let go of it. This is how God wants us to posture ourselves too. God is the giver of gifts and in His word he make plenty of promises to bless us and protect us. But these blessings are not meant to be held tightly, rather they are meant to be given away according to His will. You heard it said that ‘what goes up must come down’, well God’s design is that ‘what comes down must go out. ’
Learn for those who came before us! We do not want to simply end up repeating this stuff in new and improved ways. God sent Moses to tell us His law is for justice Amos to tell Israel of that his heart is for justice Jesus to put it into perspective Even thinkers like Hobbes, Locke and Kierkegaard reminds us of the Natural Laws God has put into place! As Christians, we should stand as Weebles do, pointing other upward (to God) and when we receive things, we hold them lightly, willing to let go of them and God directs us to whomever so needs them. It is important to resist materialism and the herd mentality because they are opposed to compassion and justice. Remember with God’s help it is not Futile! If we ignore these people we deserve to be put out as outcasts.