LIFE OR DEATH
Lord, remove from me anything artificial in my worship of You.
Read AMOS 5:1–17
A Lament and Call to Repentance
5 Hear this word, Israel, this lament I take up concerning you:
2 “Fallen is Virgin Israel,
never to rise again,
deserted in her own land,
with no one to lift her up.”
3 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to Israel:
“Your city that marches out a thousand strong
will have only a hundred left;
your town that marches out a hundred strong
will have only ten left.”
4 This is what the Lord says to Israel:
“Seek me and live;
5 do not seek Bethel,
do not go to Gilgal,
do not journey to Beersheba.
For Gilgal will surely go into exile,
and Bethel will be reduced to nothing.”
6 Seek the Lord and live,
or he will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire;
it will devour them,
and Bethel will have no one to quench it.
7 There are those who turn justice into bitterness
and cast righteousness to the ground.
8 He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
who turns midnight into dawn
and darkens day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out over the face of the land—
the Lord is his name.
9 With a blinding flash he destroys the stronghold
and brings the fortified city to ruin.
10 There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court
and detest the one who tells the truth.
11 You levy a straw tax on the poor
and impose a tax on their grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.
12 For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.
There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
13 Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times,
for the times are evil.
14 Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.
15 Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy
on the remnant of Joseph.
16 Therefore this is what the Lord, the Lord God Almighty, says:
“There will be wailing in all the streets
and cries of anguish in every public square.
The farmers will be summoned to weep
and the mourners to wail.
17 There will be wailing in all the vineyards,
for I will pass through your midst,”
says the Lord.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Death is part of life; what matters is what precedes it. Lord, I want my life to count; I want to give myself to Your service.
Last winter I seem to have attended a record number of funerals, all different. At some of them, mourners wore bright colors in celebration of a life; at others, the mourners wore dark clothing to express their grief and loss. Amos here speaks a funerary lament which begins and ends with wailing over the dead. The chief mourner is God, who grieves over his unrepentant people and still beseeches them to change their ways (4,6,14,15).
Righteousness is ‘”a relational term, standing for the fulfillment of the demands of a relationship.” Israel has always been required by God to show mercy to the poor and helpless. That was the divine requirement of the nation’s relationship with other people. Instead of this, however, the situation in Israel as described by Amos is rife with injustice, corruption and the suppression of those who try to be just (10,13). Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba contained shrines where Israel had long worshiped, but its upper classes loved themselves rather than God. Amos calls them back to true worship of the Creator God (8), worship that will result in justice and compassion. He calls them to life, real life—not the superficial self-satisfaction borne of selfishness and greed, but the joyous contentment of those who know God and who pour themselves out for others.
So the funeral draws nearer, but even in its inevitability there remains a glimmer of hope that perhaps, just perhaps, Israel might heed the warning (15). It may be that someone you know has rebelled against God all their life; there may seem to be little time left for them to change their ways; but keep hoping, praying and reminding them of their need to “Seek the Lord and live” (6).
Lord, sometimes change of heart seems impossible, whether in public figures or in people I know personally. May they move from death to life.
Lord, we thank You for bearing long with our injustices and failures. Keep us attentive to correction.