Hear this word that I take up over you in lamentation, O house of Israel:
Fallen, no more to rise, is maiden Israel; forsaken on her land, with no one to raise her up. For thus says the Lord GOD: The city that marched out a thousand shall have a hundred left, and that which marched out a hundred shall have ten left. For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: Seek me and live; but do not seek Bethel, and do not enter into Gilgal or cross over to Beer-sheba; for Gilgal shall surely go into exile, and Bethel shall come to nothing. Seek the LORD and live, or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it. Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground! The one who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning, and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the LORD is his name, who makes destruction flash out against the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress.
Amos was fed up. While most of the prophets peppered redemption and restoration in their prophecies, Amos devoted only his final five verses for such consolation. He directed his criticism against privileged people, who had no love for neighbour, took advantage of others, and only looked out for their own concerns.
More than almost any other book of Scripture, Amos holds God’s people accountable for their dreadful treatment of others. He repeatedly points out their failure to embrace God’s idea of justice. They were selling off needy people for goods, taking advantage of the helpless, oppressing the poor, and the men were using women immorally. Drunk on their own economic success and intent on strengthening their financial position, the people had lost the concept of caring for one another; Amos rebuked them because he saw in that lifestyle, evidence that Israel had forgotten God.
Rather than seeking out opportunities to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly, they embraced their arrogance, idolatry, self-righteousness, and materialism. Later in the chapter, Amos demonstrates utter contempt for the hypocritical lives of the people (add). His prophecy concludes with only a brief glimpse of restoration, and even that is directed to Judah.
Injustice is rife in our world today, yet as Christians we often turn a blind eye to the suffering of others for “more important” work like praying, preaching, and teaching. I’m guessing that the same is true for all of us at times — putting prayer over service?
Amos’ prophecy ought to simplify the choices in our lives. Instead of choosing between prayer and service, Amos teaches us that both are essential. God has called us not only to be in relationship with Him but also to be in relationship with others. For those who have been too focused on the invisible God rather than on His visible creation, Amos pulls us back toward the centre where both the physical and the spiritual needs of people matter in God’s scheme of justice.
Father, you have given all peoples one common origin. It is your will that we be gathered together as one family in yourself. Fill the hearts of humanity with the fire of your love and with the desire to ensure justice for all. By sharing the good things you give us, may we work for equality for all our brothers and sisters throughout the world. May there be an end to division, strife and war. May there be a dawning of a truly human society built on love and peace. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our Lord. Amen