15 06 2017

Today’s Scripture is Amos 2.

This is what the Lord says:

“For three sins of Moab,
    even for four, I will not relent.
Because he burned to ashes
    the bones of Edom’s king,
I will send fire on Moab
    that will consume the fortresses of Kerioth.
Moab will go down in great tumult
    amid war cries and the blast of the trumpet.
I will destroy her ruler
    and kill all her officials with him,”
says the Lord.

This is what the Lord says:

“For three sins of Judah,
    even for four, I will not relent.
Because they have rejected the law of the Lord
    and have not kept his decrees,
because they have been led astray by false gods,[b]
    the gods their ancestors followed,
I will send fire on Judah
    that will consume the fortresses of Jerusalem.”

Judgment on Israel

This is what the Lord says:

“For three sins of Israel,
    even for four, I will not relent.
They sell the innocent for silver,
    and the needy for a pair of sandals.
They trample on the heads of the poor
    as on the dust of the ground
    and deny justice to the oppressed.
Father and son use the same girl
    and so profane my holy name.
They lie down beside every altar
    on garments taken in pledge.
In the house of their god
    they drink wine taken as fines.

“Yet I destroyed the Amorites before them,
    though they were tall as the cedars
    and strong as the oaks.
I destroyed their fruit above
    and their roots below.
10 I brought you up out of Egypt
    and led you forty years in the wilderness
    to give you the land of the Amorites.

11 “I also raised up prophets from among your children
    and Nazirites from among your youths.
Is this not true, people of Israel?”
declares the Lord.
12 “But you made the Nazirites drink wine
    and commanded the prophets not to prophesy.

13 “Now then, I will crush you
    as a cart crushes when loaded with grain.
14 The swift will not escape,
    the strong will not muster their strength,
    and the warrior will not save his life.
15 The archer will not stand his ground,
    the fleet-footed soldier will not get away,
    and the horseman will not save his life.
16 Even the bravest warriors
    will flee naked on that day,”
declares the Lord.

Taken from:  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Amos+2 

Just to give you some context of why I’m mentioning these scriptures, I am reading through some of the Old Testament prophets, and Amos is my current stop.

To give you some biblical context, let me turn back to Amos 1, to tell you about the writer.  Amos is a shepherd in Tekoa, and while he’s tending his sheep one day, he saw a vision for Israel from God.  Amos’ name means literally burden-bearer.  I haven’t finished reading the book of Amos yet, but just from chapters 1 &2, he’s got quite the load on him. I wouldn’t want to be the one who had to share this message to the people.  He’s calling out the people for what they’ve done wrong and how they’ve wronged the people of God and how they’ve disrespected God.  I imagine that his audience would have rather killed him than to listen to him tell them how much they’ve done wrong.  Often, when you do expose the wrongdoings of the world, you are shunned or disliked.  But share it anyways, if you are so led to do so.  But don’t share it to highlight how awesome you are, but to push someone else closer to their awesomeness.

Anywho, let’s dig into Amos, shall we?

Chapter 2 has two very different groups of people.  And really, Chapter 1 and verses 1-3, is all about how the “outsiders” to God have desecrated God.  And then the rest of chapter 2 focuses on how God’s people are going to face judgement.  So I’d like to divide them in two contrasting sections.

1. God’s Judgement unto the nonbelievers.

First, I’d like to examine what God says he’s going to do with those that don’t believe in them.  God has called out these people for what they’ve done wrong.  There are many wrong doings in Chapter 1.  In almost every incidence, God is bringing down fire upon these people, and destroying pillars of their strength, whether it be a wall, a gate or fortresses.  I don’t think this is without symbolism.

When I was young, one Sunday morning at like 7:00am, my dad woke me up in a start.  He told me to put on my shoes, put in my ears and get outside.  My dad was panicked.  I hurried through everything, as my dad tried to get my sister up, and get her shoes on.  My whole family stood on the front yard as we watched my next-door neighbor’s house catch on fire.  It burned for hours.  When it was over and the fire was put out, nothing was usable anymore.  Later, we walked through the rubble, and the smell of burnt things, it penetrated the air.  We stepped on wood that evaporated into black dust and ask.  Wood that once was strong, and it was now dust.  Crumbling.  Fire destroys matter.  It burns it away until it is no longer any worth.  I was so moved, by the realization that my neighbors had literally lost everything.  It had been burned away.  Useless, worthless, ash.  In the same way, God says he’s going to destroy these entire cities.  He would leave people homeless, hopeless, with nothing.

That fire would destroy their fortresses, their walls.  He would take away every element of their feeling of safety that they had ever had or felt.  He would take away anything that made them feel like they were safe, and would leave them vulnerable to attack.  Essentially, leaving a lamb in the middle of a pit with a bunch of hungry lions.

At first, my thought was WHY?  Why would a loving God do anything like that?  Why would the God who sent Jesus down in love, destroy people through fire?  Why would he do that?  And I get angry that this is not the God that I love and serve.

But if you look at the first sentence for each judgement, God clearly describes what these people have done wrong.

For example, in the circumstance of the people of Moab, he’s judging them because they desecrated the bones of Edom’s king.  I don’t know what this means, or what this means that they did to deserve this, but it was pretty bad.  Edom’s king was seen, from what I understand, as a king of war hero.  So, to put it in context, I think of someone doing something awful to the grave of JFK.

And as I wonder why he would destroy with fire, and break their defenses, I realize it’s a judgement thing.  But, the hope is that they would use these situations to realize that they have put their trust in the wrong things to keep them safe.  I hope that they would realize that they are living their lives according to a sense of non-morality.  I hope that they would use this to turn themselves and change their lives.  But often, when those who have done wrong are called out and punished, they do not turn and change their ways.

2.  God’s Judgement unto the Believers.

When people are loved by God, I’ve heard the sentiment that they believe that they can live whichever way that they want, because God will never stop loving them.  I’ve witnessed this attitude, and it often doesn’t lead people to being good people.  While it is true, I believe, that when God loves you once, he doesn’t ever stop loving you.  The Bible frequently says that we cannot be separated from the love of God.  But I don’t think anyone gets an exception to the expectation that God’s people will try to live by producing the fruits of the spirit in their lives.

That’s kind of the attitude that I imagine Judah and Israel have towards this grace and belovedness.  According to this passage, they seem to think that their special chosen-ness has exempted them from living right, as you should.

This is not true.

Because they have rejected the laws of the Lord, they have not kept his decrees, because they have worshipped false Gods, God will destroy them with fire, and will eat away at the fortresses of Jerusalem.

Because they sell their people and exchange them in case of money, they oppress the poor and deny justice to those who are oppressed.  Because they use prostitutes and share them amongst family members, because they shame the name of the Lord, because they do not honor the offerings given to the Lord, and take offerings for their pleasure.  Because of all of them, God says he will not relent, he will not hold back on his punishment.

But look at all of the things God did for them!  He destroyed the enemies while they were standing there watching, he destroyed their crops, and made it so they cannot grow their food.  He took them out of Egypt, where they were enslaved, and led them throughout the desert, so that he could give them the land of the Amorites.  Not only that!  But he raised up their children to be prophets, he further showed how special that they are to God, and yet, they neglected their chosen-ness.  They desecrated their specialness.  No wonder he was going to destroy them.  No wonder!

Notice, he never says that he will not love them.  He never says he’s going to leave them.  But he does not say that he will protect them from the consequences that are going to happen because they  have done so many wrong things.

3.  No one can escape the consequences.

If we are honest, we don’t like the consequences that we have to face or that we experience.  We like to get off scot-free.  We like to not have to deal with the natural consequences.  I have this student that I taught this year….and nothing ever seemed to be his fault.  He would get called out for something  and immediately, his response was “I didn’t do it.”  In fact, in the last few days of school, I asked him to come to my desk because I was going to ask him to do something and he immediately said “I didn’t do it.”  A lot of times, I imagine that when we experience a consequence, I bet a lot of us look at God with that same expression.  But really, if we get down to it and break it down, we often do the things that deserve those consequences.

If I get caught speeding, which I have done before, I often liked to blame it on that hill or the traffic or whatever to make myself feel better about the fact that I have a state trooper in my rearview mirror.  But the reality is, I shouldn’t have been speeding.  The reality is, that we all are going to have the natural consequences to whatever we’ve done wrong.  No matter how strong we are, how fast we are or how accurate we are, we will not be able to escape that consequence.  Even though every time that I speed, there’s not always a state trooper nearby, you can rest that at some time or another, I will get caught.  Every consequence to what I’ve done wrong may not happen immediately, but it will happen at some time or another.

Closing Remarks

So, what do we do?

We live right.  We make good choices, and we do the right thing.  Nothing else really matters, does it?

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