Questions: Why does God punish us? Is He fair? What have we done to Him? What has He done for us? Have we despised His gifts? Do we think we can get away with it?
“Read More” to pursue answers from the Prophet Amos.
Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love.
Draw me into your Presence
And fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I would know you as my Father
And manifest the image of Christ
In this world, and the world to come. Amen.
Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away [the punishment] thereof; because they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept his commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the which their fathers have walked:
Though I saved Judah’s condemnation (indictment?) for today, it is pretty similar to those meted out last time to the Syrians, Philistines, Phoenicians, Edomites, Ammonites, and Moabites. They do at least get a full list of three transgressions:
- despising the law of the Lord
- not keeping His commandments
- erring, due to their lies
Perhaps significantly, most of these relate to how they treated God, rather than their neighbors; but the punishment is the same:
But I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem.
At any rate, since this was written to the northern kingdom, all that seems primarily a preamble to:
Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away [the punishment] thereof;
In other words, they will be judged according to the same principles as their neighbors; remarkably even-handed of God! And what are their transgressions?
- because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes;
- That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor,
- and turn aside the way of the meek:
- and a man and his father will go in unto the [same] maid, to profane my holy name:
- And they lay [themselves] down upon clothes laid to pledge by every altar,
- and they drink the wine of the condemned [in] the house of their god.
One could perhaps summarize that as Indifference, Greed, Anger, Lust, Idolatry, Drunkenness — though that mapping is somewhat arbitrary. No matter what names you put on it, their behavior is a reproach to God. Which is particularly annoying after all He did from them:
Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height [was] like the height of the cedars, and he [was] strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath. Also I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years through the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite.
And if giving them the promised land wasn’t enough:
Fascinating. Out of all the things God has given them, why does He mention prophets and Nazarites? Perhaps because that is the gift they most despised:
But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.
From this I infer that Nazarites (Nazirites) and prophets were (among other things) a sign to the people of the importance of true obedience. By their holiness and words they called people away from lifeless ritual towards authentic devotion. Alas, Israel saw that as a threat instead of a gift, and sought to silence that voice rather than heed it. No wonder God has reached His breaking point:
Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed [that is] full of sheaves.
And when you’ve annoyed God, nothing can keep you safe:
Therefore the flight shall perish from the swift,
and the strong shall not strengthen his force,
neither shall the mighty deliver himself:
Neither shall he stand that handleth the bow;
and [he that is] swift of foot shall not deliver [himself]:
neither shall he that rideth the horse deliver himself.
And [he that is] courageous among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, saith the LORD.
What this really says to me is “the end of pride.” It is so easy for us — me! — to ignore the voice of criticism, and downplay those who are hungry after God as “too radical” or “judgmental.” Yet, perhaps it would be wiser to consider whether God in fact deliberately placed such people in our lives; even if only to try our patience and test our character!
Yet the day of the Lord is coming, when God will repay each of us according to what we have done (with what He has given us). All my wealth and wisdom will mean little, if I have not heeded His words. I wonder if I will be ready. Will you?
God, I just want to confess my stopped-up ears. I have refused to heed the concerns of my wife, and submit to the judgment of my elders. I have coddled my inner sin calling it “personality”, and refused to let you have full dominion over every aspect of my being. Father, forgive me, according to your great mercy. Make me clean, make me whole, make me pure. I ask all this by and in the blood of your son, Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.
About the Title:
Today’s title is inspired by one of my favorite worship songs in college.