Reading and Pondering Amos, Part One   1 comment

Above:  The Prophet Amos

Against Economic Exploitation and Other Forms of Cruelty

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Amos 2:6-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Thus said the LORD:

For three transgressions of Israel,

For four, I will not revoke it;

Because they have sold for silver

Those whose cause was just,

And the needy for a pair of sandals.

[Ah,] you who trample the heads of the poor

Into the dust of the ground,

And make the humble walk a twisted course!

Father and son go to the same girl,

And therefore profane My holy name.

They recline by every altar

On garments taken in pledge,

And drink in the House of their God.

Wine bought with fines they imposed.

Yet I

Destroyed the Amorite before them,

Whose stature was like the cedar’s

And who was as stout as the oak,

Destroying his boughs above

And his trunk below!

And I

Brought you up from the land of Egypt

And led you through the wilderness forty years,

To possess the land of the Amorite!

And I raised up prophets from among your sons

And nazirites from among your young men.

Is that not so, O people of Israel?

–says the LORD.

But you made the nazirites drink wine

And ordered the prophets not to prophesy.

Ah, I will show your movements

As a wagon is slowed

When it is full of cut grain.

Flight shall fail the swift,

The strong shall find no strength,

And the warrior shall not save his life.

The bowman shall not hold his ground,

And the fleet-footed shall not escape,

Nor the horseman save his life.

Even the most stouthearted warrior

Shall run away unarmed that day

–declares the LORD.

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The Kingdom of Israel was wealthy and militarily strong during the reign of King Jeroboam II (788-747 B.C.E.)  The Assyrian Empire, which would conquer Israel twenty-five years later (722 B.C.E.), was not yet a threat.  It is easy to be strong and prosperous kingdom with expanding borders when one has mostly weak neighbors.

Yet the prosperity coexisted with corruption in the judiciary and exploitation of the poor.  Many of the wealthy were ostentatious; pride flowed through the land like a mighty river.  The prophet Amos, a shepherd and sycamore tree dresser, proclaimed the word of God.  Part of the word he proclaimed was this:  Social justice is an essential part of societal righteousness.  For these sins, Amos said, God promised to destroy Israel, the northern kingdom.

Before this reading in Amos one reads other pronouncements of doom on various nations:  Aram, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, and Judah.  The proclamations condemn the acts of exiling and selling populations into slavery, repressing all pity, ripping open pregnant women of Gilead to expand national territory, burning the bones of the Edomite king to lime, and not observing God’s law.  Then, of course, we have this day’s reading from Chapter 2.

We will always have with us those who profess to follow God yet who act without mercy, slaughter innocents for national and personal glory, sell people into some form of slavery (wage or otherwise), force people out of their homes unjustly and seize the land, or condone one or some or all of these deeds.  They are hypocrites.  There are those among us today who profess to follow God yet trample and exploit others economically and sexually or condone such actions.  They are hypocrites.

Who are these people where you live?  Look around; you can identify them.  Reject their message.  If, for example, they seek to gain or retain political office via wedge issues, such as “I don’t like (insert name of despised group here) either,” the moral choice is to vote for an inclusive candidate.  As a student of Southern U.S. history, I can call to mind quickly tales of successful politicians who used racism to win votes from poor whites then instituted or continued policies which hurt the interests of those voters.  And I don’t have to reach back to the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion to do this.

The message of Amos, which we will continue to explore for the next five posts in this series, is timeless.  For now focus on how you, O reader, can affirm human dignity, especially that of the vulnerable, properly and most effectively.  (It is vital to do the right thing in the right ways.)  Then put your plan into motion.  Love of one’s neighbors requires nothing less.

Abraham Heschel writes:

There is a living God who cares.  Justice is more than an idea or norm.  Justice is a divine concern.  What obtains between God and His people is not only a covenant of mutual obligations, but also a relationship of mutual concern.  The message of God is not an impersonal accusation, but the utterance of a Redeemer who is pained by the misdeeds, the thanklessness of those whom He has redeemed.  His words are plaintive and disconsolate.  (The Prophets, Volume 1, 1962), page 32

By grace, may God have no cause to look upon our actions then become plaintive and disconsolate.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 24, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/week-of-proper-8-monday-year-2/

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Posted August 24, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Amos 2

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One response to “Reading and Pondering Amos, Part One

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  1. Pingback: Week of Proper 8: Monday, Year 2 « ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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