Formations lesson for November 16: The Table is Bare : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
October 30 2003 by John Norman Jr.

Formations lesson for November 16: The Table is Bare : Friday, Oct. 31, 2003
Friday, Oct. 31, 2003

Formations lesson for November 16: The Table is Bare

By John Norman Jr.
Focal passages: Amos 2:6-8, 5:18-27, 6:4-7
Profaning God's Name

Amos 2:6-8

There are two things I remember about the book of Amos from studying it during my seminary days - the delivery of its message and the message's content. The delivery of the message is a bit of preaching perfection. Amos began his sermon with pronouncements against Israel's neighbors and ended by bringing the most stinging indictment against Israel itself. With each pronouncement of "Thus says the Lord ...," Amos preached against the surrounding peoples and told of God's judgment for their indiscretions.

You can almost imagine that as each nation was mentioned one by one; those in Israel gave Amos a resounding "amen" for his setting the nations straight. But, just as Nathan wove a web in which David found himself ensnared and had his own sin brought before his eyes, Amos also caught the people of Israel in a trap which brought to light their sin and how God was going to deal with that sin.

The content of Amos' proclamation, on the whole, has to do with social justice, or the ways in which members of a group treat one another. According to Amos, Israel's social injustice had to do with the mistreatment of the poor. There was inequality in the treatment of those who were less fortunate by those who were better off. But notice something interesting about those who were treating the poor improperly - they engaged in religious acts. Perhaps they thought they were religious, but God was not represented correctly in their words or actions.

Unacceptable Offerings

Amos 5:18-27

No one wants to have an offering rejected, whether it is Cain, Israel or us. However, that is exactly what happened to the people as God attempted to get their attention through the preaching of Amos. Indeed, God was not impressed with their misguided religious activities. God was not interested in gatherings, offerings or music. Yet, it was not necessarily what the Israelites offered as much as the way it was offered - without consideration for the poor.

In Amos 5:24, it seems we find the theme for the entire book and the heartfelt desire of God for the people. "But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." God wants religion to transform people's lives so they look after each other just like they look after themselves. God desires a community where people are treated justly. And, according to Amos, the way to achieve this is to have a close relationship with God, just as Israel did in the wilderness.

The Pride of Jacob

Amos 6:4-7

However, the luxury of Israel had skewed its vision. The wealth of Israel had become its master. Thus, Israel had to face the consequences of its decisions and enter exile. It would be most difficult on those who had lived in comfort. The less fortunate would experience little difference. The intention of the exile was for Israel to return to its relationship with God and realize its dependence on God.

For me, the book of Amos is one of the most challenging books of the Bible to read. Although it is set in 8th century B.C. and records the prophetic ministry of the man from Tekoa in Judah to the people of Israel, it also speaks to us today. The church in the United States must hear the words of God spoken through Amos because we too are tempted to focus on our wealth and forget the less fortunate.

As we think about the problem of hunger around the world, Christians in America need to be mindful of the text in Amos. Being mindful of our brothers and sisters who are in need is a means of being faithful to God. Too often we outright neglect the hungry - this is unacceptable.

You may have heard the saying, "Give a person a fish and you feed him/her for a day; teach a person to fish and you feed him/her for a lifetime." Sometimes we are called to meet the needs of the day. Other times, we are called to meet the needs of a lifetime. Regardless, as Amos reminds us, our faith demands that we act.

10/30/2003 11:00:00 PM by John Norman Jr. | with 0 comments

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