6–12 October 2019.
The book of Amos begins with a collection of judgement prophecies, describing God’s coming punishment on some of ancient Israel’s enemies. For the Israelites listening to these prophecies against Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, and Amon, they must have felt quite happy. In Amos’s time Israel was actually doing rather well politically and economically. They had grown to become a rich and prosperous nation. But even though the Israelites were no longer an oppressed people, it still would have been nice to imagine their old enemies getting punished by God.
But unexpectedly, in the middle of those nice thoughts suddenly everything changes. That’s because Amos’s prophecies of divine punishment don’t stop with a list just of Israel’s enemies. Suddenly Israel finds itself on that list too.
Yes, Israel had grown strong and rich as a nation, but in the middle of their wealth they had treated the poor in their own land terribly. They were so used to thinking of themselves as oppressed people, that they looked forward to God’s judgement on their enemies. But Amos makes it clear that the Israelites themselves had now become the oppressors, and now they deserved just as much punishment as they wished on their enemies. The Israelites had abused the weak and needy, they had destroyed the lives of thousands of poor families, and they were very content with the end result.
So Amos reminds the Israelites that God is the God of the weak and oppressed; God’s judgement will surely come on all those who push others down and abuse them. And importantly: Israel is not exempt from this punishment. God doesn’t show favouritism. God is always on the side of the weakest. So even if it’s God’s own chosen people who were now doing the oppressing, they too will be torn down and destroyed.
While Amos’s words stand as a frightening warning to Israel, there is also a message of hope here. In a world full of bias, in a world where the rich and powerful often get away with so much, God always stands up for fairness and justice for the smallest and weakest of us. God will never close his eyes to abuse and unfairness, even when it’s his own people who are causing it. That’s how deeply God loves justice, that’s how strongly God cares for those being hurt, and that’s how powerfully God loves us. And in a world full of injustice, this divine passion for goodness and fairness truly is wonderful news!
Pastor Stephen Lakkis