13–19 October 2019.
In Amos 6, God continues his frightening condemnation of the Israelites for all the economic injustices they have committed in their land. The Israelites have pushed people not only into poverty but to the very edge of existence itself. By rigging the economic system, by cheating in trade, and by using oppressive loans the wealthy have stolen whatever they can, broken apart families, and driven people into slavery and death. And worst of all, the wealthy Israelites who have done this just don’t care. As people suffer and die through the land, the wealthy enjoy their luxurious lives. So Amos shouts out, warning the Israelites of the judgement that God is quickly sending on Israel.
In vv. 4–7 Amos describes the abuses of the carefree rich. They only think about themselves and their own gains; they have no concern for the common good or about the way they are making others suffer. They have given up on compassion and instead see money-making as their only goal. But in this way these Israelites are literally leading their nation to destruction. They don’t see the harm they are doing by oppressing the poor. But when God’s punishment comes on Israel, the whole world will see the results of that heartlessness.
Israel was once a nation in need, a nation suffering and oppressed. So God – in his grace and in his care for those in deepest need – saved the Israelites and gave them a land of their own where they could live. But instead of learning from this and becoming defenders of the weak, in v. 12 Amos says that the Israelites have taken this gift of God’s justice and turned it into poison. The Israelites have destroyed the economic justice God wanted and provided for all people, and instead pushed so many into a life with no hope. God watched as the Israelites went from being the oppressed to becoming the new oppressor, destroying God’s plan for justice, fairness, and goodness for all. As a result, v. 14 speaks out God’s horrible judgement against the Israelites: Instead of Israel having the divine gift of a land of their own, God will now send other nations against them, to destroy them and put an end to their oppression – and God himself will lead the battle.
Today in Taiwan too many of us are still struggling to survive. Like poor people in the ancient world, too many of us are also struggling to provide for ourselves and our families in a society that is more unjust than it should be. But the good news is that God really does care about our struggles. God really wants our society to be better, to be a fairer place with options and hope for us all. When the poor heard Amos’s words they were filled with hope, knowing that change was coming. That’s the same hope God also gives us today: that we too can hold on, and not give up, because we know change is coming!
Pastor Stephen Lakkis