Three Crimes, Even Four

Today’s reading from Amos 1-2. As the book of Amos opens, God does not plead through the prophet as a fatherly shepherd, but roars as a fearsome lion. What has so disturbed God that He responds in such a powerful manner? Initially, we see that He is declaring a time of wrath and judgment on those who have attacked and  oppressed His people. At the center of many of the pronouncements is violence, bloodshed, forced slavery, and greed.

Amos’ audience in Israel would have loved this message from the Judean  shepherd. They would have even applauded when he declared God’s message against Judah, a rival of Israel at the time. Yet, they surely bristled when he began the pronouncement against them. But what is the message of Amos that deserves such raw and unrestrained force from the God who roars?

To their shame, Israel had harmed themselves in the same ways as those they would have counted as enemies. They sold one another for silver and bartered for the poor with sandals. They trampled the heads of the poor and obstructed their paths. Neither were they respecting the worship of God. From the oppressed people they had taken bribes and collateral. With these ill gotten gains they defiled the marriage bed and prostituted themselves before pagan altars.

We begin to see a pattern emerge. The Israelites were living in a time in which they were experiencing some level of peace and prosperity, but during this time of material blessing they had slipped far from the plan of God. Throughout Amos, we repeatedly see a correlation between mangled relationships and contorted worship.

God cares about the suffering of His people, even if that suffering is at the hands of those same people. God cares about how you care for others. In fact, when you read the list of grievances listed in these two chapters you will notice that God consistently points out, not their lack of relationship with Him, but their inexcusable practices toward one another before drawing attention to their corrupt worship.

How are you treating others? Are they disposable pawns to be used for your personal gain? Are they simply annoyances that you must navigate throughout the day? Or are those around you fellow imagebearers worthy of your compassion and care?