Explore the Bible: Listen to God

The Explore the Bible Lesson for Sept. 4 focuses on Amos 2:4-16.

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  • The Explore the Bible Lesson for Sept. 4 focuses on Amos 2:4-16.

A prophet from the South travels to the North to share a message from the Lord. The message is precise and convicting. Amos, a prophet by calling but not by trade, travels upward and tells Israel that God plans to judge six neighboring nations. You can almost hear Israel jeering as the prophet reels the oracles against these six nations. Then, by an oracle longer than those for the other nations, Amos tells Israel she is next. Israel is guilty, and, in fact, being the very people of the Lord, she has the most guilt.

In a time as prosperous as this was for Israel, it may have been a message barely believable. Yet, through Amos, the Lord is calling Israel to wake to her reality, to recognize her unjust and unfaithful ways for what they are. Typical of messages through prophets, Amos urges Israel to look within. “‘Is this not true, people of Israel?’ declares the Lord” (2:11). Yet, the question stands: To what realities does Israel need wake up? What has Israel done?

In short, Israel has rejected God. They rejected the laws of the Lord. This is not a first for Israel. The ancestors of those whom Amos is speaking to did not obey the laws of God in the wilderness (2:4). History repeats itself for Israel (for humanity, really). Yet, God repeats himself, too, coming to remind Israel of their unique calling and relationship. God reminds Israel what he had done for them in the past. God destroyed the Amorites, brought Israel out of Egypt, and led them into the land of the Amorites in order to take it. God has provided for them. They are no longer cherishing those gifts. The patterns of the past are patterns Amos is calling out in their present.

Yet the patterns in the present are taking on a unique twist. Israel is disobeying laws concerning how people are to be treated. The poor are taken advantage of and the righteous, too (2:6-7). Husbands allow their fathers to take sexual advantage of their own wives (2:7). Prophets make particular judgements, and Amos’ particular judgements are concerning how Israel has been treating people, which is direct defilement of the laws of the Lord.

Verses 11-12 detail how the Lord raised up prophets and Nazarites to convict Israel in an effort to urge them back to their God. They told the prophets to hush and filled the Nazarites mouths with wine (direct defilement of a Nazarite’s unique religious vows). Israel has gone her own way and hushed those who would challenge those self-indulgent ways.

Amos comes from the South to the North to tell Israel they are no better than the other nations receiving the Lord’s judgement, and due to their particular relationship with Yahweh their guilt is greater. Their guilt is greater, and it is specific: they have abused others for their own gain. In a time as prosperous as this was greed was rampant. Amos comes to rouse the people to their own reality, and return to their God.

Look inward and ask questions

Amos comes to command Israel to look inward to ask the questions they have silenced. Even so, this message comes not from Amos, not really, but from the Lord (“declares the Lord,” 2:16). The Lord brings these specific judgements: Israel, sadly similar to her ancestors, has turned from the just ways of the Lord. Israel is unjust and has silenced those who would say otherwise.

These first two chapters of Amos are a reminder the Lord cannot be silenced. God speaks life (Genesis 1), even when humans hush God in the name of death and destruction. God desires justice all over creation but there is a particular onus on the people of God. Judgement may come to all, but there appears, throughout Scripture, a particular responsibility on those who know and are meant to follow the ways of God.

I think of how the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention protected themselves and many pastors and church leaders from numerous allegations (and convictions) of sexual abuse. I think of how the women, men and children who had been victims of said abuse were hushed and gaslit. Sadly, we know this evil not only persists in SBC churches, but those of other denominations, too. That any institution would willingly permit sexual predators to remain in leadership is evil, but that these were churches makes it all the more shocking. There is a particular responsibility on the people of God to not exploit, and, if Amos is any indicator, the judgment is harsher when we do no.

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In the same way, Amos is shocking Israel to repentance and, ultimately back to the Lord; these stories of abuse should do the same for us. They should encourage us examine how we speak and act. Do the things we say perpetuate a culture that allows for manipulation and abuse? Do the ways we act toward those who have been taken advantage of silence the justice of a God who seeks the ethical, wholistic treatment of all people? Ultimately, Amos urges those in the church to be introspective: to look within and examine, to see if their acts are just and if they allow people to tell them otherwise.

Maddie Rarick is pastor of Meadow Oaks Baptist Church in Temple, Texas.

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