Read Amos 5
A Lament and Call to Repentance
5 Hear this word, Israel, this lament I take up concerning you:
2 “Fallen is Virgin Israel,
never to rise again,
deserted in her own land,
with no one to lift her up.”
3 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to Israel:
“Your city that marches out a thousand strong
will have only a hundred left;
your town that marches out a hundred strong
will have only ten left.”
4 This is what the Lord says to Israel:
“Seek me and live;
5 do not seek Bethel,
do not go to Gilgal,
do not journey to Beersheba.
For Gilgal will surely go into exile,
and Bethel will be reduced to nothing.”
6 Seek the Lord and live,
or he will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire;
it will devour them,
and Bethel will have no one to quench it.
7 There are those who turn justice into bitterness
and cast righteousness to the ground.
8 He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
who turns midnight into dawn
and darkens day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out over the face of the land—
the Lord is his name.
9 With a blinding flash he destroys the stronghold
and brings the fortified city to ruin.
10 There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court
and detest the one who tells the truth.
11 You levy a straw tax on the poor
and impose a tax on their grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.
12 For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.
There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
13 Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times,
for the times are evil.
14 Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.
15 Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy
on the remnant of Joseph.
16 Therefore this is what the Lord, the Lord God Almighty, says:
“There will be wailing in all the streets
and cries of anguish in every public square.
The farmers will be summoned to weep
and the mourners to wail.
17 There will be wailing in all the vineyards,
for I will pass through your midst,”
says the Lord.
The Day of the Lord
18 Woe to you who long
for the day of the Lord!
Why do you long for the day of the Lord?
That day will be darkness, not light.
19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.
20 Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light—
pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?
21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!
25 “Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?
26 You have lifted up the shrine of your king,
the pedestal of your idols,
the star of your god—
which you made for yourselves.
27 Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,”
says the Lord, whose name is God Almighty.
It’s not news to any of us that we live in a fallen world. Disease, death, and affliction are all around us. The fruits of our sin and brokenness run rampant. Life can feel unfair and brutal. Life for Israel in Amos 5 was no different. Israel lived in sin and suffered the drastic consequences. Evil was everywhere. The rich exploited the poor and the powerful hurt the innocent (v. 12). This was a time when people “turned justice into bitterness” and “threw what is fair and right to the ground” (v. 7). It often feels like this is the same world we live in. And it is. We look around us and see a world that “calls evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).
Amos 5:8-9 offers us incredible hope in the midst of this suffering. There is One who spoke into existence the universe–– One who reigns over light and holds power over the darkness. The Lord is His name! He is powerful to bring judgment on the wicked and to rescue His children. Evil does not triumph! We don’t have to despair in a world suffering from sin and brokenness. We can know that our God is more powerful than it all.
In the midst of all this brokenness in the world and out of our own hearts, God implores us to seek Him! Comparing verses 4 and 14 reveals that seeking God is equivalent to seeking good. God is the standard that defines justice and righteousness, so to worship Him is to do justice and righteousness––to do good! Ephesians 2:10 tells us something similar: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Part of following Jesus is living out the good works God created us to do.
Nonetheless, the Lord makes it clear in verses 21-23 that he doesn’t want just meaningless, obligatory worship and rituals. Empty religion apart from a relationship with Him won’t cut it. And it’s worse than inadequate; it hurts His heart! He wants both our hearts and our actions. “Justice must flow like torrents of water, righteous actions like a stream that never dries up” (v. 24). Because God defines righteousness and justice, pursuing these things because of our faith is an act of worship.
Yes, we live in a world overcome by the effects of sin and brokenness. And yet, we do not despair, for our God is greater. And He uses us as part of His solution to bring goodness to the world by His grace.
- Where in your life do you see sin and brokenness that you need to invite God to heal?
- Are there any areas of your life where you are “throwing what is fair and right to the ground” (v. 7)?
- Who comes to mind when you think of someone out of whom “justice flows like torrents or water, righteous actions like a stream that never dries up” (v. 24)? How can you imitate Christ like that?
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