I am working with Celia Kellett at BBC Radio Nottingham on an idea to present most of the books of the Bible, one a week, during 2011 as part of the celebrations of the King James Bible.The plan is to read some verses from the book, to give a one-and-a-half minute summary, to hear a human interest story which relates, and then include a short discussion making the connections.
Amos wants to see justice done. Like Hosea, he is a prophet to northern kingdom of Israel, and he is very clear which nations are under judgement.
The nations to the north who trampled my people underfoot, they are under judgement.
The nations to the south, who killed innocent women and children, they are under judgement.
The nations to the east, who started a war when we were not ready, they are under judgement.
The nations who claim to be religious, but do not do what God really wants, they are under judgement.
And my own people, who ignore the needs of the poor while the rich live in luxury—they are under judgement.
What? God’s own people under judgement? Surely not? Yes, they are, because God’s justice is not just limited to our own perceptions, says Amos, and it is certainly not limited to our desire for revenge on those who have wronged us and oppressed us. God’s desire for justice applies to all, and he is much more concerned for justice than any of us.
Jesus says something similar in the New Testament: ‘With the measure you measure others, your yourselves will be measured.’ And how do we measure up?
Amos, almost literally, holds up a plumb line to God’s people, and they are out of true. They want justice and vengeance on the nations around them, but God’s justice opposes not just men of violence, but those who are complacent about inequality, who ignore the needs of others whilst relaxing in luxury and enjoying their consumer lifestyle. It is this kind of justice Amos longs for.
Let justice roll on like a river, he says, and righteousness like a never-failing stream!
Verses: From Amos 2, 7 and 8
This is what the LORD says:
“For three sins of Israel, even for four,
I will not turn back my wrath.
They sell the innocent for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals.
They trample on the heads of the poor
as on the dust of the ground
and deny justice to the oppressed.
Father and son use the same girl
and so profane my holy name.”
The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Amos?” “A plumb line,” I replied. Then the Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.
This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: a basket of ripe fruit. “What do you see, Amos?” he asked. “A basket of ripe fruit,” I answered. Then the LORD said to me, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.