January 2009

It appears I’m getting slower and slower at posting new parts in my occasional series looking at the content of the book of Amos, but now that I’m here I’ll continue from where I left off (towards the end of Ch.3). If you’d like to read Amos Ch.4 first, before reading my notes then you can find it by following the link (as usual I’m referencing Today’s New International Version) …

Read :  http://www.zondervanbiblesearch.com/TNIVOTNT/Amos/4

Among Amos’ audience there were almost certainly a number of rich women who would not have been slow to express contempt for his message, bringing from the prophet a stinging rebuke and a warning of impending disaster. Well-fed and plump, adorned with jewellery, including the nose-rings to which Isaiah would later refer to in his condemnation of the women of Jerusalem (Isaiah Ch.3 vs.18-23), these women at Bethel reminded Amos of  nothing more than the fat cattle for which the region of Bashan was renowned (Ch.4 vs.1). Without in any way exonerating the men of Israel the prophet draws attention to the incessant demands of their wives for the luxuries which could be paid for only at the expense of the poor. Such women, who so callously ignored the suffering of others, will themselves become prey to the refinements of cruelty practised by invading Assyrian armies. With hooks through their mouths some of them will be drawn by their nose-rings through the breached walls of Samaria while the corpses of others will be dragged out for mass burial (Ch.4 vs.2 & 3).

It is, says the prophet, useless for such women to plead mitigation and cite cases of religious observances and attendances at religious festivals, since these are seen by Amos to be examples of sin rather than righteousness. About 170 years earlier Jeroboam I had established at Bethel and Dan centres of worship based on the bull cult, in direct competition to the divinely appointed worship at the temple in Jerusalem. He had consecrated a pagan priesthood (1 Kings Ch.12 vs.26-33) and by his actions had won for himself the unenviable title of the man, ‘… who caused Israel to sin …’ (1 Kings Ch.16 vs.2). And yet, when Amos refers to the sin of the worship at Bethel he doesn’t have the transgressions of Jeroboam I in mind since nowhere does he try to win the people back to the worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Their sins went much further than that of a false ritual or an un-scriptural method of worship. In reality of course any kind of worship divorced from practical righteousness, however Biblically based, is no better than an attempt to bribe the Almighty and so becomes an insult to His holiness. So even if every day could become a New Year celebration, and even if tithes due every third year were brought every third day, all such religious observance would serve only to highlight the hypocrisy of their worship.

One of the elements present at any of the great festivals was the recitation of the former acts of God on behalf of His people, a remembrance of God’s faithfulness and His power. But, in sharp contrast, Amos recounts God’s acts of judgement that have beset the people of Israel (Ch.4 vs.6-11).

Another part of the ritual of worship involved the appearance of the Shekinah glory, that outward sign of the presence of God with His people. For Israel that presence had become not a promise but a threat, ‘… because I will do this to you, Israel, prepare to meet your God …’ (Ch.4 vs.12b). The truth was, that despite their love of religious ceremonies, the people of Israel had little conception of the greatness and majesty of the God they professed to worship. So, in words that may well have been drawn out from the liturgy of the New Year festival Amos draws the attention of the people to the fact that their God is the One who created the great mountain ranges and can fathom the depths of the human heart (Ch.4 vs.13).

We’ll jump into Ch.5 next time …. as time allows …!

During last year I was asked to preach at church Belmont Chapel for part of a series entitled the Seven Deadly Sins. Just the other Sunday I was asked for my notes and PPTs from the four talks that I contributed to the eight part series so I thought I’d post them here for others who may wish to read them too. The first talk was an introduction to the series and you’ll find references to the slides on the accompanying PPT presentation as you read through what I wrote. You can find my PPT file here … PPT : Seven Deadly Sins – introduction

7ds-bookAlso, you’ll notice that Graham Tomlin’s book The Seven Deadly Sins : and how to overcome them was suggested as reading to accompany the preaching series. It’s a worthwhile read and I’d recommend it to you.

Here’s what I said …

(SLIDE 1) Dr Karl Menninger, the renowned psychiatrist, recounts in his journal the story of once having seeing a stern faced, plainly dressed man standing on a street corner in downtown Chicago. The man, so the story goes, would stand statue like for a considerable length of time, and then slowly and deliberately he would lift his right arm and, pointing to the nearest passer-by would shout, ‘… guilty ! …’. Then, without any change of expression, he would resume once again his rather awkward stance until, in obedience to some apparent internal prompting, he would raise his arm again and, pointing to another hapless, and no doubt bewildered pedestrian, he would once again shout, ‘… guilty ! …’ . Dr Menninger took special notice of the reaction of the people in the street. More often than not the man’s unfortunate victim would stare at him in disbelief and then would quickly hurry on. But this was not always to be the case, since one man immediately upon being verbally accosted by the guilty cry simply turned to his friend and said this, ‘… I don’t understand it, how did he know …?’.

The answer is simple of course, since, odd as he was, the man standing on the street corner clearly understood one of the universal basic truths of humanity : we are all guilty of something.

(SLIDE 2) Over the next few Sunday evenings under the series title Seven Deadly Sins we’re going to explore together seven aspects of character that exemplify and typify humanities sinfulness. As we consider them together I’m expecting that we will at times find what we uncover about ourselves to be uncomfortable, since, if we’re being honest enough to spend time looking at the subject of personal failure, we know we won’t always be looking at ourselves from the most flattering angles. The purpose of this series however is neither to demoralise or criticize but rather it is to challenge. And I trust, that together we will not only learn to have a correct perspective about sin within our own lives but also we will learn the important lesson that sin, by it’s very nature is damaging, not only to ourselves, but also to those with whom we share our lives with. Let’s pray that where there is a need, whether as individuals, or corporately as a church community here, to confront and deal with sin we may do it by seeking God’s help in weeding out the destructive traits that these seven words describe, and in doing so ask God’s help to re-populate our lives with constructive ones in their place. It’s my prayer for my own life that I might see humility in the place of pride, love in the place of envy, patience in the place of anger, generosity in the place of gluttony, faithfulness in the place of lust, contentment in the place of greed, usefulness in the place of sloth.

(SLIDE 3) If you’d like to take up the challenge to continue to think through these issues over the next few weeks I’d recommend you get hold of a copy of Graham Tomlin’s latest book, The Seven Deadly Sins : and how to overcome them which makes ideal additional reading to accompany the bible-based studies we will be following through Sunday by Sunday.

(SLIDE 4) So why Seven Deadly Sins ? What makes them so infamous ? In order to try and answer those questions I’d like you to pause and consider with me the list we have in front of us … pride … envy … anger … gluttony … lust … greed … and sloth. Close your eyes just for a moment and concentrate on the words … let me ask you a question … when you considered some or all of the words in this list where were you in your mind’s eye ? Where did you go in your imagination ?

(SLIDE 5) The philosopher Simone Weil wrote this, ‘… imaginary evil is romantic and varied … real evil is gloomy and barren … imaginary goodness is boring … but real goodness is always new, marvellous and intoxicating ..’. And it’s rather like that with this list of seven because if we’re completely honest with ourselves when we look at them on paper and we picture them in our minds they can appear strangely provocative and mildly alluring.

(SLIDE 6) Soon after the death of the actor John Belushi in 1983 from an lethal self-administered cocktail of heroin and cocaine one leading New York magazine wrote this concerning drug addiction, ‘… it can do you no harm and it can drive you insane … it can give you status in society and it can wreck your career … it can make you the life and soul of the party and it can turn you into a loner … it can be an elixir for high living and the potion of death …’. The contrasts are stark and like all sin there’s a marked difference between the appearance and the reality, between the momentary high and the lasting destructive effect. And that just goes to highlight something of why it is that despite the passage of several centuries since this list, or at least something like it, was first drawn up by Evagrius of Pontus, a Greek monastic theologian, that every intervening generation, possibly without exception, has at some point in time sought to reference and consider this list.

(SLIDE 7) References have been varied; some have chosen to depict the seven through visual art, such as Hieronymus Bosch’s famous work The Seven Deadly Sins and The Four Last Things, painted in the 13th Century. (SLIDE 8) Others have used literature, such as Geoffrey Chaucer’s the Parsons Tale, one of the Canterbury Tales, or more recently others have woven this same septet into children’s literature and we find them in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, and in Garth Nix’s book series The Keys to the Kingdom. (SLIDE 9) Others have used the medium of film, such as David Fincher, who’s taut and visceral thriller Se7en paints a grim portrait. And even more up to date, the world of Playstation gaming, through such titles as Devil May Cry have taken up the theme. The fascination continues. But today, does this fascination reflect the reality of sinfulness or does it in reality parody it, or at worst, ridicule the notion that these seven are anything other than minor character flaws.

(SLIDE 10) The answer is, I would suggest, all bound up in how society today views the word sin. Isn’t it the case that sin has long ago lost its impact, because the notion of sin is not something that our culture and society buys into ? Sin doesn’t fit into our modern world-view, because for so many people, sin harks back to a bygone age where rules abounded and where there was a constriction of thought and a repression of the right to be individualistic, where there was no space for what we now know to be the contemporary post-modern expressions of free thinking and liberal self-styled morality. How can a culture that holds nothing absolute and everything relative have within it’s construct a place for sin ?

And so we discover that the word and the understanding of what it means is ridiculed and belittled. On the high street perfumery counters have leading brand fragrances named Temptation and Sin, – and a leading confectionary manufacturer chooses to name a range of ice creams after all of the seven sins – and so it is that sin is turned inside out and portrayed as something enticing as something provocatively alluring that seeks to draw us in and have us explore. It’s worth noting that not much has changed since the Garden of Eden.

In one sense part of the problem is that in the pervading definition of sin has been, and probably continues to be, centred around the idea of breaking rules – but, in reality, that view goes only a little way towards understanding what sin is, since if we are to understand the truth about sin, as revealed for us in the Bible, then we need to take on board a far more comprehensive definition.

As I’ve already suggested finding a comprehensive definition of sin is not that straightforward. One expression finds us considering sin as going beyond the bounds, of doing something we shouldn’t do, of colouring outside of the lines, and yet also sin is a failure to reach a required standard, a standard that’s set and expected of us, of missing the mark and falling short, like an arrow that fails to find its target – and all of these ideas, and others, need to be considered as we try and get to grips with what sin is.

(SLIDE 11) And its important too when thinking about sin, that we get the right perspective about ourselves, since we need to remember that you and I are not sinners because we sin, but rather we sin, because we are sinners. That is, we were born with a bias towards sinfulness. The Bible is clear on this point, Paul writes to his friends in Rome, ‘…therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned …’ (Romans Ch.5:12), and the whole thrust of the good news of the gospel is that Jesus’ intervention on our behalf provides the antidote to that verse in Romans, since, as Paul writes elsewhere, ‘… God made him who had no sin (that is, Jesus Christ) to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God …’ (2 Corinthians Ch.5:21)

(SLIDE 12) In his book, Not The Way It’s Supposed To Be, Cornelius Plantagina describes sin as the violation of Shalom, he writes this, ‘… in the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed … a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder … shalom is the way things ought to be …’, and then he goes on to write, ‘… God hates sin, not just because it violates his law but more substantially because it violates shalom …’

In a nutshell sin is a mixture of three fundamental elements …

(SLIDE 13)

1. Sin is … the rebellion against God’s plan … where vital relationships are broken

The story of the Garden of Eden brings into sharp focus this aspect of sin, since it was there that our ancestors chose through a deliberate act of their will to go against God’s will. Adam and Eve led a rebellion against God’s plan believing that the experimental knowledge of evil as well as good would make them like God. But the result was disastrous since sin brought separation and death – sin is not simply a matter of breaking God’s laws, although that’s part of it as we shall see in a moment, but primarily sin is a breaking of a relationship, that vital relationship between creator and created without which you and I can never be the kind of people God intends us to be. And that relationship wasn’t simply lost, it was renounced, humankind deliberately chose isolation. And that is a crucial point to take on board as we journey together through this series because sin is destructive of relationships and it leads invariably towards isolation. Sin seeks to isolate you and me from God and you and me from one another. It eats away at everything that unites.

Graham Tomlin, in the book I’ve already recommended, puts it like this, ‘… sins are destructive habits … they are patterns of life which if we let them take control of us, will unravel all that is good in our lives, and will lead us to destroy everything around us …’ (Pg.11)

But secondly … (SLIDE 14)

2. Sin is … the refusal to follow God’s law … where the penalty for violation is death

Not only does our sin constitute a rebellion against God’s rule and a rebuffing of God’s love but also it is a refusing of God’s law. Whilst the post-modern society in which we lives kicks against any notion that there is any such thing as a certainty and no such things as absolute truths – but merely perspectives and relative positions – absolute laws do exist within God and they are revealed to us through our conscience and through God’s word, the Bible. It was God who created us, and He holds within Himself the blueprint for our lives and the instruction manual for our day to day working and maintenance.

If we have a desire to really get a right perspective on sin we need to be clear that all sin is directed against God, it is His law we are breaking, his authority that we are despising, His rule that we are refusing, His love that we are denying. How often do I try to demote my sin as being a minor matter between me and the person I’ve sinned against ? (SLIDE 15) But the truth isn’t like that at all, but the returning prodigal son in Jesus’ poignant parable in Luke Ch.14 got it right, where we read that that the young man sunk to his knees before his father and said, ‘… I have sinned against heaven and against you …’ (Luke Ch.15:21a).

The Bible is clear about the penalty for sin and just as clear about the rescue plan as well. Whilst on the one hand God’s holiness demands that you and I are condemned to an eternal separation from Him, the other hand reveals that God’s love has made provision for us to be restored and forgiven through the work of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection – His death in my place. That makes all the difference, since I no longer struggle with sin on my own, but I have the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to help me, and remarkably I know that whilst I may lose many battles against the sins that invade every area of my life I can be assured that the final victory is already won on my behalf, because of what Christ has done for me.

And thirdly … (SLIDE 16)

3. Sin is … the renouncing of God’s Kingship … where self-centredness usurps the throne

It’s always worth remembering that there lies right at the centre of sin the letter I – and that speaks volumes about the nature and the focus of sin. When we choose other than God we cease to be God-centric – and we choose to deliberately remove God from the centre of our lives. In God’s place we put ourselves and we make puny attempts to manipulate and dominate others as we seek to make life, and them, orbit around ourselves: around our goals, our ambitions, and our desires. We have usurped the throne and chosen self over God. And this aspect of sinfulness reveals a bias towards the desire to dominate and it leads us to question not only the rule of God but it sees us trying to fit God into the confines that best suits our own ends, and it finds us exchanging harmony and submission for strife and dominance – it sees us breaking shalom.

Such is the nature of sin, and, as we’ll discover over the next few weeks as we spend time considering these seven aspects of character that exemplify and typify humanities sinfulness, that the Bible is littered with examples of men and women just like you and I who struggle to come to terms with the nature of sin and it’s effects.

And yet, the wonder of the story of humankind is not that we are fallible but rather, that despite our fallibility God continues to love us – He forgives us and restores us, he invites us back into relationship with Him and He seeks through his Spirit to change us from the inside out, to increasingly help us to reflect and mirror the character of His Son, Jesus Christ. We are part of an amazing community of grace that has a passionate desire to see sinful people, just like ourselves, drawn back into fellowship … is that true ?

If I’m honest with myself then I know I struggle with a whole multitude of sinful thoughts and actions and yet I know God’s love and care. May God help us all as we spend time with Him and one another to recognise the steps we need to take in dealing with sin, may He take us from crisis through commitment and confession and on towards co-operation as we turn once more to Him in faith and trust.

(SLIDE 16) Don Carson puts it like this, and with this I’ll finish, ‘… people do not drift towards holiness … apart from grace-given effort people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to scripture, faith, and delight in God … but rather we drift towards compromise and call it tolerance … towards disobedience and call it freedom … towards superstition and call it faith … we cherish the indiscipline of lost self control and call it relaxation … we slouch towards prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism … we slide towards godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated …’

Let’s pray …

colossians-remixedI’ve recently finished reading Colossians Remixed : Subverting the Empire by Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat. In this book the husband and wife writing team argue that Paul’s letter to the Colossians, when viewed in its original setting, would have been heard as a subversive and dangerous text. Colossians, so they insist, presented an alternative vision of reality to the ethos of the Roman Empire and called for ultimate allegiance to a power other than Caesar. In order to give weight to their argument the writers use a creative mix of historic, cultural and Biblical studies to unpack how the text would have played out to its original hearers. Unlike a lot of other commentaries, that can at times get bogged down in technical detail, Walsh and Keesmaat have chosen rather to stick with the big questions and the big story – a format that makes for a refreshing and interesting read.

The premise of the book is that we too find ourselves today in another equally powerful empire – global capitalism – with a different set of idols. Working out how to live as disciples of Jesus Christ in this consumer-driven culture is, so the writers comment, possibly the biggest challenge facing the church in the West. Walsh and Keesmaat do a lot of imaginative work to bring this ancient angular text to life and show that it offers plenty of wisdom for addressing this challenge. The other big question which they tackle head-on is one that characterises our culture – the post-modern suspicion about truth. They suggest that it isn’t good enough to stand on the side lines and keep your options open in a cool, detached, post-modern way since following Jesus Christ demands commitment.

One of the most striking things about the book is the set of Targums that Walsh and Keesmaat use to illustrate their points. When a Jewish rabbi read the Torah to the Jews of the diaspora, recognizing that his congregation did not understand Hebrew, the rabbi would translate the text as he read. When a rabbi did this he would update the text as he went applying it to the changing context of the moment. The result of such interpretive exercises was called a Targum. What would Colossians sound like if it was written yesterday ? This snippet of the Targum on Colossians Ch.2 suggests what the result would look like …

‘… don’t be duped by advertising that tells you that various products are indispensable to constructing certain images and personas … this is all crap … they are still trying to captivate your imagination … resist this McWorld nightmare with all the strength you have ! …’

The writers argue that these Targums give a fresh and original look at the intent of the book of Colossians – connecting it with applications for our current post-modern context. We have, so Walsh and Keesmaat contend, chosen to domesticate and privatise the message of Colossians, just as we have done with a lot of the radical and counter-cultural teachings of Christ, and the Bible in general.

It is hard-hitting stuff at times and I’m sure many readers will find some of the content of this book uncomfortable reading. Despite that, or maybe because of that, I’d recommend it. It has certainly broadened my horizon as to the nature of approach a commentary can take when released from the over-attention to minutia that can, in some commentary writing, result in losing sight of the big picture.

amos-prophet1Following on from the previous post in this series we now move into chapter three of Amos where we find the prophet majoring on the theme that religion is worthless without righteousness.

Read :  http://www.zondervanbiblesearch.com/TNIVOTNT/Amos/3

We can imagine the indignant response which Amos’ first sermon would have drawn from his audience. Almost certainly one part of the response would have been based on the people’s insistence that unlike the heathen nations that Amos had condemned they themselves were God’s own people. Coupled with that would have been a demand to know by what right this stranger from the southern kingdom dared to preach to them in the north. Amos proceeds to answer both of those objections. What they boast is, in fact, the very grounds of God’s condemnation. It is true that they are God’s chosen people, since, ‘… you only have I chosen from all the families of the earth …’ (Ch.3 vs.2), but this fact leads to rather than precludes punishment when those who have been so chosen decide to sin against God’s law. Here surely is a sharp lesson for all of us who claim to be God’s people because of imputed righteousness gifted by God’s grace. Such a claim does not, nor cannot, remove the necessity for us to live lives of practical righteousness. God does not condone our daily sinfulness on the grounds that He has already forgiven us. His purpose for our lives is that we should not only be accounted but also made righteous – and the latter is as much a part of our salvation as the former (ref. Philippians Ch.1 vs.6).

To the second objection – that Amos had no right to preach to them – the prophet responds with a number of examples of cause and effect. In the desert countryside if two people were found to be walking side by side it could only have come about because they had agreed to meet (Ch.3 vs.3), and the roar of the lion was a clear indication that it had caught it’s prey (Ch.3 vs.4), and similarly if a trap had been sprung then something had been caught (Ch.3 vs.5). It was also true that when the sentry guarding the city chose to sound a note on his horn then it was a sure signal that there was imminent danger (Ch.3 vs.6) and if disaster did strike then such an event would be in the purpose of God’s divine will and when that purpose was revealed to His servant, the prophet, then that servant must speak (Ch.3 vs.6-8).

Amos then returns to the question of God’s punishment of His people. They are, as we have seen, guilty of social corruption, and because they have refused to take any notice of God’s Word they are now spiritually ignorant (Ch.3 vs.10). The judgement which is to fall must therefore be viewed as coming from God and not merely a misfortune occurring from an indefinable source.

So the prophet calls on the surrounding nations to bear witness to Israel’s crimes so that when judgement does come they will recognise it as coming from God Himself (Ch.3 vs.9). It is likely that the name rendered Ashdod in the TNIV and in other translations should more probably read Assyria. If that is the case then it is the two great political powers, Egypt and Assyria, that are being called upon to bear witness to God’s judgement.

The extent of the judgement will, however, not be total. A small remnant will be left (Ch.3 vs.12). As Amos, the shepherd, knew only too well, when a wild beast attacked the flock it was necessary for any hired shepherd to save at least, ‘… two leg bones or a piece of an ear …’ (Ch.3 vs.12) as evidence that the sheep hadn’t been stolen by the shepherd but rather had been attacked and savaged (ref. Exodus Ch.22 vs.13).

It is not only Samaria, the political capital, which will face destruction. Bethel too will be devastated despite its honoured religious traditions (ref. Genesis Ch.12 vs.8 and Ch.28 vs.18). Neither a nation, a city, or a church congregation for that matter, can escape God’s judgement by appealing to its past.

Amos continues by being very specific about who the people are on whom the full weight of God’s judgement will fall. Archaeologists have discovered quantities of fragments of beautifully inlaid ivory dating form the 8th century BC in Samaria. They formed part of the decoration of the ‘… houses adorned with ivory …’ occupied by the rich who enjoyed the comfort of their separate ‘… winter house along with the summer house …’ (Ch.3 vs.16). It is these houses that will be torn down and demolished when God’s judgement falls.

More to follow … we’ll look at chapter four next time …

It’s taken me rather too long to get back to writing about the book of Amos, but I’ll make no excuses and resume where I left off without further comment …!

Read :  http://www.zondervanbiblesearch.com/TNIVOTNT/Amos/2

The sins of Israel

While Amos’ audience was coming to term with his condemnation of Judah he suddenly launches into an attack on the Israelites themselves. It was a two-pronged attack – against both personal and social sins. All too often our contemporary morality seems to suffers from tunnel vision seeing only one kind of sin whilst remaining blinkered as to the true extent of our wrongdoing, whether as individuals or collectively as a wider society.

Amos continues by describing four situations. Firstly there is the selling of slaves for a trivial price which provides a yardstick as to the worth placed on a human life (Ch.2 vs.6). Secondly in the law court the poor have no hope of justice when confronted with the rich who can afford to bribe the judiciary (Ch.2 vs.7), a practice foretold and forbidden by God (ref. Deuteronomy Ch.16 vs.19). Thirdly, both young and old indulge in acts of immorality (Ch.2 vs.7). Fourthly, in their self indulgent celebrations of religious feasts the worshippers have no concern about where the wine came from or the fact that the cloaks they are lying on at night have been taken from the poor and kept in contravention of God’s expressed law (ref. Exodus Ch.22 vs.26).

It’s likely that Amos’ audience may well have responded to his verbal attack by asserting that the sins he condemned were far less serious than those of their neighbours. The prophet’s answer appears in the next verses which reminded his hearers that the right living which God demanded was not meant to ensure blessing but was rather to be in response to blessings already received. The LORD who condemned them was the One who had brought them out of Egypt, provided for their needs in the wilderness and given them victory over their enemies (Ch.2 vs.9-10). God’s provision had, however, gone further than physical and material necessities. It had taken account also of spiritual needs. The only group of people who were called to full time service for God were the descendants of Levi who worked in the temple. For the ordinary Israelite man who wished to demonstrate his love to God the Nazirite vow provided the opportunity for a public declaration of his dedication. His long hair made him stand out from other men and since he abstained from alcohol he was depriving himself of one of the few luxuries a poor man could enjoy. But to the lukewarm materialistic Israelite this abstinence suggested an undesirable degree of religious enthusiasm so, ‘… you made the Nazirites to drink wine …’ (Ch.2 vs.12).

Even more deplorable was the attitude towards the prophets, the men with the task of revealing God’s will to His people, those with an ear to God’s voice. It’s unlikely that the text means that they were physically forbidden to speak (Ch.2 vs.12b), but more likely, just like prophets before them (ref. 1 Kings Ch.22 vs.13) they were expected to tell the people what they wanted to hear rather than what God wanted them to be told.

Years after Amos had spoken Jeremiah and Ezekiel would both accuse the prophets of Judah, Amos’ own nation, of, ‘… saying peace when there was no peace …’ (ref. Ezekiel Ch.13:10).

The punishment, as always with God, fits the crime. Just as the rich and powerful had pressed hard upon the poor and the defenseless so their own fate will be to be crushed by the threshing sledge (Ch.2 vs.13). From that judgement neither youthfulness or strength of force can deliver the people.

More to follow … as time allows …!