Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 11 2019 - Amos 5:4-27; 9:11-15 – Judgment and hope

Today we have skipped to the end of the book of Amos, stopping only to hear God's words of judgment upon Israel found at the heart of Amos' message.

In Amos 5, God calls upon Israel to turn away from their idolatry practiced at Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba (5:5); God hates their empty religious festivals (5:21-23). God also hates the injustice and oppression that mark the lives of his people. They impose unjust taxes on the poor in order to subsidise the building of their own mansions and vineyards (5:11-12a). When the oppressed turn to the courts for redress, the wealthy make use of bribes to deprive the poor of justice (5:12b and 5:10). In the face of such behaviour the Lord says:

Let justice roll on like a river,
    righteousness like a never-failing stream! (5:24)

(This verse became the battle cry of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement in America.)

The Israelites have longed for the "day of the Lord" to arrive, thinking that it would mark God's judgment on their enemies and a time of unparalleled blessing for them as the people of God. But God warns them that the rapidly approaching day of the Lord will be one of judgment upon them:

That day will be darkness, not light.
It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear… (5:18-19)

But God does not delight in judgment, rather he pleads with his rebellious people saying, "Seek me and live" (5:4, cf. 5:6). He urges them:

Seek good, not evil, that you may live.
Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.
Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph. (5:14-15)

But failure to respond to his plea will mean that they will be sent into exile beyond Damascus (5:27). And that is precisely the fate that befell the northern kingdom of Israel.

Judgment, however, is not God's final word. Amos concludes his prophetic book with a wonderful picture of the day when God will restore his people, uniting them under a new Davidic king (9:11-12). He will pour out his blessings again on the land so that it will yield such an abundant harvest that the reaper will not be able to gather it all in before it is time again to plough and to sow (9:13). And this renewed blessing will be one that will never be taken away.

God will not allow his saving purpose for the world to be shipwrecked by the disobedience and injustice of those whom he had made his own. The hope for a rebellious people lies in the promise of the Messiah. Jesus did not match many of the messianic expectations of his day but he is the one whom God sent to "restore David's fallen shelter" – he is David's greater son. In his life of perfect obedience to the Father he provides the model for human life as God intended it to be lived – a life of compassion and self-denying love. In his death he paid the penalty for the sins of his people. By his resurrection he is the firstfruits of the new creation – a new creation we also have begun to experience by the power of his Spirit. At his return he will make all things new; death and the curse shall be no more and the whole of creation shall be filled with the abundant blessings of God. We long for that day, a day when all darkness shall be banished in the light of God's presence and glory.

Father God, as we look for and long for the day of Christ's appearing, help us by your Spirit to work towards a world in which justice rolls on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream. So may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth at it is in heaven.

Peter Misselbrook