Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
We now skip way “ahead” in the bible to meet up with the prophet Amos. At this point in the bible we have a collected group of books that highlight where God is speaking. Amos gives us insight to a person called up out of a totally different profession and into a totally different land area. Here is what we know about Amos.
Amos is one of the most famous of our biblical prophets even though he is what we call a “minor prophet.” This means the book based on his prophecy is part of a set of twelve books. This particular book has three different historical significant times. First of all, Amos comes to us from the eighth century B.C.E. The followers of Amos (yes, prophets had followers) brought the tradition of Amos to a collection of material that became rationale for exile during the period of Persian hegemony (539-332 BCE). And finally it was added to this collection of books about the prophets (or the Book of Twelve) around 200 BCE. We know the earliest dates because the writer gives us clues by telling us who is ruling in the area. Those hard to read names to us were significant historical markers, of Jeroboam II (circa 786-746 B.C.E.) and Uzziah (circa 783-742 B.C.E). All of this is to say that there is a rich history to draw from and clues to let us know what is going on around Amos.
Amos comes to the text from a different region than where he was prophesying. We are told right away that Amos comes from Judah but is working in Israel (up north). This becomes significant. He is not “from around here” but can still speak God’s word. He is an immigrant from another land and yet still has knowledge of God. Amos is the “other.” He also has no line that would give him cred, meaning there are no other prophets that we know of in his family. He doesn’t come from a line of kings or priests. His job before this word of God stuff was a shepherd and dresser of trees.
Amos really keys into key concepts over and over again. One that we hear today is a focus on justice. In another part of the book Amos looks at justice as a plumb line. What is balanced? And if it is not just, God will fix that. Amos preaches that is an abundance of justice and righteousness in a world where it seems to be a stark contrast of the world looks like to the prophet. With God there is a dream of this abundance of reaching out to justice and righteousness. If we seek out this abundance, we live according to Amos and later on we hear it from the prophet Martin Luther King, Jr. in his I have a dream speech. Amos is still relevant today.
Quotes of the Week
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” ― Elie Wiesel
“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public” ― Cornel West
“Prophets are those who take life as it is and expand it. They refuse to shrink a vision of tomorrow to the boundaries of yesterday.” ― Joan Chittister
“You just need to be a flea against injustice. Enough committed fleas biting strategically can make even the biggest dog uncomfortable and transform even the biggest nation.” ― Marian Wright Edelman
Amos 1:1-2, 5:14-15, 21-24 (NRSV) The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of King Uzziah of Judah and in the days of King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel, two yearsbefore the earthquake.
And he said: The Lord roars from Zion,
and utters his voice from Jerusalem;
the pastures of the shepherds wither,
and the top of Carmel dries up.
Seek good and not evil,
that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,
just as you have said.
Hate evil and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Questions for the Week
Where do you dream of an abundance of justice and righteousness?
How do you establish justice? What does it look like?