Saturday, July 11, 2009

But you never got hungry for me...

As we navigate through the most difficult economic times since the Great Depression, a word from Amos the shepherd jumped out at me...

2 -3"This is serious—I, God, have sworn by my holiness!
Be well warned: Judgment Day is coming!
They're going to rope you up and haul you off,
keep the stragglers in line with cattle prods.
They'll drag you through the ruined city walls,
forcing you out single file, And kick you to kingdom come."
4 -5"Come along to Bethel and sin!
And then to Gilgal and sin some more!
Bring your sacrifices for morning worship.
Every third day bring your tithe.
Burn pure sacrifices—thank offerings.
Speak up—announce freewill offerings!
That's the sort of religious show
you Israelites just love."
God's Decree.
6"You know, don't you, that I'm the One
who emptied your pantries and cleaned out your cupboards,
Who left you hungry and standing in bread lines?
But you never got hungry for me.
You continued to ignore me."
God's Decree.
7 -8"Yes, and I'm the One who stopped the rains
three months short of harvest.
I'd make it rain on one village
but not on another.
I'd make it rain on one field
but not on another—and that one would dry up.
People would stagger from village to village
crazed for water and never quenching their thirst.
But you never got thirsty for me.
You ignored me."
God's Decree.
9"I hit your crops with disease
and withered your orchards and gardens.
Locusts devoured your olive and fig trees,
but you continued to ignore me."
God's Decree.
10"I revisited you with the old Egyptian plagues,
killed your choice young men and prize horses.
The stink of rot in your camps was so strong
that you held your noses— But you didn't notice me.
You continued to ignore me."
God's Decree.
11"I hit you with earthquake and fire,
left you devastated like Sodom and Gomorrah.
You were like a burning stick
snatched from the flames.
But you never looked my way.
You continued to ignore me."
God's Decree.
12"All this I have done to you, Israel,
and this is why I have done it. Time's up, O Israel!
Prepare to meet your God!"
13Look who's here: Mountain-Shaper! Wind-Maker!
He laid out the whole plot before Adam.
He brings everything out of nothing,
like dawn out of darkness.
He strides across the alpine ridges.
His name is God,

This time could bring us as a nation and as individuals back to God.
I believe that is God's plan.

But I could easily busy myself with struggling to make a living.

God's words ring in my ears...
"But you never got hungry for me!"

A Shepherd Speaks

"Hi. My name is Amos, and I've got something to say..."

So begins today's reading. A simple shepherd, without status or wealth or position or power, is given a Word by God. And does he ever deliver!

2 "The Message:
God roars from Zion,
shouts from Jerusalem! The thunderclap voice withers the pastures tended by shepherds, shrivels Mount Carmel's proud peak.
3 -5 God's Message:
"Because of the three great sins of Damascus
—make that four—
I'm not putting up with her any longer.
She pounded Gilead to a pulp, pounded her senseless
with iron hammers and mauls.
For that, I'm setting the palace of Hazael on fire.
I'm torching Ben-hadad's forts.
I'm going to smash the Damascus gates
and banish the crime king who lives in Sin Valley,
the vice boss who gives orders from Paradise Palace.
The people of the land will be sent back
to where they came from—to Kir."
God's Decree. "

He goes on, delivering messages of judgement from God on the nations nearby...
And he has a word for his own people too!

Amos 3
"The Lion Has Roared
1 Listen to this, Israel.
God is calling you to account
—and I mean all of you,
everyone connected with the family that he delivered out of Egypt. Listen!
2"Out of all the families on earth,
I picked you. Therefore, because of your special calling,
I'm holding you responsible for all your sins."
3 -7Do two people walk hand in hand
if they aren't going to the same place? Does a lion roar in the forest
if there's no carcass to devour?
Does a young lion growl with pleasure
if he hasn't caught his supper?
Does a bird fall to the ground
if it hasn't been hit with a stone?
Does a trap spring shut
if nothing trips it?
When the alarm goes off in the city,
aren't people alarmed?
And when disaster strikes the city,
doesn't God stand behind it?
The fact is, God, the Master, does nothing
without first telling his prophets the whole story.
8The lion has roared—
who isn't frightened?
God has spoken—
what prophet can keep quiet?"

Then he hammers home a message that could apply directly to you and me...

7 -9 "Woe to you who turn justice to vinegar
and stomp righteousness into the mud.
Do you realize where you are? You're in a cosmos
star-flung with constellations by God,
A world God wakes up each morning
and puts to bed each night.
God dips water from the ocean
and gives the land a drink.
God, God-revealed, does all this.
And he can destroy it as easily as make it.
He can turn this vast wonder into total waste.
10 -12People hate this kind of talk.
Raw truth is never popular. But here it is, bluntly spoken:
Because you run roughshod over the poor
and take the bread right out of their mouths,
You're never going to move into
the luxury homes you have built.
You're never going to drink wine
from the expensive vineyards you've planted.
I know precisely the extent of your violations,
the enormity of your sins.
Appalling! You bully right-living people,
taking bribes right and left and kicking the poor when they're down.
13Justice is a lost cause. Evil is epidemic.
Decent people throw up their hands.
Protest and rebuke are useless,
a waste of breath.
14Seek good and not evil—
and live!
You talk about God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
being your best friend.
Well, live like it,
and maybe it will happen.
15Hate evil and love good,
then work it out in the public square.
Maybe God, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies,
will notice your remnant and be gracious."