If God treated we who were spiritually poor the way Israel cared for its poor, we would never share in his riches. If God treated we who were his enemies the way Jonah would have, we would still be lost.
This week we are reading passages that are written in a time when Israel has now come to possess the land that God has promised to them. God was faithful to Joshua and led the people to the land that was flowing with milk and honey. He was fulfilling the promise he had made to Abraham. But the people fail to be a blessing to others and fail to live in the way they were called to. In Amos we read how Israel is oppressing the poor and weak, treating them much like they were treated when they were slaves in Egypt. In Jonah we see the lengths Jonah would go in order not to go to his enemy, instead preferring Nineveh’s destruction.
Then when we look in the New Testament in Matthew 23, Jesus is criticizing the leaders of the Jews who similarly are not living as a blessing to those around.
This last Sunday I preached on Jonah, looking closely at his reluctance to even be a possible blessing to his enemy. The good news is that we have one who willingly came to his own enemies and sacrificed himself for us.
If you’re interested in reading the sermon, you can find it here.
Amos is a prophet against the people of Israel and he begins his prophecy with oracles of judgment. He describes the horrible sins of Israel’s foreign neighbors and slowly brings the target closer to home. He begins far off, moves to nearby neighbors, then to Judah, and finally he pulls all the punches and ends with the eighth oracle: judgment on Israel itself.
Israel has oppressed the poor, given themselves to pagan practices, exploited others financially, and not respected those who have taken special vows for God. Their sins are made worse for unlike the other foreign nations, they should know better since they know God.
As I mentioned earlier there is a last word of hope. Israel has failed but it is not the end for them for in the last days God will restore all things. Amos concludes with this powerful promise:
“I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,” says the LORD your God.
We’re getting far along in this summer quarter of Year in the Bible. It may be a tough time for many of you to stick with it. We’re not so close to the beginning that its novelty spurs you on, nor are we close enough to the end of our year that the light at the end of the tunnel serves as motivation. On top of that we’re coming to the end of summer when many schedules shift and kick into high gear.
You’re not alone in such difficulties. Find someone else who is reading and be encouragers. We see encouragement as a great caling for Paul in his letters. He writes to teach, to challenge, to inform, and also to encourage. I think we underestimate the value of having others to help us along in the journey, or we underestimate how much our own words can lift someone else up.
But I hope you can keep with it as this is something I believe is of great value. Know that I’m praying for you all.
This week we go through several smaller books, so make sure to keep them straight. It’d be a great idea to pause once you finish each book and write a few sentences about what each book was about.
We continue in the minor prophets with Joel, Amos, and Obadiah. Don’t blink when you read that last once as it is only one chapter long. We then go to 2 Peter in the New Testament, and of course we have some Psalms to read as well. Enjoy!