At The Center
6Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals—
7those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted; a man and his father go in to the same girl, so that my holy name is profaned;
8they lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge, and in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined.
9“Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars and who was as strong as the oaks; I destroyed his fruit above and his roots beneath.
10Also it was I who brought you up out of the land of Egypt and led you forty years in the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite.
11And I raised up some of your sons for prophets, and some of your young men for Nazirites. Is it not indeed so, O people of Israel?” declares the Lord.
12“But you made the Nazirites drink wine, and commanded the prophets, saying, ‘You shall not prophesy.’
13“Behold, I will press you down in your place, as a cart full of sheaves presses down.
14Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not retain his strength, nor shall the mighty save his life;
15he who handles the bow shall not stand, and he who is swift of foot shall not save himself, nor shall he who rides the horse save his life;
16and he who is stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day,” declares the Lord.
Now the finger of God lands upon the people for whom the book was written. We finally get to the nation of Israel. Now God says to them, “You of all people should have known better.” The words are harsh, but they are true. And they strike directly at the heart of the problem for God’s people. Here in the heart of the Old Testament at its best we find the golden nugget of truth that is at the center of the entirety of the Scriptures. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) In the 11 verses of our passage for today, we see that God has two main complaints against Israel, which He expands upon with specifics for their situation. The people are not faithful and loving to Him and they treat others terribly; love is not at the core of their being in regard to God or those around them. And for this sin, God has words and ultimately actions, of judgment and punishment. Let it never be said that God’s Word is too difficult to understand. It always boils down to love – love for God and love for others.
As with all of the Scriptures, we now have to make application to our own lives. Daily we need to ask ourselves, “have I put anything or anyone above God in my heart?” And, “do I loves others and serve them, or do I look down upon others from a place of self-satisfaction?” These two questions will reveal every single sin you have committed. And don’t kid yourself. They are hard to ask and harder to answer honestly.
What is missing from the story of Israel found in the words of Amos is contrition. Never once do the people look at God and respond with a “You’re right and I’m sorry.” The good news is that had the people allowed the words to sink into their hearts to evoke a repentant response, God would have forgiven and returned to them with love and compassion. But we do not see them humbling themselves at all or responding with confession before a holy God. Instead, they stubbornly dig in their heels and refuse to return to God. We are always certain that we are right, even in our sin!
The blood of Jesus brings us back to God. When we have looked away from God and toward others idols, when we have treated others with disdain or hatred, we can be forgiven through Christ. Restoration always waits for us, for God desires relationship, not vengeance upon those He loves. And you are one that He loves.