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Seeking to equip people to live as Christian disciples wherever God has placed them.

Thursday, July 11, 2018

“God’s Ever Flowing Stream”

Amos 5:1-13

Amos sees Israel as a forsaken young woman, not because she has been abandoned by the Lord but because she herself has turned away from her God.  The word of the Lord given repeatedly in this section is to “Seek the Lord and live” (v. 6).  This apparently sounded strange to the Israelites.  In their minds they were seeking the Lord.  They visited the sacred centers of Gilgal and Bethel.  They worshiped regularly.  They believed in the Lord as their ancestor Abraham had done (Gen. 15:6).  So what then was the problem?

The issue that God raises with his people is not the content of their belief or the practice of their worship.  God’s point deals with social justice.  The Lord here is making it clear that social justice is not a result of faith, it is rather faith itself in action.  Israel in this period was prosperous.  The people would certainly be willing to thank God for their “houses of hewn stone” and “pleasant vineyards.”  Yet the driving issue here is the treatment of the poor who are being oppressed with no one to take up their cause.  The situation is more devastating that mere neglect.  God points out that the people are taking bribes and pushing aside the needy, that is, ignoring their cries for help.  James puts its bluntly. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”  (James 1:27).  In Jesus’ words those in need with whom Jesus himself identifies are the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, those without clothing and the prisoner (Matt. 25:31-46).

This coming week we will be celebrating the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Dr. King, perhaps more clearly than anyone else in America in the past century, reminded us how central the theme of the care of the poor is to the gospel.  His words, not to mention those of Amos, continue to challenge us.  We should not be overwhelmed by the needs around us.  We can not do everything but we can all do something.  Even a cup of water given in Jesus’ name has value (Mark 9:41).

Gracious and faithful God may I be sensitive to the needs of the poor all around me.  Remind me that to show compassion and justice is to serve you.  I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.