Prepare yourself to discern what is and what is not of God today. Still yourself so you can hear how God is calling you.
Proclaim to the strongholds in Ashdod,
and to the strongholds in the land of Egypt,
and say, “Assemble yourselves on Mount Samaria,
and see what great tumults are within it,
and what oppressions are in its midst.”
They do not know how to do right, says the LORD,
those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.
Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:
An adversary shall surround the land,
and strip you of your defense;
and your strongholds shall be plundered.
Thus says the LORD: As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who live in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed.
Hear, and testify against the house of Jacob,
says the Lord GOD, the God of hosts:
On the day I punish Israel for its transgressions,
I will punish the altars of Bethel,
and the horns of the altar shall be cut off
and fall to the ground.
I will tear down the winter house as well as the summer house;
and the houses of ivory shall perish,
and the great houses shall come to an end,
says the LORD.
Hear this word, you cows of Bashan
who are on Mount Samaria,
who oppress the poor, who crush the needy,
who say to their husbands, “Bring something to drink!”
The Lord GOD has sworn by his holiness:
The time is surely coming upon you,
when they shall take you away with hooks,
even the last of you with fishhooks.
Through breaches in the wall you shall leave,
each one straight ahead;
and you shall be flung out into Harmon,
says the LORD.
Come to Bethel—and transgress;
to Gilgal—and multiply transgression;
bring your sacrifices every morning,
your tithes every three days;
bring a thank offering of leavened bread,
and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them;
for so you love to do, O people of Israel!
says the Lord GOD.
Imagine with me, if you will, this scenario. One Sunday morning your pastor begins the worship service like this: “The Lord be with you,” to which the congregation responds, “And also with you.” Next the pastor says, “Now let us sin!” Jaws drop, eyes dart from side to side, and the congregation sits in stunned silence. No doubt those who heard Amos invite people to hallowed places in order to transgress were also stunned. Presumably many of these very people were well fed and groomed at the expense of those whom they oppressed.
Passages such as this one—and there are many throughout the Bible—beckon readers to connect the dots between what they do in and out of worship. Who are the oppressed around us? What do they look like? What are their names? Do we even notice them? If so, do we shoo them away and speak badly about them while at the same time singing boisterous songs of praise in worship? The prophet would have us know that the combination of oppressive lifestyles and acts of praise is an unholy combination.
Holy God, open our eyes to all of those around us and help us, like your son, Jesus, to care for “the least of these” and remember them when we gather to worship. Amen.
Go with God.