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Amos 5-9



Here is more of Boadt’s commentary on Amos….

Although Amos never mentions the ten commandments by name, his charges reflect them in every chapter. The people violage all the demands that God has made upon them in the great covenant on Mount Sinai. His words touch moreal failure in every level of society: the law, the leadership, the economic life, and even worship. Northern Israel is a people confident that God will protect them no matter what they do because of the covenant bonds between them and God. But Amos understands it differently. He speaks again and again of the times that they have suffered attacks from their enemies and natural disasters in punishment for their evil ways and yet remain unmoved (Am 3:3-8; 4:6-13), he sings a mock funeral song over the people to warn them of their coming death (Am 5:1-5), and he attacks their most cherished liturgical celebrations. In a moving passage (Am 5:18-20) he flatly contradicts the hope proclaimed on their feast days that Yahweh will be a warrior God who will fight for Israel against all of its enemies on a great day of victory and light. Instead, the “Day of the Lord” they celebrate and hope for will be a day when God will turn on them and destroy them for their sins. And he has no use for worship and sacrifices that are empty and meaningless: “Take away from me the noise of your festal songs, I will not listen to the melody of your harps; rather let justice flow down like a stream of water, and uprightness like an ever-flowing river” (Am 5:23-24)

When I hear or read Amos 5:23-24 I cannot help but think of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his “I Have a Dream” speech. Is it any surprise that the preacher who led the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s in this country should quote from Amos, the Israelite prophet who proclaims the need for social justice so compellingly?

Some segments of the Church of Jesus Christ through the centuries have emphasized the need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ to the exclusion of any emphasis on social justice. Evangelicals have tended to fit into this category, and that is the tradition from which I, to some extent, come. Perhaps that is the reason why when I read the minor prophets these books do not “speak to me” in the same way that other portions of Scripture do.

On the other hand, there have been segments of the Church that have emphasized social justice to the exclusion of any emphasis on the importance of establishing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The mainline Protestant denominations have tended to fall into this category. I have spent time in those circles as well, and so I think I can understand where they are coming from.

However, the truth is that we need both. We need in the Church an emphasis on our personal, individual relationship with God and an emphasis on the corporate identity of the Church as a family that moves in and changes society by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the balance that the whole Bible gives to us when we read it in its entirety and do not simply confine ourselves to our favorite passages. This is one reason why the reading of the whole Bible, both as individual Christians, and corporately in the worship services of the whole Church is essential to the vitality of individual believers and the entire Body of Christ.

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