READ: Amos 3-4
THINK: On December 21, 1937 Winston Churchill stood up to address the House of Commons regarding the daunting prospect of armed conflict with Adolf Hitler’s increasing antagonistic Nazi Germany. Churchill realized that England would struggle mightily to defeat the powerful German forces but also that England had the greater and nobler cause to fight for. He remarked, “Moral force is, unhappily, no substitute for armed force, but it is a very great reinforcement.” Churchill understood that fighting for what is right equips the army – and the entire society – to fight better and harder and more valiantly. He also understood that power divorced from morality results in disaster.
Power divorced from morality results in disaster. It was worth repeating because it is a mighty reality of our world. It is precisely the situation in which many Israelites found themselves in the days of Amos. They were wealthy and healthy. Things seemed to be going great for them. From a worldly perspective they were quite successful. But they turned their backs on God. They decided that they simply didn’t need him and refused to return to him. Their power and success existed without the reinforcement of moral force and relationship with God.
So how did it turn out? Disastrously. They used their power to exploit the poor and be radically self-indulgent. And God did not mince words with them at all. In Chapter 3 verse 15 he says, “I will tear down the winter house along with the summer house; the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed and the mansions will be demolished.” That’s a tough one for many of us in America – God declaring that he’ll tear down the vacation homes and cabins we build while those around us go in need. And then Amos even gets in on the act and says in chapter 4 verse 1, “Listen up you cows of Bashan!” Which is basically his way of saying “you fat old ladies, you walking selfish appetites” And God follows that by telling them that he’s sick of their worship cause it isn’t real. In Amos 4:4 he says “Go to Bethel and sin.” Bethel means “house of God.” It was the holiest place in Israel. And God sarcastically requests that the people just go ahead and sin there.
God looked down on a nation whose morality was divorced from their everyday lives. They had incredible economic and social power. But instead of using it to show love and draw people towards God by providing for their needs and welcoming them, they used their power to exploit, manipulate, and abuse the poor, the powerless, and the needy for their own gain. And God angrily promised their destruction and told them to prepare to meet him. Because God stands with the least and the lost. He cares about every human being because every human being is made in his image and found worthy of dying for upon a cross. And God’s heart breaks to the point where he finds it intolerable when those who would claim to be his people use their power to indulge themselves while ignoring or exploiting those around them who are in need.
ASK: How have I – explicitly or implicitly, knowingly or unknowingly – exploited those around me because of my position in society and my relative affluence? How have I indulged myself instead of looking around me to the needs of others? How can I stand with the least and the lost today?
PRAY: Start with a time of confession. Ask God to soften your heart. Commit yourself to turning back to him, and pray that he will help you always use whatever power, resources, or ability you have for his Kingdom and his glory rather than your own.