Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What Would Amos Say?

I wrote this four years ago as a class assignment. I was purposely somewhat provocative (but I stand by what I said) and it made for some interesting discussion. What do you think?

A warning yesterday and a warning today
One of the secretaries in my office is big into prophecy. You probably have met someone like her. She loves to read all sorts of books hawked by the television preachers about how current events are a foreshadowing of the last days. Earthquakes, hurricanes, war in the Middle East—all of these have convinced her that Jesus is about to return.

Prophecy is big business now. You can buy those Tim LaHaye books about the Second Coming at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, and they are soon to be a major motion picture. I’ve seen all sorts of books about Bible Codes and the secret messages of the Bible on bookshelves everywhere. Someone somewhere is getting rich off the idea that Jesus might be coming again soon.

I wonder if any of those TV preachers, authors, book publishers or movie producers have read Amos. I suspect not, because if they had, they might not be so excited about Biblical prophecy.

Yes, the prophecies in Amos are primarily about Israel—the northern kingdom in particular. At the time Amos is prophesying, Israel is wealthy beyond belief, and its political power is at its maximum. But disaster is just around the bend—Assyria is building its forces and preparing to swing down and destroy Israel. And God, incensed that His chosen people have abandoned Him, is behind it all.

But those prophecies are a part of Scripture today—they were originally directed at Israel, but they speak to us today. And I suspect that they are there not simply to teach us that God was angry at Israel and preparing to punish them while saving a remnant.

What if Amos were alive today? What if instead of being from rural, small-town Judah, he were from rural, small-town America? Do you think his message would be all that different? Let’s imagine what Amos might say if he were sent to America today.

Instead of starting with prophecies against Damascus and Gaza, the powers of the world that stood against God for centuries, he might have start with prophecies against today’s anti-Christian world powers, maybe al-Qaeda and the Chinese government. But then the shocker would come when, instead of prophesying against Judah and Israel, he begins prophesying against Europe and America. What might he say?

“You proclaim that you are a Christian nation, a nation of Judeo-Christian values. But when you look at your trade policies, cannot it be said that you ‘sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of Nikes, I mean ‘sandals’? When you look at the way you conduct foreign policy, isn’t it true that you ‘trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground.’ When you examine your immigration policies, can you deny that you ‘deny justice for the oppressed?’ Israel may have had their cows of Bashan, but they pale beside your cows of Hollywood.

Israel in my day bragged about its righteousness in keeping all the requirements of the law. It prided itself on following all the rituals commanded by Moses. But those rituals and celebrations were merely empty rituals, a fancy way of showing religiosity with absolutely no content, no change of heart, and no repentance of sin. Now look at you today, trumpeting aloud about putting Christ back in your Christmas cards, while ignoring the need to put Christ back in your war planning. You wail and tear your clothes over the sin of abortion, but do little to make sure that every child is born into a safe and prosperous neighborhood where he will be cared for and protected. You do little to address the disaster that is your child welfare system; you ignore the needs of the addicted, the abused, and the desperate.

Can’t you just hear what God is saying to you and your religious leaders today? ‘I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies…. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.

That’s not me, you may say. You’re convinced that you’ll be all right in the end. You’re not like those hypocrites, you put money for the poor in the Salvation Army kettle, you sent ten bucks to the victims of Katrina, and you sponsor a child with that group on TV. ‘Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria.’”

Amos would probably be no more popular in the time of Bush the 2nd than he was in the time of Jeroboam the 2nd. The high priests of our day would come from their shrines on Madison Avenue, in Hollywood, in the Pentagon, in Colorado Springs and Tupelo, Mississippi to denounce Amos, just as Amaziah did in chapter 7.
But popularity is no indicator of truthfulness. Maybe we ought to add another band on our wrists: “WWAS: What Would Amos Say?”

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