Reimagining the World Amos 7:7-17Luke 10:25-37
We have two wonderful stories beginning with Amos, the ancient prophet of Judah one the one hand and Jesus, the prophet with the new Voice, on the second.
Let’s begin with Amos.
At this point in time, the nation referred to as Israel, had been split into two kingdoms for quite some time. The Kingdom of Israel was the northern kingdom and Judah was the southern kingdom.
Amos, an older contemporary of Hosea and Isaiah, was from the southern Kingdom of Judah but quiet strangely, preached in the northern Kingdom of Israel. He was called to work in an environment where he was regarded as an outsider.
The equivalent would be a Canadian moving here, telling us that God had sent them to speak truth to the injustices of the American people and their leadership. Keep that in mind. It helps us understand the situation.
Now imagine that Canadian prophet telling us that our land was to be destroyed and our historical places desecrated and our most sacred churches will be laid waste.
Of-course the leadership in Israel’s elite reacted and they did so with fury and with violent intent.
The Northern kingdom’s religious leader, Amaziah, was the first to react. He demanded Amos get the heck out of his territory and go back home to Judah where he had come from.
“And never open your mouth again to say anything against the King’s Sanctuary confirming the unholy alliance of the faith with the political leadership. The sanctuary belongs to God, not the King.
Back to our imaginary Canadian friend who has now announced the destruction of America and the death of the president and the exile of our people to be replaced by foreigners who will take our properties from us.
Can we blame Amaziah for his anger and disgust at Amos’ invasion of his domain?
Amos responds, in his closing words to Amaziah, with these thoughts.
“Don’t blame me, I am just God’s messenger. But as for you, Amaziah, your wife is going to end up a prostitute after this destruction, your sons and daughters will not survive it, and you will be exiled to die in a foreign land.”
I don’t even want to attempt to translate that into our contemporary Canadian friend’s witness.
Imagine for a moment, the impact of these words of Amos on the people and their leaders. Would we take such an insult laying down?
Fast forward to Jesus.
Jesus encounters a lawyer, but the role of the lawyer was not what it is in our time. These were experts of the Law of Moses, the Torah. They were also referred to as “scribes”. So, this man knew the Bible inside out.
When he tests Jesus with the question as to who our neighbor is, Jesus responded with a question of his own. He asked the lawyer how the Law of Moses would answer his question.
The lawyer gives a perfect answer; “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself”.
Then Jesus pulls the carpet from under him and he falls flat on his face. Jesus says to him; “…now go do it.”
But the lawyer doesn’t give up. He’s not done yet, so he asks Jesus;
“…and who is my neighbor?”
Now there was a trick-question if ever there was one.
Rather than answer the question directly, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Jesus was saying the unthinkable. Samaritans were despised for a number of reasons. They were the mixed offspring of the Israelites left behind in the land after most of the people had been taken away in exile centuries before between the time of Amos and the time of Moses. They were despised as half-breeds and regarded as “dogs”.
Now imagine Jesus making the hated half-breed the hero of the story.
But that was what made Jesus, the Christ. His ability to view the individual before him as loved by God. By elevating the most vulnerable or the outcast from nothing to God’s Beloved.
We began with Amos who proclaimed a hard truth. The people drove Amos away and continued with life as usual.
We ended with Jesus and the lawyer sparring over what God asks of us.
In both cases God’s representative, God’s prophets, were conveying some hard truths and in both cases they were thanked with animosity and aggression.
Prophets are rarely popular people. They are usually despised for telling the truth. In our feel-good society they are frowned upon.
Mahatma Gandhi, one of the recent prophets of history paid for his truth telling with his life. His message to the religious establishment was, in his own words:
“The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowing in prayer.”
Perhaps us is, “who is it OK not to love”? If we can name someone we know we are failing God. Let us not fail God.
This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb-line, with a plumb-line in his hand. 8And the Lord said to me, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A plumb-line.’ Then the Lord said,
‘See, I am setting a plumb-line
in the midst of my people Israel;
I will never again pass them by;
9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.’
10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, ‘Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words.11For thus Amos has said,
“Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
and Israel must go into exile
away from his land.” ’
12And Amaziah said to Amos, ‘O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.’
14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, ‘I am* no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am* a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”
16 ‘Now therefore hear the word of the Lord.
You say, “Do not prophesy against Israel,
and do not preach against the house of Isaac.”
17 Therefore, thus says the Lord:
“Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city,
and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword,
and your land shall be parcelled out by line;
you yourself shall die in an unclean land,
and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.” ’
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”
He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”