Sunday, January 16, 2011

God and sham

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Amos 5:16-27

TO CHEW ON: "But let justice run down like water
And righteousness like a mighty stream." Amos 5:24

One outcome of seeking God, a subject we explored yesterday, is a visible change in how we live. Israel needed to change in the social justice department. Amos spoke out over how offended God was because of their mistreatment of the poor and powerless. He named their sins :
"Because you run roughshod over the poor and take the bread right out of their mouths... You bully right-living people, taking bribes right and left and kicking the poor when they're down"
 (yesterday's reading, vs. 10- 12, Message.).

In today's reading Amos warns of God's judgments. It will be a visitation resulting in the "day of the Lord" that is not delightful but full of wailing, mourning, trouble at every turn, darkness: "Alas! Alas!"

And this is not a result they can divert with religious play-acting. For God "hates" it all — their feast days, sacred assemblies, burnt, grain, and peace offerings, their sung songs and instrumentals (vs. 21-23).

There is only one remedy — a change of attitude that results in a change of action: "But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream."

A footnote in my Bible explains these two words:

"Justice and righteousness are two of the most important concepts in the prophets.
Righteousness is the quality of life demonstrated by those who live up to the established norms in a relationship. They "do right by" another person.
Justice is the judicial process of determining who is right in a case of law. The just party was helped by the court. Amos's contention is that the poor are not being defended in the court. Therefore justice is not done" New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1178.

What does this have to do with you and me? I see it as a warning to certainly deal with the unrighteousness and injustice we find within ourselves, but also other things in our lives that are against what God stands for. If we are nurturing things He hates — dishonesty, covetousness, marital infidelity, idolatry, etc. — while we go on as usual, pretending they aren't there, putting on a good front,  bringing our tithes and offerings, singing and raise our hands in worship, we are living a sham and are in as much danger as Israel was in Amos's day.

Let's ask God to show us our own hearts, reveal to us how we need to change, and then work those changes from the inside out.

PRAYER: Dear God, I so readily kid myself, carrying on like everything is great, even as I've got heart issues: resentments, envy, pride etc. Here I see how much you hate sham. I think I need some Holy Spirit counselling. Amen.

MORE: The fear of God

"...the wrath of God is eternal, terrible, deserved, and escapable, because of the death and resurrection of Christ."

How does our fearing God (which I implied above is something we should do) line up with Jesus paying the penalty for our sin, defeating sin's penalty, death, and extending grace to us? John Piper sheds some light on that in his message: "The Present Effects of Trembling at the Wrath of God."

If you say—which you should—“But doesn’t the Bible teach us not to fear? Aren’t there many commands like, ‘Fear not, for I am with you.’ What do they mean?” They mean two things. They mean, Don’t fear man, fear God. And, second, they mean, Don’t fear God as your enemy, fear him as one who once was your enemy and still is infinite in power and holiness. - By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:

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