Amos 1:2 | A Holy Partnership Against Oppression

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He said, “The LORD roars from Zion And from Jerusalem He utters His voice; And the shepherds’ pasture grounds mourn, And the summit of Carmel dries up” (Amos 1:2 NASB)

As I meditate on the profound words of Amos 1:2, I am forever mesmerized by the depth of relationship God wishes to have with men. Zion, in scripture, refers to a very specific dynamic in our relationship with God – that of the divine appointment that we might not just want, but yearn, or as the original Hebrew dictates “to thirst”, for a deepening relationship with Him.

But our task does not end there. We seek our Lord with a purpose. What is that purpose? In Amos’ prophetic declaration, it was the combining of wills – of the church’s and God’s – that the oppressors that feasted on the humble of Israel would be overcome. Shepherds in the Hebrew of this text refer not to loving stewards of sheep, as we often conjure, but exploitative taskmasters on the fertile hills of Mount Carmel, known literally as “God’s vineyard.”

Mount Carmel, Israel

The fertile slopes of Mount Carmel, Israel

There are many people in life we could identify as oppressors. But what is an oppressor? I prayed about this for a while, and the Lord said something very interesting in response: “An oppressor is one who gains harmony only through [relational] retreat.” I ask the Lord what this meant. He responded, “To rule without becoming an oppressor, one must have a fervent life of prayer, or the trust you develop with others will eventually be null and void. If one does not trust you, then your stewardship becomes meaningless [(oppressive)].”

How does prayer prevent mistrust? His response: “A sound knowledge of God will allow you to establish Truth with your opponent. Your opponent is blind, this is why they cannot see you. The knowledge of God paves the way for conviction, a holy conviction that eats away at distrust and creates a yearning for connection. I birth that connection in the hearts of men. It was fashioned this way from the beginning. I have allowed “manufactured peace” [oppression] on Earth, so that those who know Me might extinguish it, as true peace inspires connection, not conformity.”

Amen.

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Amos 1:1 | The Effects of a History of Wealth

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The Apis Bull, from the Louvre (Paris, France).

The Apis Bull, from the Louvre (Paris, France).

“The words of Amos, who was among the sheepherders of Tekoa, which he envisioned in visions concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.” (Amos 1:1, NASB)

It’s disturbing to recollect that Amos lived during a time when there were kings around him that seemed to have all but utterly forgotten God, forsaking His life-giving, preservational statutes for the sake of wealth. In this context, the kings of Israel had literally returned to worshiping the golden calf of Egypt (the same golden calf worshiped at Mount Sinai).

To understand the metaphor, one needs to know a little about Egyptian religion. Egypt, a paramount of social arrogance and wealth in this era, had a plethora of gods they worshiped, one of the most popular being a calf or bull-like god called Apis. The Apis Bull (aka. the Golden Calf) was often a symbol of economic progress (being the god of prosperity in livestock and grain – two staples of Middle Eastern economics). Ironically, bulls and calves were also used in the temple worship of God during the pre-Christiandom era as scapegoats for sin and symbols that God was greater then any man-made wealth. Hence, the calves sacrificed at the temples of Apis during Amos’ lifetime were a direct contradiction of God’s purifying bull sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem.

The "Charging Bull" of Wall Street by Artist Arturo Di Modica. All rights reserved.

The “Charging Bull” of Wall Street by Artist Arturo Di Modica. All rights reserved.

The most disturbing part of all this is the startling comparison we see in the Kingdom of God today where money is earned by clergy through the profiteering of ministry and how our society at large has almost but forgotten a loving dependence on God in the name of self-sustaining wealth. Progress has become the god of the hour, capitalism the great beast that we sacrifice our time and energy to.

The outcome of all this idolatry in Amos’ time was a massive earthquake that hundreds of years after the fact still served as a cautionary tale for future kings of the Middle East. God will fight, in His overwhelming want of us, for faithful commitment, and “love as strong as death” – a committment that He exemplified through the death of Christ on the cross. He will shake us out of our apathy should it be needed. Considering this one is left to wonder, when this next great shaking will begin, and whether or not we will also be jolted out of our apathy as well.

A Holy Respect

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Stone BarrierAs I have been wandering through the Hebrew of the Book of Amos, I am struck at once by the efforts God has taken to get our attention and influence our actions. We serve an almighty God that can do anything – yet He has chosen to take the time to attempt to turn our hearts towards His.

Some of us obey God out of duty. He is God, and He deserves our obedience simply for who He is. Some of us obey God from seeing His strength, and do so out of holy “fear” – and this is right and just as well. I have perceived the “Fear of the Lord” on one occasion – and there is a an absoluteness about it that makes one know in the core of their being, that there are some lines with the Almighty that you simply do not cross. It is important to note that this knowledge does not incite us to be afraid of God. Instead, it is a deeply profound, holy respect that when allowed, chides the soul, whispering a “Be careful” from the Spirit of God. Know your place in the scheme of things, says the Lord, and in that knowledge, know the depth of My love for you.

The Book of Amos

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ImageThe meaning of the name Amos was rather befitting for this prophet of God. “Amos”, comes from the Hebrew word “amas”, which means, “burden”. It’s not hard to see how this fits with Amos’ calling. He lived in a time where the Word of the day was the crying out of God over social injustice. 

Things must have been pretty bad for Amos’ parents to be so aware of the times that they called their son “burden”. Perhaps they felt that having a child in that time and place would be a burden. How many parents out there feel this way about their children? Whether it be the school board, the media, or the health care system, how many of us feel like the world has failed childhood? How many of us feel that no matter how we restructure things, nothing ever seems to really work? How many of us feel like there are others out there, who are simply using our children’s vulnerability as a hopeful step up to other more lucrative means? How many times have we journeyed alongside parents too apathetic to care anymore?

It leaves us much to think about.

 

Insatiable Love

What insatiable love, burns in the veins
To see so many, afraid to reach out,
So many touched by ill-fated release and vanity

Someday, I wish they could understand my love for them all
that Love is a choice, and not a mere pull of emotion

I choose to love you, no matter what you have done
I choose to love you, no matter your shyness
I choose to love you, no matter the past
As long as life has not scarred the body with the curse of ill health
that would endanger and depart

Don’t be afraid to touch me.
Don’t be afraid to assume the best.
Don’t be afraid to dream of what if.
Do not trust me, but God almighty.
For His ways are perfect, and there is no coincidence.
Only providence.

Do not hold back, but venture forth, sweet stranger.
I have no idea what future entails.
I too, hope that bubble does not burst.
But I think of the blessing of God, and my fears subside.
I think of the attacks of the past few weeks, and I understand the contrast
of Dark and Light. Rejection and Embrace.

There has been a war going on – swirling.
I have dreampt it – seen it with my own spiritual eyes.
A garden of daylight in a land of night.
A personal burden, a missed opportunity, and a blessed return.
A sachel of promise, in the desert.
A possibility, foretold.

May 6, 2013.