Amos 5:6-7, 10-15: Brooding in Rebellion

In the eighth century BC, the people brood in rebellion. Though everything appears fine, Israel’s foundations crack in one place and crumble in another. Underneath an external veneer of strength lurks a coming catastrophe.

After King Solomon’s death, a once-united country splits in two, Israel up north and Judah down south. The environment is rife and descending with danger. The ruler of the Northern Kingdom, Jeroboam, tries to stop his citizens from traveling south into Judah. So, he establishes alternate worship sites to dissuade them from doing so. Oh, this patriotic program also involves bringing his countrymen to bow before pagan idols. After this, why would anyone bother to travel to the Jerusalem Temple?

Bit by bit, God’s standards and His promised redemption fade into memory. With little concern for the orphan and widow, the wealthy build beautiful houses and own lush vineyards. Influential, they institute unfair taxes on the grain harvest.

Off the backs of the working poor, they subsidize their grand endeavors, oppressing and defrauding ordinary citizens. Still, when outraged workers pursue their legal rights, the rich pay off the judges to punch up their dishonest practices.

So, God’s prophet, Amos, sounds his warning. Soon, everything will be topsy-turvy. The well-moneyed will construct their beautiful homes but not live in them. After spring arrives, their field hands train new saplings up the trellis and yank out weeds below the vines. Come autumn, however, their cups are empty of wine. So did Amos warn them of the Almighty’s impending judgment. Within a generation, these warnings find their fulfillment as a foreign enemy, Assyria, invades Israel.

Despite horrific abuse, few say anything. Those courageous enough to speak only receive hatred and disapproval at the king’s gate. Whoever proclaims the truth takes in—not praise, but scathing insult and attack.

So, what should someone do? Not remain silent, though you may suffer the scorn of others. For if no one ruptures the silence, the cancer continues unabated. Isn’t evil’s best friend a tamed tongue and muted mouth?

Soon, God’s chosen will discover themselves venerating false gods, suffocating in the trappings of their cultural correctness. The people’s silence permits the king to promote unfaithful rites and rituals. At places like Bethel and Gilgal, silence turns into tacit consent. A culture of suppression disregards the cry of the vulnerable, fermenting into a pungent poison when those with power dominate over the defenseless.

No outer finery and furnishings can fool God. So, He speaks through His prophet to breach the silencing of sin, calling Israel to seek Him and gain life. “Seek” is a worship word, insider language for people once brought into the Father’s kingdom. By “seek,” our God is summoning His own, away from false love and devotion, back to Himself.

The city’s entrance gate serves as a small-claims court, where the impoverished and disenfranchised go to request justice. Though they go, they find none.

On the poor, you trample, and on their grain, you impose a tax. So, though you may build stone mansions, you will not live in them, nor will you drink the wine from the fine vineyards you plant. Innumerable are your offenses and your many sins. The innocent, you oppress, as you take bribes, depriving justice to the needy at the city gate. [Amos 5:11-12]

In our quest for comfort and ease, rare is the second thought concerning how we treat another. Can we not turn others into demeaned commodities to gather what we crave, objectifying them in our thirst for gain? So, we aren’t immune from such tawdry temptations, either.

Without someone to keep us honest, our pleasure-seeking and self-gratification can degrade people into objects to satisfy our appetites. Soon, as whatever we want controls us, individuals shrink and wither down. Smaller and smaller, they dwindle, now but mere allies or obstacles toward gaining the ends we desire.

Toxic and fatal, silence becomes if we do not speak for the voiceless: the unborn, the elderly, and children. Like ancient Israel, our mute mouths can also turn lethal as false notions in Christ’s Church claim their spiritual victims. Soon, we are setting the agenda in our Lord’s Church, not Christ.

Most times, self-preservation drives us to stifle our speech. Every age includes many who witness evil, who recognize wrongdoing, but fear men more than God. The reality? Most people are cowards and stay silent, wanting to avoid discomfort, hoping someone else will solve the problem. Oh, a person might confide, “I agree with you,” but will brave almost nothing. Thus, the bullying continues, and the degrading climate in the room remains unchanged.

Now is not the time for silence, but repentance! A detached indifference in the face of evil may strike you as safe and risk-free. Still, recognizing the right actions to take, but failing to act on them, leaves us condemned, standing beneath God’s Law.

Doesn’t God seek so much more for us? Yes! Don’t miss Amos’ message, which communicated more than divine judgment. Through His mouthpiece, God pleaded with His people: “Seek the Lord and live. Seek goodness and not evil so you can live!” (5:6, 14). A thousand beautiful things we may pursue, thinking they will provide us with life. Still, only God can give us what lasts into all eternity.

For our salvation, God breaks the smothering silence. In the Old Covenant, He did this through the prophets. About 2,000 years ago, everything pointed to those voices forever growing quiet. Yet, from desert stillness, “a voice shouted in the wilderness.” Blunt and honest, he thundered, lacking the tact we expect from our pastors today, “You viperous brood, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” (Matthew 3:3,7).

The last Old-Covenant prophet didn’t keep quiet. With evil surrounding him, John the Baptizer unleashes his tongue—though pointing to another. “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Behold the beautiful wonder, for when we did not seek God, He pursued us still. The One through whom all things came into being descended to earth, seeking His contorted and death-bound creatures. Full of love and mercy, Jesus bore witness to the life He came to supply.

So, God shatters the oppressive silence, once, for all, through His Son. The prophesied Messiah cleanses His Temple, with merchants selling animals for sacrifice in the Court of the Gentiles. Undaunted, Jesus refuses to cower under the self-righteousness of the religious elite. Despite fierce resistance, He brings justice for the oppressed, wholeness for those broken, a future for the suffering. Around our swirling evil, Jesus rebuffs all efforts to turn Him into a wordless observer.

Though wisdom and discernment also beckon one to be voiceless—at the proper time. In front of His accusers, Jesus stood silent like a lamb before the butcher. To go to His crucifixion slaughter is why He came. Your Savior faces our worst to redeem us all, including those who once rejected truth for safety. Lifted high on the cross, hated for being Truth itself, Jesus suffered all in silence.

Ah, but when the moment arrived, He spoke. “All is finished!” Now, death itself cannot constrain Christ’s truth. To this day, His resurrection still cracks evil’s repressing restraint. Through the cold, enveloping silence, which would condemn us all, Jesus’ Word bursts forth with this astounding revelation—because He lives, so, too, shall we!

Finish reading Amos’ prophecy, and you’ll encounter him expressing words of hope, for God will still seek His people to find and save them. In the end, God carries them home to a land where they will build homes and inhabit them. Oh, the vineyards they will plant, and such wine will savor on their lips!

Why the change? Well, because they will live in God’s presence forever, interacting with Him and one another as they should. So, our saving God ensured Amos painted us a picture of the creation to come, something Jesus will speak forth on the Last Day!

To bring us into the new heaven and earth, Jesus still speaks today, rescuing us from the Evil One. Attend to His voice, breaking into the silence of your life. With His cross, He confronts our silence, with the Spirit delivering His cross-won blessings through Word and Sacrament.

Listen to Jesus in words once spoken to you, “I baptize you into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Hearken to your Forgiver in His sin-absolving words, “I forgive you all your sins.” Why, as you approach and receive Him in the Supper, His words still reverberate. “Broken for you, shed for you.” Your Savior’s life becomes yours, His peace, your wholeness and well-being, and His perfection, your completion. Only Christ tears away the gag of our unbelief to communicate His presence and life to us.

Thank God for His saving gifts! Still, what do we do now, tomorrow, and the rest of our days? After seeking Christ and finding life in Him, we leave His House to gaze upon others as He does. From Him flows justice and care for our neighbor. Nourished by the unfailing life of Jesus, how can we stay silent when we should speak? In Him, we seek to bless those around us instead of using them for our selfish desires.

Oh, but we never stop seeking God. Though He forgives and justifies us, our sinful nature is always leading us astray. So, until God calls us home to heaven, we are to live in daily repentance. Only in Jesus can we turn from evil and pursue what is best for our eternal prosperity. In Him, we find our everlasting life. Amen.

 

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