Amos 8:4-12


             Four hundred years of silence….  That is the time known as the inter-testament period, that is, the time between the Old and New Testaments.  No word from God.  No prophets.  There was complete silence… until the fullness of time when the incarnation of Jesus changed everything.  Why so long to hear from God?
             The prophet Amos delivered a scathing message to the Israelites about their total disregard for the poor and needy in the land.  The people in positions of authority and power in Israel only looked on the less fortunate as commodities – as pawns to be taken advantage of for the rich merchants.  Because the wealthy never took the time to listen to the poor, God would not listen to them:  “I will send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.  They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it.”
             We live in a day when the poor are often disregarded.  Either they are ignored altogether, or they are given hand-outs and services without ever having any significant human contact.  In other words, very few people take the time to listen and get to know the real face of poverty.  After all, we are busy making money and checking our stocks, and….  Oh, my, perhaps we have the answer as to why there is such a lack of revival in the land.  God shows such solidarity with the poor that to ignore them is to ignore him.  No matter our financial picture and outlook, every one of us can grace the poor with the gift of time and listening to them.  For in doing so we might just be listening to the voice of God himself.
             Gracious God, you are found everywhere – both the halls of power, and the back alleys of slums.  As I seek you more and more, may I see the face of Jesus in everyone I encounter, whether rich or poor so that I can share the gift of life with them all in this season of anticipation.  Amen.

Amos 6:1-8

            There are few books in the Bible as kick-in-the-pants as Amos.  It is filled with God’s displeasure over Israel’s social and economic sins.  Few Americans nowadays realize that the late-nineteenth and early twentieth century’s rise of the Social Gospel did not result from liberal theology, but taking the Old Testament prophets, particularly Amos, quite serious.  Post-Civil War United States’ industrialization expanded at an incredible rate, swelling the cities.  This was the era of the great robber barons, and the wildly wealthy capitalists.  Although some of them were careful to be generous, most built their economic empires on the backs of poor immigrants and struggling families.  Poverty, inequality, and poor labor conditions were rife.  It was an era of tremendous social upheaval and change.
 
            It was a time not unlike conditions in ancient Israel.  Amos pulled no punches in communicating God’s message that the extreme wealth of some, while ignoring their fellow Israelites trapped in cycles of poverty, was leading them directly to their downfall.  “Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory… who drink wine in bowls and anoint themselves with the finest oils, but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!”  Because of base callousness and not providing justice for the poor, Israel would be taken over and their wealth redistributed.
 
            There is not enough money in the world to immunize a person, group, or nation from the watchful eye of the God who has solidarity with needy and oppressed peoples.  If others do not take up the mantle of justice by providing them with help, God himself will act.  People everywhere need to be treated with basic respect, dignity, and the freedom to work hard and make a decent living.  Poverty is not always personal, existing because of laziness.  No, it is usually the result of some systemic sin in society that keeps people trapped.  One of the things that every one of us can do is build a relationship with someone who is treated more like a nuisance or a project, and interact with them on a regular basis as if they were a fellow human being.  Perhaps then we will find a greater connection with the prophets of old and the God who cares for all.
 

 

            Watchful God, you care about all your creatures and all people everywhere.  Lead me to those for whom you desire to provide justice and newfound dignity so that your name is made famous among both rich and poor for the sake of Jesus.  Amen.