Amos 5:11-12, 21-24
11 You trample the poor, stealing their grain through taxes and unfair rent. Therefore, though you build beautiful stone houses, you will never live in them. Though you plant lush vineyards, you will never drink wine from them. 12 For I know the vast number of your sins and the depth of your rebellions. You oppress good people by taking bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. 22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
The prophet Amos was a shepherd called by God to confront Israel in 750 BC for turning a blind eye to injustice in their land. Biblical references to the word “justice” mean “to make right.” Righteousness means “to do the right thing” Oppressing poor people economically and depriving them of justice in the courts was a problem. Amos was calling the Israelites to be sorry for their neglect of their fellow man and repent from their selfishness. God was tired of their hypocrisy. He was saying “All your praise means nothing when I see you perpetuating an economy and justice system that favors privileged people and oppresses the poor.”
Amos was calling the Israelites to humble themselves and change their society so that justice would roll like a river. Things that were wrong needed to be made right in a powerful movement that would have momentum to move people to action. In calling them to righteousness he was asking them make things right and then keep doing right. Clearly God was using Amos to say justice and righteousness were not topics in worship but goals for humanity in everyday life. In other words, don’t just talk about it – live it.
Amos is still speaking today. Our country is in turmoil because we have built an economy that favors privileged people and oppresses poor people. Wealthy people can brag about paying little to no taxes. Investors buy up residential properties all over the country and charge rent that is so high many people can barely afford housing. The COVID 19 pandemic has disproportionately affected poor and low-income people - especially people of color - because they do not have the luxury of working essential jobs from home and have no savings to fall back on. The average worker at Amazon earns $16 per hour while the CEO and owner Jeff Bezos net worth is now over $200 billion. The pandemic has made him richer while his workers struggle to survive.
This week another unarmed black man named Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by police in front of his children because he might have a knife in his car while a white man who had killed two people walked down the street with an AK47 assault rifle and was arrested unharmed. God is outraged and we should be too. We need to heed Amos’ call to lament, repent, and let justice roll.
Rev. Smith is the Associate Pastor of Exodus Missionary Outreach Church www.exodusmissionaryoutreachchurch.org and she can be reached at 828-962-8196, firstname.lastname@example.org or PO Box 3311, Hickory, NC 28603
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