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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, October 15, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Amos 5:6–7, 10–15

Seek the Lord and live, or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it. Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground! They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth. Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time. Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. (NRSV)

Amos was a shepherd, a common man with common but necessary work. He had a profound relationship with God, as did all the other prophets. And he had observations and thoughts about Israel and a couple of its kings.

I imagine him walking along herding the sheep, doing what was necessary for them, but also muttering his observations along the way, sharing them with shepherds he might have met, talking into the evening around the campfires about what’s wrong with the world.

Here he is speaking his complaints, much like we do when we read the morning news and the editorials and discuss them around the office water coolers or on the way to work or in our posts and blogs. His complaints are observations about the injustice he sees everywhere—the poor trampled at the hand of rich rulers, laws that favor the wealthy, rulers that turn “justice to wormwood.”

On one hand, these verses depress me. Wealthy rulers and all sorts of people with power have trod over the poor and the marginalized since the beginning of time. Will it ever stop? Is there any hope? In my own way, I’ve been complicit in systems of injustice just by being alive and profiting from the unearned privileges afforded to me. But I’ve been on the receiving end of injustice, too. If I were honest, there likely have been times I’ve made unjust decisions that have affected the lives of others.

On the other hand, Amos gives me hope—directives that I yearn to grab onto and hold close to my heart and mind. “Seek good and not evil, that you may live; . . . hate evil and love good and establish justice in the gate.” Those directives light the way for me, even when the way is dark.

God of all justice, forgive us for our blind participation in unjust systems. Shine your light in the hearts of our rulers and lawmakers and leaders of all sorts, that we all may seek good and not evil—for your sake and the sake of the world. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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