Friday, September 04, 2009
“For three sins of Ammon,
even for four, I will not turn back my wrath”
One of the great things about the Old Testament prophets is that they generate the image of God who is universal. The pagan gods were very local, but the God of Israel had a vision of the whole world. The pagan gods battled one another, so the Sumerian gods battled the Philistine gods. How do we know who won? The country who won, so the proof was that our country wins, so our gods are stronger.
Israel has a God who is concerned about Israel, but that favor is not exclusive. In this passage, God lays out judgment against Damascus, Tyre, Gaza, Edom, etc. He uses the same refrain, “For the three sins of ____ even for four, I will not turn my back” Then, Amos lays the charges and allegations against each country; the brutality of war, enslaving other peoples, etc. War may be justified, but slaughter is not justified. Then there is a judgment of Judah, but the longest judgment is against Israel. Israel has denied justice, abused the poor, they worship at pagan altars, and God will bring judgment against them Amos says.
God demands justice for the whole world not just one locale. The notion of having a battle between Allah and God betrays the notion of Amos. It is not a battle between faiths, because God is universal. There is not a cosmic struggle in Amos, because Amos knows that the pagan gods are not real. They are just stones or pieces of wood, they are not living. The God of Israel is a living God, and to be reminded of that Israel does not have images of God. Win may take this for granted that God is universal, but in the world of the Old Testament such a witness expressed a wild and radical vision of God.
I encourage you pray for a place in the world where God’s justice and mercy needs to be realized? Darfur, Rwanda, the US-Mexican border with drug wars, the people who are enslaved right now.
Where are places in the United States God’s justice and mercy needs to be shared? New Orleans, our Valley, people who are unemployed and underemployed.
Will you pray for those people and places today?
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Amos 1:1 The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel.
Amos was a shepherd from Tekoa. Tekoa is south of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. As a Shepherd, he was not a priest but a layperson. Isaiah who is contemporary to Amos was a priest. Amos’ ministry was not a long ministry, but what he said was so significant that people recorded it. Amos did the work and then returned to Tekoa probably to shepherd.
Amos seems to be preaching to Israel which is the northern kingdom which has Bethel as its holy place. Amos was from Tekoa in Judah, the southern kingdom. I wonder what it must have been like to be Amos to preach as an outsider? He said things significant enough that people listened and he spoke so forcefully that the priests of Israel ask him to go away.
He identifies his time of ministry as two years before the earthquake. That is similar to us in places where there have been natural disasters, we mark time by before and after the crisis. Before 9/11 and after 9/11. When I use that term, you know life before 9/11 and after. In New Orleans there is pre Katrina and post Katrina. San Francisco and Northridge have quakes that jog memory. I wonder how this earthquake influenced this message? Was that the reason somebody collected Amos’ words?
Amos was jogged out of his life as a shepherd to speak to people?
Has God called you out of your normal routine to do a task?
I am trying to think of those moments, but perhaps I don’t have one. It would demand putting down the schedule to allow God room to work. It would mean that I would have to be open to that? Are you?
I think being a parent might be one of those, but unlike Amos…I had to take the adventure home. So, that is not exactly like Amos. I am thinking…what about you?
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Joel 3:10 Beat your plowshares into swords
and your pruning hooks into spears.
Let the weakling say,
"I am strong!"
The Bible can be unsettling and Joel 3:10 creates a bit of disequilibrium. I know that we are to beat our swords in plowshares that is written in Isaiah 2:4. However, Joel goes the opposite way. Did you catch that? Read it again. I never realized that until today.
This is not a prophetic call for peace, but a call to arms.
It makes my stomach turn, my image is of machetes being gathered in Rwanda. A thing of harvest being used to shed blood.
Caedmon’s Call has this song, “The Lord is a warrior. The Lord is mighty in battle. The Lord is a warrior. The Lord of hosts is he.” Hosts is an old way of saying army. The 'heavenly hos't is a heavenly army. When Amy and I are driving, she automatically by passes the song. I flip it back, so it is a CD disagreement. I like to sing along to the song. Amy stumbles upon the image while I just listen to the tune.
The Caedmon’s song brought us to a conversation. There are images of war in the Bible and we have to come to terms with that. "Plowshares are beaten into swords," I am not overly excited with that image. What do you do when you encounter something in the Bible that upsets your apple cart? Do you discount it? Do you wrestle with it?
My friends who are of peacemakers, Joel turns Isaiah’s image of peace on its head. That great image, “let the weakling say I am strong” is not an interior mending of what is broken, but a battle cry. The Prophet calls Israel to arms. Won’t sing that hymn on the Sunday of peace during Advent!!!!
What do you do with that image being turned upside down?
Are you willing to go down to the Jabbok River and wrestle with God or angels? (Genesis32:22-32)
The maturing of faith is when we encounter something that challenges our assumptions and we change. I tell folks, argue with God but allow God always to win. It is in the striving and losing where we are blessed. Today, I know that swords can become plowshares and plowshares can become swords. Now, I need to go to Exeter, CA to meet the guys at “the foundry” and ask what it takes to beat a plowshare into a sword and sword into a plowshare. I do not embrace this revelation, but I accept it.
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Joel 2:28 “I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,…
30 I will show wonders in the heavens
and on the earth,
blood and fire and billows of smoke
This is the text that Peter uses on Pentecost. That is 50 days after Easter (pente=5 in Greek) Joel calls the people to repent and this is God’s response.
On the side of Rocky Hill at 5:15 AM last Saturday a meteor, a shooting start illuminated the night. It looked so close that we could touch it that it would have landed at the foot of Yokohl Valley on the other side of the hill. The group I was running with all, “Oohed” and “Ahhed.” When we regrouped up on the top of the hill, we talked about the experience of the meteor with childlike astonishment and wonder.
Monday, I learned that a group 30 miles away saw the same thing and they felt that they ‘oohed” and “ahhed” the same experience. I told folks, I guess that meteor if it would have landed on the earth would have landed in Utah. A friend then said, “What was God trying to say with it.” I said, “It was 5:15 AM, probably just good morning. Only off balance people are up at that time.”
When we see things in the sky, eclipses, meteors, comets…it catches our attention. It reminds me that the universe is larger than me, a change in my myopic perspective. The Hebrews without the knowledge of planets, leftover comet debris, and the wider expanse of heavens saw these as signs of God. They were abnormal.
In Joel, it is not the heavens that represent the harbinger of the Day of the Lord, it is the people. “I will pour out my Spirit on all my people.” In the midst of outpouring of the Spirit and the day of the Lord is the notion that God does this for people. Redemption begins with people, you and me.
As we partner with God, it begins with people. We may look to the heavens hoping for a sign. People in LA, I am sure are seeing God’s coming in the smoke. As people waited. some saw it in Katrina. It was the wrong view, the view is here and now. Where is God at work in the person in front of us? Then we know where God is at and that is why I believe this is the ‘Day of the Lord.’
What is God doing in your life?
What is God doing in the lives around you?
Will you partner with God in what He is doing?
Are you afraid to do so? Are you unaware? Or, hopeful?