Monday, November 19, 2007


I just finished reading the little book of Amos in my Bible. I really like this guy! I feel he has a lot to say to the people of America – both Christians and non-Christians.

Amos was a prophet to the nation of Israel living under the Old Covenant. It would be easy for us to simply write off what he says as being irrelevant to us Christians – after all we live under the New Covenant. However, we need to recognize a few things.

First, what the Old Testament has to say about moral/ethical issues is important, because it expresses the mind of God on these matters. This is especially important when the New Testament also deals with them. Often the New Testament material is very sparse, and the Old Testament fills in the details.

Secondly, Amos makes very clear that God is concerned about the behavior of the people of the nations, not only that of the Jews, His covenant people. All that he says in chapter 1 through 2:3 have to do with the nations: Damascus and Aram (Syria) (1:3-5), the Philistine cities (6-8), Tyre (9, 10), Edom (11, 12), Ammon (13-15), Moab (2:1-3). Though most of the acts of the nations that draw his anger have to do with their sins against Israel, not all of them do. It would appear that it is the evil of the acts themselves with which He is angry.
  • Terrorism (1:4): “… because they threshed Giliad with implements of sharp iron.”
  • Mass deportation of people (1:6): “… because they deported an entire population”; (1:9): “Because they delivered up an entire population”
  • Broken treaties (1:9): “And did not remember the covenant of brotherhood.”
  • Lack of compassion (1:11): “Because he pursued his brother with the sword, while he stifled his compassion;”
  • Mistreatment of the innocent for gain (1:13): “Because they ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to enlarge their borders.”
  • Desecration of the dead (2:1): “Because he burned the bones of the king of Edom to lime.”
It would seem from the above that God holds the nations of the earth accountable for their behavior. Does He do so today? I find no indication that he has changed His mind. Look at Matthew 25:32: “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”

What is the standard by which God, through Amos judges the nations? I believe that it is what Paul calls “the work of the Law” (Romans 2:14, 15). “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.”

However, when it comes to God’s covenant people, the nations of Israel and Judah, there is a different standard. This would agree with what Paul says in Romans 2:12, 13: “For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.”

So where does this leave us, God’s New Covenant people? Well, first of all, we can be thankful that our sinful actions have already been judged in the person of Christ (John 3:18). He has taken all our sin on Himself. But we still have to stand before Christ some day and give account (2 Corinthians 5:10).

While it is not our responsibility to pass judgment on non-believers, I do believe we have to recognize the evils that are going on in this world and do our best to alleviate them. I believe that as citizens we have a responsibility for speaking out to the sins around us – especially here in America – not to condemn but to remedy them. And we need to recognize that the only ultimate remedy for sin is the forgiveness found through the work of Christ.

So – what was Amos trying to communicate? That God is angry at sin – the sins of all mankind, but especially those of His own people. And also that there is the promise of restoration (9:11-15). God is a God of justice and grace.

More later.

Bill Ball

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