Summary: Whats does 'The Day of the Lord ' in Amos, and the praable of the 10 virgins have in common? How we behave while we wait.
This morning we have two quite controversial passages to look at. By controversial, I mean that their interpretation is disputed, with different commentators proposing different understandings. So, I’m going to look at each passage separately and then try to see if there is common thread and what that might mean for us.
I’ll start with Amos. Before we look at the passages itself, it’s a good idea to put some context around Amos, as I guess that most of us are not that familiar with him.
Amos’ prophecy comes from about 750 BC at a time when the kingdoms were split, with Judah in the south centred on Jerusalem, and Israel in the north centred on Samaria. This prophecy is aimed at the Northern kingdom.
Amos was a farmer from the southern kingdom, he lived in Tekoa, a wilderness town on the top of a hill about 10 miles south of Jerusalem.
The area had been ruled by the Assyrians, but their empire was coming to an end. The local power Damascus had recently been defeated by the Jews, so for a while there there had been peace. Jeroboam II led the northern kingdom and Uzziah the southern. Both were brilliant military leaders.
Peace & Prosperity
The period of peace and the recent military victories had given both kingdoms greater influence in the region and led to a golden age of prosperity. They were nearly back to the level they had experienced under King Solomon.
There were now more people who were well off and all those who were rich lived very comfortably for the times.
In one way, at least it was like our times, the rich were getting richer and the poor were exploited.
In verses 11 and 12, Amos states the problem as God sees it:
You trample on the poor and force them to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine.
For I know how many are your offences and how great your sins.
Religion not Covenant
Aside from human greed there were other causes for this. They had forgotten their covenant with God. They were worshipping Baal. The religious ceremonies that they performed and the ones that Amos is concerned about are simply ceremonies. Belief in Baal does not require a moral code as belief in Yahweh does.
The Day of the Lord
Yet they still held to the belief that they were blessed by God, that they were the chosen people. That God would never abandon them. Perhaps, because things were going well they believed that the day of the Lord was approaching, that there would only be a short wait. The day of the Lord, whatever that really meant – we can’t be sure, but whatever they were expecting it would be a great blessing.
Amos say that the Day of the Lord will not be a blessing, but a time of darkness and terror. Imagine escaping a lion and running into the path of a bear. Imagine returning to you home, your place of safety, only to relax, lean on the wall and get bitten by a snake. Both these images appear to end in death.
The religious feasts are hated because they are not really worshipping God, violating the first commandment:
Dt 5:7-9a “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God ...”
… and most of the others as well. So, the day of the Lord, will not be a day of blessing, but a day of judgement. Their guilt is clear, any expectation that God would overlook their sin because that are the chosen people is misplaced. So this day, for them, will be a dark day indeed.
What is Important to God
Verse 24 looks like a way out, but God does not say, “Turn away from Baal, purify your religion and worship Me only because I’m a jealous God.” It seems God has something more important in mind.
“let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream”
If there is a way out, it starts with justice, and justice must go on continuously and must not be interrupted like the flow of water when a stream dries up in the summer.
Jeremiah 22:3 tells us what justice means:
“This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”