Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Fighting for Truth, Justice, and the....prophetic way? | Devotion by Pastor Tim Smith
Amos 5: 7, 10-15
5:7 Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground! 5:10 They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth. 5:11 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. 5:12 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. 5:13 Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time. 5:14 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. 5:15 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.
Amos, a lowly shepherd and dresser of sycamore trees from Tekoa in the southern kingdom of Judah, is called by God to speak a harsh word of warning to the northern kingdom, known variously as Ephraim, Israel, or Samaria. Relatively speaking, things are going well there. The economy is good, and worship attendance and offerings at the shrine at Bethel are high.
Enter Amos, low on credentials but high on honesty or at least on calling the situation as he sees it and as he believes God sees it. He urges them and us to seek the Lord. Their failing? They have perverted justice. Wormwood was a bitter plant often used as a metaphor for poison. These regular worshipers who give their offerings and sacrifices at Bethel are under judgment for one big reason—how they treat the poor among them, including cheating them in the marketplace and skewing their justice system in favor of those who have more.
The Hebrew word translated into English here and used widely by the prophets is mishpat. Unlike in the Greek understanding represented by the blindfolded lady holding the scales, mishpat isn’t primarily being fair or rewarding good and punishing evil (you get what you deserve). Mishpat justice has more to do with everyone’s having what they need. The just society is the one that lifts up the neediest. A society, a culture, an age, a church, is judged by God according to how it treats its poor. It might include yet is deeper than collecting coats and giving away food. That’s charity, and it’s good. Yet Mishpat has to do with the big picture, about rights, about building a community where everyone is valued, treasured, and cared for as precious ones created in the image of God and for whom Christ died.
Though this week’s text is from Amos, here’s how Micah 6:8 puts it: “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice (mishpat), love kindness, and walk humbly with your God?”
Prayer: You call us to worship and to spiritual discipline, Lord God. Guard us from pride and complacency in our personal piety and keep us ever mindful of and active in addressing the needs of others, especially the least of these in our midst. We pray in the name of Christ. Amen.
Pastor Tim Smith