Monday – November 12
Amos 2:6-16 (excerpts)
This is what the Lord says: “For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor … and deny justice to the oppressed. Fathers and sons violate the marriage laws. They lie down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge. In the house of their god they drink wine taken as fines.”
The Lord declares: “I destroyed the Amorites …I brought you up out of Egypt, and I led you forty years in the desert …I also raised up prophets from among your sons … Is this not true, people of Israel? But you made the Nazirites drink wine and commanded the prophets not to prophesy. Now then, I will crush you as a cart crushes when loaded with grain.”
Israel is not exhibiting any mercy, justice, or peace … so, declares the Lord, “I will crush you.” Amos was a prophet from Judah, but was announcing God’s judgment on the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The ‘crushing’ would soon come from the Assyrian armies. Prophets, like Amos, can quickly detect religious hypocrisy as exhibited in Israel. One has to ponder if our modern cultures are easily prone to repeating the fallacies of the past – people turning away from God, seeking our own truths, taking advantage of the poor, ignoring basic moral principles, making light of modern-day prophets. Perhaps this is the right time to align ourselves with others who pray and worship God; align ourselves with those who seek to obey the Commandments; and align ourselves with those who seek to love their neighbor as themselves! Amos has more to say … it’s Monday and Tuesday’s coming!
Tuesday – November 13
Amos 5:4-13 (excerpts)
This is what the Lord says to the house of Israel: “… Seek the Lord and live, or he will sweep through the house of Joseph like a fire; it will devour…You who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground [as opposed to] 8he who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns blackness into dawn and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land – the Lord is his name– he flashes destruction on the stronghold and brings the fortified city to ruin [as opposed to] …You trample on the poor and force him 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 offenses and how great your sins….”
Amos pens an interesting literary style [not bad for a shepherd from Judah] in which he judges, condemns, and then proclaims the Lord is His name, verse 8, then he repeats this cycle of judging, condemning, and proclaiming. For example: 4:13 the Lord God almighty is His name; and in 9:6 the Lord is His name. It would appear that Amos is re-introducing Israel to the Lord by name. Israel is experiencing an economic surge, and their military might is at the ready … but their faith, their spiritual well-being is declining. Israel has lost the historical connection with God which was their foundation …a generation has turned to idolatry and they have made a mockery of justice. Amos is proclaiming a God who made the constellations (Pleiades and Orion) and who has been active in the history of Israel … defeat of the Amorites … bringing them out of Egypt. A message for us is that God is involved in our lives and we need to live with that knowledge and reality. Names are important; our names identify us and define our character – the Lord is His name.
Wednesday – November 14
Amos 5:14-24 (excerpts)
14Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. 15Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts … 21I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. 22Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them … 24But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!
Read Monday and Tuesday again. What is justice? Justice is not selling out for money (Amos 2:6). Justice is not taking advantage of the needy for material gain (Amos 2:6). Amos points out that many of the people in Israel were using positions of power and privilege to support a system that pushed aside the poor and downtrodden. And all of their religious rituals were an anathema to God because they did not combine them with justice and righteousness in their dealings with others and even themselves! Jesus understood this and expected Believers to respond: “… for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” – Matthew 25:35-36
What is justice according to God, as explained in Amos 5:24 … let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! The true mark of authentic faith is love, humility, and justice … like a never-failing stream. Ralph Wood in his book Contending for Faithnotes that “beliefs and practices together constitute the life of the church … when they are brought together they witness powerfully to the sufficiency and supremacy of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Thursday – November 15
Habakkuk 1:17 (excerpts)
Habakkuk has a complaint to bring against the Lord: 2How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?…3Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? … 4The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.
The Lord’s response to Habakkuk’s complaint:: “Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed … 5I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people …7they all come bent on violence ….”
Habakkuk has a second complaint to bring against the Lord: 13… Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous … destroying nations without mercy?
We jump ahead in history and meet another prophet, Habakkuk, who is deeply rooted in the religious traditions of Israel, and he becomes the voice of Judah. He does not understand why God is allowing such injustice … Habakkuk wants an answer! And God gives him a doozy … He is going to send in the Babylonians to conquer and enslave God’s own people! Isn’t that special! Habakkuk is not only the voice of Judah, he is also expressing the bewilderment that we sometimes feel when we think God is not listening to our concerns. For example, why is God allowing Christianity to come under such scrutiny and open opposition in the twenty-first century? Like Habakkuk, we begin to question what God is doing to His church and to us, His children!? We will get the answer on Friday, and it will serve as a valuable lesson about Biblical relevance … it’s Thursday and Friday’s coming!
Friday – November 16
Habakkuk 2:1-14 (excerpts)
On Thursday, Habakkuk raised his first complaint against God, and got an answer he never expected … the Babylonians are coming! Habakkuk responds with his second complaint … Lord, how can you use the unholy Babylonians to discipline your own chosen people!?
Habakkuk thinking: 1I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what He will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint.
The Lord replies to Habakkuk: “Write down the revelation … 3for the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait ….”
In 2:1, Habakkuk begins a Biblical problem solving process … he waits, he goes off by himself, he listens which turns into praying. When we have problems, it might be a good idea to follow the example of Habakkuk. Too often, when something goes wrong in our lives we think that God doesn’t care, so we leave the church or take our frustration out on another Christian. There is a process to deal with our doubts and fears. God can handle all our questions, but will probably only answer a few! Our faith is not intended to remove all doubt, but our faith leads us to be ever sure of God … and that always turns out to be something good. Like Habakkuk, spend time alone with God so that He can speak to us through His Word and through prayer. Chuck Swindoll said that “Waiting strengthens our patience and lengthens our perspective.” In the end, Habakkuk comes to understand God’s promises and clings to Him with triumphant faith. Habakkuk 3:18-19 … I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength, he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.
Saturday – November 17
Isaiah 6:1-13 (excerpts)
1In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne … 2above him were seraphs [angelic beings] each with six wings … with two wings they were flying. 3And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” …8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” 9He said, “Go and tell this people …”
It is important that you read all of Isaiah chapter six, as Isaiah’s Commission is a beautiful piece of literature. When we get caught up in the 24/7 news cycle, it is hard not to be overwhelmed, and we just want to throw up our hands and scream … “I just can’t take it anymore!” There is this sense of hopelessness and bewilderment that we simply cannot handle all of the problems of the world. What can I do to make any difference? What can the church do to address the pressing issues of our community? Isaiah was in the same quandary … his favorite King died, who was really a good King! Isaiah was concerned about what would happen to his nation without proper leadership. Then he comes face-to-face with the King of Kings, who is saying, “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah steps into the breech … no longer worried about the loss of King Uzziah … now he felt empowered by this partnership with God. The connection for us is pretty clear … God works through us to change the world. God could handle all the problems and issues by Himself, but He has chosen to work in partnership with his children … us! God is calling to us … providing opportunities to partner with, or to become faithful enough for Him to work through us. There is much to be done, and we have the assurance that He is working side by side with us!