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Not all that glitters is gold. We may have noble origins, steeped faith, renown and reputation. We may have a name, but does it mean anything?
Ignorance is no excuse in law. Yet greater knowledge demands greater responsibility, higher standards. “They should know better.” Judah was the largest tribe, home to the Temple and guardian of the Law of Moses. But it rejected its heritage. It became like the peoples God had displaced, every bit as wicked.
Judah is Israel’s first cousin. No doubt Amos’ audience enjoyed the roasting he gave them. We enjoy a take down of a “frenemy.” Then Amos pauses. He has toured the border country. Called out the criminals, over there. Stood up for their victims: many in his audience. You can hear the applause. He has the crowd in the palm of his hands. Then he turns. Turns on them.
“I will punish Israel for their countless crimes.” God is still counting. They sell their neighbours into slavery, for a new pair of Pradas. Sons let their fathers bed their girlfriends. Taxmen drink their takings: tithes paid with payday loans. God saved them from slavery in Egypt and now they enslave others.
God punished the violent merciless occupants of the Promised Land, would he not punish those he had given it to, his chosen ones. Would he spare them the same outcome? Would that be just? Peter will say it again hundreds of years later: judgment begins “with God’s household” (1 Peter 4:17). How often does the conduct of Christians and their leaders fail to exceed the ethical standards of their “enemies”? How often are ministry workers paid substance wages; and ministry funders tithing on credit cards?
Is it better in here, than out there? Are we more honest, more hardworking, more generous, more diligent, more mindful of others, or less? God is still counting.
Forgive us. Our daily bread we ask, but only crumbs we share. We love our neighbour if we like them. We talk of His kingdom and build our own. Turn on us; teach us. Crush our strength and confound our expertise. Catch our arrows and brake our bows. Strip us, until all that is left is You.