08 November 2017

Text Study for November 12 - Let Justice Roll Down

Prayer of the Day
God of all people, you are justice itself, and in you righteousness flows over all of creation. Create justice and righteousness in us, that all may rejoice in your blessings and live in your kingdom of peace and lovingkindness. Amen.

Reading: Amos 1:1-2; 5:14-15, 21-24
King Jereboam II of Israel and Uzziah of Judah ruled during a long period of relative peace and prosperity for both kingdoms during the 7th century B.C. It appears that the tribal systems of land ownership broke down in those days, and a new wealthy class emerged at the top of Israelite society, at the expense of many commoners and laborers. Into this environment, a shepherd named Amos was called from the southern kingdom of Judah to proclaim the word of God in Israel.  
A reading from Amos.
1The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of King Uzziah of Judah and in the days of King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel, two years before the earthquake. 2And he said:
The LORD roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem;
 the pastures of the shepherds wither, and the top of Carmel dries up.
 14Seek 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.
15Hate 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.
21I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. 23Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
 24But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

  1. What questions do you have about these readings?
  2. “…two years before the earthquake.” (v. 1:1)
    1. There is evidence of a large earthquake in Hazor, between the Sea of Galilee and Lake Huleh, dating to c. 760 B.C. This earthquake is also mentioned in Zechariah 14:5, which was written hundreds of years after Amos, so it seems likely it is a historic event by which we can reliably date most of Amos to roughly the years 760-750 B.C. This would match the time of the kings mentioned in the introduction (Amos 1:1).
  3. “…justice in the gate.” (v. 5:15)
    1. In Amos’ Israel, ‘the gate’ most likely meant the entrance to the courts or chambers of local magistrates. The judge’s seat would be put in the shade of the gate and people would bring their cases to him. There was no guarantee of counsel, good or bad, in the laws of the time, so as you can imagine, the lower classes often found the courts stacked against them by sheer ignorance of the law, to say nothing of bribes and other injustices the wealthy and well-connected might employ to their advantage. 
  4. It’s worth a minute to consider the setting and context of Amos’ words. 
    1. “Consider any of the small nations of the world today, and imagine being a citizen of a neighboring country and going to that small nation to inform its people that soon they would no longer exist as a nation. Worse yet, imagine trying to convince them that this was the will of their god. How could such destruction and death be the will of any god? That is the theological problem Amos and the other pre-exilic prophets created for their people, and the problem remains for us.”
  1. “All of the 8th century prophets (Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah) link social justice with proper worship of the one true God. Life and worship are a balance like a fair, properly-weighted scale. Worship of other gods and oppression of the poor and the weak are the immoral acts that are most criticized by Amos. Unfaithfulness to YHWH is all the same. It breaks the communion with covenantal partners both human and divine.”
    1. Looking back a few weeks, do you remember why the house of Eli lost its ancestral claim to the priesthood in the days of Samuel? 
    2. In what ways are worship and justice connected? Why, in your words, would missing the mark in one make for problems in the other?
  1. “Amos does not intend to replace ritual with social action. Rather, what goes on in society must correspond to what is said and done in worship. Amos tells us God does not accept the worship of those who show no interest in justice in their daily lives.”
    1. Is the problem in Amos’ world worship, or worshipers? 
    2. What about today? How would our worship be affected by injustice locally? Nationally? Globally?
Quotations pulled from The New Interpreters' Bible and the Lutheran Study Bible.

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