Amos Chapter 5
This is a powerfully dangerous warning from the Lord, not only for those to whom it was directly written, but for each of us. Here we see Him, He has warned Israel about their transgressions; warning them that if they continue in their ways, then they shall be as a “fallen virgin.” This is an interesting expression, as it does not imply in anyway a former virgin who no longer is, but rather is a reference to the fact that she (Israel) will have proclaimed allegiance to Him, and have proclaimed to live their lives for Him, but will be utterly removed from the face of history, leaving behind no legacy, as a virgin who, at the last, determined to blaspheme and turn away from the Lord. “She tripped over her land,” being a mighty nation seeking to grow, “and none shall raise her up,” having no legacy to leave behind, she would simply cease to exist.
He prophesies that “they have hated him who reproved in the gates and abhorred the upright word.” This is an obvious prophecy about Jesus, the upright Word incarnate, who rebuked constantly the Pharisees and Scribe in the gates all throughout the Scripture. They hated Him unto the point of execution.
And then, He offers them the chance to repent, as the Lord so often does with each of us. “Seek good and not evil that you may live,” He states to them. See, it’s important to remember that in Amos’ day, much as in Jeremiah’s day, they were many false prophets who would proclaim (basically) that you could do whatever you chose and you would have no fear from God, so long as you claimed His name. That it was fully possible to be “not perfect, just forgiven,” and that would allow those there to use this as an excuse to continue in whatever sin that they chose. As in the days of Jeremiah, they would proclaim “peace, peace, when there was no peace.” Because of this, there were many who would proclaim the name of the Lord, who would proclaim allegiance to Him, and yet, they were willingly given over to sinfulness. Their lives in no way resembled the life that the Lord commands His children to live.
Thus, He declares, “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord, it will be as though a man were running from a lion and a bear met him.” See, this is this picture of the utter hypocrisy of the nation declaring His name while still clinging to material attachment and fully embracing their sins. On the contrary, when we “commend ourselves and all our lives unto Christ our God,” though we may struggle with sin, it must be an active, conscious struggle. We must be actively seeking His grace to free us from the tethers that bond us to those sins, otherwise we are merely actors playing a part. Salvation is the spiritual equivalent of healing, and when we are sick, our doctor provides us with medicine; however, if we neglect to take of the medicine offered, then we can never be healed. So too it is with the Church. With our faith. Jesus will give us the means to be freed from these bonds, to be healed from our sinfulness, but we must be an active participant in it, for He will never force us to find the salvation He offers.
And we see another image. The Lord warns us strongly, “I hate, I reject your feast days. I do not savor your sacred assemblies…take away from Me the sound of you songs, for I will not hear your musical instruments.” This is a warning that we must truly take to heart. It is fully possible to adhere strictly to religious “rules,” but if we are not truly walking in faith, our very lives will betray our words. Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant; regardless of our “denomination,” if our lives don’t display the characteristics of Christ, then our lives will display our lack of faith. I once heard a prominent Protestant speaker state that, “our lives shouldn’t make sense without our faith.” That is a statement that has stuck with me to this day. If our lives make sense from a secular view point, then we’re doing something wrong. It is for this very reason that the Apostle Paul warns us to constantly evaluate our lives to see that we are in the faith. Because it is fully possible to adhere to these traditions and practices while still having a heart that is rebellious to God. A heart which seeks personal gain and carnal pleasure. And it’s so easy to do this. I constantly see questions posed online, “can a Christian do such and such.” To quote a priest I heard recently, if you have to ask, the answer is no. And this is completely what the Lord is warning against here. To believe intellectually in the existence of God is not faith. No, if you want to know if you’re walking in the faith, test your lives against the Scripture. Are you caring for the poor, visiting the prisoners and the widows; are you loving your neighbors? Or are you just going to Bible studies? How often do we seek to change, to “interpret” the word of God, rather than believing what He has already said? How often do we, like Judas, sacrifice God on the altar of self, of our own wants and desires, all the while claiming our allegiance to Him?
Christ is in our midst…