Most days Amos herded sheep and cared for fig trees as they came into fruit. He lived in a time of peace and prosperity for Israel and Judah. Sadly this abundance did not translate to the people having a generosity of spirit to others less fortunate.
Instead, injustice prevailed, exemplified principally in a neglect of God’s law and an ever increasing disparity between the wealthy and poorest in society (look back in Amos to read the catalogue of offences causing God’s anger).
Into this setting, Amos brought a clear message of warning to Israel:
“…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.” (verse 11).
But also, amazingly, a gracious divine invitation:
“Seek good and not evil, that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you…” (verse 14).
For God is for us.
The call for “justice [to] roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (see Amos 5: 24) resonates down the centuries. Ordinary people become extraordinary in their battle for human rights:
Emmeline Pankhurst, English suffragette, led campaigns of civil disobedience to gain the vote for women.
Oskar Schindler, German industrialist, rescued more than 1000 Jews from deportation to Auschwitz during World War II.
Mohandas Gandhi, Indian activist and lawyer, used nonviolent civil disobedience to fight for Indian independence.
Rosa Parks, famous for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, heralded civil disobedience across the U.S. in the struggle for racial equality.
Desmond Tutu, South African cleric, campaigned against apartheid and for justice and truth.
Malala Yousafzi, school girl, ignored the Taliban’s intimidation and continued campaigning for girls’ education in Pakistan.
And many, many more. Like these, we ordinary people, citizens of the world, are responsible for what happens in it and to it…
Just and gracious God,
Will you embolden me
To wrestle for what is right,
And to fight against those things
That diminish my neighbour
In any way,
For Jesus’ sake,
10 They hate the one who reproves in the gate,
and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.
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.
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.
13 Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time;
for it is an evil time.
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.
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.