There is the same great border between those who are at ease in Zion and those who are gasping for economic breath in a world which treats non-achievers unkindly. As Amos warned the complacent rich in the land of Israel that exile loomed, so God is asking prophets today to warn the wealthy that they cannot put a border between themselves and judgment, they cannot insure against the anger of God.
Picking out the marks of loungers from this passage:
- Loungers lag behind reality in how they see their nation, which is no longer greater than others (verses 1-3)
- Loungers relax in comfort and good living when they should recognise the crisis of their times (verse 4)
- Loungers are lazy in how they quote the Bible, like David they may play in a band, even be skilled improvisers, but their songs will be idle, even idolatrous (verse 5)
- Loungers lubricate their gullets and their skin, but lack any sign of tears at the ruin of our civilisation (verse 6)
So the first shall be last, says the prophet. We might add in the New Testament teaching that the last will be first, and follow up God’s plan to bless the last and the least.
God help me to shun sun loungers, and be sparing in the holidays I take. Now that being good to oneself is so fashionable, show me the merit of being tough with myself, and the wisdom to know which is appropriate. Show me any sin loungers I have slipped onto the balcony of my life, and help me to throw them off, now. Help me to deal wisely with other loungers, showing them a better way with my own life.
Let me name and grieve over the ruins of our time: the great ideals that have been watered down, the good practices that have been lost, the generous spirit that has departed from the public square.
Let me name one or two others who are tempted to lounge in body or soul, and pray them into clear sight and real change . . .
Let me name those who lead our nation, and pray they may fear the day of judgment, put far away the reign of violence, and make provision for those most hurt by change . . .
Let me name at least one musician, and pray this person may play with good purpose, with integrity of life, and maybe call a listener to a new sense that God is around, that God is real, that God is ready to help in time of need . . .
In the name of Christ, Amen.
1 Alas for those who are at ease in Zion,
and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria,
the notables of the first of the nations,
to whom the house of Israel resorts!
2 Cross over to Calneh, and see;
from there go to Hamath the great;
then go down to Gath of the Philistines.
Are you better than these kingdoms?
Or is your territory greater than their territory,
3 O you that put far away the evil day,
and bring near a reign of violence?
4 Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory,
and lounge on their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock,
and calves from the stall;
5 who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp,
and like David improvise on instruments of music;
6 who drink wine from bowls,
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
7 Therefore they shall now be the first to go into exile,
and the revelry of the loungers shall pass away.