A Prayer inspired by the prophet Obadiah

Almighty God,
You are righteous and just,
You are the Judge and the Deliverer,
and we worship You.
Our world, Lord, needs Your intervention
with goodness and fairness –
come to us!
Our lives, Lord, need Your touch
of healing and restoration –
come to us!

Thank You for the message of Obadiah,
who reminds us that You see the ruins
and You will intervene,
that you know the loss
and You will restore.
Give us courage and strength
to persevere with You,
no matter our circumstances
until the day we see You
face to face.

All this we pray, through Jesus Christ,
our Savior and Deliverer,
to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit
be honor and glory, now and forever.
Amen.

The Core of Amos’ Message

justice and mercy

Understanding Amos’ message is tied up in these four contextual factors:

  1. a shift in structures of land ownership and exploitation within the new structure
  2. an increasing gap between the wealthy elite and the poor peasant class
  3. corruption of justice in the law courts
  4. covenantal disobedience with hypocritical religious ceremonies

Generally speaking, Amos proclaimed a message of doom, that “Yahweh was moving upon the land to devastate a sinful people” (Flanders, People of the Covenant, 344). He indicated that Israel’s pending devastation was primarily due to the utter absence of justice and righteousness within the nation as demanded by covenant relationship with Yahweh. As J. S. Smart writes:

The heart of Amos’ faith was the conviction that only a nation in which the dealings of men with one another are just can be in any true sense a people in covenant with God. . . . It is the justice, holiness, and purity of God that calls for justice, holiness, and purity in the common life of Israel. – J. S. Smart, “Amos,” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 121.

Within the prophetic oracles recorded in the book of Amos, there are two key terms related to justice and righteousness and four key terms related to the poor. The first two terms, mišpat and tsedeqah, are common to most of the prophetic books included in the Hebrew Scriptures. The first word, mišpat, is usually translated as “justice” or “judgment.” Mišpat “connotes a complex of meanings like equal, fair, right, good, which, however modulated, constitute a focus of value that is understood to be essential to social well-being” (James Luther Mays, “Justice: Perspectives from the Prophetic Tradition,” in Prophecy in Israel: Search for an Identity, 145).

The second term, tsedeqah, is most commonly translated as “righteousness”, but also conveys meanings of “vindication, deliverance, uprightness, right, and even prosperity” (Bruce C. Birch, Let Justice Roll Down: The Old Testament, Ethics and
Christian Life, 153). Tsedeqah is best understood in relational terms, as Gerhard von Rad elaborates, “Every relationship brings with it certain claims upon conduct, and the satisfaction of these claims, which issue from the relationship and in which alone the relationship can persist, is described by our term” (quoted in Birch, Let Justice Roll Down, 154).

We see justice that is essential to social well being (mišpat) and righteousness as the satisfaction of claims upon conduct within relationships (tsedeqah). Both terms are used in the scriptures of the interactions between God and Israel but also in reference to ideal human interactions within the covenant community. Thus, God relates in justice and righteousness with Israel by being faithful to them in the covenant relationship and fulfilling his promises given to them. Concurrently, Israel is required by the covenant to reciprocate such faithfulness with God by serving him alone as well as acting justly and rightly in all interpersonal relationships as prescribed in the covenantal stipulations. In his prophetic oracles, Amos joins mišpat and tsedeqah in parallelism three times (Am 5:7; 5:24; 6:12b), emphasizing that the two concepts are inseparably related. “The two are so closely coordinated that Amos’ use of mišpat is not to be understood out of relation to its source and orientation to sedeqah” (James Luther Mays, Amos: A Commentary, 92). J. du Preez further illumines the relationship of mišpat and tsedeqah as seen in Amos 5:24, writing that “the two words together express a specific idea which, to a large extent, amounts to what may be called social justice” (J. du Preez, “Social Justice: Motive for the Mission of the Church,” Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 53, 37).

These two terms, justice and righteousness, form the core of Amos’ message.

Amos [God in the Ruins]

God in the Ruins Series GFX_App SquareThis past weekend at Eastbrook, I continued our series on the minor prophets, “God in the Ruins,” by turning attention to the prophet Amos. Amos is best-known for his strong words about justice and righteousness, and his stinging rebuke of the people of Israel, particularly their leaders.

Unlike many other minor prophets, Amos has a clearly-defined vocation as a shepherd (Amos 1:1) and dresser of sycamore-fig trees (7:14). He was likely a wealthy land-owner who does not serve as a prophet beyond a short period of time. Even though he was from the southern kingdom of Judah in the vicinity of Tekoa, just south of Jerusalem, Amos prophesied to the northern kingdom of Israel at the height of its economic prosperity and political power around 760 BC.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series on the minor prophets here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities to connect.

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A Prayer inspired by the prophet Amos

Almighty God,
who can stand before You
without feeling some level
of smallness, fear, and failing?
Have mercy on us
in spite of our wrongs,
and bring Your forgiveness
over our sins, both known and unknown.
Save us from false religion,
from the bustling of activity
that has lost its center in You
and fails to reflect who You are.
You are a God of righteousness
and justice in Your character and activity.
Shape us, Your people, to be like You
so that justice might roll on like a river
and righteousness like a never-failing stream
in and through us, O God.

All this we pray, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord
to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit
be honor and glory, now and forever.
Amen.

Chaff

Rooted sermon slideI concluded our series, “Rooted,” from Psalm 1 this weekend at Eastbrook Church. My message, “Chaff,” looked at the final three verses:

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

You can listen to my message, “Chaff,” at the Eastbrook web-site here. You can also follow the RSS feed for Eastbrook sermons or follow Eastbrook Church on Twitter or Facebook. My message outline is included below:

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Roots

Rooted sermon slideI launched us into a new series, “Rooted,” this weekend at Eastbrook Church. The entire series comes from Psalm 1, and my message this morning looked at the first two verses:

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.

You can listen to my message, “Roots,” at the Eastbrook web-site here. You can also follow the RSS feed for Eastbrook sermons or follow Eastbrook Church on Twitter or Facebook. My message outline is included below:

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