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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Prophesy is More than Anger (Amos 1-9)

At seventeen, emotions drove my actions.  Seeing my dad overwhelmed by the most recent board meeting ambush from that wicked church was too much for me.  I knew that the lies and rumors were taking a toll on him, on all of us really.  So, I drove to her house, and knocked on her door.  At maybe or eight thirty or nine o'clock at night she let me.

"How is it possible that there are all of these ridiculous rumors about Dad sleeping around, but none about you--his secretary?"  Before she could respond, "Obviously you are the source of this," and while she denied it, I simply concluded, "Stop it."  Then I left.

The preacher's family felt the brunt of gossip in my small town.  As outsiders, the insiders could not resist going after us.  Despite its short duration, engaging Charlie Hedrick's daughter holds a permanent place among the stories by which I define myself.

"Stop it," often sums up the message of the prophets.  Amos, an outsider from Judah, spoke to Israel in its time of greatest power.  However, wickedness supported their power.  From Amos 2:
For three sins of Israel,
even for four, I will not relent.
They sell the innocent for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals.
They trample on the heads of the poor
as on the dust of the ground
and deny justice to the oppressed.
Father and son use the same girl
and so profane my holy name.
They lie down beside every altar
on garments taken in pledge.
In the house of their god
they drink wine taken as fines.
The wickedness includes making sex into something profane, but Amos provided it as only one example of the powerful exploiting the powerless.  Read this list and think about the wage disparity in our country.  Think about the handful of people who fight our wars, tour after tour.  Think about immigration raids and the bosses hiring more immigrants the next day--perhaps for the cost of a pair of sandals. Amos prophesied that because of this, “An enemy will overrun your land, pull down your strongholds and plunder your fortresses.”

Likewise, I ensured powerful people who attacked my family, that at a minimum, we would not pretend we didn't know who was doing it.  We would not submit the oppressor's tool of politeness.

But my ego and testosterone inspired visit that night--despite its frequent use of an example "when did you exhibited courage" on essays and in interviews--lacked the essential component of prophesy.  Hope.  The only good news the Bible contains for the powerful: if you give up their power, if you live rightly, you may yet be restored.  These are the closing words of Amos, a prophet speaking just before the Assyrians would carry Israel away in exiles

“They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.
They will plant vineyards and drink their wine;
they will make gardens and eat their fruit.
I will plant Israel in their own land,
never again to be uprooted
from the land I have given them,”

             says the Lord your God.

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