Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Amos 2: 6-8

6Thus says the LORD,
"For three transgressions of Israel and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because they sell the righteous for money
And the needy for a pair of sandals.
7"These who pant after the very dust of the earth
on the head of the helpless
Also turn aside the way of the humble;
And a man and his father resort to the same girl
In order to profane My holy name.
8"On garments taken as pledges
they stretch out beside every altar,
And in the house of their God
they drink the wine of those who have been fined.

Amos makes no special introduction. He plows right into God's judgments against Israel as if it were just another enemy nation. In two verses, the nation faces charges against God for its treatment of the righteous and the humble; its inappropriate sexual conduct (vs. 7b); and, its abuse of the "temple" of God. No small charges, and He's just begun!

Selling people into slavery or using the abuse of people as a means to resolve serious problems, like dealing with debt, was common practice in Israel. Recall Jesus' story of the king who released a debt from one of his slaves who could not pay. That man, who had saved his wife and family through his desperate pleas, would then turn around and torture a man who owed him money. And we know the selling [out] of the righteous cost Judas Iscariot more than 30 shekels of silver. The stiff-necked, impatient Israelites would stop at nothing to get what they felt was rightfully theirs.

Verse 7 is a very profound image of just how low the Israelites chose to stoop. "These who pant after the very dust of the earth on the head of the helpless...." The Hebrew for 'pant' means "to inhale eagerly; figuratively, to covet; by implication, to be angry; also, to hasten." [Strong's] Can you imagine the poor, the blind, the beggars, the crippled, sitting in the streets, as they did, only to have the Israelites inhale the very dirt upon which they sat? Coveting to the point of taking what little these people had--the sand under their feet!

"He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker,
But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him."
--Proverbs 14:31

Verse 8 may give you pause, as well. "On garments taken as pledges...." Consider 'loan' as another word for pledge. There was a practice, particularly amongst the poor, to lay down their outer garments as a means of covering a debt. This was an outward sign that there was understanding of a debt to be paid by the one making the pledge. But, this also came with the understanding that if the one owed took the outer garment, he would have to give it back to him who owed by the end of the day.

"If you ever take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in?...."
--Exodus 22:26-27a

Jesus took off His outer garment at the time of His last supper with His disciples when He washed their feet, illustrating His humility. I hadn't thought about the laying down of the garment as a metaphor for covering a debt, but I can see that now. Perhaps it's even more telling of the judgment rendered the Israelites in looking at the actions of the Roman soldiers at the Crucifixion.

"Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece. So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, to decide whose it shall be"; this was to fulfill the Scripture: "THEY DIVIDED MY OUTER GARMENTS AMONG THEM, AND FOR MY CLOTHING THEY CAST LOTS."
--John 19: 23&24

What Amos is saying here is that the Israelites took these garments and laid on them at the altar of the Lord, as well as helped themselves to the temple wine of the guilty. Figuratively, the Israelites took practices of humility and statements of mercy, and tainted the very nature of the work of God by their disregard for His holiness. No, God is not pleased.

God explains from where His wrath comes, and He goes back to the Exodus.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Amos 2:9-16

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).