What do you care about? Are there things you should care about?
The book of Amos asks us these questions.
Amos was a shepherd of sorts—a rural man, sent by God to speak to the northern kingdom of Israel a very long time ago. The people of Israel enjoyed prosperity, comfort, and success. They were religiously cleaned up on the outside—keeping festivals, honoring certain holy days, not missing a Sunday, so to speak (Amos 4:4-5).
Despite their appearance, their hearts were far from God. Material comforts consumed their hearts and they stopped caring about what they ought to care about—justice (Amos 6:1-7).
They did not give God the honor he was due (Amos 2:4). They rejected his law and his authority (Amos 2:8). Therefore, they forgot his heart. They forgot the marginalized, and they did not honor the needy, the poor, and the oppressed (Amos 2:7; 4:1).
God responds to their heartless religion by covering his ears: “Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:23-24 ESV).
Amos shows us that the God of the Bible will not tolerate injustice. He sent Amos to prophesy of coming exile for the people of Israel (Amos 6:7; 7:10, 17). In 722 BC, just as he promised, God sent Assyria to destroy the northern kingdom of Israel for their sin. God would justly repay their oppression with oppression, their injustice with injury.
God would also punish his people by handing them over to their own desires: they didn’t want his law, so he would hide it from them (Amos 8:11). They would “stagger from sea to sea and roam from north to east seeking the word of the LORD, but they will not find it” (Amos 8:12 NIV). God did not send a prophet for 400 years of Israel’s history. God punished his people with the worst punishment imaginable: life without his Word.
Yet, as in all of God’s judgments, we find a diamond of mercy—though he shakes the house of Israel with his anger, he would not totally destroy it (Amos 9:8). God would one day pick up the pieces of fallen Israel and rebuild it to include all nations (Amos 9:12).
Amos warns us against disingenuous worship and cautions us to make our priorities what God cares about. It also leaves us wondering how we can be righteous, and whether Israel would ever truly seek justice. We have the answer if we look elsewhere in the Bible:
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. (Romans 3:21-22 ESV)
Since we cannot be righteous, God must give us righteousness. God did not lay out stipulations for a new brand of religion, he gave us a person—his own Son—to trust, to know, and to seek. He ended the famine of his Word and gave us Jesus, the Word made flesh (John 1:1, 14).
God doesn’t want something from us. He requires one thing: love. Love for God and love for others—honoring God and others as they are due. God wants our hearts to belong to him and to beat like his with love for others. This is righteousness.
For all your spirituality, attempts to do what’s right, and own sense of right and wrong, do you have the righteousness God requires? God wants faith from us, trust in Jesus Christ, who is our righteousness. When we believe in him for the forgiveness of all our injustice, he begins the work of making us righteous, but then also enabling us to be righteous people and to help the marginalized.
Open Amos, and ask God to give you his righteousness. Then ask him where in your life are there people you may have neglected, who need to experience his love?