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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Amos During Holy Week

I thought I would need to take a break from my comments on Amos during Holy Week. I just thought “Amos: he’s all about God’s judgment on the wickedness and injustice that was perpetuated by the Northern tribes of the ancient Jewish people prior to the 7th century BC. There’s not much Easter in that!” But scripture (praise God!) is much wiser than me. The connections aren’t direct, but they are important. Amos does have a voice in the week normally reserved for Isaiah, the Psalms and the Gospels.

First, consider that Amos did not volunteer for the job of prophet – he was drafted. “I was no prophet, nor a prophet's son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel' (Amos 7:14-15). Similarly, the disciples were fishermen, tax collectors, and one was a revolutionary. They didn’t stand in line to follow Jesus. He selected them and being chosen was particularly trying when Jesus talked about being persecuted and “lifted up” (crucified). Unlike Amos, the disciples failed in the most dangerous moments. They betrayed, denied, and abandoned Jesus. But, he took them back.

Second, there is the image of fruit. Amos writes, “this is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, a basket of summer fruit. And he said, "Amos, what do you see?" And I said, "A basket of summer fruit." Then the LORD said to me, "The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass by them” (8:1-2). Keil and Delitzsch point out that this imagery shows the nation was “ripe for judgment.” Jesus used the fruit image in the last supper and he implied pain to the disciple. But he was talking about pain we need to go through to be who God wants us to be. He was talking about pruning.

After washing their feet, Jesus told the disciples, “"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (John 15:1-6, ESV). The fruit imagery indicates the cleansing by fire that Jesus-followers must go through.

Third parallel is found in Amos 8:8-9 indicates natural phenomena will accompany the Lord’s judgment. This includes a midday eclipse. Jesus makes a similar prediction as he preaches in days leading up to the crucifixion. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matthew 24:29). And then, on the day Jesus is crucified, the ultimate judgment of sin is executed, and we see that Jesus knew what he was talking about. “At noon the whole country was covered with darkness, which lasted for three hours” (Mark 15:33).

These tie-ins, from Amos to Holy Week, show just how thematically integrated and unified all of scripture is. The Bible is written by numerous authors over a period of thousands of years. But all are inspired by the same Spirit. In Amos, that Spirit spoke boldly of God’s angry truth in a time when God’s people rejected God’s ways. In Jesus that Spirit spoke of God’s merciful love for a sinful world. I normally don’t read Amos at this time of year, but I am very interested and spiritually moved by the connections I have found. One never knows what one will discover in the Bible.

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