God invites. “Seek me and live” (Amos 5:4); “seek the Lord and live” (5:6); “seek good and not evil, that you may live” (5:14). God is an inviting God. God also gives choices. Those who heard Amos report God’s words had a choice. They could seek God and God’s ways or they could live their own way. God invites and God allows people to respond.
God punishes. God sends into exile (Amos 5:5), punishes with fire (v.6), destroys (end of v.7), and brings darkness with judgment (Amos 5:8, 18). God invites and God punishes.
God creates. God made the stars (Amos 5:8; Job 9:9; 38:1), and rules the waters of the sea (Amos 5:8). God knows (Amos 5:12). God creates all and God knows all.
God invites, God punishes, God creates, and God knows.
God comes. Amos reports in 5:16-17, "In all the squares there shall be wailing, and in all the streets they shall say, 'Alas! Alas!' They shall call the farmers to mourning and to wailing those who are skilled in lamentation, 17and in all vineyards there shall be wailing, for I will pass through your midst,’ says the LORD” (English Standard Version).
God invites, God punishes, God creates, God knows, and God comes.
Say what?? We evangelical Christians can run with everything up this point. We believe that God invites. "Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We know Jesus said that and that in Christ we see God’s ultimate invitation. We know there is a coming judgment for sinners, but we assume we’re in the clear. Since we’re in Christ sin doesn’t stick! “God creates.” Of course! What Christian would argue with that? It’s the same with God knows. One of the classical virtues of God is God’s omniscience. God knows everything. And, God comes? We’re counting on that one. Yes, we evangelicals are right with Amos right up to this last assertion.
God hates. We can’t stomach that, can we?
"I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. 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 5:21-24, the prophet speaking God’s words).
One of my favorite Bible-reading activities is to take a passage and imagine it is the only Bible we have. Obviously, this is an exercise. Amos 5 is not the only Bible we have. We have Amos 1-4, and 6-8. We have the other 38 books of the Old Testament and the 27 of the New.
However, for purposes of prayer, it is worthwhile to reflect on Amos 5 as if it were all we had. In prayer, I want to ask for God’s help so that I willingly accept his invitation. I want to learn from any punishments God might impose on me so I don’t repeat my mistakes. I want to rejoice on God’s creation and praise God from the depths of my being. I must open my heart to God and be completely honest before God. After all, God knows anyway. What secrets am I keeping? I want Jesus to make me ready when God comes.
Finally, I want to love what God loves, and hate what God hates. I hear a lot Christians, especially fundamentalists, conservatives, inerrantists, Bible literalists, and the like angrily, self-righteously proclaim how God “hates sin.” Then I actually read the Bible (Amos 5, Matthew 25, Luke 6). I read and realize that God hates hypocrisy in worship, and hypocrisy in worship comes when our praise songs are beautiful, but we treat the needy among us with contempt, neglect, and cruelty. God hates that. God loves it when “Justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” So, with God’s help, justice and righteousness are what I must work for, especially with regard to disadvantaged people.