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Monday, March 15, 2010

Our Relational God - Amos 7:1-9

I’ve written on this numerous times – my gratitude that God invites people into relationship with Him. I appreciate that God loves us and wants to interact with us, and also that God is full of grace. People sometimes love God, but sometimes, often, we turn against God. God’s chosen people Israel did this – it’s seen throughout the Old Testament. And God’s people do it today.

God’s relational character comes through in the dynamic exchanges God has with the prophets he has called. A memorable incident is in Exodus where God is intent on destroying Israel for creating a golden to worship instead of worshipping the one true God. God will not tolerate their idolatry. God will begin anew with Moses. But, Moses intervenes on behalf of the people, and after hearing Moses’ appeal, “the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people” (Exodus 32:14).

This is not the only case where God has one thing in mind, and a prophet stands in the gap. Amos delivered messages of God’s judgment. However, in the first part of chapter 7, Amos’ message is not toward the sinful people. Amos turns and speaks to the angry God.

God formed locusts to wipe out the crop of the King of the Southern kingdom. As the locusts begin to eat, Amos says, “O Lord God, forgive, I beg you! How can Jacob stand? He is so small” (v.2)! The text says “the Lord relented.” Next, the Lord shows Amos a shower of fire to devour the land, as a punishment for the persistent idolatry and exploitation of the poor. Amos repeats his plea saying, “O Lord God, cease, I beg you!” And we read in Amos 7:3. “The Lord relented concerning this.”

This doesn’t mean Amos talked God out of judging the sinful people. God still had plans that would come to fruition, and those plans included harsh punishment for the people who ignored God’s ways in daily practice even as they performed sanctimoniously in worship. God would punish, but God would also listen to his prophet. Amos would speak God’s anger to the leaders of the people, but Amos was not a robot.

Neither should Christians today be unthinking mouthpieces who simply spout out positions or saying or ever scripture recitations. When we speak our faith and when we live our faith we must do it in a way that respects the presence of and attention of God. The Holy Spirit is ever present. The Father-God is always watching, always involved. This means when we disregard God and when we step on people, especially vulnerable people God sees it. God will react harshly against us.

Conversely, God hears when we repent. God hears our pleas for forgiveness. Obviously God is ready to forgive. God sent Jesus to the cross to bear the punishment for sin. God will grant forgiveness to those who come to Jesus. God’s plans are not written in stone. We learn from Amos and from Moses that God relents and even changes his mind, when that is called for.

God is relational God. Jesus-followers are wise to understand this and reach out to God in faith that the future is an open book. God is still writing our stories. We can be a part of that composition by constantly turning to God in faith and in prayer. God listens to us. Why wouldn’t we speak to Him?

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