Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016 - Amos (2)


The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016

Grace – Amos (2)

Lent 12

As always in the Bible god’s grace comes first and human response follows it. The same is true in Amos. Twice in the early chapters this prophet directs attention back to the founding liberation of the Hebrew people from Egypt as the foundation of their relationship to God. On the basis of this grace shown this people, God expects them to live and love toward him and other peoples the same way.

          In Amos 2:10-11 we read:

“10 Also I brought you up out of the land of Egypt,
               and led you forty years in the wilderness,
               to possess the land of the Amorite.
              11 And I raised up some of your children to be prophets
               and some of your youths to be nazirites.
               Is it not indeed so, O people of Israel?
               says the Lord.”

          Here God’s powerful liberation of his people, his protection and guidance in the wilderness, his leading them to land, his gifts of prophets and nazirites are placed in evidence as displays of God’s gracious goodness. From Egypt – through the wilderness – to the land – with prophets and nazirites: a pretty good thumbnail sketch of the pervasive divine grace involved at every point of the people’s founding.

          In 3:1-2 we read:

“1 Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt:

                                                    You only have I known
                                       of all the families of the earth;
                                    therefore I will punish you
                                       for all your iniquities.”

          Here God insists that the gift of this new relationship with him implicates these Hebrews in the plans and purposes of their Lord and Liberator. For though they alone have this relationship among all the peoples of the earth, they have it for all the rest of these peoples. They have the gift of being the people God will use to spread his blessings everywhere and to everyone else (Genesis 12:1-3). How they respond and live has serious consequences for God, themselves, and the rest of the world!

          As they live by the liberating grace that has been freely given them by God, their life together will take a gracious and liberating shape as we find it in the Torah. This gracious and liberating way of living will show and attract outsiders looking on.

“5 See, just as the Lord my God has charged me, I now teach you statutes and ordinances for you to observe in the land that you are about to enter and occupy. You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!’ For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:5-8)

That’s God’s endgame. His way of blessing the world through Israel. His way of sharing the fruit of Christ’s victory through the church in every nook and cranny of his creation. His way of lavishing his gracious liberating power across his creation.

          Lent is about recovering the sense of privilege, identity, passion, and purpose our relationship to God entails. There’s an old saying that goes: “You can’t have a dog in the fight unless there’s fight in the dog.”

          For too long the church has languished because we had no fight in us. Lent’s about getting that fight back so we can join God’s (nonviolent) fight with the powers of evil for the redemption of his creation.

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