Amos / chapters 1 and 2
For the first time in the history of this blog, I am going to blog about two chapters together. Honestly, sometimes I have to wonder about the intellectual capacity of the person who divided the Bible in chapters and verses. While most of the divisions are pretty straightforward, there are times when a chapter break clearly cuts right through a cogent train of thought. Amos chapters 1 and 2 are a perfect example of that. So, instead of honoring the chapter division, I decided to marry them. (This will probably render the “read the chapter” link useless today. Sorry for any inconvenience!)
I felt it was important to read these two chapters together, because if you didn’t, chapter 1 could come across sounding like just any other “doom” prophecy in the Old Testament. Through His prophets, God regularly railed against the heathen nations of the day. In fact, whenever I read the passages that proclaim “sudden disaster” on one of these nations, I have to chuckle because God certainly gave them more-than-ample warning! If they had an ear open to the prophets, they would have known well in advance what was coming unless they repented.
And that’s why I felt it was also important to include chapter 2 in our assessment of what these chapters say about God, because both chapters are one long, laundry list of nations who are headed for dire consequences—and they don’t just include the “heathen.” Chapter 1 mentions Damascus, Gaza, Ekron, Tyre, Edom, and Ammon. Chapter 2 begins with Moab, but then quickly moves on to Judah and Israel. And, suddenly, what seemed to be a treatise against non-Israelite nations because a treatise against something else.
God is not railing against any nation that happens not to be Jewish. He is railing against people who turn away from Him—including His own people! Just because God “chose” the Israelites to carry out a special mission in the world doesn’t mean that they were somehow immune to the consequences of turning their back on God. And here’s why: The ultimate consequences that come from turning your back on God are not imposed; they are intrinsic.
I think there are many Christians who don’t understand this. We still somehow have this picture of God that is vengeful and harsh. We still somehow think of Him as someone who will “get you” in the end if you don’t love Him. That’s not it at all! As we saw in Hosea, God isn’t trying to keep His people from getting to the point where He must kill them; He’s trying to keep His people from killing themselves.
As Paul reminded us in Romans, “Sin pays its own wage, and the wage is death.” (Rom 6:23) And that goes for everyone. That principle even applied to God Himself, when Jesus “who knew no sin, became sin for us.” (2 Cor 5:21) And what was the result of His decision to do that? Death.
God doesn’t play favorites in His universe. He doesn’t have one set of rules for some people and another set of rules for everyone else. He loves us all equally, and He has blessed us with individuality, with power to think and to do equally. And because of that, He also allows the consequences of sin to be realized equally. No matter who you are, if you choose life, you’ll get life. If you choose death, you’ll get death.
God is no respecter of persons. Everyone is His favorite, and that means He doesn’t play favorites.