“I (the LORD GOD) will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine; and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.” Amos. 9.14
As we conclude our series on the prophet Amos, it might be good to note how I think Jesus relates to what Amos says, and what God does in the intervening years.
First off, as Amos ends his prophecy on a hopeful note, there are a few people who think Amos could not have written such positive claptrap. Other than showing an appalling lack of imagination as a scholar, whether Amos wrote the last few lines of his book or not is a bit irrelevant after all these years. I mean, most people don’t even know that Amos wrote a book in the Bible, so to wonder about whether he really wrote a verse we have or not is a bit esoteric. I have no problem believing Amos wrote the last few verses because I assume Amos believes in God. And really, if you are going to believe in God, why not believe in a God who provides a hopeful promise for your future?
Over the course of the last six weeks, careful readers such as you gentle folk, will note that I always end my reflections on how Jesus relates to whatever topic we are talking about in the post. (This is actually true for all of my posts, not just those on the Hebrew Scriptures…this blog is always about Jesus, the crucified one and his benefits.) But today I want to talk about a more general aspect of the relationship between Jesus and our Jewish brothers and sisters, in this case exemplified by Amos. (I figure Jesus is one of the better Christians in history, and Amos one of the better Jews, so it seems like a legitimate comparison.)
It is a mistake for Christians to believe that Jesus and his message about God surpasses whatever Amos and his message about God is. Whatever Jesus’ message about God, it has to be in congruence with Amos’ message about God. Why? Because we assume they are talking about the same God! That is, if God is God, as both Amos and Jesus assume, and they have accurately revealed God’s message, how can they not be congruent? The only way we might argue they are not congruent if is one of the two (Amos or Jesus) got the message wrong. But if they both got the message correct, then there should be some congruence among the two, unless God changed…but no one believe God has changed significantly much since the Big Bang.
Secondly, Jesus is not love and Amos is wrath; or Jesus is only gospel and Amos is only law. Again, each may have an emphasis on how they hear and see God responding to the world, but as the above quotation from Amos shows, his God is not only a God of wrath and destruction, but also a God of gardens and wine! And Jesus very much believes in a God of judgement. Story after story he tells about people whom God judges, perhaps harshly, but certainly with negative consequences for those who do not trust in God’s love. You should not tell a story about dividing people between sheep and wolves if you do not want people to believe in a God of judgement.
It seems to me that both Amos and Jesus reveal to us something major about God’s love. Amos reminds us that this love of God is not just for those who can afford it. God’s love is for all of us, and in the Spirit of that love, we are all responsible for it. God’s love has a huge cost for us, in that we cannot use the love as an excuse to let others suffer; nor, can we use the love as an excuse to do nothing. God’s love is a gift, and we cherish and use that love in our own lives each and every moment we breathe.
And Jesus’ message about that love is how powerful it is. This gracious love propels life itself for each and every living creature: every rock, every bush, every tree, every sparrow, every aphid, every person. This loves knows no limits. And every time we try to put a limit on this love, we fail that love. Every time we say, she isn’t good enough for that love; or, he doesn’t deserve that love, we fail that love in its power to transform lives. It’s such a powerful message, that Jesus even died and rose for its power, so that we can be freed to love in spite of our unwillingness to trust such love.
I don’t know if there is a bar in heaven. I use to say I wanted to go bowling with Shakespeare, but a bar is OK too. I certainly don’t know if Amos and Jesus talk in heaven. But I imagine, if they do share a brew or two these days, they still marvel at how much love there is in the world, in spite of so many’s neglect of that love. Because as both of them showed, it only takes one to reveal the truth about such a power as the love of God.
May your tables be full and your conversations be true.
Scott Frederickson, Ph.D. is a Lutheran theologian and educator who regularly blogs at “Thoughts from the Prairie Table.”