SOCIAL JUSTICE AND TRUE RELIGION
Social Justice -Amos 2:6-8; 4; 5:1-20; 7:10-17; 8:1-14
At the time Amos prophesied in Israel, his focus was on two aspects of Israel’s life: Social justice and true religion. The true worship of God had given way to immorality and hypocrisy in the worship of God. In short, Israel was filled with social as well as religious evils. The Israelites had forsaken the laws of Moses. They did not fear God. God was very annoyed and sent his prophet, Amos to warn the people, as punishment and disaster were imminent. The following were the areas of social evils in the land:
Areas of Social Decay Which Amos Attacked
- The judges themselves, who were supposed to be custodians of justice were totally corrupt.
- As a result of the judges’ corruption, the poor could not seek redress in the courts. They were instead robbed of justice and justice given to the highest bidder, the wealthy.
- The poor were occasionally robbed of their properties when they could not fulfil their pledges.
- The poor were exploited by the rich. The rich became richer by using false weights and measures while selling to the poor.
- The rich built stone houses and lived in great luxury with money gotten from cheating of the poor.
- In spite of various forms of punishment – like famine, drought, blight and mildew, locust infestation, depopulation, they still persisted in doing evil.
- The farmers among the poor were at the mercy of the Shylock money-lenders who forced them to become their servants if they could not pay up the money borrowed. In most cases, the cause of their inability to pay was as a result of crop failure owing to drought.
Some of these injustices are expressed by Amos in Amos 2:6-8: “They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes. They trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and turn aside the way of the afflicted; a man and his father go into the same maiden, so that my holy name is profaned; they lay themselves down beside every altar upon garments taken in pledge; and in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined.”
- As indicated in the above passage, the poor were humiliated and made to suffer unnecessarily.
- Sexual immorality pervaded the social life of the people as there was indiscriminate sex. A man and his father could go into the same woman.
- The rich slept on the garments taken in pledge from the poor. This was wrong because whatever was in pledge was supposed to be left untampered with until it was reclaimed. The same goes for the wine of those fined. But the rich drank such wine; in the house of God for that matter.
- Their women fed fat on the proceeds of their husband’s oppression of the poor. They drank wines from bowls; hence they are referred to as “Cows of Bashan”.
- Israel has turned into a nation that hates those who speak the truth and those who rebuke evil doers.
Nature of God’s Punishment
While Amos was busy warning the people to desist from their evil ways, he also pronounced to them unequivocally, God’s punishment if they did not repent. The Israelites were demanding for the day of the Lord. Amos therefore warned them that they should be prepared for total doom. God would punish them as follows:
- The women of Samaria must go into exile “with hooks” i.e. fish hook. This means they will be exiled in a painful and humiliating manner.
- There will be wailing in all streets, squares and vineyards, signifying, a very outrageous calamity which God will bring upon Israel.
- A nation will be raised by God that will conquer Israel and carry her into exile.
- Those who extort from the poor will never live in the houses they built with hewed stone, neither shall they reap their vineyards. (Amos 5:11)
- The hope of those who are exploiting the poor will be shattered and their feast turned to mourning.
True Religion -Amos 5:21-24
Alongside social justice which God demanded from Israel, was true religion because at that period, the worship of God had been adulterated with worshipping of baal as shown in the following passage: “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts, I will not look upon. 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)
Areas of False Religion Amos Attacked
- The people’s worship of God was ineffective, shallow and only amounted to lip-service.
- The two places of worship-Bethel and Gilgal were defiled.
- Although the people fulfilled the physical obligations of worship – sacrifices, payment of tithes and others; these were not accepted by God because the land had been polluted by sin the people were only being hypocritical.
- Israel misbehaved by thinking that because they were God’s people, God will overlook their atrocities.
- They wallowed in ignorance by thinking that those obligations of covenant which they made with God could be fulfilled by mere sacrifices.
Invariably, God was very angry, rejecting and turning his face away from their sacrifices. Amos reiterates that for Israel, there is no future. All that faced them was ruin. However, in spite of the irrevocability of God’s punishment, Amos offered a ray of hope-saying that if the people repented genuinely, God might show some grace:
“Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said.
Hate evil and love good and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph” (Amos 5:14-15).
What Amos Required From Israel
- Israel should seek God so they will live (Amos 5:4).
- They should not seek Bethel or Gilgal or Beersheba, since all these places of worship will be brought to ruins. Worshipping God should be within and not outwardly (vs 5).
- Those who turn judgement to wormwood should desist from it (those who pervert justice) (vs 7).
- They should hate evil and love good.
- Justice should be established in the gates.
- Righteousness should be allowed to reign like “an ever flowing stream.”
- The people should repent and go back to God for he may still forgive them:
- True religion demands purity of heart, honest desires and faithfulness to God.
Moral And Spiritual Lessons
Outward appearance means nothing to God; he looks on the heart of men. God wants sincerity, honesty and faithfulness.
- Amos, the prophet of God prophesied in Israel at a period of moral decadence, social injustice and total abandonment of the worship of God for baal.
- Amos came and condemned these, pronouncing God’s judgement on Israel if she did not repent.
- At the receiving end of injustice were the poor and down-trodden who were oppressed, exploited and totally kept miserable.
- Coupled with baal, whose worshippers almost sacked the worshippers of God. God became very furious and threatened to exterminate all Israel and fling them to exile where they will suffer.
- Israel was subsequently exiled.