Finally we come to the point in Amos where the Lord zeros in on the transgressions of His present people. Rather than neighbors and their transgressions, God holds his own people to account. As a reflection of God’s Sinai Covenant, God’s people are to use their power to ensure justice for the oppressed, to lift up the weak from being trodden over, and provide safety and security by honoring promises made. In Exodus 22:25 it says “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest.” Garments taken in pledge refer to outer garments used as collateral. In taking these clothes, often used as a blanket at night, the Israelites were not only taking advantage of the needy, they were directly betraying the command and clearly revealed heart of God. More than that, the further betrayed the heart of God with blatant idolatry.
God then reminds His people of some of the ways He protected them and liberated them when they were oppressed. As Jesus would later teach of the man who was forgiven a huge debt but then mistreated a man who owed him a small debt, Israel had forgotten the lovingkindness (chesed) of God, a grace that had come in dire times of need.
Read again Deuteronomy 24:1-17
It is all too easy to see marginalized people as a burden, to assign blame without seeking understanding. It is all too easy to harden our hearts rather than let them be broken with compassion. In our many comforts we often forget the times of desperation we have experienced. But as we cross the line into numbness we are often not that far from idolatry. Amos had a hard word for a callous people, a people who would one day have all their rights and privilege stripped away in exile. It was unfortunate that the only way they would hear the message that victimizing the vulnerable was wrong was to eventually experience its harshness firsthand. It was unfortunate that they did not hear God speaking through Amos, repent, and get back on the right track. At times people in later generations must learn the lesson previous generations failed to learn, this happens as abusive cycles are broken whether in families, or even nations. Often the solution is a heart solution. One needs time to remember again the powerful moments the grace of God burst in during a time of need to turn a desperate situation around; to remember, not only with our minds, but to be “re-membered” or reconnected in our hearts to God.
Scripture and Solitude
Take 10 to 20 minutes in solitude to remember the difficult times God has walked you through, the times God’s help came and you experienced deliverance. Richard Foster points out in A Celebration of Discipline that there is a fundamental difference between solitude and isolation; isolation is alienating, it is being cut off. Solitude can be a path away from distraction be reconnected with God. Solitude and silence make space in our souls and space in our lives, space for God to do a deep work inside us. As you ponder these times, let your gratitude flow unhindered.