‘Be silent!’ Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land… Amos 8:3c, 4.
Optimism should be a way of life, but in these times and the problems before the people, it’s hard not to be a pessimist.
In this country guns go off hourly, killing people in their homes, on the streets, in movie theaters, and places where of assembly—like churches.
That’s only the tip of the current iceberg. So much more makes life feel, sometimes, hopeless.
Instead of taking care of the needs of the poor and sick, the Federal and state legislatures have given permission to everyone who wants to, to carry a firearm in public. While touted as a divine right, it is a genuinely grave concern. For example, ahead of the Republic Convention, the Secret Service, and the Cleveland Police Department express apprehension—fear that protesters and delegates will end up shooting it out on the streets of the city.
There is no relief for those who need relief from oppression and racial prejudice, but the legislatures will pass bills naming an insect to be the state bug or something that silly. Further, some who claim to be Christian cannot wait for the Lord’s Day to be over to go about business as usual. Some don’t wait for the sun to set on the Christian day of worship to pollute the land and the air, to loan money at usury rates, and to sell goods that have no value at prohibitive prices.
Amos heard God condemn the leaders of Israel for neglect, for abusing the poor, and for bilking the innocent. God demands the leaders of Israel to “be silent!” When silent, people listen. When silence does not prevail, the voice of the neglectful, the corrupt, and the abuser becomes and echo chamber.
The Hebrew prophets knew that calamity was on the agenda. They warned that God was not happy with them. The leadership had lured the people into worshipping false gods. The leaders had taken the resources of the land for their benefit. Those given the responsibility for the application of justice had become tyrants. Read the words of Amos, of Joel, Micah, and all the prophets and the warnings are clear. Calamity is coming.
Calamity was not God’s agenda, but rather catastrophe is often a logical consequence; the logical consequence of a failure to care—to listen; failing to care for the poor and needy, whether in materially or spiritually, is an inability to care for everything. This failure manifested in money manipulation, crooked finance, thoughtless government, corrupt politics, and personal behavior is The logical consequence of all these behaviors. The result? We experience disaster—maybe not for the perpetrator, but for society generally. This has been true throughout human history.
However, in the cultures of the past, these failures have not had the impact they have had
in the past and current century. For example, self-promoting and self-aggrandizing Kings and potentates focusing on their need for power brought the disaster of World War I. Probably the same kings and potentates who have morphed into elected governments and officials brought the tragedy of World War II. Many of the dead of the war in Vietnam are the result of a national leader who would not and could not “lose face!” I think about that virtually every day of my life since 1972. Who and what will bring us the next worldwide disaster? It will likely be those who have not been silent to hear God’s message of love.
While those who seem to be in charge of our communal structures may be failing us, we have an obligation on a personal level to hear what Amos declared so many millennia ago, “Be silent! Hear this…” It could be each of us is a contributor to the clamor of our time. Can we be silent? Can we hear God speaking? God wants us to know that tragedy, disaster, hate, thoughtlessness and indifference fails God’s test for humanity. God, if we are silent to hear, wants us to know that faith, hope, and love can abound and that we can have an abundant life of faith.
The noise of the world seemed to be Martha’s problem. It’s not so bad to care about cleaning up the kitchen after a big party, but when the Word of God is talking, it is better to heed the words that Amos wrote, “Be silent! Hear…”
Take time every day to be silent and to listen. Turn away from the clamor of politics, the demands of a faithless culture, and listen to hear God speak. You will hear that God calls us to faith, hope, and love but most especially to love unconditionally and to give our lives to relieve the needs of others and provide a haven from fear.
The Prophet Amos Icon, source: Wikipedia.
Evacuating an early casualty, source: Modern American Poetry-A World War I Photo Essay. http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/ww1/photoessay.htm
Martha’s Problem refers to the story in the Gospel according to Luke concerning Mary and Martha; Luke 10:38-42.