Tag Archives: truth

Amos 5-9; Obadiah 1:1-9

“Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.” (Amos 5:14-15)(NIV)

“Getting down to business.”

On the day I was sworn into the bar of Maryland, my father (also a lawyer) gave me a card inscribed with this passage from Amos.  That pursuit of justice – the yearning for good to triumph over evil – is what spurned me toward three years and ten weeks of seemingly interminable preparation for the bar exam.  I suppose there are lots of law school newbies who, at some point, have felt the same way.  The concept of doing good is vitalizing – it’s noble, magnanimous, high-minded.  But it’s easy to say you love justice.  It’s another thing entirely to be just.  Just ask the Israelites.  

The entire book of Amos focuses on the hypocrisy of the Israelites, who, though they loved their religious feasts and burnt offerings (Amos 5:21-22), were utterly loveless, uncharitable “cows” (Amos 4:1).  Their religious rituals were nothing but “clanging cymbals” (1 Cor. 13:1).  In an era of new-found prosperity under Jeroboam II, the Israelites weren’t sharing the wealth.  Rather, their poor were oppressed, officials were bribed, privileges were secured through payoffs, and there was nary an honest businessman to be found (in Amos’ day, for example, ruthless bankers requiring collateral sometimes stripped their poor clients of the clothes on their backs).   Amos, Hosea and Jonah were all contemporaries, prophets of the day, and they had their hands full.  They predicted destruction for those who had turned their backs on God, and pleaded for a return to God’s justice and decency.  Their messages were ultimately the same: “it’s time to get down to business.”   

I have since left the practice to be home with three small children, and hadn’t read Amos 5:14-15 in years.  That’s why coming across it again was like finding an old friend.  I was reminded that it isn’t just for “officers of the court” to love justice and seek good.  It is for all of us.  Particularly now.  Because it takes only about five minutes of the national news on any given day to discover exactly how cruel and inhumane we all still are, three thousand years later.  That’s why it’s time to stop “saying” the Lord is with us, just as the Israelites did, and actually have Him be.  God’s promise is just that if we seek good, not evil; if we put an end to namby-pamby Christianity; if we are bold in loving and living the Truth – no matter how hard.  As for me and my house, it’s time to get down to business.      

Heavenly Father, you reminded us, centuries after your servant Amos, that you would spit those who were lukewarm in their affection for You “out of your mouth” (Revelation 3:16).  I do not, dare not offend You with my mediocre brand of Christianity.  Kill every hypocritical proclivity in my heart.  Make me love justice not only because of its inherent nobility, but because its originator is the only, truly Just being in the whole of the universe.  Help me to love, live and impart Your justice and Your truth. Amen.

– Sarah

From the archives. Originally published September 22, 2009.

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Isaiah 45-49

18 For this is what the Lord says—
he who created the heavens,
    he is God;
he who fashioned and made the earth,
    he founded it;
he did not create it to be empty,
    but formed it to be inhabited—
he says:
“I am the Lord,
    and there is no other.
19 I have not spoken in secret,
    from somewhere in a land of darkness;
I have not said to Jacob’s descendants,
    ‘Seek me in vain.’
I, the Lord, speak the truth;
    I declare what is right. (Isaiah 45:18-19, NIV)

Father God, thank you for always reminding throughout your word who you are, what you can do. You make yourself accessible, you guide, you equip. You do these things, all of it, for your glory. Thank you that you meet me when I seek you. Thank you for truth. Thank you for deciding what is right.

As I read through the scriptures in Isaiah, I see a steady emphasis on God stating who he is and what he’s done and can and will do.

I make known the end from the beginning,
    from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
    and I will do all that I please.’
11 From the east I summon a bird of prey;
    from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that I will bring about;
    what I have planned, that I will do. (Isaiah 46:10-11, NIV)

No secrets.

“Come near me and listen to this:

“From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret;
    at the time it happens, I am there.”

And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me,
    endowed with his Spirit.

17 This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you what is best for you,
    who directs you in the way you should go. (Isaiah 48:16-17, NIV)

Thank you, Lord, for loving me like you do. For loving me enough to want to teach me what is best, for being with me, for your loving provision and compassion. Help me to stay focused on you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Psalms 135:15-138:3

How can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a foreign land? (Psalm 137:4, NIV)

Psalm 136 tells a story of God and his goodness. And each account has a supporting verse: his love endures forever. Perhaps the writer liked the way this refrain repeated throughout, but for me, I take it as a reminder: His love endures forever. In the good times and in the bad times, I can remember that God is in control and that his love, in fact, does endure forever.

So that way, when I find myself in the despair of Psalm 137, perhaps my heart will remember and sing, “His love endures forever.”

Courtney (66books365)

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Psalms 78:25-72

Psalm 78 opens with these words–

My people, hear my teaching;
    listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable;
    I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
things we have heard and known,
    things our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done. (Psalm 78:1-4, NIV)

The psalm lists great things the Lord has done. So we will know him and remember who he is. So that we will share it with a next generation.

But what I notice, too, is the psalm lists things man has done.

32 In spite of all this, they kept on sinning;
    in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.

It’s a familiar pattern.

Whenever God slew them, they would seek him;
    they eagerly turned to him again.
35 They remembered that God was their Rock,
    that God Most High was their Redeemer.
36 But then they would flatter him with their mouths,
    lying to him with their tongues;
37 their hearts were not loyal to him,
    they were not faithful to his covenant. (Psalm 78:34-37, NIV)

How often …

How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
    and grieved him in the wasteland!
41 Again and again they put God to the test;
    they vexed the Holy One of Israel.
42 They did not remember his power— (Psalm 78:40-42a, NIV)

This psalm is just a short glimpse of time, finishing up with David.

In literature, stories sometimes reflect that conditions and state of the world at that time: Take Dickens, Twain, Steinbeck, Angelou, Knowles, and so many others–their stories are a heart’s cry of a generation. And I wonder, if one were to write a psalm today, would it be so very different from this one? There is no doubt to me that God’s goodness and faithfulness will outshine man’s corruption and sin.

39 He remembered that they were but flesh,
    a passing breeze that does not return. (Psalm 78:39, NIV)

Lord, this life is temporary and brief. I read these words in grateful stillness. When a generation screams, Lord, let me remember you. Let me tell someone of your goodness and faithfulness, to pass it down and pass it on. Help me to keep my focus on you and your kingdom.

Courtney (66books365)

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Job 29:14-32:10

Job searches for cause and effect. He examines his life and his actions. He remembers the good that he has done. So why?

“I thought, ‘I will die in my own house,
    my days as numerous as the grains of sand.
19 My roots will reach to the water,
    and the dew will lie all night on my branches.
20 My glory will not fade;
    the bow will be ever new in my hand.’ (Job 29:18-20, NIV)

His pain, suffering, and exclusion would have made sense to him if he were a terrible man, even a secret sinner. But he was a good man. So why?

“If I have rejoiced at my enemy’s misfortune
    or gloated over the trouble that came to him—
30 I have not allowed my mouth to sin
    by invoking a curse against their life—
31 if those of my household have never said,
    ‘Who has not been filled with Job’s meat?’—
32 but no stranger had to spend the night in the street,
    for my door was always open to the traveler—
33 if I have concealed my sin as people do,
    by hiding my guilt in my heart (Job 31:29-33, NIV)

It’s a formula I’ve come to count on, perhaps erroneously. If you work hard, you’ll be rewarded. Good job performance should equal a raise or promotion. Kind acts should beget kindness returned. But life is much more complicated than that.

I have grasped grief and hope with the same hands. And Job’s grappling with his situation feels like hope being pried from his grip.

“Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man
    when he cries for help in his distress.
25 Have I not wept for those in trouble?
    Has not my soul grieved for the poor?
26 Yet when I hoped for good, evil came;
    when I looked for light, then came darkness.
27 The churning inside me never stops;
    days of suffering confront me.
28 I go about blackened, but not by the sun;
    I stand up in the assembly and cry for help.
29 I have become a brother of jackals,
    a companion of owls.
30 My skin grows black and peels;
    my body burns with fever.
31 My lyre is tuned to mourning,
    and my pipe to the sound of wailing. (Job 30:24-31, NIV)

In the bigger picture, the one of holding this book in my hands and knowing the start of Job’s story to the end, I want to whisper to him in these chapters, “It isn’t over yet.”

I know that God considered Job faithful. I know that Satan wanted to test Job’s faith–and likely more than that, wanted to completely destroy it (after all, the thief comes to kill, steal and destroy). The battlefield moves inward as Job expresses those thoughts aloud. Outwardly losing his wealth and family, suffering in health, to inwardly the thoughts that circle in his mind–the grounds for anger, resentment, confusion, doubt, despair. Which is harder: the outer battle or the inner battle?

When my thoughts try to pry hope from my grip, I want to remember this–the bigger picture. The bigger picture Job didn’t see. The bigger picture that tells me in the hardship, “It isn’t over yet.” The bigger picture where Jesus declares it is finished and that he is coming back.

Lord, I’ve lost years in the grapple to make sense of what is with what should be. In the heavy days of what is, let me remember the hope of what will be.

Courtney (66books365)

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