"'Seek me and live; do not seek Bethel, do not go to Gilgal, do not journey to Beersheba. For Gilgal will surely go into exile, and Bethel will be reduced to nothing.' Seek the LORD and live, or he will sweep through the house of Joseph like a fire; it will devour, and Bethel will have no one to quench it."
-- Amos 5:4b-6
Blessed Lent to you all. An appropriate book to reflect on during this season of repentance is the book of Amos. Amos, a lowly shepherd from Judah, was chosen by God to pronounce judgment on Israel for their wickedness. Amos begins by declaring God's wrath on the nations bordering Israel, which his hearers undoubtedly rejoiced over. However, once judgment on the pagan nations had been prophesied, Amos condemned Israel and Judah: God's people. Judah and Israel were blessed with God's Law, and they spat on it. Judah rejected the Law, abandoned God's decrees, and turned to false gods (2:4). Israel "trampled on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and denied justice to the oppressed" (2:7). Therefore, God promised to punish the Israelites through death and exile. How could this have happened? After all the LORD had done for his people and given them, how could they have rejected him? The LORD gave them many warnings, yet they heeded none of them (4:6-11). How could they have been so evil?
Before we get carried away here, let us not forget one of the purposes of the Lenten season: self-examination. Israel had no pity on the poor (2:7). Do we not neglect the poor? Israel perverted justice. Do we not attempt to justify our sins? Israel partook in hollow worship (5:23-24). Is our worship always as reverent and Christ-centered as it should be? Do we not lose focus during worship? Israel, in their time of prosperity, lived in idle luxury (6:4). Are our hands not often idle? Do we not embrace the materialism of our Western society? Just like Edom, the pride of the Israelite's hearts deceived them (7:17). Do we not delude ourselves with foolish pride? And on top of all of these heinous sins, Israel did not even grieve over the ruin of their nation (6:6). How often do we turn a blind eye to the injustices occurring in our nation, such as abortion? How often do we grieve over the sins of our nation?
We are just as evil as they are... Repent.
For after all we have done, after all we have failed to do, after all we have been, God has mercy. "Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is" (5:14). "Hear the Word of the LORD" (7:16). God calls us by name, like he called Amos (7:8, 8:2). He sees our sins, forgives them, then remembers them no more... because of Jesus. God promised to restore David's fallen tent... Not to allow the Israelites to restore themselves, but to restore them himself (9:11). Sure enough, the Israelites came back from exile. And as surely as we are sinners, our sins are forgiven. For our Father sent Jesus to earth to restore salvation unto the Israelites and to us. Jesus is the one who restores us. We deserve nothing but exile and death, just like Israel did. But Jesus says no. He took the exile and death we deserved on himself. He carried that exile and death to the cross, making full atonement for our sins. Praise be to Christ! It is because of Jesus that we have the will to repent. It is because of Jesus that we are forgiven. And it is because of Jesus that we will one day see his glory in our restored bodies and souls.... Blessed Lent.