Today we start the Book of Amos. We'll be sticking with this one for a few days. As usual, background,
Beginning with a series of oracles condemning Israel's neighbors, Amos also threatens the northern kingdom with destruction, delivering three warnings of judgment followed by five vision of disaster. Ah epilogue, promising restoration and peace, was added by a Judean editor.Sounds cheery. We also learn that
Amos was the first biblical prophet whose words scribes compiled in book form. He also introduced major themes that would thereafter become staples of Israelite prophecy. Active in about 750 BCE during the reign of Jeroboam II, Amos was an older contemporary of Hosea and Isaiah of Jerusalem.On to today's reading! The first half to two-thirds of today's reading is declaration of the sins of various nations and the punishments they will receive. The sins are varied: defeating God's people in battle, taking others as slaves or selling others into slavery, exiling people, breaking treaties, excessive violence in war, desecration of corpses, and disobeying the Lord's instructions. The punishment is generally some combination of destruction or exile.
This catalog of sinful nations is followed by a detailing of the sins of Israel. Their sins are particularly worthy of punishment because they had a closer relationship with the Lord. This includes a declaration that the Lord never brings punishment without first announcing it to the prophets and a declaration that disaster comes to cities because the Lord plans it.
In today's reading, the glowing Jesus vision dictates letters to three of the seven churches.
The church in Ephesus is told that they have done much well: they have been patient but don't tolerate evil. They, along with Jesus, hate the Nicolaitans, whoever they are (little is definitively known about them). However, they disappoint Jesus because they do not love each other or Jesus as much as they did in the beginning.
The church in Smyrna gets less praise and less advice. Instead, they are offered encouragement and sympathy to help them face their upcoming suffering.
The church in Pergamum is told that it is doing well, especially given that Pergamum is where Satan has his throne. This seems like a good candidate for a coded reference to current events. However, the church fails to live up the Jesus' standard because they show some tolerance for heretics.
I am guessing that tomorrow we will read letters to more of the seven churches.
Psalms and Proverbs
Given the positive attitude toward physical punishment elsewhere in the psalms, I am guessing the implication of this proverb is that since words alone are not enough, sometimes physical punishment is necessary.
Words alone will not discipline a servant;
the words may be understood, but they are not heeded.
This proverb is interesting in so far as I would have thought proverbs would define the fool as someone who speaks without thinking.
There is more hope for a fool
than for someone who speaks without thinking.