11 December 2010

Dec 11

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today we get a detailed description of the punishments that God brought upon his people for their sins. He seems to have an expectation that these punishments would make people turn to him. However, I am guessing these droughts, famines, blights, and plagues may very well have had the opposite effect and turned people toward worshiping other gods.

From God's perspective, he is punishing sinful behavior. From the people's point of view, Yahweh is failing to provide for them and so they turn to another god. Given Yahweh's early history as a God of battle and rescue, it would not be unnatural for famines and droughts to make the people think that he is not so effective as a god of farming.

God's response to this is to promise even more punishments and disasters. This shows that the God of Amos' vision lacks a fundamental understanding of human psychology. If a god chooses to rule by fear, people will only obey him on the surface. They will never truly internalize respect for what that god considers to be right living.

Thus, as the Lord continues to emphasize his power and the punishment he will bring, he is not helping his case any. He might end up winning back some obedience for now, but he is not winning any hearts in the long term. The God of Amos calls for justice and righteous living, but seems to have missed the message of inner transformation that later prophets realized their God must call for to encourage deep change.

Today's reading also contains a description of the day of judgment. It will be a dark and terrible day. Now, this may not seem surprising, but you should remember that Amos is the earliest recorded Hebrew prophet. Thus, when he says that people think the day of judgment is something to look forward to, he probably was reflecting the popular opinion.

New Testament

Today we read the message to the church in Thyatira. They receive some encouraging praise, but they  are tolerating one whom Jesus considers intolerable. They put up with the presence of Jezebel, a woman who encourages sexual sin and the eating of food offered to idols. She is specially picked out for punishment. Part of that punishment is the rather unjust striking of her children dead. Even if they are children of adultery, they should not be used as nothing more than tools to punish their mother.

The church in Sardis is told that they are dead and do not meet God's requirements. But those few who have not sullied themselves will someday walk with Jesus.

That's all the letters for today.

Psalms and Proverbs

Nothing strikes me as noteworthy today.