As I ponder my daily Bible reading I try to see connections. Today it was Amos 7-9 and Matthew 15. Amos prophesied during the beginning of the divided kingdom. His message was hard and few had ears to hear. He warns them of idolatry and materialism, of injustice and pride. Yet he also pleads with God from a compassionate heart. God shows him the coming destruction and he cries out:
“O Lord God, please forgive! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!” Amos 7:2
In Matthew 15 the religious leaders accuse Jesus because he and his disciples don’t follow the tradition of the elders. But Jesus responds with his own accusation. Why do they break the commandments of God in order to hold to their human traditions? He goes on to tell his disciples that what matters is not what goes into their mouths, but what comes out of their hearts. This is followed by two scenes of Jesus showing compassion to those who are poor and despised: the Canaanite woman who begs for the crumbs of God’s mercy to fall into her lap and the healing and feeding of thousands who come to Jesus with their many infirmities.
Those in the days of Amos thought they were following the commands of God but they were utterly blind to their own sin. They didn’t see that they were just like the pagan nations around them. They trampled the poor. They worshiped at every altar. They were prosperous and fat but Amos calls them “cows of Bashan” (Amos 4:1). God brought warning after warning but they did not return to him. They were full of injustice and refused to seek him.
Those in the days of Jesus thought they were following the commands of God. They were very careful to wash their hands, but they neglected to honor their mothers and fathers. They enjoyed the best seats at every gathering but trampled on those who were poor and needy. Jesus comes to warn them but they too continued in their blindness and hardness of heart until one day they cried out, “Crucify him!”
Are we no different today? Even though we live on this side of the Cross, our hearts are the same. We still live in the same flesh that is tempted by pride and idolatry. We still live in a world that is dominated by the lust of the eyes and Satan is still roaming the earth seeking those whom he may devour.
Wouldn’t it be wise for us now to ask the Lord to open our eyes to our own secret sins? Shouldn’t we also be on the lookout for the ways in which we hold to the traditions of men instead of the commandments of God? And if pride and idolatry and injustice were the major stumbling blocks for those in the days of Amos and in the days of Jesus, shouldn’t we humble ourselves and seek to be sensitive to the ways we may be following in the same sinful paths? It isn’t for nothing that the author of Hebrews warns:
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 4:12-13
Finally, who will be the Amos in our day, the one who will cry out to the Lord on behalf of his people for mercy? Who will be the ones who follow in the example of Jesus and show compassion to those who are poor and despised? Who will be the ones today who have the discernment to understand the times and instead of hurling accusations on social media, pursue a practice of regular fasting and intercession?
In other words, who will do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with their God? (Micah 6:8)