HOSEA’s prophecy ends with a call to wisdom (14:9), which, according to his prophecy, is to pursue and to live in the kind of exclusive covenant fidelity to God that Hosea compares to marriage.

JOEL is a prophet who is hard to place in time and location. Is he prophesying to the Northern Kingdom about the threat from Assyria, or to Judah about the threat from Babylon, or even after the Exile, about the threat from Greece (4:6)? When did the swarms of locusts come, and which kingdom did they strip bare (chs. 1-2)? Yet, the locust swarms serve to Joel as an image of another invasion to come, and of a final divine judgment over all the nations (ch. 4). As dreadful as this sounds, God’s people will not be left without hope, but will play key roles as God prepares the world for new management (3:1-5). The promise of the outpouring of God’s Spirit upon all his devotees, small and great, young and old, men and women, is a step up from the previous experience of God’s Spirit being poured out only on a few key leaders, prophets and judges. In advance of the Day of the Lord, in order to prepare the world for it, there will be a prophetic people, not just prophetic persons. Joel’s prophecy then played a key role in the New Testament, for the fulfillment of Joel 3:1-5 began when God’s Spirit was given to the apostles and the church on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), making the church the Spirit-endowed prophetic people. The imagery of heavenly lights darkening and falling, as symbols for major rises and falls in earthly kingdoms, also shows up in Jesus’ preaching (Mt. 23).

Joel then gives us a prophet’s eye view of time and history, in which each major event (like a locust plague) is a replay of major salvation history events that preceded it (like the plagues upon Egypt), and in which each major event is also a dress rehearsal for greater ones to come, such as The Day of the Lord. Time and history can then be said to be cyclical and repetitive, even while they are going somewhere, toward a God-ordained destination.

AMOS (chapters 1-5) was from Tekoah in Judah, but spoke as much to the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the 8th C. BC., as he did to Judah, where much of Biblical prophesy was located (e.g. Jeremiah and Isaiah). The targets of his critique were the idolatry and religious syncretism of God’s people, the exploitation of the poor and vulnerable, trust in luxury, wealth and military might, and a general decline in morals. Such things his contemporaries expected of the nations. So Amos enlisted their attention by first prophesying against the sins of neighboring nations (chs. 1-2). But just as they might have been cheering Amos on against the pagans, he suddenly turns the tables on them and says, “For three sins of Judah, no four…..” and again for Israel (2: 4-16). Ouch. Painful but attention-grabbing.

Amos’ charges and accusations turn, in chapter 5, to lament. Lament is what distinguishes judgmentalism from judgment. The former lacks love and is more about the judgmental person’s alleged superiority than it is about anyone’s change and growth. In fact, the judgmental person positively needs the target of his wrath to remain criminal. Otherwise, against whom would he feel morally superior?

Judgment, by which I mean the difficult and heart-felt discernment of right from wrong, leading to the exposure of wrong from right, implies solidarity: we are all in this together as sinners in need of help, wanting the best for everyone involved. When that is not happening, or not going to happen in the immediate future, what the prophet experiences goes deeper than anger to grief.

Amos was up against a royal and religious elite who had established, for the sake of solidifying their national unity, a syncretistic calf worship cult, in competition with the Temple in Jerusalem. The priests and prophets of this mix of Israel’s faith with Baal worship were also boosters, chaplains and cheerleaders for the policies of King Jeroboam II, as he concentrated wealth, power and opulence in ways contrary to the Law of Moses.

PSALM 64….

…resonates with the prophecy of Amos (above). It is a lament, decrying the oppression of the vulnerable and the righteous. Like most OT laments, it ends with a note of confidence, a confession of faith in God’s eventual justice. Since such justice is not always evident in this life, this lament sets us up for hope in future judgment and the restoration of justice. While God is responsible for the moral order of the universe, which brings down consequences upon the evildoers (vv. 7-8), it is just as true that we beat our own heads against the moral order of the universe and punish ourselves.


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