OT: Amos 7:1-9:15
I had several, scattered thoughts today while reading:
In 7:1-6, God shows Amos two different disasters, and after Amos begs God to avert them, God relents. I wonder how many times God does things like that today. When horrible things happen, our natural tendency is to question God, to ask why He would let something like that happen. At the same time, though, I wonder how many tragedies He keeps from us, how many disasters He averts. The Sunday after the VA Tech shooting happened, I was sitting in church and began wondering what was to keep someone from walking in our assembly and opening fire. I came to the conclusion that nothing would keep something like that from happening. Something like that could happen at any time. And given the number of disturbed and mentally ill people in our society, combined with the number of guns, I began to marvel, not that such things happened, but that such things did not happen so much more. That line of thought made me realize that God probably spares us from so much. Amos' vision in these verses is an example that supports that theory.
Of course, the people will not avoid disaster forever, since they continue to sin. Some of their sins are described in 8:5-6, in which they say,
"When will the New Moon be over
that we may sell grain,
and the Sabbath be ended
that we may market wheat?"--
skimping the measure,
boosting the price
and cheating with dishonest scales,
buying the poor with silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
selling even the sweepings with the wheat."
Two accusations really hit home with me. Both have to do with the idea of skimping. First of all, the Israelites were skimping on their time with (and devotion to) God in order to pursue their worldly agendas. That reminds me of the times that I feel too busy to go to church, or the times I am tempted to spend the Sunday school or worship hour getting things done. Often the things I need to get done are church-related, so I try to excuse my impatience with sitting and learning about/worshiping God by saying that I would rather be working for Him. But the fact is, I can't even give God His proper reverence b/c I apparently think the world will stop spinning if I stop working even for a second. Such an attitude is the height of pride and arrogance. It ignores the simple truth that everything I am and everything I have comes from God and that I can do nothing without Him. When I put my agenda over Sabbath time with God, I am in effect placing myself above Him, saying that my plans are more important than the worship of Him.
Secondly, the Israelites skimped in their treatment of the poor in order to provide more things for themselves. In these verses, it is not like they are killing the poor in the street; they are just tipping the scales against them by acting in their own best interest. I can see this tendency in my own attitude toward giving. I am comfortable giving a certain amount each month. But when my giving gets "out of control," like it has this month, I tend to freak out and worry about how my own family is going to make it. That fear makes me stingy, makes me pull back the reins on my giving, much of which benefits the poor. It's "funny" how the verses mentions buying the needy for a pair of sandals b/c one thing I have been needing is some new tennis shoes. And those type of "needs" often tempt me to skimp on what I give to others so that I can provide for myself.
One small thing in closing: I thought that 8:11-12 were interesting. They foretell "a famine of hearing the words of the Lord" (11). I think that one of the consequences of being hardened in one's sin is that you do stop hearing God's voice. There comes a point where, through continued sin, you sear your own conscience so much that you shut out the Spirit's guidance.
NT: Revelation 3:7-22
Oops, Sardis wasn't the lukewarm church (like I said yesterday). It was Laodicea. Duh. I knew that. Really. How many sermons have I heard on the Laodiceans? Good lands.
But first, we get Christ's message to the church at Philadelphia. I could relate to Philadelphia today because Philadelphia had "little strength," and yet they were still hanging in there. I have an idea that their trials were a tad more severe than mine, but I have to admit that as I read this morning, in my exhaustion and vague sense of inadequacy for the many demands of my day, I took comfort from the idea that Christ appreciated that these people kept going and did their best, as weak as they were.
And then we get to the lukewarm church. In high school I found verse 15 so convicting: "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other! So because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Yikes! This verse especially flies in the face of all my, "at least I'm not..." rationalizations. So often, when I seek to justify some moral failing of mine, I think, "well, at least I don't [insert something really bad]." And yet, in this verse, God tells the church, "I wish you were really bad! At least that way, everyone could see clearly that you were not My followers, and you would stop making Me look bad. As it is, you are defiling My Name with your continued association with me." At least, that's how I interpret His vehemence in these verses. Again, those are very convicting words for Christians.
I love this short little psalm, in which David rests contentedly with God. In verse 1, he says,
"I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me."
"I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me" (2).
Yesterday, I had to wake Anna up from her nap, and she was predictably fussy. I pulled her into my lap, and she wrapped her arms and legs around me and laid her head on my chest. As I stroked her hair and murmured to her, she calmed down, and then laid peacefully against me for...I don't know how long. I kind of lost track of time b/c she was so contented and quiet and relaxed, and I was enjoying her presence so much. When I read verse 2, the image I get is of Anna lying against me so peacefully. I want to be that way with God. I don't want to be fretful and worried about things that I will never understand. Instead, I want to trust in the God who loves me, who loves us all, and to rest quietly in His love.
Prov. 29: 23
Pride brings a man low, but a lowly spirit gains him honor.