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Explain The Relevance Of The Ministry Of The Prophet Amos, A Prophet Of Social Justice To Our Present Day Setting.

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Explain the relevance of the ministry of the prophet Amos, a prophet of social justice to our present day setting.

"Writing at a time of prosperity, when a sharp contrast existed between the luxurious life of the nation's leaders and the oppression of the poor was the prophet Amos" (John W. Ritenbaugh)

During the reign of Jeroboam II Israel had become a wealthy and prosperous nation. It was a golden age for Israel, a time of political stability and economic growth. This wealth however was not enjoyed by everyone, as the northern kingdom became more urbanised it saw an emergence of a wealthy middle class and a widening gulf between them and the poor. It was against this social backdrop that the prophet Amos preached.

As the people of Israel enjoyed this 'golden age' their religious worship became little more than an empty ritual. 'This prosperity and military success gave Israel a false sense of security. Israel was still involved in the worship of Baal and the Golden Calf' (The Grace Institute). Yahweh needed to call someone who would lead the people back to him and proclaim his judgement to Israel, he chose Amos.

Amos was a shepherd who also tended sycamore trees, unlike many prophets of the day he was not a professional prophet 'I was no prophet neither did I belong to any of the brotherhoods of the prophets' (Chp.7 v14). He was in fact a shepherd from Tekoa, a small village south of Jerusalem, 'It was Yahweh who took me from herding the flock, and Yahweh who said, "Go, prophesy to my people of Israel"' (Chp.7 v.15-16).

As the book of Amos opens, God gives Amos his judgement of Israel and the surrounding nations, Damascus, Philistia, Phoenicia, Edom, Ammon, Moab and Judah. For each one God opens with 'for the three crimes, the four crimes of....', and then addresses the multiple sins they have committed against each other. The nations surrounding Israel did not know God, therefore God does not punish them for their crimes against him, instead their punishment is for the crimes they have committed against each other. Yahweh condemns Damascus 'because they have thrashed Gilead with iron threshing-sledges' (Chp.1 v.3), referring to Aram's brutal treatment of the Israelites. Tyre and Phoenicia are condemned for breaking the covenant they had with Edom leading to distrust between the two nations, 'they have deported entire nations as slaves to Edom and have not remembered the covenant of brotherhood' (Chp.1 v.6).

Unfortunately times have not changed since Yahweh's judgement of Israel's surrounding nations. We still hear of the brutal and barbaric treatment of prisoners of war. The treatment of Iraqi prisoners by British and American soldiers is currently being investigated after disturbing photographs of prisoners being humiliated and abused were found. During the Vietnam War many of the Vietnamese people suffered inhumane treatment at the hands of American soldiers, women were raped and civilians were beaten and murdered.

The judgement of Ammon is for their relentless and violent pursuit of land to occupy, 'they have disembowelled the pregnant women of Gilead, in order to extend their own frontiers' (Chp.1 v.13). Today there are also still arguments over land, the Israelites and the Palestinians today are still fighting over land, leading to violence with homes and families destroyed. In Northern Ireland Catholics and Protestants are still fighting over territory. One such example is the incident at Holy Cross Primary School in the summer of 2001, where Catholic children were subjected to sectarian abuse while going to school, as Protestant protesters blocked the schools entrance rout that lay on a protestant enclave.

God's condemnation of Israel for the treatment of the poor is all too relevant to today's society. In Israel the gulf was widening between the rich and the poor, the rich were taking advantage of the poor and exploiting them 'because they have sold the virtuous man for silver and the poor man for a pair of sandals'(Chp.2 v.6) . This ill-treatment and abuse of the poor is still rife today. Western countries employ factory workers in parts of Africa and pay them as little as eight pence an hour, when they could afford to pay them properly. They are also subjected to long hours and unsafe working conditions. This is due to the greed that exists in Western society, where big businesses are so concerned with making a profit that they will cut as many corners as necessary in order to increase their gain. They get away with subjecting men, women and even children to harsh and brutal working conditions which a Western society would not tolerate if it was happening to them.

As God's people we, like the Israelites, are called by God to stop these injustices. An article in The Guardian stated that what the average British child spends on crisps and sweets in a year could supply a family in Malawi with grain for a year. The bridge between the worlds riches and poorest is now so wide that simply putting money in a charity box is not enough. We need to become more directly involved in the fight against world poverty; this can be done by perhaps sponsoring a child or by visiting some of the world's poorest places to help build hospitals or schools. We should all see ourselves as God's people and therefore equal, deserving the same opportunities and standards of living.

'God condemns their sacrifices



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