In the book of Amos, our second reading for today, we get a sense of God’s passion for justice and fairness. It is a theme that we will hear repeated over the next few days as we come to the end of the Old Testament. Amos begins with pronouncements of judgment against Israel and its neighbors. In each case, they are found guilty of acting unjustly.
In a number of previous readings, we have heard prophets condemn Israel for its failure to worship properly. Today, we get the other part of the equation. Right worship is not an end in itself, but is intended to lead the congregation into right living. It’s the kind of living that pays special attention to how the most vulnerable members of the community are treated. Just as God demonstrates compassion and mercy, so the people are to bear witness by living out these God-identifying characteristics.
The voice of Amos has reverberated across the centuries, finding a home wherever people have struggled against oppression and injustice. From the civil rights movement in our own country, we hear echoes of his appeal to the Israelites in the preaching of Martin Luther King, Jr. In his most famous speech, I Have a Dream, one of King’s most familiar lines is a direct quote from its Biblical source:
“Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” (5:24)