“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
“But let justice roll out like waters, And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).
The prophet Amos was a shepherd before the spirit of prophecy came over him. He was a herdsman from the village of Tekoa, and a dresser of sycamore trees. Amos lived during the long reign of King Jeroboam II. Amos was fed up. While most of the prophets interspersed redemption and restoration in their prophecies against Israel and Judah, Amos devoted only the final five verses of his prophecy for such consolation. Prior to that, God’s word through Amos was directed against the privileged people of Israel, a people who had no love for their neighbor, who took advantage of others, and who only looked out for their own concerns.
Amos arose in the midst of this atmosphere and proclaimed the Lord’s anger to the people. Amos called upon the people to “seek the Lord and live” several times (Amos 5:4,6). Amos goes on to say in verse 7, “There are those who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground.” Those whom he calls to seek God, were people filled with all injustice, who turned the sweetness of justice into the bitterness of wormwood. What had provoked the Lord’s anger? Two things stand out in the prophet’s condemnation. The absence of loyalty and the absence of pity. (Amos1:3-2:3)
The anger of the Lord was directed at the nations and the people. They had not kept the Torah of the Lord, nor His statutes. The prophetic response to injustice was to reveal to them the error of their ways and remind them that chosenness was not to be mistaken for divine favoritism or immunity from chastisement. On the contrary, that meant being more seriously exposed to divine judgment and chastisement.
The Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Above the noise of pride, strife and selfishness we must take care to hear the voice of the Lord.
Righteousness and justice are the very foundation of God’s throne (Psalm 89:14). Mishpat and tsedakah (tsedek) are two key terms relevant to the throne of God. “For the Lord is a God of justice” (Isa. 30:18). “The Lord is righteous, He love righteousness” (Ps. 11:7). And “God is a righteous judge.” (Jer. 12:1).
The Hebrew word for “justice,” mishpat, meaning is to treat people equitably. To act with fairness, equity, & impartiality in any situation. It speaks of social order as well as legal equity (fairness), and establishing justice in society. The mishpat, or justness, of a society, according to the Bible, is evaluated by how it treats its people. Any neglect shown for the needs of the people is not just a lack of mercy or charity but a violation of justice, of mishpat. God loves and defends those with the least economic and social power, and we should also. That is what it means to “do justice” (Micah 6:8). Justice is making what’s wrong right. Psalm 106:3 tells us that those who keep justice will be blessed.
Righteousness or tzedakah means “righteous behavior.” We should practice righteous behavior at all times! Righteousness is key to building a peaceful, progressive and thriving nation and happy people. Sin, unrighteousness, oppression, racism, inequality and wickedness bring disaster and woes to nations and peoples. “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan (Prov. 29:2).
Abraham Heschel, Jewish theologian, brings to life in The Prophets the writings of Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk with great clarity and insight. But what really captured me is Heschel’s portrait of the divine pathos. Simply put, Heschel argues that God feels deeply towards humanity. This is the divine pathos as evidenced in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” According to Heschel, righteousness goes beyond justice in that justice is strict and exact, giving each person what is due. Righteousness implies benevolence, kindness, generosity. Divine justice involves being merciful, compassionate.1 Jesus showed compassion when Lazarus died. John 11:35 says, “Jesus wept”. In light of this I can only imagine what the Lord must be feeling at the lost of so many lives today.
An analysis of prophetic utterances shows that the fundamental experience of the prophet is a fellowship with the feelings of God, a sympathy with the divine pathos . . . the assimilation of the prophet’s emotional life to the divine. . . . The emotional experience of the prophet becomes the focal point for the prophet’s understanding of God. He lives not only his personal life, but also the life of God. The prophet hears God’s voice and feels his heart. He tries to impart the pathos of the message together with its logos (Heschel 2007, 1:26).The Prophets, Abraham Heschel
As such, “[t]he characteristic of the prophets is not foreknowledge of the future, but insight into the present pathos of God” (Heschel 2007, 2:11). Prophecy primarily reveals how God feels about past and present human affairs, revealing “God’s intimate relatedness to man” (Heschel 2007, 1:219).
The church is meant to be salt and light in these trying times. Lovers of good and hater of evil. What does it mean that believers are to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16)?
Jesus used the concepts of salt and light a number of different times to refer to the role of His followers in the world. One example is found in Matthew 5:13: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
“God is light,” says 1 John 1:5, “and in him is no darkness at all.” “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,” declares James 1:17,“ and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
Light dispels darkness. Scripture reveals that Jesus came into the world as the light of men, but the darkness could not grasp it. “And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not grasp it (John 1:5).
The good works of Christ’s followers are to shine for all to see in times of gross darkness. We are coming into an era in which the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ will shine brightly in the face of evil. “For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Only righteousness exalts or makes a nation great (Psalm 97:2b; Proverb14:34). A nation that adheres to God’s righteous standards as found in His moral law. How a nation treats it’s most vulnerable is of great concern to a Sovereign God. God’s heart is for all ethnic groups: “all nations,” “all peoples,” “all mankind,” “all creation,” “every creature,” “every knee,” “every tongue,” “every language,” and “the world.”
“The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples have seen His glory” (97:6).
If the church us to make an impact on the current culture, she needs to be more concerned with discipling, equipping and sending people into the world as salt an light than merely getting people to attend Sunday services.
Minister Dr. Aleatha F. Green
Note: All Scripture is taken from the New American Standard
- Heschel, A. (1962). The Prophets, Harper Collins