Reading through Amos is a difficult venture. There is so much forboding, judgement and most of all SIN. Sin from the people that God has set aside. The very people for whom God had designed the richest of blessings, whom He had saved from destruction repeatedly…these same holders of promise who willingly slaked their bonds with God in favor of idolatry. They chose immorality over righteousness, depravity in favor of the sacred, and essentially spat in the face of the gifts and calling of the Creator. Oh, it’s easy to see how God could be so mad. It’s easy, from our lofty perches, to look down on the Israelites in this story. How could they possibly be so stupid? They deserve to be smote! Right?
Oh, how quick we are to judge. How conveniently we forget our similarities to the gross injustices perpetrated by these smote-worthy individuals. Oh, we NEVER seek to serve ourselves, right? We couldn’t possibly be consumed with immediate gratification, could we? Certainly we don’t put anything ahead of our relationship with God…not our romances, nor our jobs or our leisure time. No! Not us!!!
The more I read, the more I find that I am woefully similar to the poor saps in this story. I willfully choose to behave sinfully. I have become adept at ignoring His voice. I can turn a blind eye to his leading…all in favor of my own wants, my own “needs” and desires.
So God is understandably miffed. I get it. I would be, too. He uses the prophet, Amos, to bring his message that He has had just about enough!! After years and years, no generations – of His people turning their backs on Him, he was putting His foot down.
And even then…
In the midst of reading them the riot act.
Barely a hiccup happens between His promise of retribution and punishment and His overwhelming mercy again. He loves so much, that even when He’s forced to bring us about to justice, He’s offering yet another reprieve to those who will just turn away from wrong – and turn back toward Him. How many times will He soften?
When I read this I am convicted. I’ve made some really poor choices of late. Choices that were self-serving and ultimately detrimental not only to me, but to others I care about. As I immerse myself into the words of Amos, I see all too clearly a mirror held up to my own life…and I don’t like the reflection. But as I peer inside, over my shoulder I see the open arms of my Father, God who loves me so much that He is willing to offer me His embrace and His forgiveness – AGAIN.
And suddenly, I know the depth of His love for me.
I had breakfast with a friend this morning. We had planned to meet with another woman and make it a girls’ day out, but plans changed and we were able to dine alone. We met at a quaint little coffee shop in our hometown and placed our orders. We sat down at a table littered with puzzle pieces, and my friend was immediately entangled in the process of placing the tiny mosaics in order to reconstruct a photograph of a beautiful, blue victorian home. While she worked, we ate and talked. The conversation was pleasant. We discussed the minutae of our lives and exchanged a few laughs.
Then I did it.
I had wanted to know for awhile, but I never felt the time was right to ask. But today, with just the two of us, and she occupied with a task for her hands, I asked her about Chelsea.
Chelsea is her beautiful, perpetually-just-shy-of-sixteen-years-old daughter. During a routine trip to a neighboring city, my friend and two of her three children were involved in a motor vehicle accident, and Chelsea was tragically killed. As I listened to the painful recounting of that fateful day three years ago, I was struck silent. I soaked in the scenery and the emotions as Bev carefully and tearfully walked me through her memories of that day. After sharing, she pondered aloud the question that all of us have asked at one point or another – “Why would God take HER when there are so many bad people in the world?”
In this passage of scripture, Job is asking the same thing. Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? Why is there pain and suffering for believers? Why is it that tragedy strikes? I’ve been contemplative since our meeting this morning. My friend is quite a happy person in light of her unbelievably difficult reality. I’m not sure I could function, much less be productive, positive and pleasant. I am not a parent, but I am a doting aunt and just the thought of losing one of my neices or nephews brings me to a very dark place.
As I thought about today’s reading, I marvelled at the tenacity of Job, but I am also moved by the life of this woman, my friend, who shared her heart with me today. As I sit here, I am listening to the song “Breath of Heaven” and I am reminded of another loss. In the blockbuster movie, The Passion of the Christ, the scene that breaks my heart most, is the point where Mary watches her son walking down the road, heavy with the cross of his crucifixion on his shoulders. As he passes, virtually unrecognizable, he falls and she remembers Jesus as a happy, vibrant toddler running, laughing and falling as a child. She didn’t see the Savior of the human race – she saw her baby, and He was hurting – and she was powerless.
That’s how my friend felt – that’s how Job felt – and that’s how God must have felt when He watched His son suffer and die. When I read these scriptures, I am made sad at the pain that people have to suffer. At the same time, I am selfishly thankful that I have not had to endure that type of pain. I am also aware that we are not the only ones who suffer. God himself suffered.
I don’t know why God lets bad things happen to good people, but I find comfort in the knowledge that He knows what that kind of loss feels like. I find grace in the words of my friend, who while hurting can still bless God and look to Him as her source of strength and hope. I am comforted in knowing that the tears we weep for the losses we endure on this side of the veil are not shed alone. God himself weeps with us. He is our Champion and Friend. He is just as sad about our suffering as we are, maybe moreso.
Our breakfast turned into lunch. We shared and cried together. I was able to see a part of my friend’s heart that was broken and vulnerable, and in sharing about her loss – we gained. We added to our friendship. We increased the memory of a very special girl whose life positively impacted more than 1,000 people. We grew in understanding of the depths of love.
Maybe that’s the real lesson here. Maybe the reason we experience loss is to gain. . .
Thank you for sharing your life with me. I have been blessed.
I am loving that I can still read this very familiar story and see something that I haven’t seen before! That I can question what never occurred to me before! How timeless the Word of God is in our lives. What a blessing the Scriptures are to me.
God gives us authority over all other life on the planet. I like the language of the Message here, again. The “animals will fall under our spell and be afraid.” Makes me think of the snake charmer in India! But it also makes me wonder why the animals would need to fear us? Of course, knowing how mankind has abused this privilege it is understandable that animals would have fear, but why at that point? The animals and the last remaining humans had been peacefully coexisting in the confines of a relatively small vessel for little more than six months!
Curiously, this is the first time that God says that we may consume animals for food. Apparently, humanity was strictly vegetarian? But back a couple of chapters, God accepted an offering of meat from Abel. How did Abel know to make that sacrifice and how did he know that God would be pleased with that? Where is the paradigm shift? Additionally, there is no exclusion other than eating meat that is still bloody. Why such a drastic change later?
Purpose: Here we have it. People have asked for it, and here it was the whole time! Our job, our primary responsibility was to fill the earth with our progeny and to live well! Wow! What a tough job. How did we manage to mess that up???
Alright, I know I’m on a question roll, but I can’t help it. There are things that just beg to be asked. You know the ones, the same questions that non-believers and atheists pose in an attempt to argue the validity of scripture. Noah and his three sons with all their wives (presumably one wife per man) are it as far as human population goes. So in order to populate the planet, that means that cousin will have to marry cousin, but later in Leviticus this is strictly forbidden. How does this work?? If God was so unhappy with the humans He created, why not create other? Precluding that, I understand that it (intermarriage) is an act of survival necessity, but why is it permitted here and later prohibited? Same as with the food – why the paradigm shift?
Proof that they were fulfilling their purpose!! LOL
At the risk of making some of you think I’m a complete heretic, I just have to say that reading this makes me question the integrity of the writing here. I don’t mean that to sound as if I do not believe this to be the inspired word of God, but what I mean is that the way this is written it makes God sound, well, needy and insecure. And God is not either of those things. Wow! Genesis is full of difficulty for me! When I’ve read this before, I have always pushed away any questions or observations of contradiction, but I just can’t anymore. Not because I believe that what I’m reading makes God any less, but because I feel protective of Him (as if He needs my protection – pfffft!). I’m definitely going to be pulling out the concordance and the commentaries on these passages. I’m curious to know what others are thinking about these same verses. Please keep in mind as you read this that I am just documenting what comes to mind as I read. I am being painfully honest with my questions and do not propose to offer the answers here. I am curious and seeking to know God more intimately and as such, I have full faith that God will provide the answers that I seek. If I am having these questions, others must be, too. I am not content to say “Oh, just believe and don’t question.” That’s sheep mentality and thinking that I find counterproductive to my goal of understanding my creator.
OK, now wait! Just a few chapters ago, God said He wasn’t going to continue to breathe His life’s breath into humanity and that the number of a man’s days would be 120 years, but here we are again with people living well beyond that time limit! What gives? Here’s my opinion – and take it for what it’s worth (probably not much), but I’m thinking that there are some errors here in the writing. Don’t start warming up the stake, and Hey! Put down those stones!!! I know God’s not wrong. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. So if God’s not wrong, then someone else is, because this doesn’t gel. But here’s the good news – God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I may not understand, but He does and He delights in my pursuit of Him. I know that He will help me to reconcile what I perceive to be contradictions and and will make my faith stronger as a result! I love that about God!
As I read through this section of the scripture, I find that rather than answers I am bombarded with questions. Opportunities to know more about the heart of God because of the things I do not understand. I am thankful that after 32 years in relationship with Him, I am still learning and challenged by the Lord.
Time Passed. So much left unsaid here. What happened during that time?
Why did God not like Cain and his offering? What had transpired to result in such a negative reaction?
Also – I’m troubled by verse 7. This seems counterintuitive to what we know about God. These are the scriptures that are difficult to reconcile with a loving Creator.
Obviously, it was important to Cain and Abel to be pleasing to God. It’s clear from this very brief encounter that the brothers had a personal daily knowledge of God and were well acquainted with him in a way that we cannot understand.
Why does it have to be an “either/or” situation here? Why weren’t both offerings pleasing to God? There is so much here that goes unspoken and causes me difficulty.
Is this the precursor to eternal separation from God – or Hell? Cain complains because he will never again face God. Was there any prior knowledge that taking a life would result in this drastic separation? God puts a mark on Cain…what was the mark? How would people know that it was the mark of God?
Cain, even though separated from God and banished from His presence, raises his child to be a lover and worshiper of God. Again – so much that goes unsaid.
Adam has a son who is like him in every way. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Adam was God’s first creation and proclaimed Good – but then he was cast out of the garden and made to toil and suffer. Hmmm. I don’t know what to make of that.
Why does God spend so much time telling us about the geneology of this people? There is nothing remarkable about their lives other than their names, the age they are when they have children and the age they die. Man, I hope that God has more to say about my life than that!
This part of the story has always been a little disturbing and seemingly out of place. What is a son of God? I always have heard that it means an angel or a supernatural being (according to the Contemporary English Version of the Bible), but aren’t we also referred to as sons of God? What is the purpose of this brief, seemingly unrelated tidbit of information? This definitely warrants more research!
I think more than anything else in reading this particular selection of scripture, I am moved by the lack of information rather than the content. There is so much here that is left unsaid! Kind of like the 21 years of Jesus’ life that we know nothing about. Makes me wonder what else there is to know. We go from the imagery of God being loving, protective, creative and physically present to Him being filled with regret at the making of humanity! But there’s little to explain the reason for His desire to erase His creation.
This year I have decided to go through the Bible in a Chronological pattern. I must shamefully admit that I have never succeeded in following through on one of these reading plans. I found this great application on my Blackberry phone, and I was so impressed, I just had to share it. They have a website, too. As always – IF IT’S FREE, IT’S FOR ME! So I wanted to share what I found and encourage you to start the journey, too. There are more than 20 reading plans and several different options for time, and every version of the Bible imaginable to read from! There is a place to journal as you go through the reading and then if you would like to participate in the community aspect, they have a place for that, too! Truly, one of the best websites I have ever come across. I hope to find some of you there!
Usually when I read the Bible, I have a tendency to let my research curiosity take over and I end up cross referencing, back tracking, getting exegetical and otherwise just chasing down red herrings. I enjoy that! I learn so much that way, but I wanted to approach the scriptures a little differently this time. I want to simply stay in the moment. My plan is to simply document the thoughts and questions that occur to me during the course of the reading. Not to look for hidden meanings and answers, but simply to bask in the Word of God and to let it wash over me and envelope me completely. As such, there may or may not be any flow to the thoughts. I love to hear what scripture says to other people, so I am hoping that these entries will spark a dialogue with others.
And so the journey begins. I have decided to use The Message as my version of choice for this trip. I like the artistry of the language and I am looking forward to seeing new things as I travel down this familiar, well-travelled road. Let’s go!
First thing: The language of the Message is so colorful. I love the expression that the Earth was a soup of nothingness! Immediately followed by “God’s Spirit brooded like a bird…” What does that mean? The dictionary says: “4. (of a bird) to warm, protect, or cover (young) with the wings or body.” The imagery there is comforting. I can imagine the Lord looking down over the vastness with love, and covering the yet unformed earth in a protective embrace. He had not yet made us, but His love and attention was already focused and protective. Something really settles into my spirit about the concept of “covering.” The imagery elicited, from a bird protecting it’s nest, to God covering Moses with his hand, to the mother at Pompei who used her body to cover her child. The idea is amazing – protective, nurturing, comforting, peaceful.
Day Six in the creation landscape – God’s work so far has been like a painting. At first, broad strokes to cover great amounts of canvas, setting the stage for the finer work. With each passing creative expression, the work becomes more detailed and fine. The penultimate expression of God’s handiwork is revealed on this day. He created humans. He made us godlike! I wonder why He would do this? The way He created us, we REFLECT His nature. We are like the moon – we have no light source of our own, but we appear to shine because we mirror the light of the sun.
We just had a beautiful natural phenomenon occur over New Years‘ festivities. Our eyes were directed heavenward to behold the wonder that is a Blue Moon, or the second full moon in a month. It’s a fairly rare occurrence, made to seem even more important because it coincided with the beginning of a new year. It was easy to romanticize and marvel at the moon. I took several pictures and had my fair share of Lunar Lookiloo-itude. It was truly a beautiful sight to behold. The way that the glow illuminated the night sky was truly breathtaking. I found myself captivated by the sight of it, marveling at it’s magnificence. But the truth is, the moon has no power of it’s own. The ethereal qualities that we attribute to her are not her own. She is merely a mirror. She is so perfectly suited to reflect the true source of light – the sun, that sometimes we place credit where none is due. That’s what we are supposed to be. A vehicle of reflection – we are mirrors. We shine back the true source of light – the Son. Because the light is so beautiful, even in reflection, sometimes we give credit where none is due. Without the warming beams of the sun’s glow, the moon is just a rock. Without the loving glow of the Son’s touch, we humans are just animals. It is the REFLECTIVE qualities of being created godlike that make us so beautiful to behold.
God’s Ultimate act of creation: a day of rest. I think that just as we are sometimes overly impressed with the majesty of the moon, we are equally enamoured with our own existence. However, if we continue with the analogy of a painting, the final act is knowing when to stop. The best artists know when to step back from their creation and say – It is finished. They put down the paintbrush, then pause for a moment and just soak it in. That is the ultimate act of creation. God, ever the consummate artist, steps back from His creation and says – It’s done. It’s complete. He takes a step back, and breathes a sigh of satisfaction and simply takes in His handiwork. He allows Himself to enjoy what He’s just made. Oh, would that we would reflect that attribute of our Creator! This is the ultimate expression of creation because it allows us to enjoy the created. To revel in the completion of a task. To recuperate and recover from the process of doing. In addition to polishing up my reflective qualities, this is an attitude I long to embrace in the new year!
This season in my life, I have been reawakened to my desire to be partnered with a man. I don’t know what it is about Christians in particular that they feel the need to devalue or debase any desires that we have. As if desiring something is inherently bad. I have fallen into that mindset myself to a degree and often have chastised myself for wanting to be married. However this time through the scriptures, I am seeing that there is cause for the feelings I have experienced and am experiencing. Simply in verse 23. One word. Man says – FINALLY! Oh the implications and power in that one word! Here is a creation, situated in a perfect existence. Newly made, fresh off the line so to speak, all his parts are still shiny and new, but when he is presented with woman as a companion – man says “Finally!!” There is something within us that God created to desire fellowship with each other on an intimate level. So why is it that when we express that same feeling of anticipation, our “well-meaning” brothers and sisters imply (or some come right out and say) that we are being somehow less. That we should be content in our situation. That’s not the way I’m reading this.
Bear with me for the following metaphor – back when I was a child, we had thermometers with mercury in them. Invariably one would break and the silvery substance would spill out and puddle together. Curiosity would always overtake me, and I would collect the spilled contents into my hand. The mercury would bead up, and each little ball was perfect in it’s own right. But once two of the tiny rounds came into proximity of each other, there was an undeniable attraction that drew them into each other to reform into a new, larger, but still perfectly formed ball. There was no distinction between the old droplets and the new drop. They were capable of existing perfectly on their own, but given the opportunity, they were more suited to coalesce. The fact that one property of mercury is to desire to come together does not hinder it’s effectiveness. It doesn’t make it a weaker element. In fact, it is one of the traits of mercury that makes it unique. We are that way. We are made of the same stuff, and our natural inclination – a byproduct of our creation – is to be drawn to each other in an attempt to commingle or to cleave as the KJV calls it. This is not good or bad. It just is.
Obviously – my mind is focused on this subject, because what I feel the Lord revealing to me is primarily about the same subject matter. Chapter 3, verse 16 – the last line in the verse speaks volumes to the classic struggle between male and female. We want to please our husbands, and the the husbands will want to use that to rule over us. No wonder we can’t understand each other. It’s a product of the fall. I wonder if a couple who have been saved by grace can then go back and pray against the consequences of that first sin? Is it possible to reverse that curse? Hmmm. I wonder.