Tag Archives: Old Testament

A New Look at an Old Book: Amos 6-9

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.

A New Look at an Old Book: Job 1-13

Or How NOT to be a Friend

The story of Job is a very familiar one. We are all well acquainted with the suffering and misery that Job endured at the hands of Satan. We all know of the incredible losses he sustained, and we know how the story ends. But as I have read these scriptures again over the last several days, I am moved not by the acts of Job, but by those of his three companions.

I suppose it has much to do with where I am in my life right now. A friend just lost her father after a long bout with a sustained illness. Another friend is going through a very difficult break-up and feelings of loneliness that overwhelm him. Yet another friend is going through a difficult situation and I have only compounded things with my own selfish demands. So right now, the thing I needed most was to hear how to be a good friend.

Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar are good guys. They hear about Job’s tragedy, and they do not hesitate to drop everything in their lives to rush to be at his side. They give no thought to personal cost, distance to travel, or time away from their everyday lives. Upon first glance, these three men appear to be great friends to Job. They make their way to him, and are so moved by his emotional plight that they, too are compelled to mourn. They sit with him for seven days, commiserating, consoling and comforting Job – all without saying a word! What great friends! The end.

Nope. Not the end.

They couldn’t leave well enough alone. They HAD to start talking. They just HAD to throw in their two shekel’s worth of advice for poor, suffering Job. They HAD to try to FIX things!

What is it about us that makes us want to fix stuff? Even if we don’t have all the information, we will try to correct things in almost any given situation. I find myself doing it all the time. Something isn’t working right, “Ooh, let me see. I bet I can get it to work.” Doesn’t matter that I have very little mechanical ability! Why should that little tidbit of truth stop me? Someone tells me about some trouble in their life, “Oooh, I know JUST what you should do! First…this, then that and bang – all fixed!” Nevermind I probably have no clue – Why should that stop me?

I can empathize with Job. He’s not thinking clearly at the moment. He’s hurting. He’s mad. He’s clearly, and justifably upset. His response? VENT! He’s been in a pressure cooker for weeks! His emotions, his thoughts, his physical body have been under intense strain, and he needs to let off some steam! It happens to all of us. When we need to spout off, the LAST thing we need is someone trying to rationalize or FIX things! We just want you to listen. Shut up and just listen. You don’t have to agree. You can even think we’re wrong, but for now – Just be quiet. Once the explosion subsides, clarity returns and right thinking follows. Usually followed by the question, “What do you think?” NOW, you can interject. But tread cautiously, the pot’s still HOT!

Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar started out so well. They ARE great friends. But like most of us, they let their own discomfort cloud their judgement. They gave into their own needs instead of being sensitive to the needs of Job. What I learned through this reading is that I am just like them. Sadly. But I don’t want to be. I want to be the friend that thinks of the other person’s feelings first. I want to be the friend who is willing to sacrifice my own comfort for the comfort of another. I want to be a friend who knows when to be quiet. Ouch! That one hurt.

I’m thankful for this lesson. I’m thankful for the opportunity to see outside my own self, if even for a brief moment. And I’m thankful for this example in scripture of how to REALLY be a friend.