Amos 6-7

“You push away every thought of coming disaster, but your actions only bring the day of judgment closer. How terrible for you who sprawl on ivory beds and lounge on your couches, eating the meat of tender lambs from the flock and of choice calves fattened in the stall.” 6:3-4

The first part of chapter 6 reads like the screen play of Marie Antoinette. The upper class of Samaria lounged around, feasting on expensive meats and lavish wine, ignoring God’s warnings to snap out of it. Instead of prioritizing justice and righteous living, Israel over-indulged in a hedonistic lifestyle. 

Unfortunately, the western church should find this wildly relatable. The recent refugee crisis comes to mind. Or really, just upper middle class living in general. Sometimes I dread that people living in poverty will find out how we treat our dogs over here. Forking over money for human-like, canned foods, expensive surgeries and buying them plush beds. (This is just one of the many areas I think we get it wrong, but if your dog is in a sweater, feel free to point fingers at the stack of my Apple products nearby.)

God insists that we have hearts for social justice, but we have a tendency to distract ourselves.

Is God trying to get a message across to you, but you have filled your life with so much noise you don’t notice? It’s easy to get bogged down by all the problems in the world, and feel discouraged about where to start. Start small, start local. Who are your neighbors? Who’s already in your life that you should seek justice for? Fighting the good fight is part of the Christian lifestyle and far too often, we sit ourselves out. Pray and ask God how he’d like you to join in.

 

-Carly

Amos 4-5

“I hate, I reject your festivals…Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (5:21a, 23-24)

I don’t think this passage needs any further discussion. It’s a “drop the mic” moment, to me. We can get really carried away, and off track, when it comes to what we think the LORD wants from us.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

I know I reference this a lot, but I also frequently feel my heart asking God, what is good?? What do you want from me?? And He just points me back to this.

Let it sink in that He uses the word hate in 5:21. He hates their festivals, their worship music is a headache. “Don’t dance around and claim to be my people, going through the motions, when you have entirely missed the point of what I am about!” Justice. Mercy. Humility. Righteousness.

Remember the Bible Project saying the Hebrew word for righteousness meant: “right relationship; equality despite social differences”. And the Hebrew word for justice was: “concrete actions you take to correct injustice and create righteousness.”

I dare say this, applies to us today, making it displeasing to the LORD to march around, doing religious, churchy things, and staying neutral on issues of injustice, or even denying that it happens.

“Pure and undefined religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)

How can you pursue right relationships and equality in your sphere of influence? In what ways could you branch out of your usual “sphere?” It is a good habit to wrestle with these passages regularly. Feel the heart of the Father. It’s wonderful to sing, sacrifice and make music, just remember what kind of music He likes.

-Bethany

Amos 2-3

“From among all the families on the earth, I have been intimate with you alone.
That is why I must punish you for all your sins.” 3:2

Israel is God’s special possession, his holy people, whom he gave a great calling with a great responsibility. This magnifies their failure (as they know better, have been repeatedly warned and given repeated chances to change) and the consequences.

Chapter 3 exposes the hypocrisy and evil intention of the religious leaders. They neglect the poor, misuse their wealth and abuse their power, yet faithfully attend religious services.

Yet again, God favors the poor and vulnerable, even over his own special people. 

What a great reminder about God’s heart: he doesn’t care about our religious tendencies if it contradicts how we treat people. Truly knowing and loving God changes your heart. You care less about wealth. You have a heart for justice. You not only see the poor, but reach out to them. When we are in true relationship with God, our hearts align with his.

Diagnosis the condition of your heart. Do you find yourself prioritizing what God prioritizes more and more as you grow closer to him? Do you care about the people God cares about? Who do you resemble more, the world or Jesus? 

 

-Carly

 

 

 

Joel 3-Amos 1

The last chapter of Joel, wraps up the LORD’s promised Day. Evil will be confronted and “a spring will go out from the house of the LORD to water the valley of Shittim.” (3:18) Jerusalem will, one day, be a place of life. Hard to imagine, even now, but the LORD assures us His promises are real.

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Now diving in to Amos, here is the overview from The Bible Project.

Again, we see this looming reference to the Day of the LORD, like we saw in Joel. Locusts, fire, war and then a surprise ending where justice, righteous and life flow from the very site of all this violence. A rebuilding, redeeming and restoring will one day take place. In the meantime, let’s dive in to Amos 1.

Everyone will answer for the evil they’ve committed. The nations will answer for what they did with what they knew, and with the power given to them. We know, in the following chapters, Israel will be held accountable for even more, because they were entrusted with the knowledge of the One True God.

In this day and age, of a hugely populated, diverse and volatile world, with the kingdom of God stretching over every nation, the warning is still corporate and individual. Are we ready to be accountable to God for what we know? We may be comforted by the promise of evil being confronted in others, but what about the evil inside me? What am I doing with my knowledge of the One True God?

I know where I stand, in Christ, but I also take seriously the call on my life made clear by the ways the LORD has revealed Himself to me.

“Lord, forgive me for the ways I’ve let laziness or insecurity, prejudice or indifference get in the way of representing You to others. Thank you for your enduring faithfulness and ability to bring light and life out of destruction. Be glorified in me.”

-Bethany

Joel 1-2

You can watch the overview for Joel here.

“Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead. Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.” 2:13-14

This is easily one of my favorite pieces of Scripture involving repentance and God’s character towards forgiveness.

He wants our hearts, not a big show. Have you ever had someone blab on and on about how sorry they are, yet it obviously means nothing and is clearly for the benefit of those watching? It means nothing. You don’t want them to show off, you just want them to truly be sorry.

Merciful. Compassionate. Slow to anger. Filled with love that never disappoints or fails us. He is eager to relent and not punish. He doesn’t set us up for failure or long to flex his ability to discipline. He heaps grace and mercy on us and smooths wide open roads to turn back to him!

What prevents you from repenting? Pride? Fear? General disregard? Sometimes we’re not repenting because we’re not tuned in to our relationship with God.

Take time to check your heart, bring it before him and invite him to expose what needs to change. What’s missing? What’s broken?

Notice the second half of chapter 2; God promises more future blessings for his people.

Let’s repent, believe and call upon the Lord!

 

-Carly

 

Hosea 13-14

“Yet I have been the LORD your God since the land of Egypt; and you were not to know any god except Me, for there is no Savior beside Me.” (13:4)

It’s important to remember, the LORD doesn’t want us to have idols because they are worthless, not because He is insecure and demanding. There is no Savior beside Him. It is a dangerous waste of time to look to, sacrifice or submit to anything else.

“it is your destruction, O Israel, that you are against me, against your help.” (13:9)

He isn’t trying to ruin our fun, He is saving our lives.

“Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them. For the ways of the LORD are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but transgressors will stumble in them.” (14:9)

This is the ultimate pro tip.

There is so much to glean from this beautiful book! What else stood out to you? I will claim the promise, that God is right and trustworthy. His love is the wisest, safest place to dwell. I want to always remember this incredible love and daily check my devotion.

-Bethany

Hosea 11-12

“ Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Admah or demolish you like Zeboiim? My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows.” 11:8

After a couple stanzas of the Lord portraying his love for Israel like a father loving his child, we see him flex his mercy towards them in the verse above. My Bible commentary refers to this as the gospel in Old Testament clothes, isn’t that perfect?

God loves us so intricately and deeply, and then we mistreat him and abandon him like ungrateful children. We deserve his discipline, we deserve to be given up on, yet instead he says how can I let you go? 

No one’s love that compares to this.

Are you like Israel, unable to recognize it or care? They followed pagan religion, which was much more sexy and demanded much less of them. But God’s love is real, long-lasting, long-suffering and perfect.

How do you respond to his love? 

 

-Carly