Monday, November 6, 2006

Maybe I'm not crazy after all.

I was reading in Amos this morning. I've been reading through whole books of the Bible at a time in big chunks. It's been really different than my average quiet time of years past, because I usually read really short passages and dissected them. I like reading chapters at a time. It gives me more context and allows me to see passages in ways I never have before. Plus, being the nerd that I am, I love the feeling of finishing a book.

Anyway, I came across this passage this morning that I really liked. When I got to work, I looked it up in several different translations, and I found two that I really liked.

Basically, in the book of Amos, God is speaking through his prophet Amos to tell his people that he is fed up with the way they are acting. Israel has done nothing but rebel against God, despite the way he has protected them and cared for them. So Amos is giving them the message that God's discipline is coming.

(Side note - I read a really interesting passage in this book about the difference between discipline and punishment. It made the distinction that discipline is allowing someone to feel the natural consequences of their actions so that they will learn responsibility. It is for their benefit. Punishment imposes chastisement for an action, and is usually for the sake of punishment itself, rather than to correct the inappropriate behavior out of love and a desire to see better, more responsible actions in the future. It finally helped me to reconcile the idea of God's correction with knowing that God doesn't delight in punishment.)

Back to the point. This passage reaffirmed to me God's heart and my passion for justice. I love the parts of the Bible where you see how deeply God cares about the people that no one else cares about. This has long been my driving force in the direction of my life, and I get excited when I find passages that show me that I am in line with God's heart. So few Christians seem to care about these things, that I often wonder if I am crazy for believing what I do.

Here is the passage for your perusal. I have both a translation and a paraphrase. I would love to know what thoughts you guys have when you read these powerful verses, so full of God's righteous indignation at his people while at the same time conveying his heart for righteousness and justice.

Amos 5:21-24 (New Living Translation)
21 "I hate all your show and pretense—
the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
22 I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
I won't even notice all your choice peace offerings.
23 Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
an endless river of righteous living."

Amos 5:21-24 (The Message)
"I can't stand your religious meetings.
I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That's what I want. That's all I want."

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