Recommended readings: Psalms 33; 146, Amos 3:1-11, 2 Peter 1:12-21, Matthew 21:23-32
The Old Testament contains over a dozen books named for prophets. Most of them contain the same message for the people of God: repent and embrace the justice God requires of you or the consequences of your actions will destroy you. God seems to have no desire to punish his people — why else provide them so many warnings? — yet when we read the words of the prophets we can’t help but feel the inevitably of their self-destruction.
Amos tells us “the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7) and says the people hear the lion roar yet do not fear (v 8). Rather, they content themselves with fulfilling the letter of the law while ignoring its purpose: to bring justice to God’s people. Nearly 800 years later, Jesus was the roaring lion the people chose to ignore. His message to the leadership of the time could have come from Amos: while paying lip service to the Lord, you are ignoring holy truths. When faced with the question of Jesus’s authority, they feigned ignorance rather than risk losing their grip on the people (Luke 21:23-27) by telling the truth.
To what prophetic cries for holy justice do we turn a deaf ear today? In what ways are we trading the demands of justice for personal convenience? What groups of people do we allow to be vilified or victimized for political or financial expedience? In this age of information overload, any failure to recognize the voices which cry out for an end to poverty, racism, sexism, exploitation, and countless other ills requires a willful ignorance rivaling the pharisees. We are being warned. Will we be as hard-hearted as those who denied Amos and Jesus?
It’s not too late. Whether Christ returns tomorrow or a million years from now, today we can choose to be a people whose actions court blessing rather than wrath. Advent is a time to say: “I hear you. I see you. I long for the justice denied you, and tremble before God that I have been party to it.” Advent is the time to roar like a prophet.
Comfort: Christ comes into the world to deliver justice to the persecuted.
Challenge: Read about human trafficking and the seafood industry. Think about how you can value justice as part of the price for goods and services.