Pastor Steve Ellison
The Christian life is first and foremost about having a relationship with your Creator. Without that relationship, nothing else matters. One cannot be a Christian unless he/she has entered into a relationship with Christ. One cannot live in an acceptable fashion before God, unless he/she treats other people in a Christ-like manner. The “social gospel” does not save anyone. Only entering into a personal relationship with Christ through His shed blood can bring about salvation. However, we must not ignore the heavy and recurring emphasis throughout the Bible on justice, mercy, and grace. Without justice, mercy, and grace from God, you and I would be doomed. We love to hear about God’s mercy and grace toward us, but I am not so sure about the requirement on us. God has called us to be like Him. We must do what He does. Freely we have received; freely we must give. There is nothing in the Bible taught any more clearly. Our treatment of the weak is a great indicator of the strength of our faith. God will hold us accountable. We will be judged for how we treat those who are weaker or disadvantaged. As a side note, let me be clear, I am not speaking of governmental policy; I am speaking of individual behavior. Most of what 21st century government does in an attempt to help the weak really hurts those it purports to help, but that is a discussion for another time.
The book of Amos is a fierce condemnation of unrighteous living of all kinds, but especially perverting justice by taking advantage of the weak. In the last half of chapter six, God makes his intentions very, very clear. He swears by Himself. Any time God does that, we had better take notice. God declares that a great siege will weaken the nation of Israel. War will kill most of the people. Almost all of those who are left will be taken by disease, forcing the small number of survivors to forgo the normal burial process and instead burn the bodies to slow the plague. God promises complete destruction of even their houses.
Now, God brings His question. “Do horses run on rocks? Or does one plow them with oxen? Yet you have turned justice into poison And the fruit of righteousness into wormwood, You who rejoice in Lodebar, And say, ‘Have we not by our own strength taken Karnaim for ourselves?’” (Amos 6:12-13 NASU) Certainly horses do not run on the rocks. Oxen do not plow rock and there is a footnote there indicating that a legitimate translation is, “Does one plow the sea with oxen?” Could anything be less successful or more useless than attempting to plow the ocean? God suggests a couple more things that are more futile. The name Lodebar means “nothing”. Worshipping nothing, i.e. an idol, is more futile than plowing the sea. The name Karnaim means “horn of strength”. Claiming victory over strength, in our strength, is futile at best and very dangerous.
Worshipping idols and robbing God of His glory are two things He refuses to overlook. These lead to other sins. God points out that His people have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood (bitterness). God gave us instructions about living in His Word. His people, then and now, refuse to obey them. We are called to do the right thing. Justice is to be carried out, which means we are called to treat people fairly. It does not mean that mercy and grace are to be withheld. Failure in this area means poison and bitterness for everyone in the whole society. And after that, according to the last couple of verses in Amos 6, comes swift and sure and complete punishment. Failing to administer justice makes about as much sense as plowing the sea. God has sworn by Himself.