[May 19]—Let It Roll

Amos 5:18-27

            The last worship center which we’ll study from vs. 5 is Gilgal. It’s listed second in that verse, but today’s passage seems to fit quite nicely with it, as we’ll see.
            Gilgal, as you might expect from the fact that Amos cites it, was an important worship center and destination for religious pilgrims. The reason it was considered sacred by the Israelites was because of Joshua. As soon as they entered the Promised Land, Joshua had them take stones from the river and set them up as a memorial, a perpetual reminder of how the Lord dried up the river for them to cross.
            The very next thing they did after crossing the river border was to all be circumcised. Surrounded by hostile cities and tribes, Joshua (under the direction of the Lord) had all their males circumcised (despite the danger this would pose on a human level). Apparently they hadn’t done so while in the wilderness. By commanding this, God was reconfirming his covenant with Israel. The reason this place was called Gilgal? The Lord said “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you,” and Gilgal sounds like the Hebrew word for “to roll.”
            That brings us to today’s passage. Vs. 18 is the earliest recorded reference to the term “Day of the Lord.” It’s never defined, but we have a fairly decent idea of what it meant to Amos’s first hearers. It was probably the day that the God of Israel would show himself victorious over his enemies. It sometimes seems like it’s predicting the return of Christ at the end of sinful human history. But other times it’s talking about a day in the not-too-distant future when the Lord would vindicate his word and his prophets, save his redeemed people from mortal danger, and punish evildoers both in the “micro” and in the “macro.” We’ll discuss this more later, but the “Day of the Lord” might be referring to a taste of the future, a miniature foretaste of what’ll happen when the Lord Jesus returns.
            And of course the Israelites were looking forward to the Day of the Lord. Why wouldn’t they? God was on their side, wasn’t he? They could watch him as they stood on the sidelines and he crushed his (and their) foes.
            Au contraire, said the Lord. Yes, his Day was coming. The problem was that as it was, they’d find themselves on the wrong side of it! Instead of a glorious day of brightness and joy and celebration, for them it’d be a day of horror and darkness. How dark? Pitch black without a single ray of hope.
            No one on the wrong side of this Day would escape God’s wrath. Amos says that it would be like “a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him.” Just when you think you’ve escaped the worst of it, you’ll discover you haven’t gotten away with anything.
            Why was he warning them of this? Why was he so angry at them? Weren’t their religious rituals enough? Um, no. He wasn’t looking at their religion with neutrality or mild distaste. He hated it. He despised it. It disgusted him, like the church of Laodicea would later on. I think the only thing he hates worse than complete paganism or blatant idolatry is false religion which carries his name.
            This is why I bring up Gilgal, and I think Amos did back in vs. 5. Remember what it means? In vs. 24 he tells them to “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” Their society had major injustices flowing through like sewage, and he’s telling them to clean it up. Stop the injustice in the courts. Don’t let the rich trample the poor any more. If they didn’t make the necessary changes, he’d send them into exile.
            But we need to keep this in context. Was social reform enough?
            NO!!! Please go back to verse 4. You can’t have a good cure if you have the wrong diagnosis. The “macro” injustice was a symptom. The root problem was not social injustice or legal oppression. He calls them in verse 4 to “Seek me and live.” They needed to come back to him. They needed to repent in their personal lives. They needed to seek his face. They needed to restore their relationship with him.
            Once again I remind you that this passage is applicable in some ways to believers as well. The apostle John tells us to “continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming,” which opens the strong possibility for all of us that we will be unconfident and ashamed at his coming.

Lord Jesus, I know you’re coming. I want to remain as close as possible, in lockstep with your Spirit. When you return, whether I’m in the grave or not, I want full confidence when I see you. Please. 

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