Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Amos 1: Biblical Morality is Universal


Russian icon of the prophet Amos
Amos 1:1-3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1 The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa — what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel. He said: "The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds dry up, and the top of Carmel withers."  This is what the Lord says: 
"For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]...
For three sins of Gaza, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]...
For three sins of Tyre, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]...
For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]...
For three sins of Ammon, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]...
For three sins of Moab, even for four, I will not turn back [my wrath]..." (NIV)

The first six nations listed in Amos' judgement were neighbours of Judah and Israel. There are two points to note: firstly, the mention of "three sins... even for four" suggests that God's judgment does not come to a people immediately. Before judgment, God grants a people an opportunity to turn away from their sins. But when a people persists in their sins repeatedly (up to 4 times), the judgment finally comes. God's judgment is never sudden. He calls for repentance, but when we continually ignore His call, then the judgment follows as surely as night follows day.

The second point is that these nations are not part of God's covenant people and therefore do not have the Law of Moses. But nevertheless, ignorance is not an excuse. Neither will the argument that there are no universal moral values that are applicable to all peoples. No nation can hide behind the false assertion that biblical morality is a religious value and therefore not applicable to people of other faiths. Amos is telling us that biblical morality is not just a religious and therefore private value applicable to only those who believe in the Bible. Rather, he is saying that biblical morality is universal and will be used as a standard of judgment for all peoples, whatever their belief systems.

Amos spells out the moral transgressions of the six nations thus:
  1. Damascus: Military aggression and plunder.
  2. Gaza: Deporting and selling peoples off as slaves.
  3. Tyre: Breaking peace treaty and selling peoples as slaves
  4. Edom: Slaughtering the innocents without provocation
  5. Ammon: Plundering and ripping open pregnant women's bellies
  6. Moab: Desecrating the royal tombs.
The acts of these nations listed above are moral deviations against the biblical morality founded on God's laws. Therefore, whether one believes in God or not, no human will tolerate such unprovoked violence against neighbours. The law of God says, "Love your neighbour as yourself." Judah's neighbours have violated the universal law of love.

All moral values are also divine values. We cannot separate the two because there can be no morality apart from God's moral personhood. Even the Western concept of "human rights" that many secular humanists are championing has its origin in Christian morality. It didn't come out of thin air.

Father, we thank You that You have given us good laws to make life meaningful and fulfilling. Your laws are not oppressive but liberating. Thank You Jesus. Amen.

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