Monday, November 6, 2017

Amos 5:18-24 Day of Lord: Law or Gospel?

KEY TEXT: Amos 5:18-20 Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?

KEY THOT: The Day of the Lord can be both good news and bad news, depending on how we have lived our lives. The Israelites were presumptuous in thinking that the coming "Day of the Lord" would be for them a day of delight and deliverance since they were still keeping the religious rites and rituals required by the Law: "Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord?" Amos told them the Day of the Lord would not be a day of deliverance but darkness: "It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?" Amos' message sounded like Bad News rather than Good News--Law instead of Gospel.

Whether the Day of the Lord (the Second Coming of Christ) is good news (gospel) or bad news (law) really depends on our heart attitude towards God: "I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies...Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:21, 23-24). Amos sets the issue clearly: if there is injustice and unrighteousness in our lifestyle, our religious rituals and rites would do us no good. In fact, if our hearts are unrighteous, God actually hates our religiosity. Whatever may be our theological persuasion on God's grace (justification by faith alone--with or without sanctification), we know from today's passage our participation in religious ceremonies alone will not guarantee our place in God's kingdom. God looks at our heart, not our religious acts.

We must not confuse faith with presumption: real faith will always result in real transformation and the experience of God's grace as the divine power to transform lives. Ultimately, we judge our faith by our works: as James says, if we say we have faith, then show us the works: "But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:18). Some theologies insist that saving faith does not need proof. But saving faith is confirmed by works--otherwise, it is presumption, not faith.

If our hearts remain hardened and our lifestyle is inconsistent with God's holiness, we need to re-examine honestly the kind of "faith" that we have--whether it is mere presumption like the Israelites of Amos' time or real saving faith. But we will know the tree by its fruits--a transformed life marked by righteousness and justice shows us that the person's faith is real. If our life remains unchanged, then it is fair to say that our faith is fake and the "good news" we believe in may turn out to be another "fake news".

For this reason, I will be revisiting the Book of Revelation in the coming year to help us all prepare for the coming Day of the Lord, so it may be a day of delight, not darkness.

Abba-Father, fill our hearts with Your justice and righteousness so that the Day of the Lord may be to us a Day of Deliverance and Delight, not Darkness and Death. Amen.

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