For the past several weeks, our pastor has been teaching on Amos. What’s Amos? you ask… oh, it’s a small book in the old testament that is categorized as a minor prophet. But what he has to say is anything but minor. Appropriately, the title of the series is “Let Justice Flow,” and let me tell ya… wow! Week after week, studying what God has to say about injustice and how he feels about it. It’s lighting a fire underneath my lazy excuse-making butt. (more on that another time)
Coincidentally, my chronological reading-through-the-bible plan has landed me in some of the other prophet books and sometimes it’s hard to know what to make of them. How do I interpret this? Is it applicable to me living in the post-Jesus time? (under the new covenant) Well, something our pastor said during this Amos series helped me in this area. Early on in the series, he said that the old testament was written in the old covenant with God’s people and we live in the new covenant. Jesus has come and paid for our sin and we can be reconciled to God by believing that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. However, God’s covenant with his people was different before Jesus came (which is when the events in the Old Testament take place). They were held accountable to the law God gave them through Moses. The law and the two covenants could be a whole different study in itself, but the point is when reading the Old Testament, we need to learn to ask how is this applicable to me living under the new covenant? One answer was this – God is unchanging, and while he has a new covenant with his people, the way He feels about these issues doesn’t change.
For example, Amos 1:11-12 says “Thus says the Lord: ‘because he pursued his brother with the sword and cast off all compassion and his anger tore perpetually and he kept his wrath, so I will send a fire upon Teman and it shall devour the strongholds of Bozrah.’” Well, it would be wrong interpretation to conclude that God is going to pour out fire from heaven upon us if you are against your brother or have perpetual anger. [Side note – let’s beware of when people misuse scripture to say that such and such natural disaster is God judging you. That is NOT how God operates under this new covenant. Let’s also beware of judging all Christians by those people who misuse scripture. End side note.]
It would be correct to remember that God does not change. And therefore, if he didn’t want people “pursuing their brother with the sword” or “casting off all compassion” or living in perpetual anger then, he doesn’t want that now. And if he felt strongly enough about it to threaten complete destruction then, he feels that strongly now. What broke God’s heart 3,000 years ago breaks God’s heart today. And it should break mine.