Advent Reading — Keeping our eyes on the margins of society

Advent is a time of examination. It is to remember the first coming of Christ. It is to anticipate the Second Coming of Christ. This is a season to reflect and prepare. 

The Old Testament reading this week takes me through Amos. This is not pleasant reading. Israel was in a good place economically, but they were spiritually bankrupt and Amos calls them out.

This week especially reminds me of the different ways in which we interpret Scripture. There is a segment of evangelicalism that focuses on “end times” prophecy. So when the president this week announced the recognition of Jerusalem as the true capital of Israel, the prophecy geeks went crazy.

Once upon a time, I would have been in that frantic group. For the life of me I can’t figure out why I once was so caught up in that fervor, but I was in there with the best of them.

Somehow this pronouncement will fit in with something cataclysmic relating to the end of time. It very well could be something cataclysmic. I won’t argue that point.

Yet, it draws my attention to that particular brand of interpretation because in that vein of interpretation is the thought that the United States is somehow tied in with Israel. It is a treatment that the U.S. is in a way the extension of Israel in the Old Testament.

This is what fascinates me when it comes to news like we’ve heard this week with Jerusalem, and I am reading through Amos for Advent. The fascinating part is this: we pick and choose WHEN the United States is like Israel.

We don’t really talk about the United States being like Israel in the context of Israel right now. However, if the Democrats were in power, I have a feeling we’d hear Amos a lot.

In the same week we’ve had the “exciting prophetic news” about Jerusalem being recognized as the capital of Israel, we’ve had Congress passing new tax reform legislation. It is legislation that features some significant tax cuts for the wealthy and to try and balance that out it comes at the expense of some programs that are geared to assist the poor.

What I haven’t heard this week is how that is also prophetic. Yet, I am reading Amos and it seems Amos says some things about how Israel was treating the poor.

You levy a straw tax on the poor
and impose a tax on their grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.
For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.
There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
and deprive the poor of justice in the courts. (Amos 5:11,12)

All I am saying is that if in one instance the United States is in some way like a “new Israel” and the president has done a “prophetic” things, why in another instance like this tax reform bill is the U.S. suddenly not in prophecy?

Regardless of the ways in which we contort Scripture, my main point is Amos is incredibly relevant to our world and it is a good thing to enter into Advent with a heart ready to be examined.

One of the big questions that should always be in front of us as believers is this: “How do we treat the least of these?”

Are our eyes on the margins of society? This is where God wanted Israel’s eyes in the Old Testament. This is where Jesus’ eyes were while he was on earth.

Where are my eyes?

Lord, I think of these passages in my own life. I meditate on these passages in a time of my own personal transition in life and you remind me of where I need to look. Do I care about the “least of these”? Help me to keep my heart soft before you and let my eyes see what YOU see. Amen. 

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