Balance

Justice and Forgiveness

Amos 5:-7, 10-15: 6 Seek the Lord and live, or He will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire; it will devour them, and Bethel will have no one to quench it. 7 There are those who turn justice into bitterness   and cast righteousness to the ground…..
 
10 There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court and detest the one who tells the truth.11 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.12 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. 13 Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil. 14 Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. 15 Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.

“Seek the Lord and live…”  Yet “We were dead in our sins and trespasses.” Dead people do not seek anyone! Furthermore, the Bible says, “Your sins are separating you from Your God. He has hid His face from you, so that He cannot hear you.” So how can we seek Him?  Well Amos is writing to people who already had a relationship with God, so the door was already open to them. St Paul says, “Though we be faithless, God is faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”

God made the first step. “Not that we first loved God, but that He loved us and gave His Son as a propitiation for sin.” Luther wrote, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel…” We can come, we can seek Him, because we have been called by the Gospel!

“He will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire; it will devour them, and Bethel will have no one to quench it”. The Bible says, “God is Love.”  But God is also fair and just. He rewards good, but He punishes evil. He did it in the Garden of Eden. He did it with the rebellious Jews in the Exodus. Recall the Golden Calf! The Jews had made for themselves an idol out of gold. Do you recall the remedy for their healing? Moses made a serpent out of bronze—a common element.
 
Mankind fell into sin because of a special tree. In the Exodus they fell into sin because of a special metal (gold). They were healed because of a common metal (bronze).

Mankind fell into sin committed by two very special people, two that God had created with His own hands! Mankind’s remedy was one common Person. Born not in a palace, but in a stable. Lived not in a palace, but in a common house, parented by two common people. Became not a chief priest nor a religious leader, but an itinerate Preacher. “While foxes had their dens and birds had their nests, He had not a place to lay His Head and call it His own.” And like Moses who lifted up the bronze serpent on a pole, so was this special Person lifted upon a pole—what we call a cross!

“There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court and detest the one who tells the truth. You levy a straw tax on the poor and impose a tax on their grain….. There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.”

Perhaps you thought I put away the Bible and started to read today’s newspaper to you, or some script from a conservative TV station. No—this was written before the birth of Jesus. I know I am not supposed to be political in the pulpit but what is going on today….well?

There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court and detest the one who tells the truth. What is going on in these school board meetings where the parents are concerned because their children are being taught theories as though they were facts. In other words, being indoctrinated instead of being taught.

What about those who have been imprisoned and held, without due process, who violated the government buildings on January 6? (The so-called insurrection—don’t you have to use guns to have an insurrection?) No bail, no telephone calls, nothing.

What about those who have an opposing view, and are severely criticized, or as it seems—being listed as “domestic terrorists”. Indeed, “Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil.”

However, our text ends with a positive note. “Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is.  Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.”

Perhaps this is another way of saying, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” That was from St Peter. This is from St Paul: “Repay no one evil for evil. Have a  regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”

I lived in Berlin in the 80’s and there was very little evidence of that war that devasted that city. Everything was rebuilt and modern. Even the rubble had been collected, piled high, covered with dirt and made into parks. The stores were filled with food and clothing, and the people had a standard of living, in some cases, better than ours. But—what did they have to suffer during the 40’s and the 50’s to get where they are now???

And so it is with us. I couldn’t believe what I paid for gas last Sunday—for the first time my bill was over $40! We were told taxes would not be raised. While that is not a direct tax—it is an indirect tax, and it is money out of our pockets none the less. This Critical Race Theory! Rewriting history and all in the negative! Open borders with millions coming in– with a high percentage having Covid and being dumped during the night into our cities. And this by the same administration which wants to fight Covid at all costs? Firing health workers who refuse to get vaccinated and then not knowing what to do about the health care provider shortage! What more is to come???

What more is to come? Well, Revelation has that answer. A new earth and a new home to be lived in with new bodies, bodies unable to fall apart or grow old.

In the meantime, this hymn pretty well says it:
 
I’m but a stranger here, Heaven is my home;
Earth is a desert drear; Heaven is my home;
Danger and sorrow stand Round me on every hand;
Heaven is my Fatherland, Heaven is my home.

What though the tempest rage, Heaven is my home;
Short is my pilgrimage, Heaven is my home.
Time’s cold and wintry blast Soon will be over-past;
I shall reach home at last; Heaven is my home.

Heaven is our home because Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there you may be also!” In the meantime we are here in this work-a-day world, waiting for those trumpets to blow. Waiting to see that warm and wonderful face and to hear from Him, “Come blessed of My father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you, before the foundations of the earth were laid.” Amen!

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