“for they have despised the law of YHWH, and they have not kept His statutes. Their lies after which their fathers walked led them astray.” Amos 2:4
Law of YHWH – The prophet Amos lays a charge at the feet of the nation of Israel. It is not simply a declaration of the guilt of individuals. It is a proclamation of the collective guilt of the nation and its history. The people have not followed the torah YHWH. Neither did their fathers follow the torah YHWH. The result is disaster. The kingdom is coming to an end. Israel’s national treasure is its possession of God’s instructions. Violating them is the equivalent of treason.
Amos describes the moral decline of the people in graphic terms. He rails against their unrighteous business practices, their social deceit and their religious hypocrisy. In Amos’ view, torah YHWH certainly isn’t limited to religious ritual. It governs every aspect of life. In spite of the long-suffering patience of the Lord, these people have reached the limit of God’s forbearance. Now He will act with swift judgment. He will bring punishment designed to demonstrate His sovereignty and recall His people to His ways. God’s people are to live according to God’s instructions. When they don’t, it’s only a matter of time before chastisement comes.
The Christian Church has a history of reading these passages as if they apply only to Israel. In this view, Israel loses its place in God’s governance of the world. Because of its disobedience, Israel is usurped by the Church. While this interpretation has been popular for nearly 1800 years, it fails to thoroughly read the text. God does not reject Israel. God punishes Israel with the intention of bringing Israel back into alignment with His instructions. Israel never loses its covenant arrangement with God. It just fails to perform the assignment God gave it. But He doesn’t ever give up on Israel.
However, let’s suppose that the Church does take Israel’s place in a new “dispensation.” If that’s the case, then isn’t the Church called to act as if it were Israel? If Israel is guilty of not following Torah, and the Church replaces Israel, then doesn’t it seem logical that the Church should embrace wholeheartedly the very book of instructions that Israel failed to obey? If the Church replaces Israel, doesn’t it take on the same obligation and the same code of conduct that formerly belonged to Israel? Of course, the Church has argued that it had no obligation to accept the instructions God gave Israel in spite of the fact that it took Israel’s place in God’s government. Now, how is that possible? If you are the vice president of operations and you are fired, and I take your place, what logic allows me to say that I now have your title but I am not required to do your job? Do you suppose that God will overlook the failure of the Church to radically transform the culture according to His instructions simply because the Church wanted the title but didn’t want to do the work as He directed? I wonder if Amos isn’t the prophet for our generation. Do you suppose that we too have been led astray by the lie of our fathers?
Topical Index: church, torah, Israel, Amos 2:4