A Modern Paraphrase of Amos

INTRODUCTION

Today I want to be a voice for those who have no voice, those whose bodies rest beneath white crosses across the lands of the earth. So many of these persons had faith that those who lived would do their part in bringing peace to the world, and maintaining that peace. How tragic has been their betrayal!! How many people in our land, in our churches, have betrayed those for whom I speak.

Whenever the people of America get sick and tired of these recurring orgies of war and bloodshed and suffering in the midst of plenty, they will put a stop to it by demanding and finding other means of settling disputes between nations.

If you want war instead of peace, corruption instead of honesty, gross immorality instead of decency, deceitfulness instead of integrity, starvation in the midst of plenty, churches and church people who are traitors to Jesus Christ, THEN continue, people of America, in your complacency and lethargy. You will reap what you sow.

I feel very close to the prophet Amos today, for our times are so akin to his and the people to whom he proclaimed the message of God. Would that the people in our churches would hearken to the message of this 8th century prophet, lest the fate of Israel be the lot of America.

 

Amos Speaks to Our Day

Far back in dim antiquity, almost 800 years before the coming of Christ, when moral standards at best were crude and unstable and when the idea of one manís responsibility for another was almost unknown, Amos arose to rebuke the privileged of his generation for their wanton disregard for the rights and feelings of the underprivileged. His denunciation of injustice, immorality, intemperance and cruel disregard for the welfare of others is cherished by those who love their fellowman and seek his welfare.

Amos was a man of vision, and amid his humble surroundings he was conscious that God had chosen him for a great work and had commissioned him to high duties. He had latent qualities of heart the value of which he probably did not recognize, but their use under God has placed him among the great men of history.

The prophet lived in an era of great prosperity for Israel, the Northern Kingdom. Jereboam II had conquered his enemies, and although most of the nation was wretchedly poor, those who had served the king well, had been rewarded with great wealth. As usually happens when a people suddenly come into money, this privileged class plunged into debauchery and further ravaged the poverty-stricken populace in an attempt to get more wealth. Materialism was the order of the day with all the social abused that follow a life of luxury and self-indulgence. Ease and extravagance were contrasted with the misery and suffering of the slave population who could not afford the bare necessities of life. The merchant class made the money, and took possession of the land until most of the land was concentrated in the hands of a few. The judges were dishonest and the government was corrupt. Usury, extortion, riots, and class hatreds were visible on every hand. The poor workers of the land suffered at the hands of the cruel landowners and heartless creditors. The dishonest merchants and venal judges conspired to make the lives of the poor more miserable beyond endurance. The women of the land, as heartless as their husbands, made such demands upon their men that they in turn heaped new burdens upon the peasants.

The people were outwardly religious. Offerings, church attendance, elaborate ceremonies and regular religious observances were visible in abundance. But their brand of religion did not make for better moral behavior. The righteous were hated and opposed. Gross immorality was openly aided by the clergy and lay leaders. The people were very pious in their claims to be special creatures of God. The rich who took the lead in religious matters were selfishly indifferent to the cries and groans of a suffering multitude who suffered because of injustice, oppression and violence. The prophetís most bitter invectives and sharpest criticism and sarcasm were against the belief that sacrifice and ceremony were the essence of religion, rather than righteousness and justice. Personal and social ethics did not enter into the relationship between God and His people. When Amos began to preach against the prevailing corruption and to warn the nation of impending ruin because of sin and godlessness, Amaziah, the high priest, proceeded to take steps to stop the mouth of the prophet and to get him out of the country.

Amos attacked and indicted the whole nation, and thus he was dangerous and undesirable and un-Hebrew. Within his soul there seethed the sense of the sins of the people as he had witnessed them, the sense also of the impending and inevitable judgment that awaited the recreant nation.

As we look out upon the United States, and see the conditions that exist, we find that we are not so modern after all. The purpose of this modern paraphrase of Amos today is to open to you the Book of Amos, that we may see wherein it parallels our own day.

 

I.††††††††† The words of Amos, who was among the herdsmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning America in the days of Truman and Eisenhower, Presidents of the United States, and in the days of Eden and Churchill, Prime Ministers of England, in the years following the Great War.

††††††††††† Thus saith the Lord: for three transgressions of Russia and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he did pursue his brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity, and his anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever; because you have oppressed Europe and all Asia with instruments of steel, you have carried away captive the captivity of the European nations, and have not remembered the brotherly covenants at Yalta, Teheran, and Potsdam; but I will send a fire upon you which shall devour the palaces of the Kremlin.

††††††††††† Thus saith the Lord: for three transgressions of Britain and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; for words of freedom have been in their mouths while they have kept men slaves for their profit; they cry of democracy yet go trafficking with the hirelings of tyranny; they are willing that other nations should fight their battles to protect their colonies and interests in others lands; they are willing to allow the U.S to pay their bills in the United Nations which gives them the privilege to criticize and denounce the United States while they go on purchasing merchandise from the United States and selling it in turn to satellites of Russia. But I will kindle a fire in the wall of London, and it shall devour the houses of government at 10 Downing Street.

 

II.†††††††† Thus Saith the Lord; for three transgressions of the United States, and for four I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have exchanged personal integrity for bribes, and oppressed the poor; they pant after the wages of the poor man, and take advantage of the innocent; and a man and his father have polluted themselves to profane my holy name; they go each man in his own way, and jealously guard their blind spots, concerning the evil that lies on their doorsteps; they are skilled in their shirking of responsibility, and leave others to solve the problems of their day. And they use to their own advantage gifts laid on the altar; and they drink their liquor in defiance of the House of God.

††††††††††† They have destroyed the common welfare to advance the selfish interests of a favored few. They have abridged the freedom of the press, because they fear the truth. They abridge the freedom of speech and assembly, monitoring every utterance which might threaten their control. They have abridged the freedom of religion, for hardly a denomination or faith dares take a stand against their monopolistic control.

††††††††††† Their people starve in the midst of abundance, because there is too much. They pay farmers to grow crops which immediately spoil. They stockpile hundreds of tons of eggs in caves and warehouses where they rot. They destroy millions of bushels of potatoes while people starve to death. They burn the finest fruits of the orchards, in order to retain the economy of scarcity. And all the while your people starve because they have no purchasing power to buy your abundance. Your stupidity is not only appalling, but a sacrilege. Starvation has become a deliberate national policy, for your traders are determined to create artificial scarcities which will permit profits to be made for the benefit of the forces of greed, corruptions, and exploitation. Your technology emancipates man from labor, but you condemn man to poverty because you have found no way to give him purchasing power when the machine deprives him of his job.

††††††††††† They have allowed the power of the state to grow, with the consequent shrinkage of individual significance and of personal freedom.

††††††††††† Your political relations to other nations are governed by selfish motives with cynical disregard of the ideas of brotherhood and the rights of minorities. Your economic life is filled with inequalities, causing the rich to become richer, while the underprivileged suffer from want and poverty. Your social life is one of frivolity and self-indulgence of extravagance and immorality. In industry and commerce the love of gain has ousted the love of man. In your courts favoritism lingers, rather than justice. Your political life is guided by motives of self-interest and expediency. Your economic life is a travesty upon the simplest principles of justice and fair-dealing. The life of all the nation rests upon rotting foundations.

††††††††††† The United States has not been divinely appointed to be the lord of all the world. There is no fundamental difference in the eyes of the God of Hosts between the nations of the earth. Humble yourselves and understand the purpose and providence of God are as surely manifest in the aspirations of other nations as in your own that other nations have the same dignity in the sight of the Lord God and that their destinies are as surely wrought into the fabric of His total purpose for the world as your own. Here is the final foundation of that human equality and spiritual democracy which alone can create the world community for which a few church people sincerely pray.

††††††††††† You cannot serve God and mammon. The pillars of your churches have become apologists and collaborationists and dare not condemn the leaders who invite war. Why donít you church people wake up? Why donít you challenge this iniquitous system which violates every principle of religion and decency? You donít, for too many are mortgaged to the devil.

††††††††††† Your religion is shot with superstition, hypocrisy and degrading immorality. Your religious life is a matter of form and outward observance rather than a spirit which penetrates every phase of the existing order and seeks to shape it according to the principles of righteousness and justice.

††††††††††† Religion for you is a cloak with which to cover your transgressions. You are assiduous in your ritual, bur because of materialism and pride and hardness of heart you do not feel that clear summons to duty and to righteousness which the true religion always makes men hear. Your churches are half-filled with people who would be equally shocked to have the truths of Christianity doubted or have them practiced. You take your Bibles to church but not into your business, for there is no connection between your church-going and your business practices. Your leaders are busy with forms, but are indifferent to reality.

††††††††††† I destroyed the Indian before you, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks. Also I brought you up from lands of oppression, and led you from ocean to ocean, to possess the land of the Indian. And I raised up your sons for preachers, and of your young men for ministers. Is it not even thus, O ye children of the Pilgrim Fathers, saith the Lord?

††††††††††† But you give your sons money to squander, cars to drive, liquor to drink, while all the time you commanded your preachers saying to stick to the simple Gospel. Behold, I will take from you your cars and your money and will strip from you your luxuries and will break you beneath my righteous judgment like the debris under the wheels of a heavily loaded truck; and the strong man shall not be strong enough neither shall the mighty deliver himself; and he that is courageous among the mighty shall flee away on foot on that day, saith the Lord.

 

III.†††††† Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, O children of America, against the whole family which I brought out of the lands of Europe, saying:

††††††††††† You, of all the families of the earth, have I cared for; therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities. Can two walk together except they be agreed? Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no trap is set for him? Shall the sirens wail in the city and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord not know it? The lion hath roared the sirens have wailed; who will not be afraid? The Lord God hath spoken; who can but prophesy?

††††††††††† Today you are prone to link the idea of moral victory with the triumph of earthly kingdoms, to identify it with the welfare of your own nation. God is not concerned with the prosperity of any nation on earth. The only way in which any nation can survive is by identifying itself with the truth and righteousness of God.

††††††††††† Your economic system must be organized for use and abundance, instead of profits and scarcity, and must be based on friendly cooperation instead of deadly competition. Competition must be for excellence and service, rather than selfish aggrandizement and greed.

††††††††††† Your children have a right to grow up in peaceful surroundings, and to be guaranteed their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

††††††††††† You must recognize that man is not just his brotherís keeper, but his brotherís brother. The brotherhood of man is not idle philosophical theory, but a practical historical necessity. You are all members of the same body. You cannot cut off a foot in Korea, or stab yourself in the back in China, or commit economic hari-kari by cutting out your intestines, without feeling it in every part of your body.

††††††††††† Righteousness does not come while you sleep. You have to search for it with zeal and earnestness. You must hate the evil and love the good with such intensity that the urge to do something about it cannot be stifled. Not until such a spirit grips your hearts will corruption be wiped out and justice and righteousness flood the land.

††††††††††† God the Lord remains sovereign over the world He has made, and His will is the supreme fact of history. His moral precepts remain unshaken and unshakable and are not destroyed by your denial of them.

††††††††††† Proclaim from pulpits and platforms, in the marketplace and in the temples of government and commerce, in factories and on farms: the day of judgment is at hand.

††††††††††† Hear ye and testify in the Christian Church, saith the Lord God, the God of Hosts, that in the day that I shall visit the transgressions of America upon her, I will also visit your churches. I will smite him who speaks empty words, and will cut off them who make the courts of my house a tool of their own pleasures and comforts and interests but have no care for the poor of my people. Yea, they shall come to an end, saith the Lord.

 

IV-VIIIHear this, O ye that would exterminate those in lowly circumstances, saying, ďWhen will holidays be done that we may sell our goods?Ē and the Sabbath be over that we may set our wares, making the pound underweight and the dollar big, and falsifying the balances by deceit? That we may buy the poor for a silver and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell imitations as genuine. The palaces of your industrial giants are maintained by ill-gotten gains, and the officers of the law have their price. I know your manifold transgressions and your might sins; they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they contrive to deprive the underprivileged of their rights.

††††††††††† Thus he showed me: and behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made with a plumbline, with a plumbline in His hand. And the Lord said to me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people in the United States; I will measure their conduct as against the principles they profess to follow, and for all their iniquities and their greed I will strictly recompense. And the special privileges of the rich and first families shall be taken away; and the constant striving of man against man and the group against group shall be done away. Hear ye this word which I utter against you, O citadel of democracy and Christian civilization.

††††††††††† Then the great and influential men in the Church and in the State sent to the President saying, Amos hath conspired against thee all over the country. He hath gone about from city to city proclaiming his denunciations and Un-American ideas; the people are not able to bear his words. For thus saith Amos, America shall one day perish and the land of opportunity shall fall before a mighty hand.

††††††††††† So the President said unto Amos, Eat your pudding, preacher, and hold your tongue. Let us hear no more of your nonsense, for the United States is a great power in the world, and none can equal her.

††††††††††† Then answered Amos, and said to the President: No preacher am I, and no son of a preacher am I, but I am a farmer and a rancher. The Lord God Almighty took me as I followed the flocks, and the Lord said unto me, Go, speak the truth to America. Now, therefore, saith the Lord, Follow your immoralities and sins, continue in your un-Christian ways, and America will go the way of nations who by their iniquities have come to a tragic end.

††††††††††† And Amos went forth and came unto a place where many Americans thronged and milled about in their passionate pursuit of pleasure. And the name of the place where he began to speak was called Times Square. And he said, Hear this word, ye people of America, which oppress the poor, which deny equality of opportunity to the Negro in your midst, and cry out, Come and let us eat and drink. Are you not afraid that your luxuries will make you weak? Do you deserve to be any better than those who live outside your borders? You that put off the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near; that lie upon innerspring mattresses, and stretch yourselves in tiled gymnasiums; that swoon to the moanings of many crooners, and invent many instruments of music; that drink liquor as cocktails, and anoint yourselves with all manner of lotions and perfumes, but are not grieved for the afflictions of others. Therefore, the Lord God hath sworn by himself, saith the Lord, the God of Hosts; I can no longer spare the excellent things of which your nation is proud. I abhor your indulgences. I hate your excesses. Therefore, will I deliver up your land with all that is therein.

††††††††††† Thus Amos went about the land and entered into churches and temples and cathedrals. And the Lord God of Hosts spoke thus: Woe unto you that desire the dawn of the new world order. To what end would ye have it? Shall not that day be darkness, even very dark, and no brightness in it?

 

IX††††††† Behold the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful nation, and I will destroy it from the pages of history; save that I will not utterly destroy the Dream of America, saith the Lord. For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the United States among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve.

††††††††††† In that day I will raise up all the just and righteous out of the ruins of a world laid waste in the destruction their sin has brought, and I will build up as in the days of old. And I will bring again my people, and they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall walk in the ways of righteousness, saith the Lord the God.