Readings for Sunday, Oct 10, 2021
The 1st reading is from Amos 5:6-7, 10-15. At the time of our reading, life was good for the rich in the northern kingdom of Israel, 765-760 B.C.E., during the reign of Jeroboam II, but it was difficult for the poor. Egypt was weak and not a threat. Assyria was occupied by fighting with Urartu. Judah and Israel were friendly, both were expanding their territory, the shekel was strong and the good times were rolling. The rich and powerful of the northern kingdom of Israel did not see a need for God's help, they didn't want to listen to the prophets and scolds at the gate. They were rich and wanted more. They saw no need for justice to the poor, but instead took from the poor and built grand houses and planted vineyards. Verses 6 and 14 open with advice and a warning from Amos; “Seek the Lord and live”. Ask forgiveness and maybe the Lord will relent because he remembers Joseph. The rich didn't seek the Lord, the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel, and the rich didn't get to live in their grand houses nor drink their wine. The Assyrians scattered the Israelites throughout their empire and they adopted the ways of the pagan people of the lands to which they were deported and they disappeared from history. The people of the southern kingdom of Judah, in a similar fashion, were conquered by the Babylonians. The leaders of the Judeans worked hard to prevent assimilation with the Persians and with God’s help returned to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Let us be careful to remember what it means to be a Christian and make sure that we do not follow the path of the rich of Israel .
Seek the Lord and live, or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it. Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground! They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth. Therefore because you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not live in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate. Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time. Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
The 2nd reading is from Hebrews 4:12-16. Our reading is a bridge between the 1st and 2nd of the three major discourse units in Hebrews. The 1st discourse unit describes a place of rest or a secure base which can be an anchor for our relationship with God. In verses 12 & 13 this place of rest is described as "the word of God" which the church fathers understood as Jesus the Son. Modern scholars understand "the word of God" as scripture. In either case "the word of God" is a living force which can see deep inside us to our very thoughts and intentions and therefore knows us better than we know ourselves. Verses 14 through 16 begin the 2nd discourse unit of Hebrews and states the case that we can have complete faith in "the word of God" because Jesus has lived as a human with all the temptations we have and therefore knows what barriers we must face. If we have faith in Jesus, Jesus will have faith in us and we can approach the throne of God with boldness and expect to receive mercy and grace to help in time of need.
Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.
Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.