There is no tradition of evening services here in Malawi where lighting is expensive and public transport difficult to obtain after dark. So we have been listening on Sunday evenings to online sermons on the minor prophets, taking us to places in the bible we too rarely go, and bringing to light wonderful truths.
Truths such as those contained in the book of Amos, with its amazingly modern-seeming writing that directly addresses the most persistent perversions of the human heart, and demonstrates God’s patient and faithful willingness to discipline his people out of love (Amos 3:2).
A book containing prophecy so shockingly redolent of the excesses of our western materialist society, as we read of Israel’s endless ability to run away from God; of their devotion to middle class comforts such as “mansions” and “summer houses … adorned with ivory” (Amos 3:15); of their complacent addiction to comfort such as “beds inlaid with ivory” and the “finest lotions” (Amos 6:1-7) ; and of their hypocritical and idolatrous worship (Amos 5:21-26).
However, perhaps the most shocking passage in this book is the astonishingly robust attack by God in Amos 8 on the excesses of the marketplace when left to run at the unfettered whim of the corrupt human heart – something so well exemplified by the crash of our global markets in 2007.
Hear this, you who trample the needy … skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales… selling the sweepings of the wheat. (Amos 8:4-6)
What is truly disappointing, however, is that this passage also seems to accurately reflect aspects of Malawian society today even at a time of such great need – as we read reports that maize husk sweepings from the floor are being sold at ever higher prices. And as we even see reports (e.g. Malawi News, Feb 27) of officials at the “safety net” Admarc depots being caught short-changing the poorest after they have stood in line for hours: fiddling scales to give as little as half what they should give, while selling on the remainder to the parallel market at exorbitant prices.
What can we say to those in prideful, corrupt power within Malawian society and Western society today? Well, maybe it is best to leave that to the LORD Almighty “who sets the foundation of the earth” (Amos 9:5-6). For, while He may be a God who promises to “restore“, “repair” and “build” his chosen and faithful “remnant” (Amos 9:11-12), He is also a God who says:
Hear this, you who trample the needy … I will never forget anything [you] have done. (Amos 8:4&7)