Scripture Reading: Amos 3:1-15, Amos 4:1-13, Psalm 65:5-8, Romans 11:1-6
The summer camp where I worked in college enforced a strict “no sweets” rule. The rule’s purpose was to prevent ants, attracted to the sugar, from invading our camp and overrunning our cabins. Therefore, if your mom mailed you a Tupperware container of brownies during the week, you had to abstain from eating them until Saturday, our day off. This posed a challenge to my demanding sweet tooth.
One afternoon, a package of brownies was delivered to a fellow camp counselor. A few of us gathered around the forbidden Tupperware, looking at it longingly.
“I’m eating one,” I finally said, defiantly. I could not deny my sweet tooth for one more moment and, I reasoned, no one would know. What harm could it do? But just as I was raising the brownie to my mouth, the camp director—our boss—walked by. I paused.
“You gonna eat that?” he asked.
He won’t do anything to me, I thought. I’m a great counselor. I’m responsible. He likes me. I’m above the rules.
With this confidence, I took a bite. Right in front of the camp director. Guess who had to spend her Saturday morning power-washing the bathroom floors?
My attitude in front of my camp director that day is not unlike the attitude of Israel we see described in Amos 3 and 4. Israel was prosperous during this time. They were victorious in their military pursuits and had grown wealthy, acquiring “great houses… inlaid with ivory” (Amos 3:15). But instead of using their wealth and status to do good, they oppressed the poor and crushed the needy (Amos 4:1), directly defying the law that enforced caring for the vulnerable (Deuteronomy 15:7).
Israel had let their status go to their heads and had begun to consider themselves above the rules. As a result, they slid deeper and deeper into sin. They needed to repent. They needed to change their behavior, and most of all, they needed to remember who God was.
The biggest pitfall when considering yourself above the rules is that you also begin to consider yourself above the rule-maker. And if you are above the rule-maker, you will naturally tend toward acts of defiance, for there is no longer anyone to defy. This is why I chomped on a forbidden brownie right in front of my camp director that summer. I incurred punishment as a reminder of who was in charge.
Israel would do the same.
Amos reminds them in these chapters who their rule-maker is. No matter how successful Israel’s military pursuits had been, no matter how prosperous they had become, God still sat on His throne, and “the God of Armies is his name” (Amos 3:13).
I often grow comfortable in my position as God’s child, adopted by the blood of Christ. But this does not set me above the rules; this sets me directly beneath the authority of Jesus, the King of kings. It is now His rule that I follow and not my own.
Let’s praise the God of Armies today. He is the one “who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth” (Amos 4:13).