“Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!’ The Lord GOD has sworn by his holiness that, behold, the days are coming upon you, when they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks. And you shall go out through the breaches, each one straight ahead; and you shall be cast out into Harmon,” declares the LORD.
(Amos 4:1-3 ESV)
Anyone who doesn’t believe God is capable of sarcasm never read Amos.
I had a discussion the other day with someone who was writing a paper called, “Toward a Biblical Hermeneutic” (or something to that effect). He asked me the question, “Is there anything in the Old Testament that a person today needs to know in order to be saved? He wasn’t challenging the idea that the Old Testament is God’s word. He was trying to figure out how we today may interpret and apply what is contained in it. In other words, what is the modern Christian’s relationship to the Old Testament Law?
I would go a step further and ask if the way most of us read the Old Testament is even valid. There is a whole line of Evangelical teaching that basically says that every warning, every prophetic word in the Old Testament can be applied in some way today. Listen to this chilling quote from one contemporary commentary: “Amos 4:1-3 paints a rather uncomplimentary picture of women in our time. It predicts captivity and great humiliation to the women who oppress the poor and needy, satiate their desires, and proudly vaunt their power. We need not be terribly observant to recognize that we have reached such a state in our society. It will not be long before God acts to correct it.”
That’s a pretty ominous statement to make. First of all, the writer singles out women in our day. All women? I read another commentary that was concerned, “for any woman in the present day Church who rings their husband up at work and says ‘Darling, how about going to the liquor store and bringing home a Cotes Du Rhone for the meal tonight?’ What’s wrong with a nice Cotes Du Rhone? Or maybe it is just hard liquor, combined with a lack of compassion for the poor and hungry that will get you zapped.
So I’ll put it out there to anyone who happens to read this: if Christ is the end of the law, as Paul says, and if in Christ, “God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3), should we be so quick to apply the various warning prophecies of the Old Testament, which were clearly directed at corporate Israel in their own time, to our life today?
There is no question that there are “cows of Bashan” among us in our culture. The selfishness we in American life exhibit is astounding. But we know that salvation is not by works and that, whether those of us who lead churches like it or not, God has offered us full and free forgiveness for our selfishness and our lack of love for the things God loves. He broke the power of sin and with it broke the requirement of the Law as “schoolmaster” over us. Now it truly is up to us to live in relationship with the God who loved us.
I’d love to dialog with anyone out there who wants to chime in. How do I read and apply God’s word – specifically Old Testament prophecy – today?