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Posts Tagged ‘Bethel’


Thursday, September 10, 2020

sycamore_ashkelon-66-t[1]

A Sycamore Tree Bearing Fruit

Investigating Amos

What do we know about the prophet Amos? When we seek we will find that . . .

  • He described himself as a shepherd and farmer who tended to sycamore trees;
  • His strong verbal skills imply that he was more than an ignorant peasant;
  • He did not consider himself to be a professional prophet; he did not make a living proclaiming oracles to a patron who paid to hear what he wanted to hear;
  • He lived in Tekoa, a town about 11 miles south of Jerusalem;
  • He centered his ministry around Bethel, a major city in the north of Israel where many of the upper classes of the northern kingdom worshiped;
  • He lived during the reigns of Jeroboam II of Israel and Uzziah of Judah, 760-750 B.C.E., an era of unusual prosperity;
  • He brought a message of warning to the wealthy and powerful that they must come to see that their wealth had lured them into spiritual complacency and ethical laxity;
  • He warned his audience that judgment would be exacted for the actions of the strong against the weak. (Zondervan 1444-1445)

There is heavy emphasis on social justice in this prophecy and those of us today who live in first-world cultures do well to spend time contemplating the words and thoughts of Amos. What do we who are comfortable do for those who are not? How do we have much enact God’s Word for those who have little? Who are the peasants among us who ask for our introspection, our witness, our voices, and our action? In the time of pandemic and social unrest, how do we reflect the God who created us?

If we spend time today with the words of Amos and a solid commentary or other resource, we will hear God speak to us in our innermost refuge where we go to forget the woes of the world. If we spend time with the poetry of Amos today, we will experience the message of healing and restoration this prophet still brings to the faithful who seek God’s wisdom, to the faithful who yearn to bear fruit.

Tomorrow, an exhortation to return to God.


Adapted from a post written on September 14, 2013. 

Image from: http://ferrelljenkins.wordpress.com/2008/10/10/zaccheus-climbed-up-into-a-sycamore-tree/

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1444-1445. Print.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2020

de-dos-en-dos1[1]

Go and witness for me . . .

Amos: Without Constraint

“Amos was a shepherd of Tekoa in Judah, who exercised his ministry during the prosperous reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.). He prophesied in Israel at the great cult center of Bethel, from which he was finally expelled by the priest in charge of this royal sanctuary. The poetry of Amos, who denounces the hollow prosperity of the northern kingdom, is filled with imagery and language taken from his own pastoral background. The book is an anthology of his oracles and was compiled either by the prophet or by some of his disciples”. (Senior 1126)

“Amos is the earliest of prophets who have books in their names.  In fact, his oracles were transmitted orally, and only collected in book form much later . . . We know very little about the career of Amos . . . He was an independent agent.  He was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores (the fruit, resembling a fig, had to be tended in order to prevent insects from destroying it), and so had his own means. He did not depend on king or priest for support, and so was not beholden to them, and did not require their permission to prophesy. This independence left him free to speak the truth as he saw it, without political constraint”.  (Senior RG 361-362)

The words and life of Amos charge us to speak without constraint. What do we do with and in our lives to live in this independence?

The oracles and visions of Amos show us the possibility of a world that delivers justice and mercy without constraint. How do we act and speak to live in this possibility?

The woes and joys of Amos guide us in the way that Jesus comes to lead us. How eager are we to follow in the witnessing we are called to perform without constraint?

Tomorrow, Investigating Amos.


For a reflection on the Book of Amos, go to the Amos-Accountability page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-prophets/amos-accountability/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1126 and RG 361-362. Print.

 

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Hosea 10: Wormwoodwormwood

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Like wormwood in a plowed field . . .

Israel splits from Judah and sets up a new capital in Bethel to rival the city of Jerusalem but in this temple Jeroboam placed a golden calf. All of this mocks the beautiful covenant established between Yahweh and the faithful but, as the people will discover when the Assyrians invade, it is impossible to replace Yahweh’s fidelity and love with a mere golden calf. We might well ask what the followers of this idol were thinking when they centered their lives on the false hope of an inanimate statue. And when we do, we also ask ourselves where we might find golden calves in our own lives.

Hosea predicts ruin and destruction for the followers of the calf. He points out the ways and places that wickedness, perversity and falsehood are cultivated in this false spirituality. He also describes the folly of relying on the power of chariots and warriors and the turmoil of the tribes when superior forces overrun their cities.

Hosea reminds his readers that they are called to sow justice but instead of reaping fruitful crops the bitter wormwood plant which, because of its bitterness, cannot serve as fodder or animals or birds. In the hope of reaping rich harvest, those who are lured by false promises and false gods will instead gather in the bitterness they themselves have sown.

Golden bull sclupture on grey glass

Hosea asks each of us to examine what it is we sow, and what it is we hope to harvest. Is it fertile and bountiful goodness, or the bitter fruit of wormwood? Only we can know.

To learn more about wormwood and how we use this herb today, click on the plant’s image above or visit: http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/w/wormwo37.html 

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pope-francis_2541160b

Pope Francis

Monday

January 12, 2015

Joy and Amos

The Bitter Day

The prophets chronicle a people’s yearning for union with their creator and un uncanny understanding of their own vulnerabilities. Their words warn, threaten, exhort, and promise us that God is always present, even though we may not recognize this presence. The Old Testament prophecies foreshadow the good news of the New Testament, and they remind us that no matter our circumstance God’s joy rescues us from sure destruction, Christ’s joy redeems us from our recklessness, and the Spirit’s joy heals us despite the gravity of our wounds.  Today Amos brings the past into focus with the present as he foretells the joy we might find even in the bitterness of our own indictment.

Amos was a shepherd “who exercised his ministry during the prosperous reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.). He prophesied in Israel at the great cult center of Bethel, from which he was finally expelled by the priest in charge of this royal sanctuary . . . In common with the other prophets Amos knew that divine punishment in never completely destructive; it is part of the hidden plan of God to bring salvation to men. The perversity of the human will may retard, but it cannot totally frustrate, this design of a loving God”. (Senior 1126)

Amos 8:10: And I will turn your parties into times of mourning, and your songs of joy will be turned to cries of despair. You will wear funeral clothes and shave your heads as signs of sorrow, as if your only son had died; bitter, bitter will be that day.

More than any other prophet, Amos “speaks directly to the issue of social justice, with a vigor unparalleled anywhere in the Bible . . . No prophet is more easily related to the modern world than Amos, for the social inequities that he denounced in the eighth-century B.C. Israel are still very much with us . . . The first lesson to be learned from Amos is that social justice is the business of religion. The test of piety is what happens in the marketplace rather than what happens in the church or temple”. (Senior RG 365-366)

Amos 5:18: You say, ‘If only the Day of the Lord were here, for then God would deliver us from all our foes.’ But you have no idea what you ask. For that day will not be light and prosperity, but darkness and doom! How terrible the darkness will be for you; not a ray of joy or hope will shine.

Amos witnesses to the corruption and hypocrisy he sees before him. He is expelled from the temple community and then returns to his orchards and flocks but before he goes back to his work, he warns his listeners of the bitter day they hope to avoid, knowing that ultimately – as is always true with God – the joy opportunity for salvation surprises us even as we hear our own bitter indictment.

joyRead about Pope Francis’ recent address to the Curia in which he describes the “spiritual Alzheimer’s” of church leaders; and let us consider our own behavior. Do we contribute to hypocrisy in our own circles by remaining silent when we are called to speak? What joy surprises us in the midst of our indictment? What does our daily living say about our image of God? http://www.religionnews.com/2014/12/22/pope-francis-curia-merry-christmas-power-hungry-hypocrites/ and http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/pope-francis-address-curia

To read Pope Francis’ June 5, 2014 brief address and consider how we might hear his words in the context of this prophecy, visit: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130605_udienza-generale.html  

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. 1126, RG 365-366. Print.

If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar. You may want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Gilgal Refaim: The Stonehenge of the Middle EastAmos 5:1-9

Third Word

As Amos delivers his third and final word, he gives his listeners specific examples of the behavior and attitudes he warns against. Bethel, an important city in the days of Judges, became a chief sanctuary under Jeroboam I when he set up a golden calf.  We know from excavations that the city was later destroyed by the AssyriansGilgal, was first visited by Joshua and the Israelites as they crossed the Jordan River.  It was visited by the prophet Samuel and became a rallying point for Saul’s troops in their battles against the Philistines.  It was in Gilgal that Saul was affirmed king, and it was from here that the kingship was taken away.  This city of Elijah and Elisha becomes the site of a corrupt, sacrificial cult.  The Beer-sheba plain was a place of ample winter pasturage and was suited for a semi-nomadic life and so it served as the principal homestead of Israel’s patriarchs. The city of Beer-sheba likely served as an administrative center during David’s monarchy; but the Negev was lost to the Edomites. Modern excavators have found evidence of cultic worship altars that were likely profaned during the reign of King Josiah who centralized worship in Jerusalem. (Achtemeier 111, 115-116, 379)

God says: The images of corruption need not frighten you; Amos only brings them into view because they are stark symbols of how far apart we might grow.  And they are also reminders of how much I love my children.  No chasm is too wide for me to cross in order that I might rescue you.  No valley is too deep for me to plumb that I might redeem you.  Bring your worries and fears to me – both big and little.  And I will give you rest.  This is the third word that comes to you through my prophet Amos.

Amos presents these images as a window to a possibility the inhabitants of Bethel, Gilgal and Beer-sheba did not anticipate. Our loving God presents them as an opening to transformation.

Achetemeier, Paul J. HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE DICTIONARY. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996. 111, 115-116, 379. Print.

For more on Gilgal Refaim, click the image or go to: http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread609169/pg1

For more on Amos 5, visit: http://biblehub.com/amos/5-5.htm

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First Sunday of Lent

Carl Bloch: Denying Satan

March 9, 2014

Amos 1-4

A Prayer to Hear God’s Word

Amos lived in the southern kingdom but prophesied in the north; his oracles began in the oral tradition and were recorded in written form much later. His harshest words are aimed at the cult worship in BethelAmos delivers “a broadside against all the festivals of Israel . . . His point is not that all ritual is bad, but that it is not of the essence of religion.  For Amos, the essence of religion is social justice.  If ritual furthers justice, well and good, but too often it does not . . . When the festival was over, they would go back to cheating in the market place . . . Amos insisted that all this was self-delusion.  God would not overlook the injustice of the society because of the sound of the harps, and the Assyrians would rudely shatter the naïve belief that God would protect Israel no matter what”. (Senior RG 364-365)

As we enter our first full week of Lent, we hear the familiar Gospel of the devil tempting Jesus, attempting to lure him with the promise of gifts he already possesses.  (Matthew 4:1-11) We too, are tempted to turn over the gifts we already possess for the illusion of an offer that does not exist.  In God’s kingdom, power lies in our readiness to be humble, life exists in our willingness to die for one another, and peace rests in our preparedness to act on the Word of God.

And so on this first Sunday in Lent, a time for introspection and honesty, together we pray.

That we might step up to the responsibility of discipleship: Lord, hear our prayer.

That we might share the Good News of God’s love for us: Christ, hear our prayer.

That we might act in mercy, kindness, goodness, and forgiveness: Holy Spirit, hear our prayer.

That we might embrace God’s gifts of freedom, transformation and redemption: Lord, hear our prayer.

We understand the importance of hearing God’s word, and so we ask all of this in Jesus’ name, together with the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

For a Noontime reflection on the temptation of Christ, see The Temptations page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-temptations/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 364-365. Print.   

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Cows of Bashan and Mount Hermon

Cows of Bashan and Mount Hermon

Amos 4

Second Word

Amos delivers God’s word to the priests in Bethel for a year and when he is rejected he returns to his shepherding work. He speaks to the Israel nation about their lack of fidelity. And he reminds us of how we can turn back to God and the covenant once we discover that we have again fallen under the spell of the pagan gods of fame, money, influence and power. Amos reminds us that there is always redemption. Restoration is always possible.

God says: In this time of Lent I call you to examine your conscience and you perform this scrutiny well. You are aware of all that you do when you allow yourself to be honest.  You know where and how to return to me when you allow yourself a bit of quiet and a dose of truth.  So put your worries and fears aside for your renovation already lies within you.  Your recovery from all that plagues you is already in your body, mind and soul.  All that needs happen is that you note what you do, that you put aside your pagan gods, and that you turn and return to me.  Uprightness lives in you through me.  Do what you must to nourish the integrity that dwells in you.  This is the Second Word that comes from me through my prophet Amos.

In our modern society we are not much different from our ancient ancestors despite our science and technology; the very real temptation to become Cows of Bashan is as keen and alluring today as it was millennia ago; yet we know that life is more than we see before us.  And so we still yearn for union.  We still seek wisdom and peace.  We are still vessels of the Spirit that creates us. God still dwells within . . . waiting to transform and rescue us.

Tomorrow, Third Word.

For information about Bashan, click on the image above or go to: http://www.bibleplaces.com/golanheights.htm

For a Noontime reflection on Amos 4:1-2 and The Cows of Bashan see the September 20, 2013 post on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2013/09/20/cows-of-bashan/

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