Amos 2:6-8: Justice, Sexuality, and Idolatry
This is what the LORD says:
6“For three sins of Israel,
even for four, I will not relent.
They sell the innocent for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals.
7 They trample on the heads of the poor
as on the dust of the ground
and deny justice to the oppressed.
Father and son use the same girl
and so profane my holy name.
8 They lie down beside every altar
on garments taken in pledge.
In the house of their god
they drink wine taken as fines.
This book is written by Amos, or spoken aloud by Amos, and written down by someone else. It’s a pronouncement of judgment on Israel (the northern half), but it doesn’t start like that. It starts with pronouncements against all of Israel’s enemies. You can imagine them cheering as each name is condemned and then the stunned silence, mouth open in shock, as he calls out Israel.
Three, Even Four, Themes
I picked this passage because it highlights three (even four!) themes that come up frequently in the books of the prophets. Almost all of the prophetic books (the Old Testament books from Isaiah to Malachi, mostly), are either critiques with impending doom coming or doom that has already happened. And these critiques focus on three things usually: Justice, Sexuality, and Idolatry.
In other words, when Judah or Israel get in trouble, it’s because there is no justice in the land (vv. 6-7a). People don’t get fair treatment in court. The poor are oppressed.
Then, there is sexual immorality. In this passage it’s a father and son sharing a girl (v. 7b). In other passages, it’s promiscuity, or adultery.
Finally, judgment is passed because of idolatry. They worship the wrong god (v. 8 ) Or they worship incorrectly.
Justice, Sexuality, and Idolatry. I think it’s important to focus on these themes because, in our modern world, we like to draw political and theological battle lines. And when we draw those lines, these issues are usually on opposite sides. Justice for the poor belongs on one side. Calls to sexual purity are found on the other side. And both sides claim they are worshipping the correct God, or worshipping God correctly.
It reminds me that God doesn’t draw the lines we draw. He doesn’t value the same things we do.
In fact, it gets more interesting than that. God ties all these things together. Improper worship leads to injustice and sexual immorality. If you think wrongly about God (or don’t think about him at all), you get things twisted. And He likens turning away from Him to adultery. In fact, the idolatry happening in this verse is happening with "garments taken in pledge" and "wine taken as fines" further indicating injustice. It all comes full circle, whether we prioritize each part or not.
The way injustice, sin, good society, and religion go together aren’t always at the forefront of my mind. If I stay in Scripture, it helps me navigate the false categorizes our world tries to set up. It also might help me understand why it was cool to number things like that. And above all, maybe I’ll realize that grace, love, and redemption trump all of our theological concerns.