Tuesday, August 1, 2017

"Words of Christ in Green"

The Word for today:
Amos 6
As you read the words of Amos, do you get the vague feeling that you've met him before?
He came from the bleak regions of Tekoa:
The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa. (Amos 1:1)
Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? (John 1:46)
He has no title; no 'Reverend' or 'Monsignor' precedes his name. He has no degree; no earthly sanction. His single credential is the Word of the LORD:
I was no prophet, nor a prophet's son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel.' (Amos 7:14-15)
"Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son?" (Matthew 13:54-55)
He seems to see right through me:
For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins. (Amos 5:12)
He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.
(John 2:25)
He does not soften his pronouncements with equivocation; he leaves us no room to wiggle out of his denunciations:
Woe to those who are at ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria, the notable men of the first of the nations, to whom the house of Israel comes! (Amos 6:1)
Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory and stretch themselves out on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall, who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp. (Amos 6:4-5)
Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. (Matthew 11:21)
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. (Matthew 23:15)
He does not fit in. He won't meet expectations; he won't abide by cultural norms. He's apolitical, impolitic, and politically incorrect. Polite society does not know what to do with him.
His listeners squirm when he speaks. The others -- those who will not listen -- revile him, or worse:
O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth!
He who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the LORD is his name; who makes destruction flash forth against the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress. They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth. (Amos 5:7-10)
The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. (John 7:7)
He might seem like the least "religious" man you have ever encountered. He displays few of the niceties that pass for common civility. He can seem crude, even profane:
Now therefore hear the word of the LORD. "You say, 'Do not prophesy against Israel, and do not preach against the house of Isaac.' Therefore thus says the LORD: "'Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.'" (Amos 7:16-17)
So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. (Revelation 3:16)
Oftentimes, when reading Amos (or Jonah or Daniel or Peter or Paul) I forget that this is, first and foremost, the Word of the LORD.  Yes, the words of the prophets are the words of the prophets. But in some deeper sense their words are not their own.
When you read through the prophets, play a trick with your head and forget the prophet. Instead, read these as the words of Jesus. You will hear the words differently. They will emanate force and immediacy that they might not otherwise convey. You'll understand the Bible better, and you'll get to know a Jesus who paints with more colors than we sometimes think. Go ahead, give it a shot:
For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind
And declares to man what are His thoughts,
He who makes dawn into darkness
And treads on the high places of the earth,
The LORD God of hosts is His name.  (Amos 4:13)
I've got a Bible with "WORDS OF CHRIST IN RED."  That's great, except that our minds subliminally deduce that the rest of the words -- the words in black -- are not the words of Christ.
I love my red-letter Bible and I wouldn't trade it for anything. But I've got to remember that while the red words are words he spoke out loud, all the black words are words he thought--or transmitted, somehow--through prophets like Amos or Isaiah.
So I think what I really need is a Bible printed entirely -- every word, from cover to cover -- in green.  Then, on the spine, it should say "WORDS OF CHRIST IN GREEN."
There are only 147 days until Christmas, so if anyone out there would like to locate such a thing and send it my way, it sure will be appreciated. (Those in the know tell me that between craigslist, Amazon, and eBay, you can find absolutely anything.)

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