Minor Prophets: Amos “Let Justice Roll Down”


Amos has been connected to the sheep: he was a shepherd by trade, who had a tremendous concern for the downtrodden, and was called by God to become a prophet.

In chapters 4-5, Amos reviewed God’s call to Israel to repent. Today, we will complete this section with chapter 5.


Amos began God’s final call to repentance with lamentation.

Hear this word that I take up over you in lamentation, O house of Israel:

Fallen, no more to rise,
    is maiden Israel . . .

Amos 5:1-2 (NRSV)

Throughout the Hebrew Bible, Israel is referred to as the Lord’s beloved, God’s betrothed, bride, and wife. In Amos’ lament, Israel is a maiden tragically fallen and forsaken.

The imagery is of one who represented the verdant beauty of youth, the great potential for love and for life, for a maiden was known for her promise, purity, and virtue.

Amos grieved over Israel as though the land and people were already ruined, already devastated, a process of decimation that would ultimately bring the remnant down to one percent of the nation. “Stop going to Bethel, God does not recognize your worship there! Stop looking for help in the Gilgal forts, you have no more claim on the land! Do not think crossing over to Beer-sheba, the farthest reaches of Israel, will protect you?!


Instead, Amos turned to the same refrain throughout his sermon,

For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: Seek me and live . . .

Seek the Lord and live . . .

Seek good and not evil, that you may live . . .

Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Amos 5:4, 6, 14, 15 (NRSV)

Again, Amos reminded the people of their hypocrisy and trespass.

  • Israel had so corrupted their justice system, it was as weak and riddled as a worm-eaten log. The heartwood was rotted out, the sapwood ruined.
  • What few judges and elders who still adjudicated fairly were reproved, and those who still spoke the truth were abhorred.
  • The poor were being ground into the dirt, having their wages ruthlessly levied.
  • Bribery and graft were the rule of the day. Those who could not pony up were shoved aside.
  • People who tried to uphold the law were punished for it.

Anyone trying to do what was right was so bullied and threatened, pounded on so harshly, and undermined so effectively, that


the prudent will keep silent in such a time;
    for it is an evil time.

Amos 5:13 (NRSV)

When I read that line, I was stopped dead in my tracks. How often have I kept silent on a matter where I feared what I had to say would not be well received because it did not match the prevailing politics, social values, or religious proclivities of the people I was with?

Amos reminded the people of Israel Whose law they had been flouting so cavalierly, leaning into the creation theology of their ancient faith. The process of creation was not so much God bringing nothing to something, but rather God bringing chaos to order, in which God both made and formed all that is.

In this process, God separated all creation into its rightful domains, refined and blessed those domains, and gave meaning to each. Then the Lord launched the cosmos into its own creative process.


The one 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 out against the strong,

   so that destruction comes upon the fortress.

Amos 5:8-9

Shalom theology taught the people to live in harmony with the created order, recognizing the sanctification of spaces and sanctification of time. They were to respond to the call to sanctified behavior by learning and taking on God’s heart as their moral compass.

They were to allow God’s core values of justice and righteousness to become their own core values, which would be reflected in their compassion and care for the economically, politically, and socially disadvantaged, including those who were impoverished, alone, foreigners, and occupying lower-tier social strata (the enslaved, widows, fatherless children, and non-Israelites).

When the corruption of chaos threatened to disorder God’s creation, the Lord would uncreate, then recreate, from the ground up.

Each time the beautiful balance and harmony of creation was broken by the perversion of evil and wickedness, God reordered the ensuing chaos through relational covenants, calling the people to integrity, and to commitment to God’s character and values of justice and righteousness.


For, on this day of judgment, no one would be spared.

  for I will pass through the midst of you,

says the Lord.

Amos 5:17

During the tenth plague of Egypt, God had made a way for the Lord’s own people to be spared. God would pass over them. But on this day of judgment, God would pass “through the midst” of them.

If you read with me verses 16-18, you can see how Amos got that point across. In each section there is wailing, in every square, every street. The cities, the outlying countryside, the farmer, the professional mourner, all will wail.

This was the true nature of the Day of the Lord.

Look at all the contrasts Amos employed to show just how opposite God’s true Day of Judgment was going to be from what they had made it up to be: darkness and gloom, not brightness and light. They run from a lion, they get mauled by a bear, they run to their home, they get bit by a snake. They hold religious services, and God rejects them in repugnance. They offer up sacrifices and songs, God turns in disgust from the stink and the noise.


Let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Amos 5:23

The Israelites had long thought the Day of the Lord would mean judgement on their enemies and blessing for themselves. But God’s Judgment Day uncreates all that is chaos and corruption, all that disrupts and destroys shalom, peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility, success, fulfillment, harmony, security, and well-being.

God’s Day of Judgment has the ultimate purpose of bringing about the restoration of people with God, with each other, and with creation.

If you truly seek God you will truly seek good

In what ways does our treatment of others, and our position on God’s version of justice and righteousness, reveal the quality our love for God?


[Let Justice Roll Down | MEDIACRAT / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

2 thoughts on “Minor Prophets: Amos “Let Justice Roll Down”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s