Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Like A Basket of Over Ripe Fruit

This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: a basket of ripe fruit...
Then the Lord said to me, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.
 Hear this, you who trample the needy
    and do away with the poor of the land, saying,

“When will the New Moon be over
    that we may sell grain,
and the Sabbath be ended
    that we may market wheat?”—
skimping on the measure,
    boosting the price
    and cheating with dishonest scales,
buying the poor with silver
    and the needy for a pair of sandals,
    selling even the sweepings with the wheat.
The Lord has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done.
Amos 1:1-8 (NIV)

The ancient prophet Amos, a Judean shepherd and vinedresser, marches into neighboring Israel with bad, bad news. 

All this at a time when the economy of that nation is booming. Stock prices are soaring, housing starts are at a record high, and consumer confidence is rising, but so is the gap between rich and poor.  

Which is why Amos wades right into the Israeli commodities market and announces that it's all over. God is fed up, he says. All of your bins of freshly harvested grain will mold, and your lush harvest of ripe summer fruit will rot, he declares. Your greedy profit-taking is over. 

According to the prophets, whenever the poor aren't getting a fair share and a fair shake, the Almighty is outraged, and roars, "Enough already!" God's bounty is meant to be shared, not hoarded.

Jewish scholar Abraham Heschel describes men like Amos as "some of the most disturbing people who have ever lived," and adds, "Instead of dealing with the timeless issues of being and becoming, of matter and form, of definitions and demonstrations," he (the prophet) is thrown into orations about widows and orphans, about the corruption of judges and the affairs of the market place. The world is a proud place, full of beauty, but the prophets are scandalized, and rave as if the whole world were a slum... What if somewhere in ancient Palestine poor people have not been treated properly by the rich? ...Why such inordinate excitement? Why such indignation?"

Heschel then notes, "The things that horrified the prophets are daily occurrences all over the world."

The Heschel quotes are from  "The Prophets, An Introduction" (Harper Torchbooks, 1963)
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