In this January season of performance reviews and annual meetings, we turn to the Prophet Amos who conducts a performance review of all the nations. No one is righteous. No not one. Neither does scrutinizing one's neighbor and escaping their sins by comparison make one righteous. The Prophet Amos helps servant leaders put today's performance reviews into perspective for the one that truly counts on the Last Day.
Read the full episode transcript here.
Hollie Benton 0:04
You're listening to Doulos, a podcast of the Ephesus School Network. Doulos offers a scriptural daily bread for God's household and explores servant leadership as an Orthodox Christian. I'm Hollie Benton, your host and executive director of the Orthodox Christian Leadership Initiative. My partner on today's podcast is again Dr. Richard Benton who has a PhD in Hebrew and Old Testament, and co-hosts the Bible as Literature podcast. He's recently published a commentary on the book of Hosea, and is working on a series of commentaries for the minor prophets. Last week, we touched on Joel and this week we will be looking at the first couple of chapters in Amos. Both books are among the minor prophets. Rich works professionally in IT and spends nearly as much time on biblical research, teaching, language study and parish service. So thanks again for joining me today on the podcast, Rich.
Dr. Richard Benton 0:57
I'm always happy to be here and to be able to talk about Scripture. Although I'd prefer to avoid the phrase minor prophets, even though that's what a lot of people use, because minor makes them sound like they're of lesser importance. But of course, they have just as much importance as the big ones like Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and Isaiah. So I always call them the Book of the Twelve, or the Twelve Prophets, but I know a lot of people call them the Minor Prophets.
Hollie Benton 1:22
So we're recording this podcast in January, a common season where performance reviews are conducted in the workplace and annual goals and objectives are set across the company. It's also a time where parishes hold their annual meetings to review the past year and rally engagement for the upcoming year of ministry. So we decided to look to the Book of Amos today for a scriptural daily bread for those who strive to serve in the Lord's household. And we see that the prophet Amos is conducting a performance review of the nations and it doesn't look good. And your comment about him not being such a minor prophet really stands out here. No one is getting an outstanding performance review, there are no satisfactories. And a needs-improvement sounds way too soft for what we're hearing from the prophet Amos. It looks like the whole company of nations is in deep trouble with the Lord, who roars from Zion. It's the kind of performance review no one wants to hear where every employee, every nation, even Judah and Israel, the ones sitting in the executive suites, because they knew the business plan and had all the Lord's resources through His Holy commandments. They're all facing punishment for their transgressions. So what's going on here, Rich, in the Book of Amos.?
Dr. Richard Benton 2:35
So in these first couple chapters of Amos, we get to see critique against all the nations and it's so deliberate in the way that the chapters are set up. In chapter one, we get to hear about all the sins of the nations and the judgments against them. And like you said, Hollie, it's like he lost count, you know, three, four, or something like that. I don't even remember how many sins there are against Damascus and against Tyre and against Edom and all these nations and how many sins? I don't know - three, four, at least - right? And they're very severe sins. Once it gets to Judah and Israel, in chapter two, we see that Judah and Israel are not exempt, like you said, Hollie. Just because you're an insider doesn't mean you've got a better track to salvation or being right. As Paul says, in Romans, it's not about knowing the prophecy. It's about doing it. If Israel knows about the prophecy, and doesn't do it, and Edom doesn't know about the prophecy, and doesn't do it, Israel and Edom are in the same boat, because it's based on doing and not on knowing. It's about action and not belief. It's not about thinking or intention. It's about what you actually do with your hands and your feet. Our professor always used to say, when your friend is in the hospital, he does not need you to love him with your heart, but to love him with your feet. So you go to the hospital and visit him. This is what makes the difference. The next point is, when you look at the sins of these different nations, you see that they can be very different. They're about taking grain or about sending into captivity, or being disloyal from one nation to the other and forgetting the covenant between them. And then we see with chapter two with Judah and Israel, that it's about not paying attention to the Torah into chapter four, and not heeding His commandments, and not taking care of the people which is what the sin of Israel is. They sold the righteous for silver and the poor for a pair of shoes. They didn't take care of the righteous and the poor. They took advantage of the righteous and the poor. They took and sold and profited from them. And this is really what we see all the time: if we have a good team, if we have good people that we're working with, it's so easy to benefit from them and profit from them and use them. You know, Fr. Marc, my co-host in the Bible as Literature podcast, talks about when he worked at a company, they would bring in all these new recruits, these fresh young people. And they would tell them how wonderful they are, and how smart they are, and how elite they must be to be at such a fantastic company. And then the next week, they would start working them 80 hours a week. You puff up their ego so that you can take advantage of them because they're naive. They're young, they want the approval of adults. And so you take advantage of that. And you manipulate that, instead of doing what Torah says, which is to take care of others. So the first thing for anyone who is in any position of power, which is really anybody because we can always find somebody who has less power than us, is, are we taking advantage of the other person who has less power? Are we profiting from them? That's the first danger. The second danger is to say, Oh, we're not sending people into captivity, or we're not taking other people's grain or crops, we're not causing violence on other people. So we must be good. Judging oneself based on comparison is invalid, and Amos 1 and 2 prove this out. No nation is judged by the same criteria as any other nation. Each nation falls on its own merit. And just because you're better than Moab, in the way that Moab has been judged, doesn't mean you're going to be better off in the judgement. So just because they laid off that team, doesn't mean that you're not in the next round of layoffs. Just because that church closed, doesn't mean that your church isn't going to close. Just because those people are less righteous than you doesn't mean that you're righteous. Only the Lord knows what measuring stick you're going to be measured by. But he gave us an inkling of what that might be, which is his Torah, which is his teaching. And it's precisely Judah's problem, that they chose not to follow that teaching, not to follow that Torah.
Hollie Benton 7:29
So I encourage our podcast listeners to go to Amos and read this for themselves to find the same literary structure for each nation called out for their transgressions, for example, Gaza faces punishment for carrying into exile a whole people, Edom, because he pursued his brother with the sword and cast off pity, the Ammonites because they have ripped up women with child that they might enlarge their border. And the gruesome list of transgressions among the nations goes on, culminating in the transgressions of Judah, and then Israel, the ones who should know better. So let's hear the charge against Israel now from Amos 2:6-8. "For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes, that they trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and turn aside the way of the afflicted. A man and his father go into the same maiden so that My Holy Name is profaned. They lay themselves down beside every altar upon garments taken in pledge and in the house of their god they drink the wine of those who have been fined."
Dr. Richard Benton 8:39
So if you use this as a checklist to see how well you're going to end up, then you're a Pharisee. You use this list and then say, "Okay let me just see, did I sell the righteous for silver? No, did I sell the needy for a pair of shoes? No, I bought them with money - that money I got fairly even though my company takes advantage of poor people but that's okay because I got my money fairly. Okay, I'm good with that. I didn't trample down the head of the poor, even though I make sure that no poor are allowed into my neighborhood or into my building. Okay, so I'm good with that." Don't use this as a checklist. Do not. Because as we saw not even Judah and Israel are judged by the same criteria. Yes, everyone is judged by whether they follow the Torah or not, whether they follow the Lord's teaching or not. But what the Lord is going to look at or scrutinize with you, you don't know until the time, so scrutinize yourself, where you're not following Torah and follow Torah. Amos, as a so called minor prophet gives us a very major warning, a major indicator of where we could be going short. And that's us, not following Torah, and all of its twists and turns and all of its complexities and in all of its impracticalities, we have to be ready to follow that law and to be judged accordingly, according to the Lord's will.
Hollie Benton 10:08
This passage in Amos reminds me of the Pharisee in the New Testament, who is thanking the Lord that he hasn't been made like the harlot, nor has the sins of the tax collector. But like you said, we're not saved just because we don't recognize the same sins by which we hear the nations called out for in these first couple of chapters in Amos. So until the Last Day, it sounds like we're not able to determine whether we ourselves are justified in a satisfactory performance review on the Last Day.
Dr. Richard Benton 10:39
So if you get a satisfactory from your boss, realize that this is just a demonstration of grace from your Lord, who could find at least three or four things probably on which to judge you. No one is good. No, not one.
Hollie Benton 10:54
Dr. Richard Benton 10:55
Thank God for the opportunity.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai