Hear this word, O house of Israel, this lament I take up concerning you.
He was a farmer. He lived a couple of hours away from Bethlehem when the northern tribes broke from Judah. He was called, Amos. The breakoff group called itself, Israel.
The nation was strong in those days. The economy was robust. About Israel, it could have been sung, “God shed his grace on thee!”
But the God of Israel called Amos to deliver a message that spoke not of grace, but of judgment: “Fallen is Virgin Israel, never to rise again, deserted in her own land, with no one to lift her up” (Amos 5:2).
It was a lament.
The people of the land flowing with milk and honey had forgotten the one who gave them this land, who had blessed them in it, and without whom they had nothing.
The people had looked elsewhere for strength and hope. Many ran after false gods. Some counted on allied nations. Others felt they had no need of help from anyone. They boasted they were an independent, self-made nation.
They were wrong.
The Lord God had given them reminder warnings. There had been earthquakes. There had been plagues. There had been wars. But there was no repentance.
Without repentance, there would be no hope because there was no help.
The blow that would knock Israel off her feet would come from the north. No one suspected that Assyria would become so strong. No one expected Israel would be overrun so easily—its army decimated; so many of its citizens slaughtered, and the survivors led away as prisoners.
“Fallen is Virgin Israel, never to rise again . . .” She never did. Her people are now called the lost tribes of Israel. They are gone without a trace.
At the time of Amos, that disaster was far off. Yet, the warning was delivered as if it had already happened. In God’s eyes, it had. The judgment was certain. History proved it.
Amos had reason to lament.
So, do we.
The anniversary of the founding of our nation so many years ago invites us to sing again: “God shed his grace on thee.”
There is no other source of America’s greatness. Blessing upon undeserved blessing has been heaped upon this nation.
And what does God see when he looks down upon us? What words come to his ears?
What do we see when we look at our nation? What words do we hear?
Do not the sights and sounds cause sorrow? Do they not make us wonder if we, like ancient Israel, have forgotten the Lord our God? Are we seeing the descending fist of divine judgment?
Is God not calling for repentance? Is there still some hope for our nation?
To Israel, the Lord said: “Seek me and live; do not seek Bethel, do not go to Gilgal, do not journey to Beersheba . . .” (Amos 5:4).
Is it not the same for us? Our hope lies not in global economies, renewed dialogs, or new vaccinations. Don’t we make it clear in our worship? Don’t we call out, “Our help is in the name of the Lord!”?
So it is. So, it will always be.
Prayer: Lord of the nations and God of grace and glory. Forgive our iniquity. Cover our guilt with holy blood. Call our nation back to its source of life and blessing. Let it thank God from whom all blessings flow. We pray in the name of the Savior who died so that rebels may live, Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
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