For Sodom and Gomorrah, For Israel, For Us

“In that day I will raise up
the booth of David that is fallen
and repair its breaches,
and raise up its ruins
and rebuild it as in the days of old,
that they may possess the remnant of Edom
and all the nations who are called by my name,”
declares the LORD who does this.
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“when the plowman shall overtake the reaper
and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed;
the mountains shall drip sweet wine,
and all the hills shall flow with it.
I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,
and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,
and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.
I will plant them on their land,
and they shall never again be uprooted
out of the land that I have given them,”
says the LORD your God.
— Amos 9:11-15

I had never heard or considered hope to be a virtue, something to be practiced, but always assumed that you either had hope or you didn’t. Talking of more presumptions I have had, I also hadn’t heard until a few years ago that God doesn’t love us unconditionally. Before you raise the heretic flag, David Powlison actually calls God’s love “contra-conditionally,” with a far more striking vision of what the gospel of Jesus Christ does to those it touches; grace doesn’t leave us where we are at.

Nine full chapters of Amos have left us shaking our justice fist, advocating for those afflicted by the audience to which this book is specifically addressed, those who have so perverted God’s gifts to obtain earthly gain. God has heard the cries of those oppressed, and He is coming to make some changes. The plumb line is set, and God’s genuine anger towards inhumanity is damning as well as righteous.

We arrive here at the last five verses of this prophecy, and after all that has been said, hope is not the thing we would have expected, but hope gets the last word. Once more with the audience in mind, the words that the Lord gives to these people who will spend their days far from their land in exile due to their wrong, a vision of true renewal, abundance, and shalom, seem less than deserved. When I think even now of the injustice that swirls around this supposed land of the free, the heinous acts of evil against many who are seen as less than human all over the globe, my blood boils to think that this hope can too be extended to even those who fall on the side of “oppressor,” much more, that I would ever be one on the wrong side.

The problem among Jews and Gentiles alike, however, is the tendency for those who observe and comment upon wrongdoing to separate themselves from the category of ungodly perpetrator. This is the universal human way. It is our means of shoring up our dearly held conviction that we, the godly, are in a different position from the ungodly. This self-protective stance is enshrined in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee who prayed, “God, I thank thee that I am not like other men,” contrasted with the tax collector who cried out, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” It is the tax collector who “went down to his house justified rather than the other” (Luke 18:9-14).
— Fleming Rutledge

We make plumb lines for ourselves, often being the ones that truly don’t measure up, and yet constantly measuring everyone else up to them. We seem to be able to readily offer up the good news to those who are hurting, wounded, suffering, but not able to give good news to those we might deem the worst, creating our own new category for less than human. We don’t remember the plight from which we have been saved, from the powers of sin and death, from ourselves. We seem to divorce ourselves from the verses that forged our faith, for all have sinned and fall short, and, while we were yet sinners. Yes, we must live in to our new identity as righteous, but not forget that it certainly was not earned, and in continuous remembrance of the identity from which we were rescued. What a gift, what a mercy, what a Savior.

It is not just illogical that people should love mercy when they seek it from God for themselves and hate it when required to show it to others. The Scriptures say it is impossible.
— J. A. Motyer
If our understanding of the gospel doesn’t have a category for our worst enemy to be conformed to the image of Christ, it is no gospel… The entire gospel rests on this reality: Grace does not come to the glorious; grace makes us glorious.
— Hannah Anderson

Even when it comes to sin that seems to be benefiting someone, the message of Christ is that no matter what sin it is, it truly isn’t best and better for them. What is better is the “contra-conditional” love of Christ, calling us to repentance. What is better is to not only hate sin, but to hope even when it seems all is lost for those who God loves. Here, the passage shows that not only will things be restored, but all the nations, all peoples, have the opportunity to partake in the glories of being renewed by this covenant.

Many years later, the Messiah would come, and He would speak a similar word: His sheep know His voice, He knows them, and they will follow Him. He gives them eternal life, and they will not perish, nor will they be plucked from His hand. And when all seems lost, and those supposed religious followers crucify Him, Jesus overcomes. He makes a way.

Once more, we look again to hope. The good news is good news for all, as we, the changed, advocate for the best and better to restore, renew, and rebuild this world. Repentance will bring about abundance and shalom. Not only in Amos, but as we look to the very ends of our Scripture, hope gets the last word. This is our promise. He remains faithful.