Do you know what I want?
I want justice – oceans of it!
I want fairness – rivers of it!
That’s what I want. That’s all I want.
God, according to Amos 5:24 The Message
A Word of Hope
You may know this text from Amos in the more familiar words of the New Revised Standard Version: “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness flow like an ever-flowing stream.” The first time I heard this verse was in my freshman college course on the “Old Testament.” I was shocked. I remember thinking, God cares about justice? Although my evangelical church taught me a lot about the Bible as I grew up out on the Minnesota prairie, there was no mention of justice. I can only guess that after teaching us all about sin, there was no space left in the curriculum.
The most recent time I heard this verse was in Stockholm, Sweden at the Nobel Museum. As part of a special exhibition in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., they had tapes of some of his speeches. As I sat there listening with headphones, the tears flowed as I heard Dr. King so passionately quote this verse in Memphis on the night before he was killed. “It really doesn’t matter now,” he said referring to the threats against him, all the happenings around him. He knew what God wanted and had been working hard to make God’s dream come true. That is what mattered.
We can get caught up in the day to day “doings” of our faith or the “work” of the church. For the Israelites, it may have been incense, sacrifices and offerings. For us, maybe it’s stirring worship, amazing music, community building, conferences, trustee meetings and capital campaigns. Amos doesn’t think these things are important to God. No, God only wants one thing, justice and fairness, and anything else is background noise.
Maybe we’ve got too much clutter in the space between us and God. We need to hear God’s voice neat, like our whiskey. Straight up. No dilution. I propose to you that this is God’s word for you today and every day. “I want justice – oceans of it! I want fairness – rivers of it! That’s what I want! That’s all I want!”
May we hear and feel today the clarity, the passion and the urgency in God’s voice. And having heard and felt that, may we stir ourselves to action. Let it be so.