The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday comes from the prophet Amos as written in the Book of the Twelve. The text is Amos 5:18-24 and illustrates a very common theme in Amos—a complete reversal of what is expected. Thus, the Day of the LORD will not be a bright day, but rather a dark one. Because Israel has turned the eschatology of the Day of the LORD into “escapism” Amos turns that notion on its head in his prophecy (R. Reed Lessing: Amos; Concordia Commentary Series). Note how this is not unlike the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day. They had specific expectations concerning the coming Messiah which would support and allow them to “escape” their current situation, but Jesus turns these expectations on their head. Jesus reverses them. Of course, we see the same expectation of escapism among many Christian denominations in our day. Chiliasm, millennialism, etc. all look to the return of Christ as a deliverance from this world while those “left behind” continue to suffer.
Amos’ “Day of the LORD” language (also found in other prophets) is eschatological language that looks beyond the idea of the restoration of Israel. The restoration of Israel is important but only as it is connected to Messianic hope and the bodily resurrection. The Day of the LORD is not an “escape from,” it is an “entry into.” Ironically, those who focus on the escape end up being trapped by that which they sought to leave.
The restoration of Israel is important but only as it is connected to Messianic hope and the bodily resurrection.
Finally, we see in this text metaphors linking us intimately into the New Testament and the Messiah. The “darkness” of the Day of the LORD connects us to the events of Good Friday and the descending darkness when Christ calls out, “It is finished.” There is also the water motif in verse 24 which is connected to justice and righteousness. It points us to the Sacrament of Baptism and the life these waters bring.
5:18 הוִֹי (Ho) “alas; woe” Usually followed by a noun or participle explaining the malady.
הַמִּתְאַוִּם (ham-mit-av-Vim) root: אוה (aw-vaw) Hithpael participle: “to wish for; to desire; to long for; to lust after”
חֹשֶׁךְ (Cho-shech) “darkness”
*Note how they expect light, but it will be darkness. Lessing points to this as a reversal of creation.
5:19 הַָאֲרִי (ha-a-Ri) “lion”
וּפְגָעוֹ (u-fe-ga-O) root: פגע (paw-gah) Qal: “to assault someone; to light upon; to confront”
הַדֹּב (had-Do) “bear”
וְסָמַךְ (ve-sa-Mach) root: סמך (saw-mak) Qal: “to lean on; to lean against”
הַקִּיר (hak-Kir) “wall”
וּנְשָׁכוֹ (u-ne-sha-Cho) root: נשׁך (naw-shak) Qal: “to bite”
הַנָּחָשׁ (han-na-Chash) “snake; serpent”
*Note the sequence of verbs indicating movement but also showing there is no escape from the judgement of the Day of the LORD.
5:20 וְאָפֵל (ve-a-Fel) “dark; gloomy”
נֹגַהּ (no-gah) “gleam; brightness; bright light”
The next section (21-24) targets the worship practices of the Israelites. Even though these practices may be mandated elsewhere in Scripture, when carried out apart from faith, they are worthless and despised by the LORD.
5:21 מָאַסְתִּי (ma-As-ti) root: מאס (maw-as) Qal: “to refuse; to reject; to despise”
חַגֵּיכֶ֑ם (chag-gei-Chem) from: חַג (khag) “procession; feast; festival”
אָרִיחַ (a-Ri-ach) root: רוח (roo-akh) Hiphil: “to smell; to delight in”
בְּעַצְּרֹתֵיכֶם (be-atz-tze-Ro-tei-Chem) from: עֲצָרָה (ats-aw-raw) “celebration; festival; festive assembly”
5:22 אֶרְצֶה (er-Tzeh) root: רצה (raw-tsaw) Qal: “to accept; to accept with delight; to accept with pleasure”
מְרִיאֵיכֶם (me-ri-ei-Chem) “fatted steer; fatling”
אַבִּיט (ab-Bit) root: נבט (naw-bat) Hiphil: “to accept favorably; to regard; to show regard to”
5:23 הֲמוֹן (ha-Mon) “noise; din; roar”
וְזִמְרַת (ve-zim-Rat) “melody; song; sound”
נְבָלֶיךָ (ne-va-Lei-cha) “harp; lute”
5:24 וְיִגַּל (ve-yig-Gal) root: גלל (gaw-lal) Niphal: “to roll out; to flow forth”
אֵיתָן (ei-Tan) “ever flowing; always full with running water”
*The idea of “running water” incorporates the concept of “living water” or even “water of life.” “Let justice roll out like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Amos 5:18-24.
Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Amos 5:18-24.