Against the Temple worship (Am 5:21-5:24)

“I hate your festivals!

I despise your festivals!

I take no delight

In your solemn assemblies!

Even though you offer me

Your burnt offerings,

Your grain offerings,

I will not accept them.

I will not look upon

The peace offerings

Of your fatted animals.

Take away from me

The noise of your songs.

I will not listen

To the melody

Of your harps.

But let justice

Roll down

Like water.

Let righteousness be

Like an ever-flowing stream.”

Amos has Yahweh reject the Temple cultic worship side of Israelite life in very strong terms. Yahweh hated and despised the religious festivals that were part of Temple worship. Neither did Yahweh take any delight in their solemn assemblies. Yahweh was not going to accept their burnt offerings and grain offerings. He was not going to even look at their peace offerings of fat animals. He wanted them to take away the noise of their chants and songs, since he was not going to listen to their melodic harps. Instead, he wanted justice to roll down from the hills like gushing water. He wanted righteousness to be like a continual flowing stream. Justice not worship was his cry, a theme that Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, (1929-1968) often mentioned, as he wanted justice to roll down from the hills like running water.

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Yahweh has compassion (Lam 3:31-3:33)

Kaph

“Yahweh will not

Reject forever.

Although he causes grief,

He will have compassion

According to the abundance

Of his steadfast love.

He does not willingly

Afflict anyone.

He does not willingly

Grieve anyone.”

This grieving author talks about the compassion of Yahweh, since Yahweh was not going to reject him forever. Yahweh definitely caused him grief, but he is compassionate with his abundant steadfast love. Then in a strange statement that almost contradicts what was said earlier, this author proclaims that Yahweh does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone. In fact, that had been the main complaint earlier in this poem. These three verses start with the Hebrew consonant letter Kaph in this acrostic poem.

The good future of Israel (Jer 33:23-33:26)

“The word of Yahweh

came to Jeremiah.

‘Have you not observed

How these people say?

‘The two families

That Yahweh chose

Have been rejected

By him.’

They hold my people

In such contempt

That they no longer

Regard them as a nation.’

Thus says Yahweh.

‘Only if I had not established

My covenant

With day and night,

With the ordinances

Of heaven and earth,

Would I reject

The offspring

Of Jacob,

Or my servant David.

Then I would not choose

Any of his descendants

As rulers

Over the offspring

Of Abraham,

Isaac,

Or Jacob.

I will restore their fortunes.

I will have mercy upon them.’”

Yahweh once again uttered an oracle to Jeremiah. People were saying that Yahweh had rejected the two families that he had chosen, Judah and Israel. Thus these people held his people in contempt. They did not consider them to be a nation or a country. Yahweh responded that as long as there was a day and a night, as well as heaven and earth, he would not reject the offspring of David. He has chosen them to be the rulers of the descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was going to restore their fortunes and have mercy on them.

The fixed order and Israel (Jer 31:35-31:37)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘Who gives the sun

For light by day?

Who has the fixed order

Of the moon

With the stars

For light by night?

Who stirs up the sea

So that its waves roar?

Yahweh of hosts

Is his name.

If this fixed order

Were ever to cease

From my presence,

Then also the descendants

Of Israel

Would cease

To be a nation

Before me forever.’

Says Yahweh.

Thus says Yahweh.

‘If the heavens above

Can be measured,

If the foundations

Of the earth below

Can be explored,

Then I will reject

All the offspring of Israel

Because of all

That they have done.’

Says Yahweh.”

Yahweh says that he makes sure that there is a sun for daylight with the moon and the stars for light at night. Yahweh stirs up the seas so that they roar. It is Yahweh who keeps all this in a fixed order. If these things ceased to exist, then the descendants of Israel would cease to be a nation forever before him. In other words, as long as there is a sun, a moon, stars, and a roaring sea, Israel will be a nation, according to Yahweh.  Yahweh then said that if they could measure the heights of the heavens or the depths of the earth’s foundations, then he would reject the offspring of Israel, because they must have done something wrong.

The people plead their case (Jer 14:19-14:22)

“Have you completely rejected Judah?

Does your heart loathe Zion?

Why have you struck us down?

Why is there is no healing for us?

We look for peace.

But we find no good.

We look for a time of healing.

But there is terror instead.

We acknowledge our wickedness!

O Yahweh!

We acknowledge the iniquity of our ancestors!

We have sinned against you!

Do not spurn us!

For your name’s sake,

Do not dishonor your glorious throne!

Remember!

Do not break your covenant with us!

Can any idols of the nations bring rain?

Can the heavens give showers?

Is it not you,

O Yahweh!

Our God?

We set our hope on you.

You do all this.”

Once again, Jeremiah presents the people of Judah pleading their case for God’s mercy. They wanted to know how God could reject Judah and loath Zion, Jerusalem. Why were they stricken? Why was there no healing? They looked for peace, but there was none. Instead of healing, there was more terror. They acknowledged their own wickedness that they shared with their ancestors. They had sinned against Yahweh, God. However, they did not want to be spurned by Yahweh, because that would dishonor his name. They wanted Yahweh to remember his covenant and not break it with them. Then they pointed out that Yahweh could bring rain and showers, but the idols of other nations could not do that. They still had their hope in Yahweh, despite everything, because Yahweh was all powerful.

Religious hypocrites (Isa 1:13-1:16)

“I cannot endure

Solemn assemblies

With iniquity.

I cannot endure

New moon convocations.

I cannot endure

Sabbath convocations.

My soul hates

Your new moon celebrations.

My soul hates

Your appointed festivals.

They have become a burden to me.

I am weary of bearing them.

When you spread forth your hands,

I will hide my eyes from you.

Even though you make many prayers,

I will not listen.

Your hands are full of blood.

Wash yourselves!

Make yourselves clean!

Remove the evil

Of your doings

From before my eyes.

Cease to do evil!”

Yahweh via Isaiah continues to reject all convocations and assemblies for the new moon and the various festivals, even for the Sabbath because of their iniquity. What a striking turn of events! The kings and priests loved these assemblies for fulfilling the law in the Torah. Isaiah and Yahweh seem to be calling out the hypocrisy of these worship assemblies where evil iniquitous people gathered for these festivals. Yahweh could not endure them any longer. His soul hated them. He was weary of their burden on him.   He was going to hide his eyes and not listen to their prayers. Then in surprisingly priestly language he talks about the unclean bloody hands that need to be washed. Somehow the idea of clean and unclean was acceptable. However, these worshippers had to change their evil habits. They had to cease to do evil. Maybe, this rebuke against offerings and festivals was not absolute.

Hatred (Prov 10:12-10:18)

“Hatred stirs up strife.

But love covers all offenses.

On the lips of him who has understanding

Wisdom is found.

But a rod is for the back

Of one who lacks sense.

The wise lay up knowledge.

But the babbling of a fool brings ruin near.

The wealth of the rich is their fortress.

But the poverty of the poor is their ruin.

The wage of the righteous leads to life.

But the gain of the wicked is to sin.

Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,

But one who rejects a rebuke goes astray.

Lying lips conceal hatred.

But whoever utters slander is a fool.”

Hatred stirs up things. However, love covers all faults. Wise lips have understanding. However, for the senseless they need a rod slap on the back. The wise ones have knowledge, but the babbling fools have nothing but ruin. The rich use wealth as a fortress. The poverty of the poor brings them to ruin. The righteous will have life, while the wicked will simply sin. When you follow instructions, you are on the path to life. However, if you reject a rebuke, you are probably going astray. Lying lips conceal hatred, but fools are slanderers.