The verses that come before this set the scene. The opening verses of this chapter remind us that Amos was a man of prayer. He was an intercessor. He was not a politician. He was not even what we might call a “social critic.” Nor did he come with some sort of political solution to the problems of Israel. He spoke the word God had given him. His saw the inequities and sins of the northern kingdom (called Israel or Ephraim). But, when he saw the prospect of destruction, he prayed for the people: “Sovereign Lord, I beg you, stop! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!”
A prophet is a person of prayer. A prophet is a person who desires mercy. A prophet is a person who speaks the truth.
Twice Amos has seen a vision of destruction for the northern kingdom of Israel. Twice he has called out to God for mercy. This sets the scene for the image that is introduced now: (more…)
The Wesley Study Bible contains this little overview of the themes of Psalm 17:
Has anyone ever said to you, “Life is not fair,” and you thought, “Well, it should be!”? Life is filled with ups and downs, times when what seems fair to you is not fair to another. Psalm 17 begins with “Listen to what’s right, LORD; pay attention to my cry!” (17:1a). This is a prayer for deliverance from the wicked and for the freedom to live in God’s righteousness. While life is not fair all the time, it is right at all times to pray to God for deliverance from wrongdoing and for justice for all the children of God.
The Psalmist (David, we are told) begins by declaring his own faithfulness. Why would God want to listen to those who are not faithful to God’s purposes? Why would God listen to the deceitful? Surely God hears the prayers of the repentant and remorseful, but sincerity of heart is always a precondition of effective prayer. (more…)
It is characteristic of Hebrew poetry to rhyme (so to speak) thoughts rather than sounds. This is called “Hebrew Parallelism.” To oversimplify: it is the practice of repeating the thought of the first line in the second. Thus, the writer expresses the same thought in different words.
This is very common in the Psalms.
Thus, one line of a poem will often comment on another: expanding or clarifying the meaning.
אַשְׁרֵי שֹׁמְרֵי מִשְׁפָּט עֹשֵׂה צְדָקָה בְכָל־עֵת
“How blessed are those who keep justice,
Who practice righteousness at all times!” (NASB)
Again, the Psalms are pointing us to the Way of Blessedness. Psalm 1 has tipped us off that this is the major theme of the whole book of Psalms. This is not conceived in the typically popular-religion terms of Salvation: where the whole point of faith is just meeting the terms of Eternal Life. This is about living in the realm of present blessing. This is about the life of faith.
Christian faith is then, not only an assent to the whole gospel of Christ, but also a full reliance on the blood of Christ; a trust in the merits of his life, death, and resurrection; a recumbency upon him as our atonement and our life, as given for us, and living in us; and, in consequence hereof, a closing with him, and cleaving to him, as our “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption,” or, in one word, our salvation.
— John Wesley, Sermon #1: “Salvation by Faith”
From hence it manifestly appears, what is the nature of the new birth. It is that great change which God works in the soul when he brings it into life; when he raises it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. It is the change wrought in the whole soul by the almighty Spirit of God when it is ‘created anew in Christ Jesus;’ when it is ‘renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness;’ when the love of the world is changed into the love of God; pride into humility; passion into meekness; hatred, envy, malice, into a sincere, tender, disinterested love for all mankind. In a word, it is that change whereby the earthly, sensual, devilish mind is turned into the ‘mind which was in Christ Jesus.’ This is the nature of the new birth: ‘So is every one that is born of the Spirit.’
— John Wesley, Sermon #45: “The New Birth.”
Eugene Peterson paraphrases Psalm 15:1 this way:
“GOD, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list?”
Or we might state it this way:
Lord God, what is it like to be the kind of person who is fit to live in Your Presence from day to day?
Verse 2 gives us the response to this question: (more…)
These reflections from New Testament scholar C. H. Dodd seem to me to be close to the heart of Wesleyan theology. He is reflecting here on the significance of the apostle Paul’s theology of the Christian life. Paul teaches that we are justified — set right with God — by faith. But, as with justification, what we often call “sanctification” (conformity to the image of Christ) is also by grace through faith.
The higher faiths call their followers to strenuous moral effort. Such effort is likely to be arduous and painful in proportion to the height of the ideal, desperate in proportion to the sensitiveness of the conscience. A morbid scrupulousness besets the morally serious soul. It is anxious and troubled, afraid of evil, haunted by the memory of failure. The best of the Pharisees tended in this direction, and no less the best of the Stoics. And so little has Christianity been understood that the popular idea of a serious Christian is modeled upon the same type of character.
The ascetic believed that, because he was so holy, the Devil was permitted special liberties with him, and he found in his increasing agony of effort a token of divine approval.
Not along this track lies the path of moral progress.
Christianity says: face the evil once for all, and disown it. Then quiet the spirit in the presence of God. Let His perfections fill the field of vision. In particular, let the concrete embodiment of the goodness of God in Christ attract and absorb the gaze of the soul. Here is the righteousness, not as a fixed and abstract ideal, but in a living human person. The righteousness of Christ is a real achievement of God’s own Spirit in man.
— C. H. Dodd, The Meaning of Paul for Today