The refrain from the psalm response of today’s readings is well paired with the first reading from the Book of Amos: “Remember this, you who never think of God.” In the first reading the prophet Amos is addressing the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the prosperous reign of Jeroboam II (786–746 B.C.).
Amos’ prophetic book begins with a sweeping indictment of Damascus, Philistia, Tyre, and other pagan nations surrounding Israel. (Amos 1:3-2:16). The indictment begins with the expression, “For three crimes…and now four.” This expression is frequent in poetry of the times (e.g., Prv 6:16–19; 30:18–19). The progression “three” followed by “four” suggests a climax. The fourth crime is one too many and exhausts the Lord’s forbearance. The prophecy of the utter destruction of “nations” does not mince words.
But he saves his climactic denunciation for Israel in which he denounces the hollow prosperity of the Northern Kingdom. He denounces their injustice and idolatry as sins but sin especially against the Light and Covenant granted to her. Just like the nations, Israel could indeed expect the day of the Lord. The coming destruction prophesied the overthrow of the northern sanctuary, the fall of the royal house of the North, and the captivity of the people by their enemies.
“For three crimes…and now four.” And so begins the condemnation of Israel as they never really listened to God or his prophets.
“Why do you recite my statutes, and profess my covenant with your mouth?”…“You sit speaking against your brother; against your mother’s son you spread rumors. When you do these things, shall I be deaf to it?”… Remember this, you who never think of God.” (taken from Psalm 50 for today)
Take some time today and consider in what part of your life are you deaf to the Word of God?