Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayeshev December 23, 2016

Torah reading:  Genesis 37-40

Haftorah reading: Amos 2:6 – 3:8

By way of introduction, Amos, an older contemporary of Hosea and Isaiah, was active about 750 BCE during the reign of Jeroboam II, making the Book of Amos the first biblical prophetic book written. Amos lived in the southern kingdom of Judah but preached in the northern kingdom of Israel. His major themes of social justice, God’s omnipotence and role as creator, and divine judgment became staples of prophecy. Amos was the first prophet to use the phrase ‘the day of the LORD’.

Look with me at these verses from this week’s reading:

From among all the families on the earth, I have been intimate with you alone.  That is why I must punish you for all your sins.  Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?…When the ram’s horn blows a warning, shouldn’t the people be alarmed? Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has planned it?  Indeed, the LORD never does anything until He reveals his plans to His servants, the prophets.  Amos 3:2-3,6-7

There are three themes here that deserve our attention.

First, the discipline of the LORD in our lives flows from relationship with Him.  Notice: ‘…I have been intimate with you…that is why I must punish you for all your sins.’  To render this concept in a simplified manner we may say, ‘Because the LORD has drawn us close to Himself, our responsibility to live a holy life is greater and when we don’t, He reprimands us in one way or another.’ Discipline is an act of love.  Parents discipline their own children, not the children of strangers.  God’s discipline of us is actually a manifestation of His Fatherhood.  Therefore we should welcome it and respond appropriately.

Secondly, the next verse must be kept in context.  ‘Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?’  The LORD through the prophet, Amos, is asking ‘How can you say you are walking with Me when you and I are going in opposite directions?’

This verse has been frequently quoted and applied as a plea for unity between people.  That can be so but in its context, there is a greater question.  Are we walking with God in such a way that it is evident we are moving in the same direction that He is moving in?  Or to put it another way: in our day to day life, are we living according to His ways and His commandments?  Are we seeking the holy life He has called us to?

At the time in history when Amos prophesied, Israel was not doing so.  They were rebellious and arrogant, according to the prophet.  Amos reminds the people that when the ram’s horn was blown on the Feast of Trumpets and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), it was a warning call: Mend your ways, examine your life, repent.

But the people weren’t listening and their indifference to the warning had consequences.

Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has planned it?  Indeed, the LORD never does anything until He reveals his plans to His servants, the prophets.

Amos could not have been more clear.  God was warning the people, ‘If you will not listen to Me, I will get your attention through circumstances.’

Therefore, the third theme this week is the same as I described in this week’s post on the COFFEE AND COMMENTARY blog. God has more than one way to discipline His children.  His preferred method is that we learn His Word and ponder it regularly so that we will recognize our own failures and repent quickly when we go astray. But if we are not paying attention to God’s Word, He may use adverse circumstances or difficulties to get our attention. Jonah experienced this when he refused to go to Nineveh.

This is precisely what Amos was saying to Israel in his day.

Application:

To ‘walk together’ with God ‘in agreement’ means to live a life of obedience to His revealed Word.  Before we apply this verse to walking in unity with other human beings, we need to realize that FIRST we need to walk in agreement with the LORD!  It is then that we can – in confidence – expect His blessings and miracles such as Jews around the world will celebrate this coming week during the festival of Hanukkah.

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hanukkah2                   christmas

This year Hanukkah and Christmas coincide exactly.  To all of my subscribers I send my warmest wishes and prayers for spiritual and physical health, peace and joy for you and your families at this season.  May our commitment to follow the LORD in all of His ways be deepened as we walk into the year 2017, and may our daily ‘walk’ with Him ALWAYS be ‘in agreement’.

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