Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Amos 5 – Like a virgin who dies before enjoying the joys of marriage, Israel will “lie all alone on her own soil, with no one to lift her up” (5:2). Yahweh says this to the House of Israel, “Seek me and you shall live” (5:6), but Yahweh will not be found in the sanctuaries where sacrifices are offered. It is the Lord “who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns the dusk to dawn and day to darkest night. He summons the waters of the sea and pours them over the land” (5:8).
Yahweh will punish “those who turn justice into wormwood, throwing integrity to the ground” (5:7).
“It is no wonder that the prudent man keeps silent, the times are so evil” (5:13).
“Seek good and not evil so that you may live, and that Yahweh . . . may really be with you as you claim he is. Hate evil, love good, maintain justice at the city gate, and it may be that Yahweh . . . will take pity on the remnant of Joseph” (5:15).
There should be “lamentation” in every public square and street. The Day of the Lord will not bring light but only darkness if things do not change.
God takes no joy in superficial religious observances – feasts, festivals and holocausts, chants. “But let justice flow like water, and integrity like an unfailing stream” (5:24).
Amos 6 – The self-indulgent and comfortable people of Samaria “will be the first to be exiled” (6:7). “I detest the pride of Jacob, I hate his palaces. I mean to abandon the city and all it contains” (6:8).
Amos 7 – The prophet recounts the visions he has had – of locusts devouring “all the greenstuff in the land” (7:2), the drought, the vision of God holding a plumb-line to his people to see if they will be able to stand.
The priest of Bethel, Amaziah, sends word to King Jeroboam that Amos is “plotting against you in the heart of the House of Israel; the country can no longer tolerate what he keeps saying”(7:10-11). Amaziah sends Amos away, back to the land where he worked as a shepherd. Amos tells Amaziah he is no professional prophet; he was called from herding to go prophesy to the people. And he repeats the core of his message.
John 4 – The Pharisees learn that Jesus is becoming more popular than John, baptizing more disciples (through his disciples—not personally) than John. So Jesus leaves Judea and heads back to Galilee through Samaria.
In a city call Sychar, at Jacob’s well Jesus rests around noon. A Samaritan woman comes to draw water and Jesus asks her for a drink. The woman’s first reaction to Jesus is to notice that he has breached several prohibitions – the prohibition against men speaking to women in public and the prohibition Jews had against speaking to Samaritans. Jesus tries to spur her interest in him by telling her if she knew whom she was standing next to it is she who would ask him for water. At first she only hears him in a conventional way, not yet seeing the dimension of reality, which he is pointing her toward.
They talk further and she realizes that Jesus knows far more about her than any stranger could ever know. They discuss the fundamental difference between the Judaism of the Samaritans and the Judaism of the Israelites – the Samaritans worshipped in a decentralized way, on the mountains of their home; the Israelites insisted that Jerusalem was the only proper place to worship. They both await the messiah who will, they hope, sort the truth out. For the first time in his ministry Jesus openly claims to be that messiah (4:26) and informs her that neither place will be the right place. The true worshippers are those who worship God in spirit and in truth. She goes off to proclaim to others the experience she had.
Meanwhile the disciples return and are shocked to see Jesus in conversation with this woman. Jesus and his disciples have a parallel conversation about food, which show they are no more “spiritually” ready than the woman was to hear the true import of Jesus’ testimony. This passage shows too that the writer here is very much into the typological understanding of Jesus that many in the early church were—this is in fact the origin of the power of the gospel about Christ, I feel. Not only is he the well of life-giving water, but also he is the true manna on which we must feed. And the kind of food Jesus is talking about is the grace from God that gives him the will and the desire to live according to God’s will.
We learn that many Samaritans are brought to faith in Christ through the testimony of this woman. He stays two more days. They come to him directly.
Then he goes on to Galilee where he is welcomed, and then to Cana again where he meets a court official whose son is ill in Capernaum. Jesus cures the boy even though he does not go physically to the boy. The important thing is that the official puts his trust in Jesus' words (4:50). This is Jesus’ second sign.
This willingness of Christ, and God in the Old Testament, to bend to the needs of those who want to put their trust in him but cannot quite do it in the way He would like, I find interesting. It runs against the idea of God as being unchanging, omniscient and irresistible. There are many instances in scripture where God yields to our needs and desires, where our freedom and our limitations are honored.