We are studying Amos 5:18-24 for Sunday, March 1 – one of the most memorable of Amos’s short prophetic speeches. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are some questions we might want to consider or discuss in class:
Who is speaking in vv18-20? Who is speaking in vv21-24? Why do we think this?
How does our answer affect the way we understand this text?
[More theoretical: Do we think of the speaker here as the same speaker we’ve met in other texts we’ve studied? Why, or why not?
Does this kind of text seem different from others we study? How? What effect does that have on us?]
Who is being addressed in this text? Do we think the people who “desire the Day of YHWH” (v18) are the same people who are holding festivals and bringing offerings (vv21-23)? Why do we think this? What impressions do we get of these people?
Do we know anyone who desires the Day of the Lord these days? Who? Why do they desire it?
Do we know anyone who participates in ritual worship activities (festivals, solemn assemblies, offerings) these days? Who?
How do the people we know these days compare/contrast, do we think, with the people being addressed in our text? [How are they similar? How are they different? How do those similarities, differences matter for understanding this text today, do we think? Why do we think that?]
The text offers us two kinds of images of the Day of YHWH: darkness (contrasted with light), and encounters with deadly wild beasts. What does this tell us about the Day of YHWH? What does this tell us about YHWH?
How does the description make us feel about the Day of YHWH? Why?
What is the purpose of a text like this, do we think? Does it accomplish that purpose, do we think? Why, or why not?
What are YHWH’s responses to the people’s worship? Why?
[More personal: Do we think God ever responds to our own worship this way? Why? When? Implications for us?]
What do we think it means to “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (v24), concretely? That is, what would that kind of justice and righteousness have looked like in real life, in ancient Israel, do we think?
What would it look like in real life, in our own time and place?
What would need to change for real life to look like that, do we think?
To what extent do we think an ancient text like this, addressed to other people, in a different time and place, has anything to do with us? Why do we think that?
[More personal: How are we ourselves supposed to respond to this, do we think? Why do we think that? Do we need to do anything about that, do we think? What?]
Overall, my own big question in reflecting on this text is how much distance I put between “the people being addressed” – them, those “ancient Israelites” and their legendary terrible practices – and myself and my own world. And then, if I start to think this text also addresses my own world, how much distance can I put between “them,” whoever “they” are, the ones “being addressed by the text,” and myself? Because I notice that I want to put a lot of distance in there. Why is that? And should I keep doing that? And if I stopped doing that, then what? …