“Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, Who oppress the poor, Who crush the needy, Who say to your husbands,[a] “Bring wine, let us drink!” —Amos 4:1
God is angry with his people, so angry in fact, that he essentially calls Israel fat cows. Later in Amos 4:4, there is mention of Bethel and Gilgal. Bethel is where Jeroboam erected two calves of gold to distract people from worshiping God and instead worship these idols.
If we notice, the people are called fat cows in Amos 4:1 and then told that they love to worship at Bethel (paying respect to golden calves). I wonder if this was a statement on humanity’s pride. Was God warning the Israelites, through Amos, that their self-worship would be their downfall? If so, that is definitely a warning we should take for ourselves, especially in America.
My Bible study was studying the prophet Amos at Panera last night. As I sat, I’d occasionally look around to the individuals around me. I saw tables of folks mindlessly searching their phones. They had tuned out to their sons, daughters, or significant others sitting on the other side. (Yeah, my people watching might indicate I wasn’t fully listening to my conversation…we are too easily distracted in the US.) Anyways, my observations grieved this wandering heart; it was a mirror of my inattention and tendancy to stray from the source of comfort and peace our souls long for.
Our souls long for a comfort of community and a sense of belonging as we graft ourselves to the vine. In drawing close to the source we’d find strength to water our parched souls. As our thirst became quenched, our cisterns would overflow to the caked land that surrounds us. Then instead of decay, we’d see plump fruit spring up from shoots rooted in his mercy.
Yet most American churches have bought into the deception that Christian blessing is not in fellowship but rather in accumulating stuff that reflects a golden image of self. Americans are all about gorging, myself sadly included at times. Our daily food portions could feed entire villages for months in other countries. Our individual wardrobes could clothe thousands if we didn’t idolize fashion. Our facebook photos are a continuous thread of selfies (I’m guilty of this, regrettably). We stuff ourselves with technology, food, and activities. We are a nation with severe debt. Our credit is high but the bank account, financially and figuratively, is negative. To fool ourselves into thinking this strive for more and the idol of self is somehow working, we drug ourselves with cups of bitter caffeine, antidepressants, and self-help books.
We call ourselves the land of the free. America is not home of the brave where we roam free. We are just fearful of facing ourselves and the depravity of useless gain. We are slaves to a material world. We somehow think that bigger means better and that a fatter check defines success. However, our suicide rates are skyrocketing, divorce rates are climbing, and the emptiness inside is widening. We try to say anything works, that it’s all relative. I think society shows that isn’t true. We are a lost people absorbed in ourselves. It didn’t work for Israel and it won’t work for us. Have you ever noticed that the mere thought of death still brings most atheists bending on knees and pleading for eternal life?
So let us share the gospel with boldness and gather as believers, giving thanks for community rather than glitzy chandeliers and streets paved with platinum. May we feast on his word and shield our stomachs lest we binge on self-gratification and in turn become a fat delicacy to that prowling lion.