For the Lord has given the command, and he will smash the great house into pieces and the small house into bits. Do horses run on the rocky crags? Does one plow the sea with oxen? But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness— you who rejoice in the conquest of Lo Debar and say, “Did we not take Karnaim by our own strength?” For the Lord God Almighty declares, “I will stir up a nation against you, Israel, that will oppress you all the way from Lebo Hamath to the valley of the Arabah.” – Amos 6:11-14
This is a complex and confusing passage with many mixed and murky metaphors. The general topic here is God’s judgement on “the great house” and “the small house”. I assume this is a reference to Israel in some way. Although as we will see, connections to the White House and our other government “houses” are also possible.
The metaphors pose two rhetorical questions “Do horses run on the rocky crags? Does one plow the sea with oxen?” Both of these questions seem to be alluding to a state of affairs that makes no sense or is not possible. A horse can’t run on rocky crags, at least not for long, and unless these oxen can walk on water one could not “plow the sea” with them. Both of these things are physical impossibilities, or would at least result in serious injury to the animals involved. These impossible acts are compared to something which apparently should be equally impossible or harmful to “animals” – the people have “turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness”.
What a timely message amidst the turnover and turmoil at the FBI. I will not wade into the muddy morass of who is right or wrong, but it does seem clear that justice has become poisonous. Lawyers are accusing one another of a “lack of candor” – what most of us would call lying. Accusations of obstructing justice abound across the political spectrum. Perhaps there should be a new term “poisoning justice”. There would be a long line of people guilty of this crime including Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and many others.
The second accusation, turning the “fruit of righteousness into bitterness” seems to referring to a more general moral breakdown where right and wrong become all muddled and confused. This also a timely message as there are so many cases of bitterness about things which are intended to promote righteousness. There is no moral clarity or common ground. The end result is a polarization between people that does not help anyone to love their neighbors.
So this passage has taken us into some deep water full of turbulence. What is the take home message? I am not sure. Perhaps it is that we should carefully consider how we define and discuss justice and righteousness so that we are not contributing to the sort of problem God is illustrating here.
Prayer: God help us to know and apply Your definition of justice and righteousness.