First reading and psalm: Amos 7:1-17 • Ps. 82
Alternate: Deut. 30:9-14 • Ps. 25:1-9 • Col. 1:1-14 • Luke 10:25-37
It is one thing to assert that the law cannot save when one has never attempted to live a godly, righteous, and sober life, and quite another matter to lay aside a lifetime of discipline for the higher good of the free gift of salvation. In the second case, far more commendable, law may be viewed as a disciplinarian, a required preparation, and even a tool to which one may return, though never forgetting that what God gives in Christ is given as a free gift to sinners. Christ is the fulfillment of the law; he is not a false and cheap freedom that excuses crime and license. So we may and should view with deep respect the great gift of divine law to God’s people.
“For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, just as he delighted in prospering your ancestors, when you obey the Lord your God by observing his commandment and decrees that are written in this book of the law, because you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 30:9b-10). “I have not spoken on my own authority,” Jesus says. “The Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak” (John 12:49). The Son is perfectly free in the perfect commandment of the Father.
We too are called to the obedience of love. Indeed, our effort to obey will itself show more and more clearly both the necessity of law and the failure of law to engender full and willing obedience. Thus, while law is necessary, so is prophetic pronouncement against disobedience, which highlights again the law’s importance in calling for order and its impotence to instill a free and perfect obedience. Measured against the plumb line of law, the Lord says through Amos, “I will never again pass them by; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword” (Amos 7:8b-9). “Go, prophesy to my people” is almost always a summons to say hard things, the curse of a reluctant herdsman-prophet.
St. Paul, writing to the church in Colossae, is happy and willing to commend their good works and further encourages them to “lead lives worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:10). A house divided against itself will not long endure, and thus Christian witness in community will always require good will, good words, and proper order. The Colossians, however, like Epaphras, who may have brought the gospel to them, discovered something unimaginable, the gravitational center of the whole gospel truth. “Just as [the gospel] is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourself from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God” (Col. 1:6). Fruit erupts from this fertile ground, the ground being the unearned gift of God’s Son for the life of the world.
This is particularly difficult to explain. For love alone God creates the world. And when we fall into sin and the world falls with us, when we are naked and alone, abused and bleeding at the hands of a violent world, God, in the person of his Son, in the illustration of a Samaritan, is “moved with pity” (Luke 10:30-37). God cleans our bloody wounds with the oil and wine of his own anguish, binds up our sores by bearing them, repays what is necessary from the treasure of his mercy.
Look It Up
Read Amos 7:14. Don’t be absolutely certain about what you are not.
Think About It
Read Luke 10:25-37. Salvation is no theory. It is pity, bandages, oil, wine, care, and cash.