Humans first, and then pagans

This post is based on Alistair Begg’s sermon This is What the Lord Says, part 1.

Amos 1:3-2:3 contains oracles against six nations located around Israel. That they were outside God’s covenant did not stop Him from addressing them. They were without special revelation, but not without moral responsibility. The spotlight falls not on what they may or may not have done in relation to God, but on what they’d done to man. God takes issue with them not for their faulty religious practices, but for their cruelty, treachery and disregard for human life.

The following are the principles we can glean from what Yahweh said to the nations through Amos:

  • People made in the image of God must never be treated as things (1:3-5)
  • Turning profit must never take precedence over human welfare (1:6-8)
  • Fidelity to a pledged word matters to God (1:9-10)
  • Unmitigated hatred is inadmissible with God (1:11-12)
  • Nothing moves God to punish so much as wanton cruelty to the helpless (1:13-15)
  • Cruel vengeance has no justifiable place in human behaviour (2:1-3)

God didn’t judge them because they were pagan, but because they were human.

The apostle Paul said much the same thing in Romans 2:14-15:

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them

So what?

Humankind cannot escape the obligation of being human, created with a conscience. God is concerned about human injustice and will bring about judgment, either in time or in eternity.