Reading Amos recently amazed me for the umpteenth time. The whole is, of course, extraordinary – its passion, its bold naming of evil, its firm resolve that God’s blessing comes with great responsibility. Breath-taking!
Along the way, some specific pre-echoes of Easter also jumped out. There may be more, but two verses in particular find a definite terminus in Jesus’ last week.
One relates to that odd mention in Mark’s gospel about an individual present when Jesus was arrested. A lightly-dressed young man, following Jesus, gets scared off when Jesus’ opponents make a grab for him. So he legged it, ‘and ran away naked’ (Mark 14:51-52). It’s a great verse for getting a laugh – perhaps we can’t help but look for a giggle while reading a story as tragic as the passion narrative. But after the laugh, everyone thinks, ‘Why is that in the account?’
Amos, in the eighth century before Christ, spoke of the coming judgement on Israel (Amos 2:14-16):
“Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not retain his strength, nor shall the mighty save his life; he who handles the bow shall not stand, and he who is swift of foot shall not save himself, nor shall he who rides the horse save his life; and he who is stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day,” declares the LORD.
This sounds like a good hint about the fulfilment of the prophet’s word in Jesus’ death – judgement is here, and even the young bucks are running away.
Another verse to note is Amos 8:9.
“And on that day,” declares the Lord GOD, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.”
The Old Testament has plenty of prophetic words relating judgement to heavenly signs (moon, stars, sun, blood-colour, etc). But note the time: noon. This time reference is not common at all. Ominously, one possibly similar Old Testament verse is Deuteronomy 28:29 – part of the statement of curses for covenant disobedience.
The gospels do not use the word ‘noon’, but indicate this time by a different phrase. See Mark 15:33 – And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.
We might ask, ‘Was God really judging evil at Easter, did he obliterate sin?’ Amos gives this answer, ‘When God judges sin, expect to see brave young men running away naked, and expect to see noon-time darkness.’
A great thing about the Bible is that, unlike the Quran, there are many books written over many years by a number of human authors. This enables the former writers to set up understanding of the later, and later writers to interact with the former. The Bible has its own internal commentary. The Bible is its own reading guide. What a blessing: God not only tells us what happened, he also tells us how to understand what happened. These two links between Amos and Mark’s gospel illustrate this perfectly.