Saturday, March 25, 2017

The power of poetic imagination: "Stream and waters" (Amos 5:24)

Yung Suk Kim

I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:21-24).

Amos uses his poetic imagination to challenge Israelites to live by justice and righteousness. Justice must run like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Justice must sound bigger than any other thing. The prophet says that God does not want festivals, burnt offerings, or noisy music. Rather, God wants to hear a big sound of justice rolling like a river. Justice must be heard everywhere and it requires a fair distribution of wealth, economic justice for all. Waters symbolizes the vibrant, dynamic power of justice effective to all.

         Then, the prophet gives us another poetic image of the stream and relates it to righteousness. A stream lies in the lowest valley and flows steadily and quietly. And the source of a stream is rain from above. With this image of a stream, "flowing like an ever-flowing stream" must mean that we must be humble before God and others because who we are is possible because of God's grace. In this regard, righteousness is relational language that seeks God's way in everyday life as in a never-drying stream.

         In the end, the prophet says we need both waters and stream in our life. We need big waters of justice in society. Yet a big river is not made on its own. It is the result of many streams. But even a stream is not possible without rain from above. Thus a justice without righteousness would be noisy music.

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