Let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream!
- Amos 5:24
olumbia Countys beautiful new Justice Center is a testament to the work of talented, forward-thinking men and women who recognized a need and set about to make such a facility possible. But, like so many plans credited to mankind, what happens behind those sturdy walls and shuttered doors was designed by God.
The Children of Israel had barely begun their journey to the promised land before God summoned His servant, Moses, to Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, which many believe to be the foundation for all the earthly laws ever written. God knew that, if His people were left to their own devices without a standard of behavior to follow, chaos would ensue.
Although His rulebook begins, You shall have no other gods before me, this was not the ranting of an egotistical ruler, but the invitation of a loving God to follow the one rule of conduct that would benefit them the most. For example, if they refrained from lying, stealing, and committing other harmful acts against each other, chances were good that someone else wouldnt lie, kill, or steal from them.
But it didnt take long for the people to protest this one-way God, and Moses couldnt arbitrate all their conflicts alone. So, on the advice of his father-in-law, Moses organized the people into groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, and placed a qualified man over each unit.
These overseers were called judges (Exodus 18). The various groups within a group could be likened to a county, state, and nation today, and the hierarchy of leaders to the multi-level judicial system now in place from Columbia County to the nation and the world.
From beginning to end, the Bible repeats the story of the battle between good and evil, between following and disobeying Gods law, and defines the justice which brings this conflict to an end.
Following the death of Joshua, Moses successor, the principal leaders of Gods people were also called judges. But because they led in cruel and barbarous times, these 12 men and one woman (See Judges 4) were more like military leaders or saviors than arbiters in a court of law. By the time Kings began ruling Israel, God sent His prophets to remind the people His law was still in force, and His justice still applied. But contrary to the charisma of the judges and power of the kings, the prophets were like fingers on a blackboard to a people increasingly set on making their own rules.
Amos, the shepherd from Tekoa, may have been the most unpopular prophet of all. Life was good in Israel at the time. Profits were up, wars were down, and people reveled in luxury for the first time in generations. They also had their shrines and religious celebrations, and spoke of freely of the day of the Lord (Amos 5:18).
But then comes a little man with no interest at all in the social status of fine homes and servants to care for all they possessed. In fact, Amos had no status at all. Instead, he had a message from God that Israels religious celebrations were a sham, and her wealth was ill-gotten. Everywhere Amos turned he saw dishonesty in business, bribery in the courts, and wealth at the expense of the poor.
Amos pulled no punches: God hates and despises your religious feasts. He will not accept your offerings and songs of praise But let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream (Amos 5:21-24).
Israel didnt listen to the prophets warning, and like a basket of ripe fruit (Amos 8), their rich land rotted away, and the former slaves of Egypt would soon be captives again in a land not their own.
ut for those who repented, Amos concluded, The days are coming when the plowman will overtake the reaper new wine will drip from the mountains and the Lord will bring back His exiled people; they will rebuild their ruined cities and live in them (Amos 9:13-14).
May justice as sure and fair as the justice of God also roll on in Columbia County, Georgia, like a never-failing stream.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara@ aol.com.)
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