RCL Year B, Proper 10 (Alternate Reading)
Amos 7:7-15, Psalm 85:
8-13, Ephesians 1:3-14, Saint Mark 6:14-29

The readings today from Amos and Mark are quite challenging. The best approach is to see Amos, to see John the Baptist, and to see Jesus as God’s loyal agents who speak for God and who speak against the political and religious leaders of their day.

Each one of them follows Balaam’s Rule. As Balaam said to Balak, “Must I not take care to say what the Lord puts into my mouth.”[1] Amos, John, and Jesus each take care “to say what the Lord puts into [his] mouth.”

Were you to read the short book of Amos, you would see how fearless he is in his prophecies: he prophesies the overthrow of the sanctuary at Bethel, the fall of the royal house in Israel, and the captivity of the people. He was not out to make friends; he was out to prophesy what the Lord God showed him to be true.

Amos’ willingness to take on the religious and royal hierarchies finds a parallel in John the Baptist. John knows and points out that Herod and Herodias have an adulterous affair while Herodias and Philip are married. In time, Herodias divorces Philip and marries Herod. John declares to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”[2]

As a result of their prophecies, as a result of what the Lord has put in their mouths, Amos is cast out of the shrine at Bethel, John is beheaded, and Jesus is crucified. But as you know, their stories do not end there. God has the last word. Amos’ prophecies are realized, and the exiles return to Israel from Babylon. John’s prophecies, also, are realized when the Romans come to Jerusalem to subjugate Israel completely and, leaving no doubt as to who is in charge, to destroy the Temple. And, finally, Jesus’ prophecies, also, are realized when he rises from the dead and his followers begin a movement that overwhelms Judaism and eventually the Roman Empire.

In the end, God has the last word. God always has the last word. Any victory and any defeat we experience is subject to divine review and revision.

God’s true followers always follow Balaam’s Rule: “Must I not take care to say what the Lord puts into my mouth.” In the end, in God’s end, human will, when opposed to God, can slow, but it cannot frustrate, the providential design of a loving God. Never forget: he’s got the whole world in his hands.

[1] Numbers 23:12.

[2] Saint Mark 6:18.