The 1% of the Bible I will quote in public (Part 2)

In a previous blog, I suggested that I do not believe it is appropriate to quote 99% of the Bible in the public domain because it was written to the covenant people of God, not to non-covenant people / nations.

And, I suggested that America is not in a covenant relationship with the God of the Bible. For me that means 99% of the Bible should not be read and quoted in public since it does not directly apply to how non-covenant people should behave or how a non-covenant nation (America) should shape her politics.

Yet, 1% of the Bible (I have not done the exact math, but the point is that a little bit) does address God’s expectations of non-covenant nations.

An excellent example of this is found in the book of Amos. Amos, as a messenger of God, was sent to reveal the reason why God was about to allow for the destruction of Israel (God’s covenant people). In getting around to revealing the reason why, Amos reveals why destruction is about to come on some of Israel’s neighbors. In doing so, God reveals God’s expectations of non-covenant nations. In it, I believe, God reveals why God would allow America to be destroyed.

What are God’s minimum expectations of non-covenant nations?

Amos begins each of his prophecies with the same formula.

“For three sins…, even for four, I will not relent…” NIV

The term “sins,” refers to willful acts of disobedience. They were probably a violation of their own country’s laws and, if not, a clear violation of the human conscience. They were things that every human knows is wrong.

And these willful acts of disobedience were not one-time acts. The phrase, “For three sins…, even for four,” makes it clear that each country had a “pattern of detestable behavior, and God would not overlook it any longer.”

What are the willful violations of human conscious that God will no longer over look?

Syria/Damascus - “…she threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth…”

 “It was as if they ran over people with threshing planks that had iron teeth protruding out of them to separate the grain from the stalk.” (G. Smith)

Philistia/Gaza - “…she took captive whole communities and sold them to Edom.”

“These innocent people are suddenly deprived of all rights. Treated like cattle, and sold to the highest bidder.” (G. Smith)

Phoenicia/Tyre - …she sold whole communities of captives to Edom, disregarding a treaty of brotherhood.”

“Tyre is accused of selling whole communities, not capturing them. Thus, Tyre may have primarily functioned as a middleman, brokering captured people from various nations to the highest bidder… Their sin is presented as a betrayal of friendship, for the very people they have political treaties with are being sold as slaves.” (G. Smith)

Edom - “…he pursued his brother with a sword and slaughtered the women of the land, because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked.”

“Edom’s rebellious acts involve… vehement attacks of relentless inhumane rage.” (G. Smith)

Ammon - “…he ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to extend his borders…”

“The Ammonites have carried out military campaigns to take control of Gilead… but in the process, have massacred innocent and defenseless pregnant women… Such merciless inhumanity to both mother and unborn child… deserves God’s judgment.” (G. Smith)

Moab - “…he burned to ashes the bones of Edom’s king…”

“This is an act of total disrespect for the dead, something that no one would want to happen to anyone in their family.” (G. Smith)

The Hebrew scholar Gary Smith, whom I have quoted above from The NIV Application Commentary: Hosea/Amos/Micah, says,

These oracles demonstrate that God holds all nations accountable for their acts of inhumanity to individuals… (They) describe how certain leaders and officials did not judiciously set wise policies concerning the treatment of weak or innocent people.

King David knew that what God expects of all countries, God expected of Israel too (as well as more stringent covenant expectations too). He declares in Psalm 19:17-18

"The wicked will go down to the grave. This is the fate of all the nations who ignore God. For the needy will not be ignored forever; the hopes of the poor will not always be crushed."

The 1% of the Bible that addresses all nations, reveals that God’s justice sides with the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the oppressed! I believe this is the part of the Bible we should quote in the public domain!

In this regard, the United Nations “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” captures well God’s expectations for ALL nations.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood.

This needs to be affirmed by Christ-followers as “biblical.” It needs to be shown as consistent with God’s expectations for all nations.

And, in my opinion, the 1% is what we need to quote from the Bible when it comes to welcoming refugees, arguing for affordable housing and national health care, declaring that black lives matter, or arguing for equal treatment of women and our fellow humans in the LGBTQ community.

But, what about the other 99% of the Bible? Who should we quote it to?

Check back next week as I address: The peril of having 100% of the Bible.