But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! Amos 5:24
Among the many exhibits and artifacts exploring the harsh reality of slavery and its aftermath in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, I was grateful to discover the Contemplative Court. This tranquil room features translucent walls of bronze glass, and water appears to rain down from the ceiling into a pool.
As I sat in that peaceful space, a quote on the wall from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. caught my eye: “We are determined . . . to work and fight until justice rains down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” These powerful words are drawn from the Old Testament book of Amos.
Amos was a prophet living among a people who were involved in religious activities, such as celebrating festivals and offering sacrifices, but whose hearts were far from God (Amos 5:21–23). God rejected their activities because they’d turned away from His commands, including those regarding justice toward the needy and oppressed.
Instead of religious ceremonies devoid of love for God and others, Amos wrote that God longed for His people to demonstrate genuine concern for the welfare of all people—a generous way of living that would be a mighty river bringing life wherever it flowed.
Jesus taught the same truth that loving God is connected with loving our neighbors (Matthew 22:37–39). As we seek to love God, may it come from hearts that also treasure justice.
How might you love God through pursuing justice for others? What are examples of generous living toward the needy or oppressed that encourage you?
Heavenly Father, thank You that Your love is like a mighty stream that brings justice to all. Help me to join You in Your healing work.
The pairing of the words justice and righteousness as seen in Amos 5:24 is common in Amos (see 5:7; 6:12) as well as other books of the Old Testament. As those who were in a covenant relationship with the One whose rule is based on righteousness and justice (Psalm 89:14; Isaiah 9:7) and who loves these virtues (Psalm 33:5), the people of God were to reflect the same in their relationships with each other. When they didn’t, God challenged and corrected them. The appearance of these two words together strongly suggests that justice and righteousness are parallel terms and thereby related. One way of viewing the terms is to see justice (acting fairly and judicially) as the fruit of being rooted in righteousness (what is right as it relates to God and man).