At the National Museum of African American History and Culture, there are several spaces designed for reflection and contemplation. One of these spaces—called the Contemplative Court—is a large room with a wide, round opening at the top. A waterfall pours from this opening all the way down into a pool bordered by long, high-back marble benches. Each wall in the Contemplative Court, coppery bronze and overlaid with glass, bears a quote from a key historical figure. On one wall is a famous quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., which echoes a well-known verse from the book of Amos: “We are determined to work and fight until justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” If you sit on the bench facing that wall, the quote appears behind the waterfall. The sensory experience provided by the sight and sound of streaming water makes that verse come alive even more.
The book of Amos gives us God’s view of justice and righteousness, primarily through Israel’s failure to practice them. They have exploited the poor for economic benefit. They have ignored and mistreated the most vulnerable members of their communities. And they have committed idolatry and other sinful actions. The imagery and sharp tone of Amos carry strong emotion, revealing God’s heart of righteousness and justice for all people. While God’s judgment warns punishment, it is also a prompt to return to Him. He shouts in Amos 5:4, “Seek me and live!”
That’s the call that rings throughout the centuries to us today. The book of Amos invites us to sit in the tension of the brokenness we have experienced and even perpetuated. But it’s not for guilt’s sake. God’s imperative to “let justice flow like water, and righteousness, like an unfailing stream” (Amos 5:24) is an invitation to life.
In this Legacy Book, guiding prompts and space are provided for you to reflect on your reading. We pray that during your time in the book of Amos you’ll also be prompted to lament the ways that you have turned from God and lean into Him even more. And that you would ultimately experience the refreshing, freeing, joyful, and abundant life that only God can give.