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Law and Gospel

by | Nov 6, 2023 | Gospel, Law of God

Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? … Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer Me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; … Take away from Me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

(Amos 5:18a, 20-22a, 23-24 ESV)

There are some people who just assume that God is on their side all the time, and consider themselves best buddies with Jesus. The prophet Amos has a message for them in today’s passage: Do you really want Jesus to return tomorrow? How sure are you that Jesus will be happy with you?

Amos isn’t talking to ordinary Christians who fall into sin and repent, as we all do daily. He’s talking to people whose lives are full of injustice and evil. These people are deluded about their own spiritual state, and the sooner they get rid of their delusion, the better.

To be honest, this terrifies me. When I see someone so blind that they can abuse their family members, mistreat their neighbors, and badmouth co-workers who never did them a bit of harm, and yet they’re convinced they’re on God’s side … well … it makes me wonder if I could be fooling myself, too.

I think a little of this terror does no harm. If it inspires us to cling more tightly to Jesus, our only Savior from evil, that’s a good thing. But that’s where it ends. If we are the kind of people who worry endlessly about our standing with God, and have trouble trusting that He forgives us even though we know Jesus lay down His life and rose from the dead for our sakes—well, then, this passage is not addressed to us. People who are already keenly aware of their sin need to hear about Jesus and His gracious forgiveness. They don’t need more Law; they need to hear the Gospel.

This is why Luther said it was such an important thing to “rightly divide Law and Gospel.” People who are complacent about their sins, who don’t think they need Jesus, who confidently say that “I live a good life”—those people need to hear the bad news of the Law. But people who admit they are sinners and desperately want God’s help and forgiveness—they need to hear the Gospel of Jesus.

If a passage like this makes you think, “Well, it’s a good thing I’m not a sinner like that!” it might be time to take a closer look at your life. But if passages like this one make you worry even more about whether God can or will forgive you—then you need to hear the Gospel instead. Don’t wait. Go and talk to your pastor, or to a wise and experienced Christian friend. Let them strengthen you with the comfort God intends for you.

We Pray: Dear Lord, let me hear the part of Your Word that I need to hear, through Your Holy Spirit’s help. Amen.

This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
Originally published in The Lutheran Hour on November 7, 2023
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights

Reflection Questions:
1. Which side do you naturally tend toward—being too complacent or too worried?
2. How does God counteract that tendency in your life?
3. What part of the Bible is your favorite when you need to hear the Good News about Jesus?