The Non-Prophet Prophet
Introduction: This week we begin a new study which turns our attention to the Old Testament book of Amos. Amos is known as one of the "minor" prophets of the Old Testament. His book is only nine chapters long.
If this makes you think Amos is unimportant, consider that the decision to study this book at this time was made long ago. Yet, as I read through Amos this week, I was struck by the "hard" lessons it contains for us today. Amos 9:1 is eerily familiar. It says, "Strike the tops of the Temple columns so hard that the foundation will shake. Smash the columns so the roof will crash down on the people below.... No one will escape!" (NLT) Are recent events a call to us in America to repent? We will see. Right now, let's dive into our introduction to this important little book!
- Amos the Shepherd
- Let's read Amos 1:1 and 7:14-15. What kind of a job did Amos have? (He was a shepherd and a fruit picker/tree tender.)
- Was he the "head" shepherd? (No. Amos 1:1 tells us he was just one of the shepherds in this one town.)
- What kind of status did a shepherd have? How about fruit pickers? Were these the leaders of a country? Were these the intellectuals of the day? Thought leaders? ( Genesis 46:33-34 indicates that Egyptians detested shepherds.)
- Do you think Amos thought it was odd that he was called to speak for God? (Let's read the context for Amos 7:14. Read Amos 7:13-15. When Amos is told by the priest of Bethel to go somewhere else, Amos essentially says, "Look, this wasn't my idea. I'm not a prophet or even the son of a prophet. But God told me to do this.")
- How do you react when someone with less education and less "sophistication" than you tells you what to do?
- We don't have any farmers or fruit pickers in our local church. What if a fruit picker wandered into your church and then started telling you how to run it? How would you react?
- Tekoa, Amos' home, was located in Judah (the Southern kingdom). The text we just read from Amos chapter 7 has him giving warnings for the king of the Northern kingdom. What if a stranger came to your church and told you that you needed to change things all around? Let's say a layman from your pastor's or priest's old church or parish showed up one day and started making changes in your church. How would you react? (That actually happened in my church. The "old friends" decided to re-arrange the platform of the church. They decided that we needed "racially diverse" pictures in the church lobby (we had no pictures at all)- even though the "old friends" come from a place where there is no racial diversity at all. The general reaction to this "help" was "What do they know about our aesthetics and our approach to harmony?")
- Amos the Messenger
- Why do you think God picked Amos to give His message? (He might not have had an extensive formal education, but he was gifted. R.K. Harrison notes that Amos was not an ignorant peasant. His style of writing "exhibited poetic gifts, and his oracles are models of articulate speech...." (Elwell, Evangelical Commentary, p. 625) God gave Amos His message because he was willing and he was able - even though he did not have high "status" here.)
- Let's go back to Amos 1:1 again. What do you understand Amos to mean when he writes "the words of Amos" and then says that "he saw" things concerning Israel? (He is telling the people he has a message from God.)
- Read Amos 1:2. What would be your reaction if someone said they had a prophetic message in which God "roared" and "thundered?" Would this be a message you should put off? One you could ignore?
- Amos says the pastures of the shepherds dry up and the top of Carmel withers. What does this mean for the people? What is in store for them? (A drought - tough times.)
- What level of importance would you attach to this message? (God comes roaring in with disaster in mind. I'd being paying close attention.)
- Conditions in Israel
- Let's look at some texts that give us a view of conditions at the time of Amos' prophecy. Read Amos 3:10. What is wrong here?
- Is being rich the problem? (The problem is getting the wealth unjustly.)
- Our text says that God's people "do not know how to do right." Did they once know? How did they get to this point? (Sin is a gradual progression. You keep walking away from God until finally your sense of what is right is so corrupted you do not know how to do right. These people were far from God.)
- Our text says that they get their wealth unjustly in "their fortresses." What does that add to our picture of the times? (This seems to say it was "official policy." The "thought leaders" of the day were doing it.)
- Let's add Amos 3:9 to verse 10 to get a better insight. Are Ashdod and Egypt historically nations which were under God's special care? (No! These are the "enemy" of Israel and Judah.)
- What is God telling Israel's enemies to do? (He is telling them to come over and observe the sin and then watch what is going to happen.)
- What is going to happen? (Read Amos 3:11. It says that God is going to punish His people.)
- Why would God want their enemies to watch? (This is something we do not always realize. God uses His people as an object lesson to the world. His dealings with us are in part a witness to the world.)
- Read Amos 5:10-11. Who "reproves in court?" (Generally, it is the judge who does that.)
- What sins do we see described here? (The people hate honest judges and honest witnesses. We see a picture of a people who are working to corrupt the judicial system.)
- Read Amos 5:12. Are they successful in corrupting the judicial system? (Yes.)
- What is the problem with giving and taking bribes? Who gets hurt in such a situation? (The decision of the judge is not made based on what is just, as opposed to who is richer.)
- Read Amos 5:4-5. What other evil was done by God's people? (They were not worshiping Him. As we continue our study of this book we will see that this is a reference to cities where other gods were worshiped.)
- A God Who Gives Advance Warning
- Read Amos 3:3. Here is a famous text. What is your answer?
- Read Amos 3:4. What is your answer to these questions?
- Read Amos 3:5. What are your answers here?
- Read Amos 3:6. What answer do you have here?
- Why does God ask all of these questions? What is God's point?
- Go back over each of these verses and tell me what you think God's "point" is on each? (Verse 3: Unless the people and God agree, they are not going to be walking together. Verse 4: God is making all of this "noise" because He has a real problem with the people. He is not just talking. Verse 5: The people have fallen into evil by deciding to turn to evil things. Verse 6: God is in charge of events. Since God is warning them of their evil ways, shouldn't they be paying attention?!)
- Why doesn't God just get "to the point" instead of asking all of these questions? (By linking His "point" to real life experiences, God hopes to get them to understand the truth of what He is telling them.)
- Read Amos 3:7. Another famous text. Does this give you comfort? Do you think this applies to our current situation in the U.S.? (Whenever you have the "intersection" of disobedience to God and trouble, you should always ask yourself: "Is this God's judgment for our correction?" It may not be, but you should always consider this question.)
- Does this apply to God's people everywhere? (Yes! In every place God interacts with His people and warns them when they turn from Him.)
- Friend, if recent events have gotten you attention, continue to study with us as we try to understand God's lessons for today in Amos.
- Next Week: Sins of the Neighbors