Lesson 2

Sins of the Neighbors

(Amos 1&2)
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Introduction: Assume you got into a dispute with one of your co-workers. How do you feel when the boss takes your side and yells at that person - someone who deserves it? What if the boss does a really good job of yelling? Do you sit there with a smirk on your face thinking, "Glad that's not me," "They had that coming to them!" This week we find God threatening "the other guy." Let's jump in.

  1. A Roaring God

    1. Read Amos 1:2-3. Last week we spoke briefly about God roaring. What kind of an animal makes a roar? (Lion.)

      1. If you had a roaring, thundering animal, would you be afraid?

      2. Is that our picture of God?

        1. Read 1 Peter 5:8. Who is compared to a roaring lion here? (Satan)

        2. Read Revelation 5:5. Who is the lion here? (Jesus.)

      3. Why would Satan and Jesus both be pictured as lions? Why does Amos compare God to a lion? (Amos is bringing to our attention the "judgment" side of God. We need to pay close attention if God is roaring at us.)

      4. At whom is God roaring in Amos 1:3 (Damascus)

  2. The Neighbor's Sins

    1. The first "sinner" mentioned is Damascus. How many sins does it have? (Four at most.)

      1. Considering your life, does that sound like a lot of sins? (Adam Clarke's Commentary reveals that this does not mean a literal number. It is an expression of that time which is like "very, very exceedingly." For example Ulysses in the Odyssey refers to "Thrice happy Greeks!" It meant they were very, very happy.)
      2. Who is this sinner, Damascus? (Damascus is the capital city of Syria, an Aramaen kingdom, and Israel's neighbor to the north.

        1. What was the problem with Damascus? (They had "threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth.")

        2. Gilead was an area in Israel. According to the historian Jerome, there actually was an iron-wheeled invention, with teeth, that was used to thresh grain at that time. What do you understand this phrase about threshing Gilead to mean? (It means that the Arameans were beating up the Israelites who live in Gilead! 2 Kings 8:12 reveals a prophecy of Elisha, to King Hazael of the Arameans, saying that he will viciously attack the Israelites, burn their fortresses, kill their children and "rip open" pregnant women.)

        3. What has God got in mind for Damascus? (The gate of the capital city is going to be broken into, the King's palace set on fire and the people taken into captivity.)

    2. Let's make this relevant for today. Amos' message in verse 3 is being given to Israelites. How do you think they felt when they heard this? (They would break into wild cheering.)

      1. What would be the equivalent today? (Amos would come to New York City and prophesy that those running the terrorist operations would have their headquarters broken into and burned, their leader killed and their people exiled.)

        1. Would that be good news or what?

    3. I don't often comment on our lesson quarterly, but I believe the commentary for Tuesday completely misses the point and sends us off on the wrong path. The lesson suggests that the "neighbors" being condemned by Amos were being punished "exclusively" because of their "abuse of the most basic human rights." Thus, we have Amos talking about judgments that have absolutely no connection with his audience. In fact, this is not true. When the lesson (Tuesday still) says that Damascus was guilty of "excessive violence against one of its neighbors." The "neighbor" was Israel! The people of Israel were no doubt mighty glad to hear Damascus was going to get its "just rewards." The prophecy concerning Gaza ( Amos 1:6-8) is a reference (see Barnes Notes) to one of the "five Lordships of the Philistines." Amos may very well have in mind the attack on Judah recounted in 2 Chronicles 21:16-17. So, once again, this is "payback" to an enemy of God's people. Tyre, the next "bad guy" ( Amos 1:9-10) attacks the Edomites who were relatives of Israel. A third generation Edomite was, according to Deuteronmy 23:7, entitled to become an Israelite. This time its "payback" to the relatives of God's people.)

  3. The Amos Approach

    1. Why does Amos start his series of prophecies with predictions of doom for those who have hurt Israel, Judah or their friends? Why start with things the people might very well consider "payback?"

    2. Read 2 Samuel 12:1-5. Why did Nathan tell David this story? (Read 2 Samuel 12:7-10. We have a very difficult time seeing our own sins. We have no problem, however, seeing the sins of those around us.)

    3. Was Amos using the same approach as Nathan? (Yes. He started with a series of nations that the Israelites would no doubt say, "Yes, get them God, they deserve it!")

    4. If the recent terrorist attack on the U.S. is a warning to us about our sins, would we readily admit it?

      1. Should that cause us to be especially cautious about rejecting the idea out of hand that perhaps our sins are causing God to withdraw His blessings?(I was watching television coverage this week of what was essentially an anti-American demonstration in Washington, D.C. I heard speakers from labor unions(AFSCME locals), a welfare-rights organization, a Columbia rights organization (headquartered in Minnesota!) and a Palestinian-rights organization. Many of them started out saying that people suggested that the timing of this anti-American demonstration was poor. (They got that right!) I angrily dismissed these people from my mind as the "usual lunatics." (To be more precise, I understood the thinking of the Palestinian rights group, but not the rest.))

        1. Does this say something about my willingness to hear criticisms of my country?

      2. How about you? Are you willing to hear criticisms of your country? Your church? Your family? You?

      3. Should we ask ourselves if the sins that we see in those around us are the very sins in our own life?

      4. Every time we get ready to reprove a specific sin in someone else, should we first ask our self if that sin is in our own life?

    5. Let's review. Amos tells the people of Israel about God's intent to punish their enemies for what the enemies have done to Israel, Judah and their relatives. Since Amos is speaking to the people of Israel, they are probably standing around cheering Amos on.

  4. The Sins of Judah

    1. Read Amos 2:4. Do you think the people of Israel cared about warnings to Judah? (J.A. Motyer, in his book "The Message of Amos," says "probably not." The relationship between the two countries was little more that "peaceful coexistence.")

      1. What was the sin of Judah? (Rejecting God's law and having false gods.)

        1. Now, do you think the people of Israel, had reason to pause? (Yes, now I think the people stop their cheering and start being concerned.)

    2. Read Amos 2:5. What punishment is facing Judah? (Destruction of the capital by fire!)

  5. The Sins of Israel

    1. Read Amos 2:6. To whom has Amos' condemnation now turned? (Israel.)

      1. What is the first sin that is mentioned? (Covetousness. They love money more than they care for others.)

    2. Read Amos 2:7. What is the first sin mentioned in this verse? (Injustice. The people run roughshod over the poor.)

      1. What does a father and a son "using the same girl" have to do with God's name? (The Motyer book mentioned earlier suggests that the Israelites were involved in a type of temple prostitution with "holy" women. The Baal temple prostitution was being imported for the "worship" of Yahweh.)

    3. Read Amos 2:8. What is wrong with going to worship with garments taken in pledge? (They would come to God to worship, but they would disobey him by showing no mercy to their fellow man. In Exodus 22:26, God told the people that if they took a person's coat as security for a loan, they must return it by sunset so the person could sleep in it.)

      1. Do you know people who come to worship, but show no mercy to others?

        1. How about you? Are you merciful to those around you?

      2. Is the sin of verse 8 drinking wine in church? (That is probably not the major problem. Note that "the house of their god" is a lowercase "g" god. This is not referring to actual worship of Yahweh. The sin is that the wine is purchased by "fines" -- no doubt taken as part of the oppression of the poor.)

      3. Is there a "big picture" you can see here in these sins with women, with coats taken in pledge and with fines? (You can put this all togther. First, they use women as temple prostitutes, they lay down to do this on the coats of the poor (which they were not supposed to keep) while they are drinking wine they wrongfully took from the poor! All this is being done in a "religious" context. Great people! Can you see why God is warning them?)

        1. Is this true today? Do we use religion as a cover for serious sins of selfishness?

        2. Would God take particular offense at that? (Yes, verse 7. This is particularly offensive to God because it profanes His holy name.)

    4. Friend, are you open to God's correction? Sometimes we have a hard time seeing our own sins. God has to use messengers, like Amos, to sneak up on us and show us our error. The great comfort in all of this is that we have a God who wants us back. He warns us so that we will return to Him.

  6. Next week: "Hear This Word."

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Lessons on Amos

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