Lesson 8

Vision One - Locusts and Prayer

(Amos 7)
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Introduction: Years ago I had a member of my Bible class ask me, "What is the good of prayer? If God is going to do what is best for us anyway (whether we want it or not), why pray? My answer then had to do with prayer changing us and releasing God's power. However, this week we explore the idea of something quite different - the prayer of Amos changes God's mind! Or, does it? How can changing God's mind be consistent with a God who is all wise and all knowing? Let's dive into our lesson and see what we can learn about this aspect of prayer.

  1. Locusts

    1. Read Amos 7:1-3. Notice that Amos describes the Lord as the "Sovereign" Lord. What does "sovereign" mean? ("All powerful." The Hebrew here ("Adonay") gives emphasis to the word "Lord." Amos is emphasizing the power of God.)

      1. Why would Amos decide to emphasize God's power in the context of God changing His mind? (Because Amos wants us to see the contrast between the power of God to do anything He decides and God's willingness to listen to us. God does not listen to us because He needs our help to decide things. God listens to us because of His grace.)

      2. We have a new element introduced in this chapter. Amos has previously been telling the people what God told him. (See, for example, Amos 2:1) But, now Amos is "shown" something by God. What does this suggest? (That Amos is now having visions.)

      3. What does Amos see in his vision? (He sees locusts coming and "strip[ping] the land clean.")

      4. How serious is the coming locust disaster? (Verse 2: The survival of the nation is in doubt.)

        1. What is the "king's share?" (Income taxes! Aren't you glad God planned to wipe out the wealth of the people after they had paid their taxes?)

          1. Is there significance to the fact that the king gets his share while the common people face disaster? (Remember last week (and before) the thread running through Amos that the rich and the rulers are in for trouble because they have been unjustly treating the poor. Here, the disaster seems aimed at the "ordinary guy." This tends to show that the disregard of God was widespread and not just an "upper-class" thing.)

  2. Changing God?

    1. Amos 7:3 tells us that "the Lord relented." What causes God to relent? (Amos asked God to "forgive" and argued that the nation could not survive this.)

      1. How do you explain that an all-knowing, all-wise God changes His mind?

      2. Read Numbers 23:19. How can you square this text with Amos 7:3?

      3. Read James 1:17. How do you square this text with Amos 7:3?

    2. Let's back away from this difficult question for a few moments. What good things do you see from God "relenting?" (1. We learn our prayers can make a difference. 2. Our future is in the hands of a God who listens and who cares. We can have a personal relationship with God that can change things. 3. We can (and should) pray for others because our prayers can change the future.)

    3. Read Amos 7:4-6. If you were a farmer in Judah, what difference might you see between disaster from locusts and disaster from fire? (You might pass the locusts off as bad luck, a "hiccup" of nature. Fire, on the other hand, is clearly Divine judgment. This fire is so hot it "dries up the deep." We are going to look at the "fire" vision in more detail next week.)

      1. Again we have God "relenting." God has now relented twice. How do you explain this? (We are back to our tough question. I start from the point that we must accept all Scripture as truth and look for a "common" explanation. Since we learned that God does not change His mind, we must reconcile that with this text about relenting. Remember that these are visions. They have not yet happened. God seems to be entering into a "discussion" with Amos about how to best get the people to turn back to God. God shows Amos what could happen, and Amos responds that this is too harsh. So, God agrees. God has not changed His mind, He has entered into a dialog with Amos on what to do.)

        1. Does God need to discuss these things with Amos? Does God need advice?

        2. Some people find the book of Amos troubling. What do you think troubles others about this book? What troubles you most about the book of Amos? (The book of Amos, on the surface, is a "gloom and doom and judgment" book. I've heard about teachers who have all sorts of rules that the students think are too harsh. I've also heard of teachers who have the students make up the rules. When the students make the rules, they are pretty strict. The difference is that the students who make the rules have a better attitude about them. This is somewhat like what is happening here. This is how God shows His love and mercy. He shows Amos what could happen, and when Amos says that is too harsh, God says, "OK, I'll do what you agree is better." This seems to be for the benefit of Amos, not God. It is Amos' mind that is being worked on, not God's mind.)

  3. Intercessor

    1. When you think of Amos standing before God in His vision saying "forgive" (v.2) and "I beg you stop" (v.5) what other Bible figure comes to mind? (In Hebrews 7:22-27 Jesus is pictured as our "High Priest" who "lives to intercede" for us. Because of His intercession He saves us if we repent and accept Him.)

    2. Can you think of other "intercessors" in the Bible?(Consider Genesis 18:20-33 where we find Abraham "negotiating" with God over the number of "righteous people" that would save Sodom from destruction.)

    3. Is it possible for God to work with you, just like He did with Amos, about the future of others?

      1. Read 1 John 5:16. I do not completely understand this verse, but I don't think we need to today. What does this suggest is your authority as an intercessor? (This clearly tells us that we should pray for others. It suggests that there is an area of sin in which God will certainly act on our requests.)

    4. Friend, our study in Amos shows that God is personally, intimately involved in our lives. He wants to work with us for our salvation and for the salvation of others. He also calls on us to have that same attitude towards others. To be part of the team that intercedes for the salvation of others. Will you be a part of this team?

  4. Next Week: Vision Two - Judgment by Fire

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Lessons on Amos

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