Vision Four - Summer Fruit
Introduction: Sometimes my dreams go bad. I'll be dreaming of being in some pleasant place when all of a sudden things turn dark and someone starts chasing me - or something like that. Has that happened to you? Things in your dreams or in your life do not turn out as you had originally expected? Amos' vision that we are studying today sounds like that on the surface. What seems good turns out bad. Let's jump in and see what we can learn.
- Fruit Basket Upset
- Read Amos 8:1-3. First, I want you to fix in your mind the candy that you like the best. Now, imagine that someone gave you a basket of it. What would be your reaction? (Those of you who understand proper nutrition can stick to imagining what Amos got - a bowl of ripe fruit! Obviously, we would like a basket of candy or fruit.)
- Why would God use ripe fruit (something good) as an illustration of the bad things He was going to do to His people? Why not say "Here, Amos, is a basket of snakes?"
- Have you ever bitten into a fruit that looked good, but was too ripe to the point of being rotten? (I think that is part of God's point. God says these people "look good" but they are really rotten.)
- Do you notice the way the word "ripe" is used to describe the fruit and to describe the time of judgment? Is this a coincidence? Or, is there some meaning in this? (Motyer's book on Amos reveals that there is a play on words in the Hebrew that is reflected in the NIV translation. The "ripe" fruit is "ripe" for judgment!)
- Let's list the contrasts we find in Amos 8:3,8-10. (Songs turn to wailing, solid ground begins to tremble, the land acts like water, the sun sets at noon and the day becomes like night, religious feasts become like funerals, singing turns to crying.)
- Why is God listing all of these opposites? These contrasts? (God is saying that He is going to turn things upside down. The people claim they are religious, they claim to be ripe fruit, but what they really are is ripe for judgment. Thus, God is going to change the existing order of things. This will be like the children's game "fruit basket upset.")
- The Sabbath
- Read Amos 8:4-6. Do you think these people kept the Sabbath? Or, did they just ignore it?(They must have been keeping it is some fashion because they wanted to know when it ended.)
- What do you think about the way they kept the Sabbath? (They had the wrong attitude. First, they wanted the Sabbath to be over. Why? Because they were anxious to get back to cheating people in their business dealings! They were making a mockery of the Sabbath by scheming to do evil on the very day they should have been scheming to do God's will.)
- Do we have the right attitude about Sabbath-keeping today?
- Are you personally anxious for Sabbath to end?
- Do you have trouble not thinking about your work on Sabbath?
- Of all the sins that God might have mentioned, why do you think He brought up the Sabbath? (This is another "ripe fruit" example. The people had an appearance of being righteous because they observed the Sabbath. But inside (that is their minds) they were rotten because they were plotting and scheming how they would cheat others just as soon as Sabbath ended.)
- What do these verses suggest to those who believe keeping the Sabbath holy is more important than other obligations to God? (This shows that "Sabbath-keeping" is not just a matter of keeping a set period of time holy. It shows that honoring the God of the Sabbath includes a life reflecting His holiness. Keeping Sabbath was no advantage to people who were lying, cheating and stealing the rest of the week!)
- Not Forget
- Read Amos 8:7. Does this sound right to you? How can God say He will not forget your sins?
- Let's read some texts that seem to say just the opposite. Read Psalms 103:10-12; Hebrews 10:16-17; Isaiah 43:25.
- How do you reconcile these texts? How can God say on one hand He forgets our sins and on the other hand say He will not forget?
- What is our obligation to others? Can we, too, properly say "I will not forget?"
- Read Matthew 18:21. What does Peter want to know? (The answer to the question I just asked!)
- Read Jesus' answer: Matthew 18:22. What do you think this means? Can you say "I will not forget?" Would you need an adding machine before you could properly say "I will not forget?"
- Let's read on because Jesus explains His point with a story. Read Matthew 18:23-27. What is Jesus really talking about in this story? (Salvation. Verse 23 starts out "the kingdom of heaven." This is an illustration of the path to salvation.)
- Read Matthew 18:28-35. Let me ask you again: Can you properly say to those around you "I will not forget your sin?"
- Now can you now explain how God can say "I won't remember" at one point and at another "I won't forget?" (God forgives and forgets for all of those who repent and treat others as God has treated them. However, if we do not forgive others "from the heart" then God re-institutes our debt. That is apparently what was happening in Amos 8. Like the debtor in Matthew 18, we have no choice but to forgive others who "owe" us much less than we owe our God.)
- The Famine
- Read Amos 8:11-12. If I said that a day is coming when you won't be able to buy soap, what would you do (assuming you believed me)? (The natural reaction is to start hoarding soap.)
- Do these people care for the Word of God now? (No. Remember last week the High Priest told Amos (Amos 7:12)to go away and quit bothering them with God's words.)
- Will the people care about finding the Word of God in the future? (Yes. Amos 8:12 says they will "stagger" looking for it.)
- Why? If the people do not care about hearing the Word of God now, but will be desperately looking for it later, what will make the difference? Hearing that there will be a shortage? (We would hoard soap because we know we need it. These people did not know they needed the Word of God so they were not going to hoard it. What changes is that tragedy strikes, the people realize that they ignored God's Word, and now they desperately want to turn to Him to get them out of their trouble.)
- Is this also true for us? Should we be drinking in the Word of God now to prepare us for troubling times in the future?
- Why would we need God's Word for the future? ( Amos 3:7 tells us that God will not do anything without first revealing His plans to His servants the prophets. This means that God gives us advance warning of what will take place. In the middle of trouble we want to know how things will turn out. That is why the people here were so desperate to find the Word of the Lord they had previously scorned.)
- Friend, the dream has not yet turned bad. We still have the opportunity now to soak in God's Word. By studying Amos with me we are taking in God's Word. Will you commit to continuing to drink in God's Word to prepare for difficult times ahead? Will you study God's will so that you will not be fruit that looks ripe, but is only ripe for judgment?
- Next Week: Vision Five - No Escape for the Lost.