(A brief overview for Sunday school teachers and Bible Study leaders of the Lifeway Explore the Bible lesson of Amos 2:4-16, for Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022, “Listen to God.” The video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:
INTRO: I might spend a little time introducing: THE MINOR PROPHETS, the 12 books that finish out the Old Testament.
I’d emphasize they are not “minor” in importance; only minor in SIZE.
But they have a powerful message.
Unfortunately, because they are small in length, and tucked away at the end of the OT, they often don’t get their due.
ONE EXERCISE you could do at/near the beginning of this lesson: have a handout sheet with the 12 minor prophets listed, and see what your members can write down about each of these 12: do they know what that book is about; do they have a verse memorized in it, etc? OR instead of doing it individually, you could all chip in together calling out what they know, while you write it on the Dry Erase board or whatever you have. I think what we ‘d find is that many of us just don’t know these 12 “minor prophets” very well — maybe Jonah or another 1 or 2 — but God has a lot for us in these books.
We are going to be looking at FOUR of these “minor prophets” this quarter: Amos, Jonah, Hosea, and Micah. Starting with Amos today.
BACKGROUND/INFO ON AMOS
We don’t know a LOT about the man Amos; chapter 1 says he was “Among the sheepherders from Tekoa”
He was from the Southern Kingdom, Judah, and God sent him to prophesy against the Northern Kingdom, Israel, so they may not have been very receptive to him.
A couple of things you & your group could talk about here:
ONE is this fact that he was a shepherd.
??? Who else do we know from the Bible who was a shepherd?
(David, Luke 2 Shepherds at Jesus’ birth; Rachel;
??? One question you could ask: WHY do you think that shepherds might be especially used by God???
— Shepherds have a lot of time to think/pray/seek God. They aren’t too “busy.” A lesson for us there?
— They were HUMBLE. Looked down on, “God gives grace to the humble.”
— They were used to caring for a “flock.” That translates well to ministering to people. Those who care for God’s church are called? (“Pastor,” which literally means “shepherd.”)
The SECOND thing has to do with his background. We evidently don’t know much about Amos’ call to ministry, and so on, but if I were Amos, from Judah, and God called me to go to Israel to preach, I might say: “Lord, I don’t think they will listen to me, since I’m not from there. In fact I’m from their enemy, the Southern Kingdom. Don’t you think You could find somebody the message might come better from?” But God sent HIM!
??? And then I’d ask the class: are there times that God nudges US to go to someone, or witness to someone, or minister to someone — but they are of another race, or culture, or background, or we don’t have much in common with them, so we hesitate to go? Can anyone share an experience of that?
(Just a “little” example of that: I was asked to share at the high school chapel of our Christian school last week. I have to admit that at least a “little” part of me was thinking: “I’m an old guy; it might be better if one of the youth ministers was speaking.” But they asked me, and I went — and I think God used it.
You & your class can share about times like that: that you might hesitate to go, share, minister, because of difference between you and the group God was pointing you to. I think that would be another good application from the introduction to this book.
SO as we get into the text of Amos, God is sending him with a word not only for Israel, but also with a message to many nations, which we see beginning in 1:3
Our FOCUS PASSAGE, as you can see, is 2:4-16, but
I would definitely NOT limit the scope of your lesson Sunday to 2:4-16, and I will tell you why: These verses are part of a whole chain of judgments that God is making on a series of nations, which all begin with the phrase, “For three transgressions/and for four, I will not revoke its punishment”: (eight such)
— 1:3 “For three transgressions of Damascus and for four, I will not revoke its punishment …”
— 1:6 “For three transgressions of Gaza and for four, I will not revoke its punishment …”
— 1:9 “For three transgressions of Tyre and for four, I will not revoke its punishment”
— 1:11 “For three transgressions of Edom and for four, I will not revoke its punishment.”
— 1:13 “For three transgressions of the sons of Ammon and for four, I will not revoke its transgression …”
THEN 2:1 “For three transgressions of Moab and for four, I will not revoke its punishment …”
THEN we come to the focus passage, 2:4, which says “For three transgressions of Judah and for four, I will not revoke its punishment
AND 2:6 “For three transgressions of Israel and for four, I will not revoke its transgression …”
SEE, if you just “jump in” to the lesson at 2:4-16, you MISS the whole series of condemnations; it was NOT just Judah and Israel; it was ALL these nations; it just ended with them.
AND ALSO you miss a really great “preaching device” that the Lord has Amos employ:
— NOTICE He starts by condemning all these foreign nations: Damascus, and Gaza, and Tyre, and so on. Condemning all the “foreigners.” You can just hear Israel saying, “AMEN! Get those foreigners, God! You bet! Give ‘em what they deserve.” AND not only them, but also their neighbors, the Edomites and Ammonites and Moabites. “Amen, sic ‘em Lord!” They’re all for that!
THEN he = in :4 “For three transgressions of JUDAH and for four …” well, as we’ve seen in our study of I & II Kings, Israel & Judah had split after King Solomon, and they were still fighting, so Israel was all for this, too: “Yeah, get those rebellious cousins in Judah! Get them God!”
AND THEN Amos, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, springs the “trap.” He’s “got the audience all reeled in” now; they’re all cheering for him! And then he says: “For three transgressions of ISRAEL and for four …”. OUCH! It’s not only “THEM OUT THERE” that God is condemning; it’s US too.
SO …. I would definitely NOT limit our coverage this week to 2:4-16 only. You really need to take the whole thing together. And you might present it the way that Amos did: “spring the ‘trap’” and zero in on Israel.
You might present it like this: for this Sunday, either use a map, or what I might do is draw out a map of the Holy Land like this, so that you can mark on it all the nations God calls out by name, and dramatically SHOW your class how God was “drawing them in” by calling out all these nations — and then “zeroed in” on them!
Another exercise you could do this week, would be to look at each of these eight groups and ask:
??? What specifically was it that God condemned about each of these nations???
You could either just point out yourself what they were each condemned for, OR divide your class into 8 groups or individuals — depending on many you have) and let each of them discover and point out what the sin was, that this group was judged by God for.
— Damascus: 1:3b “because they threshed Gilead with implements of sharp iron.” This was unnecessary cruelty
— Gaza 1:6b “they deported an entire population to Edom.” Basically sold people into slavery
— Tyre 1:9b same thing: they deported an entire population AND “did not remember the covenant of brothers”. They were disloyal; they broke a promise.
— Ammon: 1:13 “ripped open pregnant women of Gilead” Killed women and babies for their own gain. (To enlarge their borders; for their own gain)
— Moab 2:1 “he burned the bones of the King of Edom to lime” (you might wonder about that one: it’s just excessive hatred and spite. It wasn’t enough just to KILL him; they had to burn his bones to lime. It was spiteful, hateful, “over the top” revenge.)
— Judah 2:4 “they rejected the Law of YHWH, followed lies instead
— Israel 2:6 “sold righteous for money/needy for a pair of sandals (took financial advantage of people); :7 had no mercy on the helpless; :7b sexual immorality; :8 took garments as pledges (God had said not to do that); “drink the wine of those who have been fined” — again, taking advantage of people.
Then talk about: how do these sins that they were condemned by God for, apply to us today? (Always remember to apply the lesson to TODAY!). Can we be unnecessarily cruel? Can we take advantage of people for money? Do people today kill babies for their own advantage? And so on. Of course the answer is “yes.” So talk about ways these different things apply to us today.
AND I would also point out: THE MOST CONDEMNATIONS God listed here for any nation, were for ISRAEL! NOT for “the other nations.” For most of the other nations, God only pointed out one or two things. But for Israel it was more. So it wasn’t just “those nations out there” who have sinned against God; It’s US too, who have sinned and are accountable to Him. Here’s an important point: we often want to focus on the sins of others, but God wants to address OUR sin.
I used this story here at First Baptist Angleton in a message a couple of weeks ago, so you teachers from FBCA might reference it, if not, here is the story, and you can use it if you are led to:
When I was a boy, growing up at the First Baptist Church of Harrah, Oklahoma, our pastor (Hoyt Aduddell) had just preached one of those messages that sticks with you, and it was because throughout the sermon, which was on greed, he continually used the phrase, “Gimme, gimme, gimme.” “Gimme, gimme, gimme” he said, and that phrase was drilled into our minds repeatedly throughout the message. On the way out, feeling quite spiritually mature as an 8-year-old, I remember saying to my dad on the way out: “‘Gimme, gimme, gimme.’ That sounds just like the girls to me.” (I have three younger sisters.) But I’ll never forget: Dad looked over at me and said, “Sounds like all four of you to me!” Dad really put me in my place that day — and I needed it. It’s not just that my sisters were all greedy sinners and I wasn’t. We ALL are greedy sinners, and I needed to include myself in that number too!
So one of the things God was showing Israel here was: Don’t you think God’s word is only for all the other nations. It is for YOU TOO!
And the same thing is true for America today, isn’t it? This is SO applicable for us. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was doing very well, economically, militarily, etc. and they felt like God was blessing them. But God through Amos said, NO! I am NOT happy with you. And the same thing could be said for America today. Just because we are well off economically and militarily does not mean God is happy with our spiritual state. His judgment came on Israel in the next generation — and it could come on OUR country soon too!
And the same thing is true for our churches today
And the same thing is true for each of us as God’s people today.
God’s message of condemnation of sin and the judgment that is coming and the need for repentance is not just for “all those people out there” — it is for US too! God’s word zeroes in on US! We need to be sure we are listening to Him — Israel did NOT, and not long after Amos preached, the Northern Kingdom of Israel was carried off into captivity into Assyria, never to be heard from again!
This has a special application for those of us who are pastors, and ministers, Sunday school teachers, and Bible study leaders. God’s word is not just for “everyone else.” It is for YOU too!
“Don’t read the Bible for everyone else.” Looking to apply it to “them.” Read it for YOURSELF. YOU need it.
This is why I encourage SS teachers to spend more time in God’s word each week than just the study for your lesson. I’ve known people who have said things like: “Well, I study for my lesson, so I don’t need to read my Bible daily.” And in the same way I’ve known of pastors who said they studied X amount of hours for their messages every week, so they didn’t need to read the Bible for themselves. But the problem with that is, when you are studying the lesson, you are always doing it with an eye for OTHER PEOPLE: “What am I going to share from this lesson? Who in my class needs this?”
But you need — we ALL need, pastors too! — time in God’s word every day when it just you and God and God’s Holy Spirit speaking to YOU — NOT prep for a “lesson” or a sermon or anything else. You are just letting God speak to YOU and your life. I strongly encourage you: please take time every day — in whatever reading plan He leads you to use — when you let God speak to YOU. YOU need that, teacher — and I do too. It is the most important time we will spend in God’s word every day, when we let Him speak to our own life from His word.
SO challenge your class to hear what God is saying to THEM this week — and YOU be sure to let God speak to YOU every day too!
I pray God will use this overview to help you convey His message to your class this week.