A brief overview, for Sunday School teachers and Bible study leaders, of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” lesson of Amos 9:5-15, for Sunday, September 25, 2022 with the title: “Hope in God.”
A video version of this overview is available at:
INTRO: One way you could begin the lesson this week, would be to share the true story one of my former church members sent me a week or two ago; he said he was in the hospital for something, and the hospital chaplain had a prayer time over the public address system for all the patients. He thought that was really neat — until the chaplain prayed: “God, we know You’re doing doing the best You can …”. When he sent me that, I was like, “Oh my.” You could talk with your class about, “What was wrong with that prayer?” The answer, of course, God is not some “pitiful” figure who’s up there “just trying to do the best He can”! He’s Almighty God, the Lord of the Universe, and there is NOTHING too difficult for Him. We need to better realize just Who He is, and what He can do — and that we are accountable to Him, which our lesson for this week talks about.
We are finishing our study of Amos this week; Amos has issued a series of judgments that God is pouring out on various nations (as we saw in Chapters 1-2) as well as on Israel & Judah. This last chapter speaks about WHO God is, as well as something of the judgment that is coming — but does have a note of hope at the end.
I. The God Who is Speaking :5-6
II. The Judgment He Is Sending :7-10
III. The Hope He is Giving. :11-15
I. The God who is speaking:
:5-6 is a description of God, a “praise hymn” if you would.
This is one of three such “praise hymns’ in Amos. I love these sections: they tell us a lot about God, and I think their primary purpose is that they remind us just WHO it is who is speaking here!
The 3 “praise hymns” in Amos are:
— and 9:5-6 here
Each of these “hymns” ends with “the LORD is His name” This is important: I’ve mentioned this before: When you see “LORD” in all 4 caps in the Old Testament (and a few places where “GOD” is in all 3 caps like in 9:5) when you see those capital letters, that means that in the original Hebrew, that is NOT the Hebrew word “Adonai” (Lord) or “Elohim” (God), but Yahweh (YHWH) the personal name of God.
Which makes sense. If you read it that way, it says; “YHWH is His name.” He’s telling you His name. So we need to know what that name IS. His name is NOT Baal, or Milcom, or Asherah. It is YAHWEH who is the One True God. SO I think this is one of those places where we need to understand that it is YHWH, the personal name of God, that is written here.
Now in 4:13 where it says “The LORD God of hosts is His name.” in Hebrew that’s “Yahweh Elohim Tzabaoth.” “Tsabaoth” means “hosts, armies.” God is the Lord of hosts, Yahweh God of armies!
If you’re familiar with Martin Luther’s classic song, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” there is a verse that says “Lord Sabbaoth His name, from age to age the same.” A person might think that “Sabbaoth” had something to do with the “Sabbath.” It doesn’t. It means “hosts/armies.” God is the Lord of Armies!
ONE exercise you could do with your group for Sunday would be to look at these 3 “praise hymn” passages, 4:13, 5:8, and 9:5-6, and say: “Ok, what all do we learn about God from these passages?” And just list all the things they tell you. (Since there’s three passages, you COULD give one verse/set of verses to 3 groups in your class, and let them each share what that verse/s tells us about God. OR you can just do it all together; whichever works best for your group.)
Some examples of what you/your group might find:
— 4:13 He forms the mountains, creates the wind (the word “creates” here is the Hebrew “bara,” which means to create out of nothing. It is the word used in Genesis 1:1! Where does the wind come from, the child asks. GOD made it, is the right answer, no matter what our age!
— He declares to man what are his thoughts (how many times in the NT do we see where it says: “And Jesus, knowing their thoughts …” etc.
— Who makes dawn into darkness
— Treads on the high places of the earth
— 5:9 “He who made the Pleiades and Orion” we talked about this last week: YHWH GOD made the stars. If you didn’t show the new space telescope pictures last week, you might do that this week, and say how each blurb of light there is not a “star” but a GALAXY of 200 BILLION stars! What an awesome God He is! (In fact, one of you wrote in the comments this week that “The picture you showed of the deep galaxies is a favorite of mine. The first time I saw it, I thought: I have a big, BIG GOD!” That is exactly right! That’s what Amos is trying to convey here!)
— “changes deep darkness into morning” (4:13 = “makes dawn into darkness,” now = “changes darkness into morning.”) So GOD is in charge of day/night. (So many have been posting on Facebook, pictures of dawn/sunset. GOD does that!)
— “who darkens day into night” he says again
— who pours out the waters of the sea on the earth
— who touches the land so that it melts
— all of it rises up like the Nile …
— The one who builds His upper chambers in the heavens and has founded His vaulted dome over the earth (I.e. He dwells in heaven)
— AGAIN (as we saw in 5:9) “He who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the face of the earth”
This can mean TWO things:
— it can refer to how water evaporates, and then comes to water the land. The Canaanites thought Baal send the rain; but here the Bible says YHWH does!
— But this can also refer to how God He can take the waters of the sea and flood the earth. YHWH Elohim, the God of the Bible, is the One who controls rain, flood, day, night, sun, moon, stars. He is the Supreme God of the Universe!
They were about to have a big “upheaval” in the land: the judgment of the nations that was about to come. They needed to know it was YAHWEH GOD was doing that. HE is in charge of nations and kingdoms and judgment and earth and land and all things, permanent and transitory.
SO: as you look at all of these qualities of God (and depending on how you want to spend your time with this lesson, you MAY just want to do the one for this week’s lesson (9:5-6) instead of all 3. (I think I personally would do all three and focus on this because I think most people today need a better sense of who God is) But whether you just look at the qualities of God in 9:5-6, or do all 3 “praise hymns”, after you/the class calls out these qualities, I might then ask:
??? Which of these qualities of God speaks to YOU the most???
Which is most inspiring, challenging, insightful, etc. Of course, the answer to that will vary by the individual. To me, the picture of God as the creator of all those billions of galaxies can’t be beat! But one of the others might be more impressive to you, and to your group members. So talk about that for a while. I really think one of the best applications we can make this week is to ponder these qualities of God. Help our people know Him better; learn to be more in awe of HIM!
Another application you can make with these verses, is to use them as the opening “praise” portion of your prayer: either opening or closing class — or both! But it would be a great way to start your prayer with praise like the Bible teaches us here:
“Lord, You are the One who touches the land and it melts … You are the One who has built Your upper chambers in the heavens, and founded your vaulted dome over the earth …” etc. Use this description as the basis of your praise in prayer.
But the point in these verses is: the One who can do all these awesome things, is the God who is speaking. You’d best listen to Him!
II. The Judgment He is Sending
There has been much in Amos about the judgment that God promised to bring on various nations — including Judah and Israel. We’ve talked about that a few times. But God talks about that judgment with a little different “slant” here:
— :7 “Are you not as the sons of Ethiopia to Me, O sons of Israel?” What does this mean? Well, Israel thought (rightly so) that they were God’s special people; that He treated them differently than He did other nations. And God DID indeed give them many privileges: they had His special presence, His word, etc. But they took this too far. They thought because they were His special people, that He wouldn’t judge them like He did other nations. But Romans 2:11 says “there is no partiality with God.”
God says here: I’m going to judge YOU with the same standard I would Ethiopia. There’s no difference.
:8 says “The eyes of the Lord GOD (“GOD” there is all caps; so that’s YHWH in Hebrew) are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth.”
God says, I will do that for the kingdom of Ethiopia, and I will do it for YOU too. You aren’t going to be “let off” just because you’re “My special people.”
We just read in our church’s daily Bible reading this week in Jeremiah 7:4, “Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’” Israel thought: We’re God’s special people; we have the Temple! Nothing bad can happen here. But God said that wasn’t going to save them. He’d judge Ethiopia for sins like theirs, and He is going to judge THEM too!
Is there application for US today? Absolutely! How many people think we’re “safe” here in America? Surely no judgment is coming here. World War I, World War II, all these wars, touched other countries, but not us; we’re “safe” behind the two oceans. But there is no safety from the wrath of God. God judged Ethiopia for their sins; God judged Israel & Judah for their sins; and God will judge America for OUR sins. “For there is no partiality with God.”
His judgment IS coming.
One question you could ask your group, to apply this, would be: did you ever see a case of blatant partiality, where someone wasn’t treated like everyone else because they were “special”? I think of what they used to call “The Jordan Rules” — the NBA had one standard of officiating/treatment/discipline for Michael Jordan, and another one for everyone else! That’s just an example; you/your group undoubtedly know/have seen many more.
But then we can say: But GOD is not partial. He is perfectly just, no matter WHO we are. He is like General Grant during the Civil War, when a mess-up had occurred in the war, Grant sent to President Lincoln a list of brigadier generals whom the Union could “dispense with to an advantage.” Lincoln told Grant: but some of your closest friends are on this list! Grant said: :That’s very true Mr. President. But my personal friends are not always good generals, and I think it is but just to adhere to my recommendations.’” Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years, p. 629). Grant was impartial. It didn’t matter if they were his special friend or not. They needed to be disciplined and thrown out, no matter who they were.
The point here is, God is the same way. It doesn’t matter if we are His “chosen people,” or God-blessed America, the historic Southern Baptist Convention, or you or me! If we sin against Him and refuse His warnings, we WILL be judged, without partiality. (This could be the place where you share the gospel this week, too! We’ve ALL sinned against God; He offers us forgiveness in Christ, but if we reject it, we WILL be judged by Him, whoever we are.).
But it’s not all “doom and gloom.” The last verses :11-15 speak of:
III. The Future Hope He is Giving
God IS going to bring judgment, and both Israel & Judah would soon be devastated by invasions and carried off into captivity, but God also promises here that He is going to bring future BLESSINGS and restoration to them as well.
Importantly, He says He is going to do it “IN THAT DAY.” “That day” is an important expression. Throughout the Bible it refers to the future “day of the Lord” that is coming. Verse 13 reinforces that, when it says: “Days are coming …”. So this is some time in the future, in the latter days, when the Lord returns that the hope is promised.
We see here that God portrays these future blessings in very “picturesque’, symbolic language. You can point out what these blessings are, OR, to get your group involved, you could ask them to survey these verses and call out, all the different ways they see here that God says He will bless them:
— :11 He’s going to raise up the fallen booth (literally, “tabernacle”) of David, and repair, rebuild it …
— :12 They’ll possess Edom again (restore lost territory and defeats)
— :13 one of the most picturesque: “the plowman will overtake the reaper.” They tell us that usually in Israel you would reap a crop, and then 6 months later you’d plow for the next batch. But God says here the blessings will be so great that the plowman’s going to be right behind the reaper, starting the next batch. It’s symbolic of how blessed and prosperous the land will be one day.
— :14 God will restore the captivity of His people. They’ll rebuild the cities, plant, drink, make gardens
— :15 And He says “I will also plant them on their land, and they will not again be rooted out …”. In other words, the blessings God gives them will be PERMANENT! Nobody will ever take them away!
We need to understand that all this is very poetic, symbolic language. But it symbolizes how God will again bless His people. They are being judged now, but He will bless them again one day.
I think we could look at several means of fulfillment of these things:
— In the millennium that Revelation describes, these things will literally happen
— In the very end, when the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven, and there is “a new heavens and a new Earth,” and the new garden with the Tree of Life and its fruit for His people.
— And really it pictures the story of the Gospel:
— God created Adam & Eve and gave them land and a garden to fellowship with Him in.
— They sinned and were cast out of the land/garden
— But Jesus came and died on the cross to reconcile us with God
— Now one day we will have that land/garden/fellowship with God again, FOREVER — and like He says here, “we will not be rooted out of it”! Thank God! We will be with Him there forever! THAT is our future hope! Some difficult times are surely ahead for God’s people, but let’s remember the future HOPE He’s promised us! That’s how Amos ends!
If you close your class with prayer, you might consider using the outline we just followed as the outline of your prayer:
— start with the Praise of :5-6 “You are the Lord God of hosts, who touches the earth so that it melts …”
— then pray about the coming Judgment: Lord, we know we’ve sinned and judgment is coming; Help US to repent and be ready for You
— and then close with the Hope: “Lord, thank You glorious days are coming, when You’ll restore Your people, and we’ll live in beautiful gardens in Your presence forever …” and so on.
Our outline of Amos 9 would be a good way to pray and close the class. AND it would be good to model for your class, using God’s word to guide our prayers.
God bless you as you lead your group to find Hope in our Awesome God this Sunday!