Series: Shepherds Roar
Message: Versus: Against All Odds
Preacher: Tony Hunter
Reflection: Nathan Brown
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Zan Long
Live Beyond: Art Preuss
Live Purpose: Kyle Smith
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Amos 3-4 in The Message (MSG). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: “Jeroboam II, the son of Jehoash, began to rule over Israel in the fifteenth year of King Amaziah’s reign in Judah. He reigned in Samaria forty-one years. He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. He refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam son of Nebat had led Israel to commit” (2 Kings 14:23, 24, NLT). Apart from the message of Amos, we do not know many details of the sins of Jeroboam II, but this reference to the sins of the first King Jeroboam suggests continued unfaithfulness to the God of Israel.
One of the recurring temptations of the people of Israel was adopting the religious practices of the peoples around them, often leading the people into a syncretism that saw elements of surrounding religion and idolatry incorporated into their supposed worship of their God. Fearing that the continuing pilgrimages to worship in the temple in Jerusalem would be a political risk to his reign in the newly divided northern kingdom, the first King Jeroboam set up golden calves at either end of his kingdom—in Bethel and Dan—as alternative venues for the people to worship. He also set up a parallel priesthood and festivals in imitation of the festivals that had been celebrated at the Jerusalem temple (see 1 Kings 12:25–33). It was a religion based on political expediency, but with a veneer of faithful worship.
Of course, the Bible’s history often used the single figure of the king as a proxy for a larger political, religious, and economic system. While Jeroboam II was the leader and figurehead of Israelite society, there was inevitable a network of powerful people who encouraged his evil doing, abetted his outrages, and benefitted from his patronage and the religious and political status quo. This was not only an individual king, but a nation that had lost its vision of God and what He intended for them to be.
Amos’ message from God identified their false worship as a particular focus of God’s anger and His judgment to come: “On the very day I punish Israel for its sins, I will destroy the pagan altars at Bethel. The horns of the altar will be cut off and fall to the ground” (Amos 3:14, NLT).
Recalibrate: What are our greatest risks of syncretism today? How do we distinguish between cultural relevance and syncretism?
Respond: Pray these words: “God, in a world with so many voices, help us to keep focused on You and what is most important in the faith of the Bible.”
Research: Read the stories from the messy history of the northern kingdom of Israel in selections from 1 Kings 12–22 and 2 Kings 1–17. You will note that these stories are interspersed with those of the kings of Judah.
Remember: “Before the Lord God does anything, He tells His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7, ICB).
Nathan Brown is a writer and book editor at Signs Publishing Company, near Melbourne, Australia. Nathan is author/editor of 16 books, including two this year—Of Falafels and Following Jesus and For the Least of These.
Place your little one’s favorite toys underneath a cloth. Let them feel what they are and guess what it is. Pull the cloth off the toys and call out “surprise!” If your little one likes this game, play it again with all sorts of objects under the cloth. Let them be the one to reveal the surprise. Know that we cannot hide anything from God, and as the Words to Remember for this week say: “Before the Lord God does anything, He tells His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7, ICB). God does not hide what He is doing from us.
Make a paper plane and follow these instructions. You can see with each fold what the piece of paper is becoming. In the same way we can see what kind of people we are becoming by what we choose to do. When we choose to be kind we are becoming kind people. Just like the plane, the more we follow God’s instructions for our life the more we will be like what He wanted us to be.
A man once said, “Where there is no friendship there can be no fellowship.” In other words, how can you enjoy someone else’s company if you are not friends with them? This is why God is about to begin pronounce judgment on His people. They have abandoned their friend. So just before God begins to describe the people’s sins and what He is about to do, He makes a statement that is worthwhile thinking about. He says that He will not do anything “unless He reveals His secret to His servants, the prophets (Amos 3:7). Not only that, along with revealing His secrets, God does not punish unjustly. Check to this video to see a little bit more on what role a prophet has.
Let’s get real: Can you think of any other stories in the Bible where God revealed what He was about to do through His prophets?
Have you ever done something wrong without knowing it, and then been punished for it? That never feels fair does it? There have been times in my life where this has happened to me. It always leave me feeling frustrated and upset. “How was I supposed to know!?” is often the thought I cling to. Here is the groundbreaking truth about God: He always gives us warnings. God does not expect us to assume what is right or wrong. He is crystal clear. Now, whether we choose to listen to God’s warning or not is completely on us. As you read Amos 3-4 make it a point to realize how many chances God had given the people of Israel. He didn’t wake up one day and think it would be a good idea to punish them. That is so out of His character. Rather He sent prophets and priests and teachers to help lead and guide the people so they would know His voice. Unfortunately, they did not listen. As you look at this story, can you think of things in your life that God is trying to address? Are you listening to Him or not?
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Art Preuss pastors in Massachusetts at the Springfield, Florence, and Warren Adventist churches and serves in the U. S. Air Force Reserve as a chaplain.
Kyle Smith is the associate pastor of youth and family ministries at New Haven Adventist Church in Overland Park, Kansas.