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 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: During the reign of Jeroboam II, the unfaithfulness of the people was not only about religious practice and direct unfaithfulness to God, it had practical dimensions in society. In many ways, Jeroboam’s reign was the high point of the northern kingdom of Israel. With their neighboring nations and military rivals weakened, Israel’s borders expanded to the north and east bringing “unparalleled economic prosperity” (The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, “Jeroboam”). Archaeologists working in the region of Samaria have found evidence of a luxurious fortress city dating to this era that would fit with the descriptions of the excesses of wealth and self-indulgence that Amos preached so stridently against.
According to Amos, God was angry that their wealth was created and maintained by injustice, oppression, and exploitation. The prosperity enjoyed by the king and his powerbrokers was not a benefit to all in society—as Walter Brueggemann has termed it, “the prosperous prospered in exaggerated form” (The Word Militant, p. 50)—and their unjust practices only increased the gap between rich and poor: “Their fortresses are filled with wealth taken by theft and violence” (Amos 3:10, NLT). The way they did business entrenched the enslavement of their own people, with no concern for who they hurt or destroyed: “They sell honorable people for silver and poor people for a pair of sandals. They trample helpless people in the dust and shove the oppressed out of the way” (Amos 2:6, 7, NLT).
Some of Amos’ harshest language came in describing the “fat cows living in Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy” (Amos 4:1). He was addressing the wealthy and privileged classes, those at the “top” of Israelite society, who were pitiless toward those who suffered. Living lives of self-indulgence, they gave no thought to their responsibility to care for others or that the prosperity and benefits of society should bring benefits to all.
Using confronting and graphic language, Amos warned that they would be led away with hooks in their noses and thrown off the top of their own fortress (see Amos 4:2,3). Built on the suffering and exclusion of others, their apparent prosperity was a mirage that would only last a short time.
Recalibrate: Is wealth wrong when so many others in our world are in need?
Respond: Pray these words: “God, may we see how our lives profit from the suffering and exploitation of others and may we seek to do what we can to bring greater justice in our world.”
Research: Search online for figures showing wealth inequality in your nation and, if available, how this has changed over time. Why does it matter if the “prosperous prosper in exaggerated form?”
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.
Set up a picnic or tea party with your little one. Ask your child who you should invite to the party. Make a special place for everyone, even the toys. Ask your child to tell you what kind of food they would like to have. Do they think there will be enough for everyone? Show what it is to share or give what you have while playing with your child. Know that how we learn to play together is how we learn to live together.
Do you like to play with your friends? Yes, of course you do. I do too. I don’t like to play with my friends when they get bossy and keep all the toys for themselves! It’s easy to get bossy like this if all the toys belong to you. Try thinking of what God has given you to share. Find ways to share what you have in the best way.
One of the things Israel did that caused God to pronounce judgment on its people was mixing things that were sacred with things that were not. God had given specific instructions to Israel to honor Him and Him only—and in return, He would bless them with a place they could call their own. However, the people ignored Him and decided to do their own thing and began to worship other gods. So God began His judgment on them by removing the things they were promised in the first place—their homes. Amos told God’s people that they would lose their land and would become slaves to another kingdom.
Let’s get real: Have you ever lost something to only realize how good it was to have after you lost it? What caused you to lose this thing? Were you ever able to recover it back? If not, do you miss it? Are you able to get it back?
As I look at our world today, it makes me think that if Amos were alive now, He would feel the same way today as He felt during the time he was speaking to Israel. We have a constant craving in our society for more, more, more. We struggle to be content. Our lives are shaped by Instagram and Snapchat, which only cover the highlights of people’s days and lives. And we all long for something more. I think the “something more” we long for is something we cannot find on this earth. We long for a home, heaven. Yet we try and fill that void with things and experiences. How have you tried to fill your life with the prosperity of the world? Has it worked for you, or made the empty feeling worse?
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.