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 New International Version (NIV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: On a number of occasions during His ministry, Jesus seemed to go out of His way to rebut the common presumption that illness, accidents and other misfortunes should be interpreted as judgments from God—usually Jesus did so by healing the person whose suffering had sparked the question. However, directly addressing such questions in Luke 13:1–5 in the context of tragic news in His time, He responded somewhat cryptically that those who were victims were not necessarily worse sinners than anyone else but that His hearers should pay attention because “you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God” (see verse 3; compare verse 5).
On the other hand, we see in the experience of Job that he was subject to a succession of tragedies precisely because he was faithful to God. Similarly, many of the prophets and early Christians suffered persecution because of their faith and their witness to the reality of God. Of this kind of suffering, Jesus said that those who are persecuted are “blessed” (see Matthew 5:10–12).
So we need to think carefully about how we read statements such as these from Amos, which were undoubtedly an influence on the thinking of the people of Jesus’ time—and particularly what kind of theology we might derive from our own life circumstances. One helpful distinction from the example of Amos is the presence of Amos himself, someone with a genuine prophetic gift to interpret and warn the people about the events around them and tragedies to come. This is the significance of Amos’ assertion that God never does anything “until He reveals His plans to His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7, NLT).
But in the absence of such direct revelation, we should be careful about how and where we perceive God in the midst of the sufferings, disappointments, and tragedies of our lives—and doubly careful about how we answer these questions in the suffering of others. Yes, these experiences can and should open us more to God’s presence as we seek the comfort, healing and hope He offers. But where God is active amid our inevitable and seemingly random sufferings remains a complicated question.
Recalibrate: Some Christians seem to interpret every triumph or tragedy—however small—as a blessing from God or an attack of the devil, perhaps less often a punishment from God. To what extent do you agree or not with such a view of our lives and experiences?
Respond: Pray these words: “God, we understand so little of why difficult things happen to us and others. Please give us courage to endure suffering and compassion to encourage others in their suffering, as well as the ability to trust You whatever our experiences.”
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.
Stand in front of a mirror with your child and say, “I can touch my head,” and then touch your head. Ask them if they can touch their head. Do this for the rest of your body—“I can touch my nose, ears, toes, knees,” etc, always explaining what is about to happen and then following through with the action. Know that God is true to His word. If He makes a promise He will keep it. He will always find a way to let us know what His plans are. The Words to Remember this week tell us this: “Before the Lord God does anything, He tells His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7, ICB).
Have you ever been given a time out? If you don’t know what a time out is, it is when you have to sit in a spot away from where you want to be, usually because you have disobeyed your parents or teachers. The rule of time out is that you are always warned that a time out is coming—you only end up in time out when you refuse to listen. Amos was telling the people in our text for this week that they would be getting a very serious time out. “Before the Lord God does anything, He tells His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7, ICB). Amos told the people what God told him. The time out warning was given.
In today’s day and age, if you call somebody a cow, well, it would not be taken as a compliment. Usually, this kind of statement would imply that you are calling somebody overweight. Well, by calling those who had summer homes on the mountains of Samaria “cows of Bashan,” he wasn’t necessarily implying that they were merely overweight. This breed of cows were grazing in a pasture that was rich in nutrients. However, these cows would leave their pastures, and invade the inferior pastures of weaker cows and cause injury to them.
Because Amos was a shepherd by trade, he used the cows of Bashan to illustrate how the privileged were abusing the poor. The “riches” they were enjoying were the result of God’s blessings on His people, and he expected that those who were more privileged than others, would not abuse of their God given gift.
Let’s get real: How have you used a blessing that God has given you to help those who are less fortunate than you?
Despite all of God’s warnings and decrees, Israel had yet to return to Him (Amos 3-4). If I were God, I would have told Amos to write a Chapter 5, tell the people how He destroyed Israel, and then I would have called it a day. Yet Amos doesn’t finish at Chapter 4 or 5. God doesn’t destroy Israel. Instead, He keeps pursuing His people. God keeps trying to lure them back to His heart. How does this image of God differ from that of the secular world’s opinion of God? I’ve often heard people read a book like Amos and say, “God is so angry!” If that is the only thing you are taking away from this book, read it again and again and again. Don’t stop until you see what is really happening. God loves His people, and because of that love He doesn’t give up on them. How have you strayed away from God at times in your life? How has God shown you that He isn’t giving up on you?
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.