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 English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: On the surface, the language of Amos’ prophetic message is among the harshest in the Bible. In sometimes lurid language, it portrays God acting to punish the people, bringing disaster and destruction, slavery and death to the people because of their sins. No matter how sinful the people might have been, this language can and should make us uncomfortable.
But Amos Chapters 3 and 4 make it clear that these pronouncements, judgments, and warnings were nearing the end of a long process through which God had sought to call the people back to Himself and His ways. As harsh as the language might seem, these looming judgments from God were not the point of His actions toward the people, nor of Amos’ message: “Amos’ primary mission is not to predict, but to exhort and persuade” (Heschel, The Prophets, p. 45).
Amos listed a series of disasters that had already befallen the people of Israel—famine, drought, crop failure, plague and war. In Amos’ estimation, each of these might have prompted the people to turn back to God, but their sins of false religiosity and artificial luxury had blinded them to these national troubles and had only entrenched their self-centredness. The five-time repeated refrain highlights the persistence of God’s actions to reconnect with the people and their stubborn refusals: “‘But still you would not return to me,’ says the Lord” (see Amos 4:6–11).
As we have already noted, Amos’ ministry was yet another call for repentance, another evidence of God’s forbearance and mercy, despite how the language might sound. The harshness of the language reflected God’s desperation to show mercy. Coming after such a succession of these calls, this call had a sense of urgency and perhaps finality: “Prepare to meet your God in judgment, you people of Israel!” (Amos 4:13). God had tried repeatedly and successively to meet them, offering healing and restoration, but in the continuing absence of response and repentance, they would see Him act in judgment and disaster.
Amos was proclaiming the severe mercy of God, who loves both the oppressed and the oppressor, whose justice seeks the restoration of both, but who will act to bring an end to injustice and freedom to those who are oppressed.
Recalibrate: How is God both just and merciful? How can we be more just and merciful in how we relate to others?
Respond: “God, thank you for Your justice and Your mercy. May we strive to be just in our actions and merciful toward others.”
Research: Do a word search on “mercy” in the writings of the Hebrew prophets, particularly as it is used to describe God and His actions. What do you learn about mercy as a quality of God?
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.
Clap your hands and see if your child can copy the pattern of clapping. Make it simple to begin with and as they get the hang of copying your clapping, introduce a different rhythm. Help your little one focus on your clapping by keeping eye contact with them, always encouraging them to listen to the clapping. Make a habit of listening and then doing. Know that God is always creating new patterns and rhythms for us to follow.
Yesterday we talked about what a time out is and that you are warned that a time out is coming for you if keep doing the wrong thing. Sometimes grown ups say that you are going to get a time out and then they don’t do anything. You can keep on doing the wrong thing without any punishment. God doesn’t work this way. God wants you to do a good thing. He will find a way to help you stop the wrong thing you are doing so you can do a good thing instead.
In the book of Exodus we find the Ten Commandments in Chapter 20, Verses 3-17. More specifically, when we look at the fourth commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” we find something that is not found on the other commandments. In Verse 11 of Chapter 20, God outlines why He has designated the seventh day as special: “For in six days the Lord created the heavens and the earth, and the sea, and all that is in them.” This is who God is—Creator! This is why He is God—because He created.
God finishes reprimanding Israel with the same statement in Amos 4:13: He has the authority because He created us!
Let’s get real: Have you ever considered that God is who He is because He created us—not because of His infinite power, but because He wants to have a relationship with us? What are your perceptions of God?
When I was young and my mother would have to punish me, she would often say, “Remember, I love you and want what’s best for you.” As Amos closes up Chapter 4, he ends with a declaration of who God is: “For behold, He who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is His thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth—the Lord, the God of hosts, is His name!” (Amos 4:13). In some ways, I feel like this was God’s way of reminding the children of Israel what they were missing out on by choosing not to follow God. God was going to have to punish Israel, but He wanted to make sure they remembered who He was, and all that He had done for them. Next week as we get further into the story, let this final text in Chapter 4 be your springboard into the next section.
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.