Series: Shepherds Roar
Message: Mean People
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Nathan Brown
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Jess Lee
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 7-8 in The Message (MSG). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: It’s hardly surprising that the messages of the Hebrew prophets—and the prophets themselves—were not often popular. As Abraham Joshua Heschel put it, “The striking surprise is that prophets of Israel were tolerated at all by their people. To the patriots, they seemed pernicious; to the pious multitude, blasphemous; to the men in authority, seditious” (The Prophets, p. 23).
So it isn’t a surprise that Amos’ story includes a little of the pushback from the people in power, heard in the voice of Amaziah the priest (see Amos 7:10–13). Telling Amos to go back to where he came from, Amaziah flexed the political and religious muscle of the nation in opposing and rejecting Amos and his messages. It was a dangerous moment for Amos.
It is a moment—and a choice—that has come to many who have spoken up for truth and justice throughout history. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a young pastor and newcomer to Montgomery, Alabama, when he unexpectedly found himself as a leader of the bus boycott that became a significant starting point of the Civil Rights movement. Late one night in 1956, he received a phone call threatening that if he didn’t leave town within three days “they” would kill King and blow up his house.
King described being paralyzed by fear, seated at his kitchen table while his young family slept in the silent house. “It seemed to me at that moment”—as he would later describe it—“that I could hear an inner voice saying to me, ‘Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo I will be with you, even unto the end of the world.’” It was defining and anchoring moment of his ministry, leadership, and activism.
Amos’ response had a similar foundation, assuring his hearers that it wasn’t his qualifications or expertise that gave any credibility to his message. He had never had any pretensions to be a prophet, but it was the calling of God that compelled his messages (Amos 7:14–15). And then, without pausing for breath, he doubled down on the warnings of death, destruction, disaster and exile that he had been delivering (see Amos 7:16–17).
Recalibrate: Why can faith be such an important element of engagement with and activism in this world? Why has religion often not worked in this way?
Respond: Pray these words: “God, may we stand up and speak up for righteousness, justice and truth in the power of Your presence with us.”
Research: Research the role of faith and religion in the American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. What stories can you find—or are you aware of—in relation to the Seventh-day Adventist responses to this movement?
Remember: “The Lord used his name, the Pride of Jacob, to make a promise. He said, ‘I will never forget what these people did’” (Amos 8:7, 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.
Gather your little one and their favorite toys and role play what happens when one of the toys gets hurt. What do we do when teddy falls off the bed? Or what do we do when the tow truck crashes into the wall? Do we laugh or do we go help make things better? Model a heart that helps make things better.
Have you ever done something bad just because your friends were doing it? Maybe you left someone out in a game or laughed at someone who dropped their books. Just because everyone else is laughing, does it make it right? Even though it can be hard sometimes we need to reflect God to those around us. When your friends look at you do you think they see God in your words and actions?
As human beings, we do not like to be called out for the wrong things we do. We especially do not like being called out in public and reprimanded. One person in particular did not like the message that Amos had shared. Amaziah was one of those priests who served in a temple that falsely represented God. He got so angry with Amos that he told Amos to go back where he came from.
Let’s get real: How do you feel when you have to do the unpopular thing to stand up for what is right? Have you ever sacrificed principle for popularity?
Have you ever used a plumb line? That’s probably a weird question to ask. Something I love to do when I have free time is repair and fix things in my house. One day as I was fixing the siding on my house, I had to install a plumb line. A plumb line is something that you use in order to make sure what you are working on stays straight and follows the same direction as the rest of your project. So, for instance, when I was working on my siding, I installed a plumb line so that I could know where the siding was around the corner of the house. A plumb line keeps you true to the standard that you must uphold when repairing or building something. In Amos 7 God talks about a plumb line that He has for His people. God is basically saying that He has a standard that He wants His people to live by. How does it make you feel that God has standards that He’s calling you to follow? Does it intimidate you, make you feel anxious, or give you peace knowing what God wants? The older I get, the more I am thankful that God is open about His expectations for my relationship with Him.
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.
Jess Lee is an education consultant for the New South Wales Adventist education system. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and attends Kellyville Church.
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.