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 New International Version (NIV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: On my fridge door is a small magnet illustrated with a photo of a fruit basket and inscribed with the exclamation of Amos 8:1: “Behold, a basket of summer fruit.” It was part of a small project by an atheist friend of mine, who was gently mocking the Christian penchant for picking “poster” Bible verses, pulling them from their context and sticking them on tacky “Jesus junk” for sale. So she set about picking some of the most absurd, out-of-context verses and selling them on fridge magnets. I agreed with her critique of what we often do with “favorite” texts and still have a few of her magnets on my fridge about ten years after she moved onto other projects.
But this text in its proper context belies the cheery feel of the fridge magnet. It brings a brooding sense of inevitability to the judgments Amos had been describing. Almost imperceptibly, the evil of the people and their nations were ripening toward the results of their faithlessness and injustice. Except for a dramatic repentance—think again of the story of Nineveh’s repentance after Jonah’s preaching—the people would reap what they had sown, as Israel’s next prophet Hosea would warn.
In Amos’ warning, history was going somewhere. Faithlessness had consequences, injustice mattered—and Someone was taking note: “I will never forget the wicked things you have done!” (Amos 8:7). While a looming threat to the powerful and those who stubbornly do evil, this is a message of hope for those who suffer. As much as it breaks God’s heart, God is not overwhelmed by the tragedies of our world. From the smallest anonymous and unrecorded death to the six million murders of the Holocaust, He knows, He sees, He ultimately acts to set wrongs right. When God is the source of justice, injustice can only ever be temporary.
Having spent time with the message of Amos, that fridge magnet has so much meaning. Like ripening fruit, our history, our stories, and our choices have direction and consequences, even if not always immediately obvious. In God, all of life matters, every story counts, every sorrow will be healed, and all wrongs will be made right.
Recalibrate: Why is it important and radical to insist that our history and our stories matter? How does that change our responses to the stories we encounter in the world around us and in the lives of people we meet?
Respond: Pray these words: “God, as we follow You, may we be drawn back into the stories, the joys, and the tragedies of our people, our communities and our world.”
Research: Think about an example of injustice in your community or the wider world that really bugs you. Imagine how this might be resolved, healed or restored. Explore ways you might be able to learn about this issue and how you might contribute toward its healing.
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.
Try feeling for your child’s pulse and see if they can feel yours. Maybe go for a run or do a dance and then it will be easier to find. While we cannot see our heart and lungs we can still tell when they have been working hard. Exercise increases the physical strength of our heart. Caring for others increases our emotional and spiritual strength. Find ways to exercise caring for each other with your child. Tell the story of how you do that for each other.
Have you ever heard the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? Do you know what it means? Sometimes we judge people unfairly, before we know all the facts about them. Take a look at this video of a dad judging his daughter before he knows the full story. God says that it is not our job to judge others. It’s our job to help tell others about Him and show them how to live with God in their hearts.
Summer fruits! Yum! One of my favorite summer fruits is watermelon. For me, there’s nothing like a nice and cold piece of freshly cut watermelon on a hot summer day. I don’t know if Amos’ vision of a basket with summer fruits included watermelon but I do know one thing: whenever a fruit has reached its peak of ripeness it does not take too long for it to begin to rot, so it is very important to remember that if that fruit is not eaten soon it will spoil.
Let’s get real: Are there things in your life that will most likely cause you to fall away from your relationship with God? How can you change these things?
Yesterday I was in staff meeting and one of the other pastors at my church brought a package of guava fruit to the office. I bit into a guava and discovered it was way too ripe! The inside was all mushy and the fruit tasted terrible. In Amos 8 God opens up the chapter by talking about fruit that is ripe. He said that the time is ripe for Israel. When something is ripe, the window during which it is edible is very small. That means that you must act on eating it quickly! If you wait too long it will expire and no longer be good. Are there areas of your life that are ripe? What I mean by this is are there areas of your life that you know need work but maybe you are acting a little too slowly in giving them to Jesus? Do not wait any longer! Act when the time is ripe. If God is revealing something to you that you need to change, strike while the iron is hot! This can be easier said than done. Today, take time to ask God to change you. Give Him your life and allow Him to do His work now.
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.