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 9 in the International Children’s Bible (ICB). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: In Acts 1:8, Jesus set out the pattern of mission and growth for what was to become the early church: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (NLT). It would begin with their people in their home culture, but would then ripple outward, including more and different people—many of whom would challenge their understanding, culture, and theology.
Prompted by the murder of Stephen—after a lengthy speech in which he used the words of Amos to explain God’s condemnation of the people of Israel in the past (see Acts 7:42, 43, compare Amos 5:25–27)—the disciples travelled to Samaria, to Gaza, to Caesarea and beyond, encountering Samaritans, Ethiopians, Romans, and other Gentiles, who responded to their story of Jesus. This mission success caused a theological crisis among the early Christians, leading to the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15.
After hearing the reports of the Gentiles who had become followers of Jesus, James—a leader of the church in Jerusalem and probably the brother of Jesus—delivered the judgment of the council. His scriptural basis was Amos 9:11, 12 (see Acts 15:13–19), concluding that the Gentiles being drawn into a restored kingdom of God was precisely what Amos had predicted about 800 years earlier. As Amos had prophesied, the “true kernels” of grain would be found in “Israel along with the other nations” (Amos 9:9).
Not only were these early Christian leaders able to understand what was happening as the fulfilment of Amos’ prophecy, they also saw that it had practical implications for how they responded, as well as for their ongoing ministry and mission: “And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God,” said James (Acts 15:19, NLT). The message of Amos assured them that not only was this new inclusiveness acceptable, but it was to be celebrated and facilitated. It was what God had intended, what Amos had foreseen, and what Jesus had commanded and made possible.
Recalibrate: What are some of our cultural and perhaps theological boundaries that might still need to be challenged by Amos’ promise of inclusiveness in the redeemed and restored kingdom of God?
Respond: Pray these words: “God, may we be inspired by the larger vision of Your kingdom that we see in the words of Amos, the ministry of Jesus, and the growing understanding of the early church.”
Remember: “I will bring my people Israel back from captivity. They will build the ruined cities again. And they will live in them” (Amos 9:14, 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.
With your child, tape a large love heart on the floor. Ask your child to gather all their things or people that they love (maybe photographs!) and put them in the center of the heart shape. As they place each toy or person, have them say, “I want you to be in love.” Jesus came so we would all be invited to live in love. Choose to live in love today, thanking God for placing love in your heart.
Have you read the story Horton Hatches the Egg? If not, you can listen to it by clicking here. It is the story of a bird who wants a holiday and asks an elephant to sit on her egg while she takes a break for a day or two. But the days turn into weeks and months—and all through winter Horton the elephant had to sit on the egg because he had told the bird he would. Even as icicles started to hang off his trunk Horton remained sitting on the egg just like he had promised he would. Horton stayed one hundred percent faithful to his promise to his friend. Do you always stay completely faithful to your promises?
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.