Series: Shepherds Roar
Message: Our Own Issues
Preacher: Dany Hernandez
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 5-6 in the New Living Translation (NLT). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Amos 5:1 introduces a clue to a different way of reading some of these seemingly harsh judgments, that of the “funeral song” or lament. The following verses, with their descriptions of death, defeat, and exile, are confronting—but they are introduced and infused with a sense of grief. Neither God nor His prophet takes delight in these judgments. There is no vengeful glee or spiteful satisfaction. The prophet might still be shouting, but there are tears in his eyes and a crack in his voice. This is a message of grief.
Only on a few occasions do we hear Amos’ voice, as distinct from his delivery of the messages from God, but when we do, we learn more about the human experience of the prophet—and what it might mean to live prophetically. As we can also observe in the experiences of the other biblical prophets, the prophet does not become somehow detached and less than human by virtue of receiving and proclaiming a message from God. Whatever the experience prophets had with God in receiving some kind of special insight, it compelled them back to the people with love and compassion. This might be considered a characteristic of a true prophet.
Citing this lament of Amos, theologian Walter Brueggemann observes that “the prophets are acutely aware of the distress, pain and dysfunction that are present in the community that they understand to be freighted with coming disaster” (Theology of the Old Testament, p. 625). As heavy as the burden of Amos’ message might have been, this was a work of compassion, feeling the pain of those who suffered under injustice and oppression, as well as the suffering that would come with its overthrow.
So Amos sounded a lament for the fallen house of Israel. It was an appropriate and faithful response to what he saw and felt. And lament remains an appropriate, faithful, and even necessary response to the world we experience today. We might cry out to God, but we also feel with God, as His people in a broken and too often tragic world. Lament might be the lost art of faithfulness, but something we would do well to reclaim.
Recalibrate: Why does lament seem to have all but disappeared from our faith communities? How can we incorporate more lament into our worship services and practice of faith?
Respond: Pray these words: “God, may we grieve our own pain, distress and brokenness and that of the people around us as an act of faithfulness, compassion and solidarity.”
Remember: “This is what the Lord says to the nation of Israel: ‘Come to me and live’” (Amos 5:4, 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.
Read the Live Wonder story for this series with your little one. Look for ways that your little one can hold and see and hear all that is good today. Know that when we see and hear and hold onto stuff that is not good for us our Heavenly Father grieves for us just like we do for our children. Hold on to love and live.
Every day there are lots of things going on around us that make noise. The TV might be on, your mom might be telling you to do your homework, your brother or sister is running around, the dog is barking. Set a timer for one minute and write down all the noises you hear around you. How many different things did you hear? When I tried this I counted twelve different noises. If we want to live our lives with God we need to learn to block out some of that noise and listen to what God is saying to us.
Do you know what the shortest verse in the Bible is? “Jesus wept” found in John 11:35. Here, we find Jesus crying because one of His best friends has died. By crying, Jesus was “lamenting” the loss of a dear friend. We don’t often think of Jesus as somebody who cried, but there were occasions where He did cry. However, lamenting is not limited to crying. Lamenting is an expression of grief. In other words, it is feeling sad because you have a deep sense of loss for something or someone close or important to you. Here in Amos 5:1-3 God is expressing His grief over how far Israel has moved away from God.
Let’s get real: Crying, getting angry, and feeling frustrated are all natural emotions when you lose something valuable. However, we are instructed to, “Be angry and sin not” (Psalm 4:4). How do you feel when you disappoint somebody who loves you very much? How do you react to your frustrations?
Today a good friend of mine came to my home, wrapped his arms around me, and began to sob with deep sorrow. He just found out his dad has stage 4 cancer and his world is being flipped upside down. After coming over he messaged me and said, “Sorry I cried—you are the only guy I’ll cry in front of!” As I reflect on his situation and his text, I’m reminded of how our society has trained us to never express (or maybe even feel) pain or sadness. I think this has led to a lack of lamenting in our walk with God. Lamenting is “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.” When was the last time you lamented to God? Have you ever lamented to God?
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.