*October 13 - 19
"Hear This Word"
AMOS SPEAKS WITH FIRE and clarity about the sins of Israel and the punishments that those sins will bring. Yet he's speaking for the Lord, who in His love and compassion for people wants to save them from the natural consequences of sin as well as the ultimate punishment that a just and holy God must execute against sin. Indeed, behind the fearful denunciations and warnings, the real message to Israel is this: "Seek good, and not evil, that you may live" (Amos 5:14, RSV).
Indeed, God is seeking to turn His people to a saving relationship with Him because, in the endwhat else matters? The only thing saved out of this world will be souls bought with the blood of Christ; everything else will be gone, forever. Not even the ashes will remain. No wonder, then, that He bids us to "Hear this Word," and that Word is the Word of Life, the life found in Christ and the blood He shed for the sins of the world.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE: What event in Israel's history did the Lord point them back to, and why? Why does God want us not to forget our past? How does sin weaken and damage our ability to know right and wrong? Why did Israel violate the covenant that God had established with them? What ultimately did their actions lead to? Though all these things happened many years ago, the lessons taught in them and the principles involved have a bearing on our lives and our church today.
MEMORY TEXT: "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3).
*(Please study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, October 20.)
Sunday October 14
"Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities" (Amos 3:1, 2).
In these verses, the Lord pointed Israel back to the Exodus. All through the Hebrew Bible, in fact, the Lord does the same thing. "For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy" (Lev. 11:45). "And said unto the children of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you" (1 Sam. 10:18).
Why did the Lord constantly remind the Hebrews of the Exodus? (Hint: Read carefully Deuteronomy 4:9.)
One of the greatest dangers facing Christians is that they forget what Christ has done for them, both individually and as a corporate body. That's why the Lord told the children of Israel not to forget the things that happened to them at the Exodus, not to let them "depart from thy heart" (Deut. 4:9) all the days of their lives. Instead, they were to teach them to their children, so not only would their children know about the great things God had done for them, but that in the telling they themselves would not forget.
The history of ancient Israel shows, however, just how quickly people forget. What a lesson for us as a church! As each new generation comes, we get further and further from our roots, further and further from the experiences of our founding fathers. How important that we don't let the knowledge of these experiences depart from our hearts, as well.
|Leslie joined the Adventist Church many years ago, after a dramatic conversion. As the years went by, however, she started to grow cold. She still believed everything as before but just didn't manifest the fire of those early years. Then a crisis struck, and she found herself ready to give up her faith entirely. As she prayed the Holy Spirit brought her mind back to her conversion. Day by day she recounted the events that led her to Christ and that brought her to the Church. Soon her faith was strengthened. Though we shouldn't dwell heavily on the mistakes of the past, how can recounting the ways the Lord has led Us in the past help us even now?|
This part of verse ten is incredible. If it would have said "For they refuse to do right" or "For they can't do right"that would have been bad enough. But it says that they do "not know" to do right. How could that be? How could those whom the Lord knew "above all the families of the earth" (Amos 3:2, NKJV), a people who had been given so much truthnot know to do right?
Look also at Hosea 4:6: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children."
The answer is found here: They have rejected knowledge, and the rejection of knowledge must inevitably lead to the lack of knowledge. The point is, no matter how much light is given, if it's not appreciated, followed, studied, and loved, then sooner or laterit's lost. And when it's lost, people will eventually "not know to do right" (NKJV).
This, sadly, is what happened to Israel.
"Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb. 5:14). Study this text in the background of today's lesson. What principle is taught here?
Lepers who lose fingers or toes don't lose them directly from the disease; rather, because their nerves have been damaged by the disease they can't feel pain; and thus they don't quickly move away from objects that can damage their flesh. Sin does the same thing: it damages our sensibilities toward it, so that before long it doesn't seem sinful or wrong anymore, even to the point where people can "call evil good, and good evil" (Isa. 5:20).
"Every sinful gratification," wrote Ellen White, "tends to benumb the faculties and deaden the mental and spiritual perceptions, and the word or the Spirit of God can make but a feeble impression upon the heart."The Great Controversy, p. 474.
|None of us is immune to the problems that Israel faced in Amos's time. Every generation of believers faces the same challenge. This is why the battle against sin, against self, is so crucial. What then can we do as individuals to protect ourselves from falling into the snare of being so hardened in sin that we reach the point that we "do not know to do right"?|
"How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel?" (Hos. 11:8).
The plan of salvation, at its core, remains simple: Humanity, through sin, estranged itself from God; God, through Christ, has healed that estrangement. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:19).
Sacred history, beginning in Eden, replays the theme, in one manifestation or another, over and over again. Humanity, through their sins and disobedience, severs itself from God; God, ever seeking, tries to bring humankind back under the shadow of His wings (Ps. 17:8).
It's no different here in Amos; Israel has broken the covenant relationship with God. God has been faithful to His side of the bargain; the people are the ones who haven't kept up their end of the deal. (See Hos. 6:7; 8:1; Jer. 34:18.)
When Jesus was on the earth, His life and death best exemplified this sad reality. Go through specific aspects of His life, in which Jesus did everything possible to reach those who, despite His overtures, rejected Him. In what ways do we, even today, do the same thing? Examine your own life and see if, in principle, you're just as guilty.
|In the context of today's lesson, read this quote by German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer: "The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death- we give over our lives to death.... When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die."The Cost of Discipleship, (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc., 1975), p. 99.|
|Perhaps the reason why people have been so unfaithful to God and His covenant is that they are afraid to count the cost of following Christ. That's what happened in Amos's time, it's also happening in ours In your own mind, count the cost of following Christ, then, when done, count the cost of not following Him|
Amos 3 begins with God addressing the sins of Israel. Read the first eight verses, which need careful analysis. The casual reader may find it difficult to grasp the significance of this
passage. It might be summarized as follows:
Although these statements may seem unrelated, they have something in common. They discuss inevitable consequencesnatural results.
How does Paul illustrate this law of life in Galatians 6:7?
There's a word in Hebrew called aharit. Though related to the Hebrew word for "back" (as in a person's back), it means, literally, "that which comes after; final consequences; ends." Proverbs 19:20 (NKJV) reads: "Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days," or in "your aharit" or "your final end."
The point is simple: Our actions have consequences. Sooner or later, we all come to our aharit, and what that will be depends so much upon our actions now. In Amos, Israel is simply reaping the fruits of its actions. It has come to its aharit. And if there's any action that has undeniable and inescapable consequences, it's sin. The problem, however, is that Satan never wants us to see the aharit. His message, instead, is to focus on the pleasures now. By the time the aharit comes, it might already be too late.
|Though Scripture is clear that we reap what we sow, what example does the Bible give that seems to suggest there are times when not everyone, at least in this life, suffers as a direct result of his or her own sins? Everyone knows people who suffer terribly through no fault of his or her own. What answers, if any, can you give to those in these situations?|
The last phase of God's covenant lawsuit against Israel is the pronouncement of judgment on those who have forsaken the terms of the covenant. Verse 11 describes the "adversary" who will be used by God to destroy Samaria. Undoubtedly it refers to the Assyrians, who later took the Israelites into captivity.
The Shepherd Illustration. To the pastoral people of Israel, an illustration involving sheep would be understood immediately. The shepherd Amos refers to a lion catching a sheep.
How much was left of the sheep when the shepherd finally rescued it from the mouth of the lion? What does this tell us about the number of Israelites who would be rescued eventually from the Assyrian captivity and about their dispersal? Amos 3:12.
It's quite hard from our perspective to understand why there should be such a violent punishment for Israel's transgressions. After all, we're not talking about something like "church discipline" here. The Assyrians could be terribly brutal against those whom they conquered.
Of course, this situation isn't the only time the Lord used outside powers to punish His people (see Isaiah 13). As always, this punishment involved pillaging, rape, death, slavery, and a host of other terrible ills. No doubt, these accounts in the Bible have led many to skepticism about the character of God.
Why did the Lord punish His people in such a manner for their sins? When we remember that Jesus is the Lord (Mic. 5:2; John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16, 17) and when we see in the Gospels just how kind, loving, and forgiving Christ is, how do we reconcile the Christ of the Old Testament with the Christ of the New?
Perhaps the answer can be understood best only in the context of the terrible nature of sin. The great controversy involves the entire universe; the issues are of paramount importance. From our human perspective, many things are hard to understand; we see, as Paul said, "through a glass, darkly" (1 Cor. 13:12). However difficult this question is, one thing it should teach us is just how serious, and deadly, sin is.
FURTHER STUDY: "The transgressors were given many opportunities to repent. In their hour of deepest apostasy and greatest need, God's message to them was one of forgiveness and hope. 'O Israel,' He declared, 'thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thine help. I will be thy King: where is any other that may save thee?' Hosea 13:9, 10.
"Come, and let us return unto the Lord,' the prophet entreated; 'for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up. After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: His going forth is prepared as the morning; and He shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth." Hosea 6:1-3.
"To those who had lost sight of the plan of the ages for the deliverance of sinners ensnared by the power of Satan, the Lord offered restoration and peace. 'I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely,' He declared: 'for Mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under His shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon. Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard him, and observed him: I am like a green fir tree. From Me is thy fruit found.'"Prophets and Kings, pp. 283, 284.
SUMMARY: Israel forgot about what God had done for them; thus they lost knowledge of His ways. Eventually they broke the covenant relationship with Him, and they reaped the consequences of their actions.
"If you ask anything according to His will, He will hear you" (1 John 5:14), the children of the mission school in the mountains of Mindanao, southern Philippines, repeated in unison.
During morning and evening worships, the student missionaries emphasized that God's promises are true. If we trust Him, He will surely answer our prayers.
My term as a student missionary from Mountain View College was ending, and I visited every house in the village to say goodbye to my friends.
The next day 9-year-old Cecile walked with me to Sabangaan, a three-hour hike from our village, and the nearest point where we can get a ride to Mountain View College. The midday sun punished us as we climbed a steep mountain toward the town. We had to rest often in the shade. During one of these rest stops Cecile said, "Teacher, it is hot. Let us pray that the clouds will cover the sun."
I was touched by the girl's simple request. Our lessons had taken root in her heart. Then without hesitating she bowed her head and prayed, "Lord, please send the clouds to cover the sun, so that my teacher and I can walk in comfort. Thank You for answering my prayer in Jesus' name. Amen."
Silently I prayed, God, please answer Cecile 's prayer and strengthen her faith.
The sun shown as hot as ever as we resumed our walk. "Teacher," Cecile asked, "Why did God not answer my prayer?"
I was a bit sad. "Lord," I whispered, "please answer the little girl's prayer so that she will trust in You." Then I asked her, "Do you really believe that your teacher's God is a true and powerful God-more powerful than any of the gods your parents worship?"
"Yes, Teacher. I believe that God is able to answer prayers." A cool breeze blew from the stream below. It felt so refreshing!
"Look at the clouds, Teacher!" Cecile shouted. "They are covering the sun!"
Thank You, Lord, for hearing Cecile 'sprayer, I breathed.
The clouds continued to shade us until we reached our destination. They strengthened a child's faith that day. They strengthened her teacher's faith too.
Selpha Velasco served for two years as a student missionary at Victory Mission School in the mountains of southern Philippines. She has returned to Mountain View College to complete her studies.
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