*October 27 - November 2
"Seek the Lord"
AALL MEN BY NATURE," WROTE ARISTOTLE, "DESIRE TO KNOW." The crucial question is, "Know what?" There's a lot of information in the world today, even a lot of knowledge.
But do we know the things that really matter? Do we have knowledge of what's lasting and eternal; or is our knowledge only of the temporal, the transient, that which, in the span of things, lasts not much longer than the shape of a cloud winging overhead on a windy day?
This week's lesson deals with, at least in part, God's call to us to seek and learn, not of the temporal and the fleeting but of the eternal, that which not only lasts forever but has the power to make us last forever, as well (John 17:3).
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE: Israel is called to seek the Lord and live. Why is there life only in God? What does His role as Creator have to do with the call to live in Him? How does Israel respond to His pleas? What were some of the sins that God addressed? Why were they deemed so bad? What promises existed here that judgment would be done? How was it that even amid their rebellion the Israelites still thought they were in special favor with God? What did Amos mean when he told them to "hate the evil, and love the good"?
MEMORY TEXT: "Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken" (Amos 5:14).
*(Please study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, November 3.)
Sunday October 28
"Seek.., me, and . . . live" (Amos 5:4).
In many ways, these few words capture the essence of God's message to the world. Seek Him and live; for there is, ultimately, no life in anything or anyone else.
What do all these verses have in common?
1. John 14:6 ________________________________________________________________________
2. Col. 3:4 __________________________________________________________________________
3. 2 Tim. 1:1 ________________________________________________________________________
4. 1 John 5:11, 12 ______________________________________________________________
|"In Jesus is our life derived. In Him is life, that is original, unborrowed, underived life. In us there is a streamlet from the fountain of life. In Him is the fountain of life. Our life is something that we receive, something that the Giver takes back again to Himself "Medical Ministry, p. 7.|
In the end, we are offered only two choices: life or death. The fate of all humanity can be divided into two classes: those who will live forever and those who will be forever dead. There is no middle ground here, no chance of compromise, no balance of opposites. Everyone, no matter who they are, where they have lived, what the circumstances of their existence were, will come to one of these two conclusions.
But because life, eternal life, is found only in God through Christthe Lord from Eden has been beckoning us to choose Him, to "seek the Lord, and . . . live" (Amos 5:6); for there is no option of life anywhere else.
|Think about this idea that life exists only in God. What does that mean? After all, there are many people who, openly rejecting God, still live. Perhaps Jesus' words to a man who asked to first bury his father ("But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead" [Matt. 8:22]), can shed light on this idea. What did Jesus mean by that, and how does it apply to the concept of life existing only in Him?|
"Seek him that maketh the seven stars [the Pleiades] and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his name" (Amos 5:8).
In Amos's passionate appeal to Israel to turn back and "seek the Lord" (vs. 6), he here points to the Lord in His role as Creator, the One who "made the Pleiades," the One who "calls for the waters of the sea" (vs. 8, NKJV). All through the Bible, the Hebrew prophets would talk about the Lord as Creator, often in the context of trying to turn the people away from their idolatry and worship of the creation as opposed to the Creator Himself. (See Isa. 37:16; 40:28; 44:24.) In fact, from Genesis through Revelation, the Bible is clear about our origins: "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made" (John 1:3, NKJV).
In the context, then, of yesterday's lesson, that of fife existing only in God, why does God's role as the Creator become so important? How are the two ideas, that of life existing only in God and God as Creator, tied together?
Life exists only in God because only God is the Creator. He created life; life comes only from Him. Thus, when humankind separated itself through sin from the Creator, the race itself was alienated from its only source of life. "Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Eph. 4:18).
The essence of the gospel, the essence of salvation, then, comes down to humankind being reconnected with the Creator, the One who gave them life to begin with. That's why anything else we worship other than God is false worship. Only in Him, the Creator, do we have life. This seems to be implicit in the words of Amos here, where he points them to the fact that God is the Creator.
|Given the context of today's and yesterday's lesson, why does the Sabbath play such an important role in our walk with God? What does the Sabbath signify that would help us not to forget where our life comes from and thus help protect us from the kind of false worship, idolatry, and sin that brought such ruin upon Israel?|
God strongly urged on the apostate nation the benefits of seeking Him. "Seek ye me," the Lord invited, promising that if they returned they would live. The judgment could be averted if they would accept God's terms instead of insisting on their own.
What was the response of most of the people to God's plea for repentance?
What three items are involved in God's call to repentance? Hos. 10:12.
Here, again, amid all the evil, the idolatry, the violence, the repression, God was still giving His people the opportunity to repent, to turn back to Him.
Notice, too, that God isn't just asking for them to believe in Him; this wasn't just some request for a little verbal honor or adoration. He is demanding concrete action as well. What does He ask them to do? The verse, "Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy" (NKJV) seems to indicate that how they treat others is one of their biggest problems. In other words, it wasn't just religious forms the Lord was interested in. Here in Hosea (as in Amos) the appeal to the nation concerned their relationship with others.
|Maxwell had been a "good" Adventist all his life: never smoked, never drank, never played cards, nor ever committed adultery. He was a faithful tithe payer, a deacon, and someone who was always involved in church projects. Yet, at home, he was a tyrant. Cold, demanding, unforgiving, bullying, he showed little or no grace to his wife or children. Though not physically abusive, his words, his body language, his whole demeanor left his family cowering before him. Though the few people who knew about the problem tried to talk to him, Maxwell didn't listen because, after all, by not smoking or drinking or playing cards, he was still a "good" Adventist. What lesson can we learn from the story about Maxwell, particularly in the context of today's lesson?|
Amos moved from rebuking their false worship and lack of mercy to a critique of social injustices found in Israel. Nearly all of Amos is written in poetic form, interesting in light of the prophet's humble background. In chapter 5, verse 10, he uses a poetic structure that is known as "chiastic." In this case, the order of thoughts could be expressed like this: A, B, B, A. This structure, which gives added power and elegance to the point being made, is not evident in most English Bibles, but in the Hebrew Bible the structure is as follows:
Amos is talking about the people's attitude toward a judge who reproved wrong and attempted to uphold the truth. The judges held court in the gate area of the Israelite cities where they would be accessible to all who needed their services.
In verses 11 and 12, Amos again attacks them because of how they treat the poor. The Lord calls these offenses "your mighty sins" (NKJV). Sin is bad enough, but to label their transgressions as "mighty sins"?no wonder the Lord says, "It is an evil time"! (Amos 5:13).
What ultimately do these verses say will be the punishment that will come upon Israel for these sins?
There's so much injustice in the world. All around us, in every country, we see examples similar to what Amos refers to here. Perhaps even in the church itself, some of these same principles of iniquity exist. And though we cry out in our hearts for justice, for equity, for things to be made right, often it doesn't happen, at least not now. Amos doesn't promise that bad things and injustice will not happenonly that one day they will be avenged.
|How should the promise that justice will, ultimately, come, help us deal with the evils that exist around us now? Does it mean we should ignore them, because in the end God will bring justice? On the other hand, what danger is there of us attempting to do what, in the end, only God should do? How do we strike a balance?|
The people of Israel are told to "seek good and not evil, that you may live; so the Lord God of hosts will be with you, as you have spoken" (vs. 14, NKJV). What is Amos saying here? Could it be that these peopleso blinded in their sin, their iniquity, and so adamantly opposed to the message of mercy sent to themnevertheless still think that "the Lord God of hosts" was with them? (vs. 15).
After all, they were children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were the inheritors of the law, the promises, and the covenant at Sinai. After all, they were the followers of the true God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. They were not to be like the pagans around them.
What principle found in verse 14 could be applicable to our church today? See also Micah 3:11.
God was telling these people that they need to not only seek good and not evil but to hate evil and love the good. Of course, we can do that only if we know the distinction between good and evil, not always easy to do, especially for those consciences that have been hardened in sin. It was Frenchman Jean Jacques Rousseau who once wrote: "Conscience! Conscience! Divine Instinct, immortal voice from heaven. Immortal guide for a creature ignorant and finite indeed."
What problems exist with Rousseau's words? Why is our conscience, though helpful, not the only guide we can use? What, in the end, can be our only true guide for knowing the difference between good and evil? See Isa. 8:20.
Once we come to understand the difference between good and evil, we need to learn to love the one and hate the other. Obviously, only the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives can do that for us. (See John 16:13.) It's interesting, too, that we are told not only to love the good but to hate the evil. Is it possible to love the good and not hate the evil? Can a person truly love God and not hate sin?
What practical steps can a person take in his or her life toward fulfilling this idea of hating evil and loving good? In what ways are we making decisions every dayperhaps by what we watch, read, think, or talk aboutthat, even in subtle ways, are either moving us closer or further away from this crucial principle?
FURTHER STUDY: The Last-Day Remnant Church. "God has a church on earth who are lifting up the downtrodden law, and presenting to the world the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.
"There is but one church in the world who are at the present time standing in the breach, and making up the hedge, building up the old waste places.
"Let all be careful not to make an outcry against the only people who are fulfilling the description given of the remnant people who keep the commandments of God and have faith in Jesus.
"God has a distinct people, a church on earth, second to none, but superior to all in their facilities to teach the truth, to vindicate the law of God. . . . If you are teaching that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is Babylon, you are wrong."Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 50, 58, 59.
SUMMARY: Those who would live need to be connected with the Source of life. That Source, God, is also the Creator. God called Israel to repent, to turn to Him and live, and to forsake their sins, which involved repression of others. Though injustice filled the land, the Lord promised in His righteousness to bring justice. The only hope for those living there was to love the good and hate the evil. Is it any different today?
J. H. Zachary
Freddy Wondal is an outstanding layworker for Christ in Manado, Indonesia. The Lord has used him to win more than 700 people to Christ and raise up six new congregations. But Freddy had a burden for a village that has steadfastly resisted the message of Christ.
Freddy prayed that God would give him this town of 4,000 and raise up a church. He needed a way to visit the people without arousing their prejudice. God gave him the idea to buy old glass bottles. Freddy tossed a rice sack over his shoulder, hiked to the village, and began knocking on doors. "Do you have any old glass bottles to sell?" he asked. It seemed everyone in town was eager to turn their old bottles into cash.
The villagers are getting to know him, and whenever the opportunity comes, he shares a word for Christ. To those addicted to tobacco he tells how he was a heavy smoker until God helped him stop. "And God can help you stop smoking too," he adds. Freddy knows that it will take time to build friendships before he can start giving Bible studies. But he is patient.
Freddy's church provides a small stipend to work in the village, and an Adventist who lives in Jakarta owns a small farm near the village. He has hired Freddy to live on his farm and care for his livestock, which allows Freddy to live near the village he serves.
One day a villager asked Freddy, "Are you a Seventh-day Adventist?" Freddy was concerned that the wrong reply might compromise his work. Then the man said, "I attended the Adventist college near Manado. I would like to be baptized, and when you are ready to build a church here, I will give you the land." Freddy never doubted that God would have a church in this village, but he was amazed that God has already provided the land.
Freddy Wondal (left) is a layworker in Indonesia. J. H. Zachary is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.
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