*November 10 - 16
"At Ease in Zion"
PHYSICISTS BELIEVE FOUR MAJOR FORCES exist in the universe: gravity, electromagnetism, the weak nuclear force, and the strong nuclear force. They're hoping one day to formulate a theory that can explain all four as different aspects of one grand, unifying, and overarching universal force.
Maybe they'll find it, maybe not; but if they do, they're going to be surprised at what it is, for the one force that explains the universe is, simply, love-God's love. Jesus Christ, by dying on the cross for the sins of a fallen, ungrateful, most unsympathetic world, has forever and irrevocably proven that the greatest power in the universe is God's love.
As you study this week's lesson, see the various ways in which, in this specific context, this love is expressed, especially on the lesson that deals with, ironically enough, what God "hates." Can a God of love hate? Of course, in fact, the hate stems directly from His love.
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE: What does it mean to be "at ease in Zion"? What parallels exist between the situation in Israel at this time and with the Laodicean church? What does it mean when the Bible says that a God of love "hates" something? What role does guilt have to play, both for good and for bad, in our walk with the Lord? What fate awaited Israel because of her refusal to repent?
MEMORY TEXT: "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent" (Revelation 3:19).
*(Please study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, November 17.)
Sunday November 11
"Woe to you who are at ease in Zion" (Amos 6:1, NKJV).
Amos 6 begins with a description of a people living the good life. They are physically comfortable, lying in "beds of ivory," stretched out on their couches, feasting on the meat of their flocks, making "musical instruments like David," (NKJV) and anointing themselves "with the best oil" (vss. 4-6).
Not a bad life, at least for the moment.
"Their luxury and revelry are revealed in their lying on ivory inlaid beds, lolling on couches, banqueting on the best of fatted lambs and calves, having their depraved spirits lulled and soothed by lascivious songs and music, drinking their wine from large sacrificial bowls, and anointing themselves with the choicest of fine oils. But their debauched spirits were 'not grieved for the affliction of Joseph,' the poor of their brethren. The coming ruin of the nation, as it was being heralded by the rising power of the conquering Assyrians and by the warnings of Amos, struck no responsive chord in their hearts that were satiated by revelry and carousing."H. Hailey, A Commentary on the Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1972), p. 114.
Read Ezekiel 16:49. What parallels exist between Sodom and the situation Amos is addressing?
In Matthew 19:24, Jesus said, "And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Notice the context in which Jesus says those words that dealt with the rich young ruler, someone Jesus has been trying to witness to. The same principle is here in Amos: God is trying to witness, warn, and save a people who, from outward appearances, have it good. No wonder they were so hard to reach.
|Cigarettes often have warnings written on the packets that contain them. If you were to write a warning outside a package that contained wealth, how might you phrase it?|
"Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (Rev. 3:17).
It would be natural to find some parallels between the church in Amos's time and the Loadicean church. Read carefully the message to Laodicea and then compare it with the message of Amos in the first six verses of chapter 6. Parallels do exist, if not exact.
What do the two messages have in common? What do they have that distinguishes them? Are they dealing with the same problems? If so, what are they?
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two messages is that Amos seems to be dwelling mostly on the immediate physical situation of the people, their economic wealth and material prosperity. The message to the Laodiceans, however, seems to be dealing not so much with the physical aspect of the church (after all, not everyone in Laodicea is wealthy) but with their spiritual condition. Money doesn't appear to be the main issue for Laodicea. The Laodiceans think that their spiritual condition is fine. As shown in previous lessons, the Israelites had that problem as well. No doubt, however, for the Israelites, their wealth contributed to their spiritual decline.
Look at Revelation 3:19. What parallels can be drawn between what the Lord is telling the Laodiceans in this verse and what He has been telling the Israelites through Amos?
The Adventist Church exists in nations all over the world; we have some very wealthy Adventists, and we have some very poor ones. Rich or poor, however, we are all equal in value before God, because He paid the same price to redeem us all. The soul of a rich person doesn't cost any more to redeem than the soul of a poor one. Both come at a very heavy cost (1 Pet. 1:18, 19).
|Whether we're rich or poor financially, the Loadicean message has something to tell us as a church today, but more importantly, it's also talking to us as individuals. Read the message again and, instead of looking at everyone elsethe pastor, the elders, fellow memberssee in what way it applies to yourself. But don't stop there (for it could be very discouraging). Look at the solution.|
"I abhor the pride of Jacob, and hate his palaces" (Amos 6:8, NKJV).
All through the Bible, one theme comes through (in one manifestation or another): Our God is a God of infinite love, compassion, and mercy. Thus, when the Lord says that He "hates" something, we need to perk up our ears and listen.
Listed below are some verses that talk about what the Lord hates. What are the things He hates?
1. Deut. 12:31 _________________________________________________________________________
2. Deut. 16:22 ________________________________________________________________________
3. Ps. 10:3 ___________________________________________________________________________
4. Ps. 11:5 ___________________________________________________________________________
5. Ps. 78:59 __________________________________________________________________________
6. Mal. 2:16 ___________________________________________________________________
In the context of today's lesson, Amos said that the Lord "hated" the pride of Jacob and "his palaces" (Amos 6:8, NKJV). According to The SDA Bible Commentary, "It is bad enough to waste honestly earned money on pretentious buildings, but the Israelites had secured their luxury and splendor by dishonesty, particularly through injustice to the poor. . . . The divine hatred of Jacob's 'excellency' and 'palaces' reveals that God does not hate men, but does hate their sinful deeds and works."-Vol. 4, p. 974.
|As Christians, we understand that the greatest revelation of God has come to us through Jesus Christ. It's hard for us, considering the character of Christ, to see God as "hating" anything. "Hate," in so many ways, seems like such a human traitparticularly a fallen human trait. Nevertheless, there are some things that the Bible says God "hates." How do we understand that? When God "hates" something, what does that mean? What dangers are there in using our own concept of human hate to understand it in God? Why is it right for God to "hate"? How does His infinite love help us understand how He could "hate"?|
"No. Then shall he say, Hold thy tongue: for we may not make mention of the name of the Lord" (Amos 6:10).
Amos 6:9, 10 projects into the future, talking about what will happen to Israel as a result of her sins. The interesting part comes at the end of verse 10, where they say that they will not make mention "of the name of the Lord." Considering that so often in the Hebrew Bible, the "name of the Lord" is an object of praise, adoration, joy, power, and deliverance (Exod. 33:19; Deut. 31:3; Ps. 7:17; 20:7; 116:4; 13; Acts 2:21), it's incredible that they won't even make mention of His name at this time.
The SDA Bible Commentary, volume 4, page 974, presents several possible reasons why the Israelites at that time would not make mention of the Lord. For discussion purposes consider the following:
1. They felt it was too late to call on God. They had a sense of despair.
2. They didn't want to mention the Lord's name because of their unbelief.
3. They blamed God for the judgments they received.
4. If they mentioned the Lord's name they felt they would be ridiculed.
Though we can only speculate, what reason could explain this strange verse? (Amos 6:10).
One possible option could also be that of guilt. Guilt is such a powerful weapon of the enemy. So often, when we sin, guilt rears its ugly head. Not that guilt, in and of itself, is bad. Guilt can be used by the Holy Spirit to bring us to repentance, to bring us to our knees, to bring us to the foot of the Cross. That's when guilt is, in a sense, "good." On the other hand, guilt is bad when, because of our sins, we feel that we can't come to God. We feel that we're too bad to ever dare ask for mercy or forgiveness. Like the Israelites we fear to "mention the name of the Lord." We feel it would be presumptuous on our part to think we could, again, be forgiven. Here's where guilt is being used by the enemy of souls. Satan would love nothing more than to use our guilt to drive us away from the only source of its cure, and that is the Cross.
|Becky fell into some sins that brought dire consequences upon herself. How would you present Christ's atonement to her in a way that could help her understand that whatever she had done, whatever the consequences, the Savior can forgive and heal?|
"Behold, I will raise up a nation against you, O house of Israel" (Amos 6:14, NKJV).
There are some fascinating images used in verses 11-13 to describe the situation in Israel. What points is the Lord making? Particularly interesting is the question in verse 12: "Does one plow there with the oxen"? (NKJV). Some scholars read the text as, "Does one plow the sea with oxen"? Either way, the message is the same: Because you have refused to repent, judgment is coming, and your efforts to avoid it are fruitless.
What nation will fulfill the role of destroying the northern kingdom? 2 Kings 18:9, 10; Amos 6:14.
The Assyrian ruler, Tiglath-pileser III, having possibly arranged for the assassination of the king of Israel, Pekah, placed Hoshea on the throne as a vassal king, requiring him to pay a heavy tribute. In desperation, Hoshea formed an alliance with Egypt against Assyria. Shalmaneser, who succeeded Tiglath-pileser, attacked Israel, laying siege to Samaria. He probably took the city during the last year of his reign in 723/722 B.C.
"The destruction that befell the northern kingdom was a direct judgment from Heaven. The Assyrians were merely the instruments that God used to carry out His purpose. . . . It was because they had 'left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal,' and refused steadfastly to repent, that the Lord 'afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until He had cast them out of His sight,' in harmony with the plain warnings He had sent them 'by all His servants the prophets."Prophets and Kings, pp. 291, 292.
What does "You have turned justice into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood" (Amos 6:12, NKJV) mean? (Hint: gall means a "poisonous herb" and wormwood means "hemlock.") How do you help a new believer understand the concept of divine judgment? Often times, new Christians, particularly those who don't have any biblical background, struggle with the sections of the Bible in which nations wipe out other nations, all done in the name of God's judgment. What can you do to help someone questioning these incidents?
FURTHER STUDY: "In the terrible judgments brought upon the ten tribes the Lord had a wise and merciful purpose. That which He could no longer do through them in the land of their fathers He would seek to accomplish by scattering them among the heathen. His plan for the salvation of all who should choose to avail themselves of pardon through the Saviour of the human race must yet be fulfilled; and in the afflictions brought upon Israel, He was preparing the way for His glory to be revealed to the nations of earth. Not all who were carried captive were impenitent. Among them were some who had remained true to God, and others who had humbled themselves before Him. Through these, 'the sons of the living God' (Hosea 1:10), He would bring multitudes in the Assyrian realm to a knowledge of the attributes of His character and the beneficence of His law."--Prophets and Kings, p. 292.
SUMMARY: While Israel was at ease, utterly ignoring God's warning, judgment loomed over the horizon.
Takila (tah-KEE-lah) is a global mission pioneer in Zambia. He had spent some time teaching the people in one village about God. The people listened, but they did not respond to his invitation to trust Christ. Takila decided to visit another village. He asked for directions to the next village and was told it was not far. By midday he began walking toward the next village.
Takila did not know it, but the people in the village planned to test him to see if what he had told them was true. They asked the witch doctor to call on the lions of the savannah to test Takila's honesty.
Takila walked all afternoon toward the next village. As the sun slipped behind the distant hills, Takila realized that the village was farther than he thought. Darkness set in, but Takila had no place to spend the night. In the distance Takila could see lights moving. He realized the lights were the glow of lions' eyes.
Takila pleaded with God to protect him from the hungry lions. As he walked he realized that the lions were walking the same direction, but they did not come near him. When he stopped to rest, the lions stopped. Takila's fear drained away as he realized that God had sent the lions to protect him.
Dawn revealed a village in the distance. Takila hurried toward it.
The villagers were surprised to see a stranger approach and asked him where he had come from. When he told them, they shouted, "That is impossible! The lions of the savannah would have killed you."
Takila looked toward the savannah, but the lions were gone. Then he told the gathering crowd that the God whom he serves had sent the lions to protect him and keep him company during the long walk.
Word spread fast about the man who walked with lions. The chief invited Takila to teach the villagers about his mighty God, and many have responded. When the rainy season ends, a pastor will come to baptize those who have given their hearts to God. Other villages have asked Takila to come and tell them about the powerful God he serves, the God who can send lions to protect a man who trusts in Him.
Charlotte Ishkanian is editor of Mission.
Join the SSNET moderated email discussion group. You are also warmly invited to join a group discussion of this lesson Sabbath morning with your local Seventh-Day Adventist congregation.
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