Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Bible studies’

I  am in the process of doing a major update to this blog. (Goodness knows it has needed it for a long time!) This will be a long drawn out process as I have been writing and teaching, pretty much full time, for more a couple of years now and have a ton of new content to add to the blog. I have updated the following pages:

The Gospel of Matthew audio study

1st and 2nd Thessalonians and the Man Behind the Letter

The Current Bible Studies page

The “Our Blessed Hope” studies page

And the “Whole Book Studies” page

There’s a whole lot more to do. I have Youtube videos to add and several audio studies links to add, but this is a start. If you check any of these out and have a problem with any of the links, please let me know as I did not test every single one.

 

I will try to start posting every time I upload a study to either Youtube or SoundCloud, that way you can stay updated. Please feel free to comment or to reply to the e-mail notices. I appreciate your prayers and support, too.

 

I just yesterday uploaded these two audio lessons. I will try to post the previous lessons that go with these in the next week or so.

This audio came from our Sunday morning series as we work our way through the Gospel of Matthew. This will be similar to the longer version of the Matthew study, except these are designed to be approximately 30 minutes in length. We are currently in the Sermon on the Mount, and expect to be there until Advent this year.

Love Your Enemies

 

This audio is from our East Knox Women’s Bible Study group. We are working our way through the Gospel of John (verse-by-verse, and sometimes word-by-word!) Here are all three of our lessons (since we just started a few weeks ago.) You can read about this group on the The Current Bible Studies page

The Gospel of John Introduction Fall 2019

Lesson One – Overview

Lesson Two – The Prologue 

Lesson Three – “Witnesses”

 

I hope you enjoy these, and they are beneficial to you.

betty

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Unanswered Prayer

Have you ever prayed for something for someone that you, yourself, also needed or desired, and your prayers for them were answered, but not yours for yourself? That can be extremely disheartening and can cause one to cry out, “What’s wrong with my prayers, Lord?” This happened to Abraham in Genesis 20:17.

Abraham and Sarah, you may recall were childless. When Abraham was 75 years old, God promised Abraham that his descendants that would occupy the Promised Land (Genesis 12:7; 13:15). God also promised that Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous and the dust upon the earth (Genesis 13:16) and the stars in the sky (15:5). God promised that from Abraham would come great nations and kings (Genesis 17:6) and these would come from Sarah as well (Genesis 17:16). When the time drew nigh, God even told them that Sarah would have a child within the year (Genesis 18:10). But it had been 24 years, and it hadn’t happened yet, and Sarah wasn’t even pregnant…

At that time Abraham and Sarah moved to the Philistine city of Gerar (Genesis 20:1). And Abraham, still in his “self-preservation mode” told Abimelech, the king, that Sarah was his sister. Abraham’s lies continued to roll easily off his tongue (see Genesis 12:11ff).

As had happened with Pharaoh (Genesis 12:11ff) God preserved Sarah, pure, and revealed to Abimelech that Sarah was Abraham’s wife. Apparently Abimelech, his wife, and his whole household of slaves were barren (Genesis 20:17). Perhaps this is the reason he was so anxious to take Sarah into his harem – this was another chance at an heir. (Little did he know that Sarah, too, was barren!)

“But God…” (Genesis 20:3) How thankful we can be for the times in the Bible when we read, “But God…” (Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 1:27; Ephesians 2:4, just to name a few). But God came to Abimelech, a Philistine king, a pagan, and warned him that Sarah was Abraham’s wife. God’s mercy… Abimelech did not know the Lord, but God came to him anyway – not to save Abimelech, but to preserve Sarah, pure. God works through unbelievers for the sake of His own.

“Then Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimelech and his wife and his maids, so that they bore children” (Genesis 20:17). The very thing that Abraham and Sarah wanted desperately was the same thing that Abimelech wanted – children. Abraham prayed for Abimelech and his household and God answered the prayer… Meanwhile – Sarah was still not with child.

When I read that I had to wonder how Abraham felt. Here he and Sarah had waited 24 years. God had promised and promised and Abraham knew that God would provide a child (and the very belief of God’s promise was what saved Abraham, Genesis 15:6 “And he believed in the Lord, and He reckoned it to him as righteousness) but it hadn’t happen yet…

I’ve experienced that. I have prayed for others and had the prayers answered, while my prayers for myself have gone unanswered. It can be very painful. So painful, in fact that I have cried out…

I cannot, not pray.

I can no sooner not breathe than I can not pray.

For indeed, not breathing would mean death, and that’s the only thing that can stop me from praying.

But I cannot, not pray.

Believe me, I’ve tried.

I’ve kicked at gravels in the driveway and I’ve swung my fist through the air, and I’ve cried with the prophet Habakkuk (Habakkuk 1:2) “How long, Oh Lord will I cry for help and You will not hear?”

I’ve cried, “How, Oh Lord, can I pray for others when I can’t see answers to my own prayers? How long can I keep telling others that I’ll pray for them when in my own life I hear only silence?”

How long, oh Lord, how long?

“I know!” (I’ve said in my frustration) “I’ll just quit praying. What’s the point anyway? If God’s will is going to be done – regardless of my praying, then why pray? Why worry about it? I’ll just leave it all up to His sovereign will.”

But the next thing I know, I’m talking to God and I “hear” in my spirit, “I thought you weren’t going to pray anymore.”

And I cannot, not pray.

Answers come (or they don’t; at least not that I can see) and I eventually kneel with the prophet Habakkuk and say, (Habakkuk 3: 17-18) “Even though the fig tree doesn’t blossom and there’s no fruit on the vines; even though the olive may fail and the fields produce no food; even though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls,

Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”

Because, I cannot, not pray.

We don’t know how Abraham felt – we only know that Abraham was faithful. Yes, he messed up. Yes, he sinned. Yes, he trusted in himself – but he was still faithful in his praying for others when God prompted him to pray (Genesis 20:7; 17). And when God’s time was right (Genesis 21:1-2) Sarah conceived and bore a son.

All we can do – is be faithful. When God prompts us to pray for someone – we… must… pray.

Prayer:

Gracious God, forgive me in my failure to respond to Your promptings to pray for someone because I haven’t yet received an answer to my prayer for myself. Timing is everything! “In the fullness of time…” (Galatians 4:4) when your timing is perfect, You will answer prayer. Who am I to question Your timetable? God forgive me. I beg this in the precious Name of the One who came – “In the fullness of time…” Amen.

 

Read Full Post »

It just keeps getting worse, doesn’t it? There’s an old song that says, “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be…” but we’re not there yet! My friend Sandy has a neighbor that she has kept inviting to come to church and to Bible study. This friend watches all the television preachers and can quote things they say and, Sandy said, seems to know all about the Bible. So she asked Sandy what we were studying in Bible study and when Sandy told her “the book of Amos” she said, “Who’s Amos? I didn’t even know there was a book in the Bible called Amos…” And Sandy said, “Well I don’t know much about it – but God sure is mad at Israel, and Amos is telling them all about it!”

 

As we come to chapters 7 and 8, Amos is still telling them all about it! When I first began to study this, I thought that God was giving a series of private visions to Amos, but the more I studied it the more I am convinced that it is a continued part of the sermon given at Bethel. In chapters 7-8 we find Amos sharing 4 visions that God gave to him. I believe that they are truly “visions” and not actual events. We have 3 of the visions being related then an actual, historical confrontation that Amos has with Amaziah, the chief priest of Israel and then the 4th vision.

 

This part of the scripture is fairly easy to understand. It’s pretty straightforward. In the first two visions, there was going to be a disaster; the disaster started, but Amos prayed and God relented. In the third vision God showed Amos why judgment was certain – Israel was not “plumb” with God’s word. And then came the confrontation – which tells us that Amos’ words were being heard, and that they knew who he was. Notice that Amaziah sent word to the King that “Amos” said such and such, not that “some prophet” said it. He said that “Amos” was part of a conspiracy to overthrow the kingdom, and Jeroboam was going to die, which as we saw, wasn’t what Amos said at all! But this tells us that even the King knew who Amos was.

 

But here’s where we get Amos’ real reason for coming to Israel (verse 15) “The Lord took me” and “The Lord said to me”. This was not only assurance – this was double assurance! The Lord was the source of his authority. When you believe that the Lord is the source of your authority – you can keep going.

 

And then we come to the fourth vision, which is a little more difficult to understand at first because when we think of “summer fruit” we think of the peak of our gardening season. However, due to geographical differences, “summer fruit” in Israel means the last crop of the season. Therefore, as the produce ripens, it must be used quickly for it will soon spoil (you know how quickly those last tomatoes go bad!) As our writer will explain, the Hebrew word for “summer fruit” is very similar to the word for “end” in verse 2, so through a play on the words, God represents “the end” of Israel by the basket of fruit. Just as there would be no more fruit that season, God declared that the end had come upon his people Israel. There would be no more forgiveness and no more second chances. Just as the third vision pronounced that destruction was certain – the fourth vision declared it to be final.

 

In verses 4-10 of chapter 8, Amos again pronounces judgment on those who pervert worship, disregard justice and oppress the poor, just as we’ve seen all along. Then the Lord again swears by Himself (which according to Deuteronomy 33:29 is what the “Excellency of Jacob” is), and we’ve seen Him do that before, too.  Verse 8 says that the “land will tremble” or “will quake” as some translations put it. And while this could mean an earthquake, there was another scripture that came to my mind – Isaiah 6. Verse 1 begins, “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.”

The temple shook at the holiness of God, and so will the land shake at His judgments.

 

And it gets worse and worse until in verse 11 God says, “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it.”

 

God’s prophecy was not that the word of the LORD would disappear, but that the hearing of the word would fade away. Think of it this way. If your power was out this past week, it was not that electricity no longer existed – it was just not available to you. First Peter 1:25 (which is quoting Isaiah 40:8) promises us that “The Lord’s word endures forever.”

 

We live in a country where it is often said that “there is a church on every corner”. My husband will often remark as we’re out driving that with all these churches, why can’t there be a revival in this land? We wonder why such selfishness, greed and immorality exists? We’ve discussed over and over how much the book of Amos describes today. Could it be that the famine has begun?

 

So – what do we do about it? The only hope available against the day of famine is preparation. Whether you’re preparing for a literal famine or a spiritual famine, the only hope is preparation – fill your cupboards, fill your pantries, fill your hearts. Psalm 119:11 says, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee”. The more you read scripture – the more you study scripture – the more you realize if you aren’t getting it from the pulpit. Everyone around you may think the teaching is wonderful – but you’ll know the difference. And it will be in those days of famine that you will have to provide for yourself.

 

But there are two reactions to a coming day of famine – one is to prepare for it – but the other is to pray for it to be averted. Let’s go back to those first two visions.

 

God showed Amos that “He was forming a locust-swarm when the spring crop was began to sprout”. It’s like God is showing Amos a split-screen vision. On one screen is a picture of the spring crop barely breaking through the ground and on the other screen is a picture of baby locusts still in the larvae state – both of these growing and maturing side by side until suddenly just as the spring crop had been harvested and was beginning to take it’s second growth, here came the swarm of locusts. All of it happened so quickly that Amos cried out “Lord God please pardon!” Please forgive! The tense of this phrase is the strongest appeal in the Hebrew language. You can imagine Amos’ heart pounding as he cries out to God.

 

And what did God do? He relented.

 

Then the Lord showed Amos another scene. This time God was sending fire, and while the locusts were only eating the second growth, here the fire began to consume all of the farm land and Amos cried out again in the same Hebrew tense – “Lord God please pardon! Please forgive!” And again, what did God do? He relented. So what does it mean for God to “relent”?

 

I’ve been told that Hebrew is a very difficult language to learn because it is an emotional language. Many of the words don’t have what we’d call real “verbal” sounds – they’re more guttural. The Hebrew word for “relent” is literally a sigh. –Sigh- Those of you who are mothers know that that can have a lot of different meanings.

  • -Sigh- I wish you hadn’t done that.
  • -Sigh- How many times do I have to tell you
  • -Sigh- Well ok then!
  • -Sigh- That’s not news I wanted to hear
  • -Sigh- What a relief!

 

It can mean dread, aggravation, resignation, fear and even relief – a variety of feelings. What does scripture mean when it says, “God relented” or as the KJV puts it “repented”. Does God ever need to repent? The NASB uses the word “regret” or that God was sorry, but God’s “regret” is not like ours. We have regrets over things we’ve done when we can’t see how they will turn out. (I regret eating that bowl of chili so late at night!) But God knows every outcome.

 

  • Genesis 6:6-7 in the story of the flood we read that “God was sorry that He had made man”.
  • 1 Samuel 15:35 God “regretted” that He had made Saul king.

 

Did God not know what the outcome would be? Of course He knew – but these are just two in a multitude of instances where God allows mankind to have free will.

 

Another translation of the word is that “God changed His mind”, and that’s how it’s used here in Amos.

  • In Exodus 32 in the story of the Israelites and the golden calf – God was going to destroy them and give the “chosen” status to Moses and his descendants, but then God, “changed His mind”.
  • In Numbers 14 God “changed His mind” again about destroying the second generation of Israelites when they repented.

 

In each of these cases what is it that causes God to “change His mind”? Someone cried out to Him to please forgive. But the scriptures tell us that God is immutable – Malachi 3:6 says, “I am the Lord and I change not.” Numbers 23:19 says “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

 

So that begs the question – do our prayers really change God’s mind? If God is sovereign, and we know that He is – then how can our prayers change what He has decreed that He will do? In Matthew 6:8 Jesus tells us that the Father knows what you need before you ask Him, so then, how important are our prayers, anyway? In E. M. Bounds’ book “The Possibilities of Prayer” Bounds says that “our prayers move God.” But do our prayers really change God’s mind? And the answer is “No”… and “Yes”.

 

Here’s the thing – this is how it works – WE don’t change God’s mind, but God ALLOWS us to participate in His work. I believe (and this is not my opinion – this is what I believe) I believe that God, through the Holy Spirit, stirs our spirits to pray – and not only to pray – but in what to pray. I believe that every serious prayer we pray (and aren’t they all serious) but every serious petition that we bring before the throne should begin with, “How do You want me to pray?” And wait for an answer! We can’t pray effectively until we are moved by the Father to fulfill His will. How was Amos moved? The very image of the locust devouring the crops and the fire devastating the land moved him to cry out “O Lord God! Please forgive”. Sometimes it will be that graphic but not always.

 

One commentator said, (Small book Yates) “[God] can be moved by man’s appeal because His will for man’s good is unchangeable. Anyone who would bring God’s message – whether [of] judgment or salvation – must enter upon the task with genuine sympathy and compassion, having first interceded in agonizing prayer.” As James 5:16 tells us, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

 

Amos was truly a “burden bearer” – he cared for these people and he prayed – he cried out for God to forgive them. Abraham begged God that if God could only find 10 righteous men in Sodom and Gomorrah would He please spare the city. Moses and Aaron pleaded with God to forgive the Israelites, and Paul said that if it was possible he would give up his own salvation if it would mean that the Jews would believe.

 

But here’s a sobering thought, if we believe that God acts in response to prompting us in prayer – then do we also believe that our not praying keeps God from acting? May God forgive us for not praying…

Read Full Post »

In digging through some old folders and notebooks, I came across the following, tucked away in a spiral bound notebook, written around 2003…

I want to teach a “Bible” study – not a “theme” study, or a “topic” study, but a “Bible” study.

I want to teach the Word of God – a systematic, through the Bible teaching that incorporates the “inter-connectedness” of the whole Bible. For instance, in teaching the Old Testament, we would cover New Testament implications, and in teaching the New Testament, we would discover Old Testament truths and prophecies.

Isaiah (5:13) and Hosea (4:6) both said that the people will die for lack of knowledge. We MUST teach knowledge which will lead to wisdom, and realize that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of [both] knowledge and wisdom”. (Proverbs 1:7; Psalm 111:10)

 

And now 15 years later – I am doing just that. Wow. Thanks be to God for giving me this passion and dream.

Read Full Post »

Chapters 5-6

 

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but when a famous person dies, it seems that immediately the media has a ready-made obituary for them with all their accomplishments listed – just like it was already written, just waiting for them to die. And in fact, they do! In the case of our study, Israel’s obituary had already been written as well – it was just a matter of time before it would come to fruition unless there was a major change. So – what should they do? Make a change, of course! I’m sure that everyone here has heard of the Nobel Peace Prize – but do you know how it came to be? Alfred Nobel was a wealthy chemist who had invented dynamite. When his brother died, the newspaper mistakenly printed his obituary which said, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people died yesterday…” When he read that – at how he would be remembered – he was determined to make a change.

 

The Israelites weren’t so wise…

 

Chapter 5 continues Amos’ denouncement of Israel with his third proclamation of “Hear this word…”  (It would be good to have your Bibles open because I am going to refer to some of the scriptures without reading the verses.) We don’t know for sure but many commentators believe that the occasion may have been a religious festival taking place at Bethel. With the city full of worshipers, the scene would have had a carnival atmosphere about it. And into this gaiety stepped Amos, likely dressed as a mourner, with sackcloth and ashes pronouncing, in both word and cadence, a “funeral song” or “dirge” as some translations put it, directed against the house of Israel.

 

We’ve talked about it before, but it’s important to remember the national setting into which Amos spoke these words. Although he spoke of Israel as having already fallen to rise no more, the outward appearance of the nation portrayed an entirely different scene.

Israel, under Jeroboam II, was at the height of prosperity. Their future enemy, Assyria, was not a threat as she was currently busy with her own enemies. The Southern Kingdom of Judah was also enjoying peace and prosperity with Uzziah as king. And under Jeroboam II, Israel had extended its own territory both northward as well as down into the Eastern side of the Jordan River – called the “Transjordan”. With peace pervading the land and the economy booming, Amos’ words of death must have been as jarring as Alfred Nobel reading his own obituary.

 

Amos referred to Israel as “Virgin Israel” – which meant that she was a virgin to defeat. There had been battles that they had lost throughout their history, but they had never been defeated as a whole nation. Now they would be left with no one to save them. The predictions of losing ninety percent of their military might as we see in verse 3, wasn’t a hopeful word concerning the remnant. Instead it was a picture of the crushing military defeat. God’s words: “Seek Me that you may live”, provided a much needed hope in this dark hour. The hope would come, not only in proactively seeking God, but in choosing to eliminate the things which were contrary to His worship. “Bethel”, Gilgal, and “Beer-sheba” represented forms of false gods and idol worship in which the people of Israel participated. Sadly, each of these places had once been a place of true worship.

Abraham built an altar at Bethel, which means “house of God” (Genesis 12:8), but in Amos’ day, it had become nothing – the Hebrew word was “Beth-aven” meaning house of nothing. (We’ll see it called this in a later chapter). Gilgal, the place where the reproach of Israel was rolled away in Joshua 5:9, would, in a play on the Hebrew word find themselves being “rolled away” into captivity. And Beer-sheba, located in the Southern Kingdom, was where Abraham called upon the name of the Lord in Genesis 21:33, but the Israelites were calling upon the name of their ancestors, upon their “we’ve always done it this way” to save them instead of God.

 

And then for the second time, Amos called for them to “Seek the Lord that you may live”, but this time the implied message was “or else”.

 

He saw that the whole justice system in Israel had run amuck. Instead of its being hope and help for the weak and helpless, it had become as a poison. But before he continued with the condemnation, in an almost parenthetical thought, Amos reminded Israel who it was that was calling them to judgment; who it was that they should seek. It is the creator; the one who made the constellations, and the cycles of day and night, and of the water and the rain. His name, as he tells us in verse 8, is the LORD.

 

But the Lord did not simply fling the stars into the skies or wind up the cycles of life and let them go as many people believe today, the Lord has His hand in every affair of mankind. But just like our nation today, Israel hated anyone who (as the scripture puts it) “reproves him in the gates…” – anyone who speaks against what is being done. Amos then continued to denounce Israel’s oppression of the poor through the taxing of their grains (which we would call “an income tax”) and not only were they taxing them, they were using them as slave labor. The phrase in verse 11 of “well-hewn stone” indicates that “someone” was hewing them – or shaping them.

 

Amos predicted that they would not live in the houses they had built, nor drink the wine from the vineyards they had planted. These words are an exact opposite to the words of blessing in Joshua 24:13 where God says “I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.”

 

Then, for the third time Amos relates what they must do to live – “Seek good and not evil, that you may live” and if they do that “the Lord God of hosts [will actually] be with you [just like you think He is now].

 

In verses 10-12 he has basically said “don’t do this”

  • don’t hate the one who tries to correct you
  • don’t impose heavy rent on the poor
  • don’t tax the poor
  • don’t treat them like slave labor

 

“Instead” verses 14-15 says “do this!”

  • hate evil
  • love good
  • and establish justice [back] in the courts

 

And if you do – perhaps – just perhaps, the Lord God of hosts may be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. This statement was very disturbing to me… what this seems to indicate (and when I checked several commentaries they agreed) is that the dye had already been cast. Israel was going to be punished – the only thing left to be determined was how – by what method, which is what we’ll read about next week.

 

And with this Amos continues on with his funeral song. There would be wailing in all the plazas, in all the streets, and in all the vineyards. There would be no place to get away from it. Then it says all this wailing will happen because “‘I will pass through your midst’, says the Lord”. Can you remember hearing that phrase somewhere else?  That’s the very same words that God used in Exodus 12:12. The death angel had passed over them in Egypt – but now it would pass through them…

 

Then from chapter 5:18-6:4 we are given a series of “woe” statements. Sometimes the word “woe” only shows up in the KJV.

  • The first one is in 5:18, “Woe to you who are longing for the Day of the Lord”.

This is spoken against those who desired a day of destruction and victory over their enemies, but instead Amos tells them to be careful what they wish for – that instead, it will be a time when things go from bad to worse for them.

  • Then in 6:1, “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion and those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria”

This is against those in Judah as well as those in Israel who are living a life of false security. He says – go take a look at these other places that either have been, or will be destroyed, too. Do you think you are any better than they are?

  • And then in 6:4-6, “Woe to those who recline on beds of ivory” and it goes on to speak of, as one writer put it (Yates – Small book on Amos) “excessive indulgence and gross indifference”

This was against laziness, gluttony and drunkenness of the wealthy. Now, let me be quick to note that these things –  the “lying on beds of ivory”, the “eating lambs” or “making music” were not in themselves, sin – but taken as a whole with the attitudes of the people – they became symptoms of a greater sin. The people were so wrapped up in their own pleasures that they didn’t grieve over the coming destruction of their own nation.

 

The rest of chapter 6 continues with more detail of what was going to happen to them. Verses 9-10, which seem a little hard to understand can be explained this way – have you ever heard someone say, “Don’t pray for patience, because God will surely put you in a place where yours will grow?” Or – have you heard anyone (or maybe you’ve said) “Things are so bad that I’m afraid to ask what else could happen?” (One time I was actually praying “When’s it ever going to let up!”) Amos told them that it would be so bad that they would say, “Shhh, don’t mention God’s name and maybe He won’t know were here, and won’t send anything else!” And chapter 6 ends with God saying, “I am going to raise up a nation against you O house of Israel, that will afflict you from Hamath to the valley of the Arabah!” This from the northern most point of the kingdom to the southern most point. It’d be like us saying “From Maine to Texas” or “From sea to shining sea”. It would encompass the whole nation.

 

Next week’s lesson on chapters 7-8 will talk about how the judgment will come – but there’s a couple of things that I want us to take away from this lesson.

 

The first one comes in chapter 5, verse 18, “Woe to you who long for the Day of the Lord.” Amos is the first prophet to use the phrase “The Day of the Lord” as a term of judgment in Israel. Joel had used it in Judah as both judgment and salvation, and Obadiah had used it concerning Edom, and so it is likely Israel was familiar with the phrase as one of judgment – but against other people, of course! Just like the Pharisees would be in Jesus’ time, they were all for that! The second part of verse 18 says, “For what purpose will the day of the Lord be to you?” And that’s our question – What do we think of when we think of “The day of the Lord?” Are you longing for it? I have a friend that signs her e-mails with, “Come quickly Lord Jesus and get us out of this mess!” And that’s how we want to use it – we want the rapture to come and get us out of this mess… but have you ever stopped to think what will be left when Christians leave? And for that matter – we must be very careful because we’re not really sure when the rapture will occur. I believe that it will come before the tribulation – but those who believe in mid-trib or post-trip theology are equally sure of their beliefs and of their Biblical sources to prove it. So – we don’t really know for sure. But even if it does come before the Great Tribulation – and even if we’re sure we will be raptured – still – I’m sure you know and love someone who won’t be… So… are we really longing for the “Day of the Lord” as much as we thought we were?

 

The second thing I want to leave with you is from chapter 5, verse 27 God said, “Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus”. Think about this – What would “captivity” or “exile” mean to you? For them, it was not only taken away from the land, but also taken away from God. We’re not given much detail about the Israelites’ captivity. All we have is found in 2 Kings 17. Verses 23-24 basically tells us that they were scattered and taken into several different places and that captives from other places were brought to Israel. I’ve always called it “fruit basket turnover.” But what is most devastating to me is found in 2 Kings 17, verse 20 “And the LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them out of His sight.” “Out of His sight” doesn’t merely mean they were put somewhere where God couldn’t see them – because of course, God can see everything. This meant they were taken “away from His face”. Remember how Moses longed to see God’s face? It represented God’s presence. One of the greatest blessings God gave Moses to give to the people said, “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance (which is the same Hebrew word as face) the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”  Nothing could be worse than to be taken away from the face or the presence of God.

 

Now, we’ve all had times that we didn’t feel so close to God, but for the Christian – once you have received Christ as your Saviour, and received His Holy Spirit – He will never leave you. You can never be discarded by God, but you still have to confess your sins, because what unconfessed sin does is destroy the fellowship you have with God. And that for the Christian – is worse than captivity because it is a self-imposed exile. But as 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And that restores us once again.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Our women have finished our second lesson in Amos, so I thought I’d share it here.

 

Amos Lesson 2

Chapters 1 and 2

Let me ask you this… have any of you ever studied Amos before? In other words, did you know that when Amos began pronouncing judgment on these other nations that he would ultimately turn to Israel? If you knew that, try to make yourself hear his words as if you don’t know what’s coming next. Like when we studied Esther – we can’t grasp the full impact of what’s happening unless, like the characters in the story, we don’t really know how it’s going to turn out. Like we’ve said all along – think – as you study. Put yourself into the story. Allow yourself to know what they know, and no more. Imagine how you would feel and how you would react.

Remember – things are going great in Israel. There is peace and there is prosperity. It seems to truly be a “golden age.” And then Amos appears on the scene. We don’t know how he is dressed, but likely in pretty menial clothes, or maybe even in the garb of a prophet – much like Elijah or as John the Baptist would later dress. But he comes somehow to a public place where many of the Israelites would hear him and the first thing he says is,

“The LORD roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem”… Okaaay… what’s this going to mean? The word “roars” is the very same word as when a lion roars, and as we’ll see in chapter 3, and a lion doesn’t roar unless he has a very good reason! Then Amos continues, “The pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers”. This indicates that there is a famine coming, and I imagine the Israelites becoming a little defensive because after all Mount Carmel is within the Israelite territory, but as Amos continues with his judgments from the Lord, they probably relax a little.

I want us to look at each of these judgments to understand just what it is that God is judging. I actually will be covering some of the same things that our writer will cover in the review, but I think it’s important that we understand this.

Like a heavenly prosecutor God lays out His indictments through Amos against each of these nations. Each one begins with “Thus says the LORD, for three transgressions of [whichever nation] and for four, I will not revoke its punishment.” As we said last week, this is an idiom or a saying that means “for innumerable transgressions”. It’d be like us saying “It’s raining cats and dogs” to mean it’s raining a whole lot!

The word “transgression” is pesha and it means to revolt. As it’s used in the Old Testament, it can be revolting nationally, morally, or religiously. In some shape or form, it is going against the authority. In this case the “Authority” is God. The phrase “its punishment” may be in italics in your Bible. That means it is not in the original manuscript, but is added to “make more sense” in the English. What the announcement literally says is, “Thus says the LORD, for three transgressions of [whichever nation] and for four, I will not turn back.” In other words, His judgment is coming.

As I kept reading over these indictments, one word kept jumping out at me – the word “because”… “Thus says the LORD, for three transgressions of Damascus and for four, I will not revoke its punishment, because…

“Thus says the LORD, for three transgressions of Gaza and for four, I will not revoke its punishment, because… 

“Thus says the LORD, for three transgressions of Tyre and for four, I will not revoke its punishment, because…

Because, because, because… there is always a “because”. God will not tolerate unrighteousness on the part of any nation! Evil in the world will be punished. All nations and peoples will be judged regardless of whether they “believe in” God or not. Yahweh is Lord over ALL the nations – not just His chosen people. (Remember – “chosen” means to be set aside for a purpose…) But no one will escape judgment. For a great example of that read Psalm 2.

Let’s look at these “becauses”…

Because Damascus threshed Gilead with implements of sharp iron…” There is still a Damascus today, and it claims to be the oldest city in the world, but it is in a different place than this one. This one was burned with fire, and the people taken in to captivity by the Assyrians. Gilead is south of Syria in an area we know today as the “Golan Heights”. What the Syrians did (represented here by the city of Damascus) was worse than homicide – we would call it “war crimes”. It was the wholesale massacre of the Israelites in the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manesseh by running over them with the carts with iron spikes in the wheels that they used for threshing grain. Disregard for the value and dignity of human life will not go unpunished.

Because Gaza sent whole villages into exile, selling them as slaves to Edom…” Gaza today you know as the “Gaza strip” in Israel. In Old Testament times it was the land of the Philistines, a perennial enemy of Israel. They engaged in the slave trade, making the Israelites slaves and selling them to Israel’s bitter enemy, Edom. The judgment of God came upon Gaza historically through King Hezekiah. The slave trade today is big business. It doesn’t happen as we line men and women up on platforms and auction them off – it happens in alley ways and hotel rooms at places such as the Super Bowl and other major gathering places – and more often than not today – it is women and children. And punishment will come upon these as well.

Because Tyre broke their treaty of brotherhood with Israel, selling whole villages as slaves to Edom.” Tyre was located in what we know as Lebanon today. In Amos’ day they were the people called the Phoenicians. It might not have been a big surprise for the Philistines to sell the Israelites into slavery – but the Phoenicians? They had had a treaty of peace with King David and initially with Solomon – but they broke the treaty and betrayed their ally, by buying Israelite slaves and then reselling them. We have a modern example of this when Hitler broke every treaty he made and then turned and attacked Russia. Tyre would later be destroyed by Alexander the Great.

Because Edom pursued his brother with a sword and slaughtered the women of the land, [and] because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked…” (italics added). If you follow your map you see that Edom is south of Judah. Today it is in Jordan and here we change from what I would call “generic” enemies, to family ties. Just like the Israelites descended from the man Jacob whose name was changed to Israel, so Edom descended from Jacob’s twin brother Esau. Esau’s transgression was that he engaged in fratricide – he killed his brothers and sisters. And not only did he kill them, we are told, “his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked…” There’s a lot that could be said about these things, but if you dig deeper and deeper, and keep peeling away the layers, beneath all of this lies jealousy and revenge – both of which are very “21st Century sins. When Babylon first came against Judah, the Edomites laughed and rejoiced, but they too were later ravaged by King Nebuchadnezzar.

Because when Ammon attacked Gilead to extend their borders, they ripped open pregnant women with their swords.” The Ammonites were descended from Abraham’s nephew, Lot. They too, were “family”, which made what they did, even worse. Edom committed fratricide, and Ammon committed infanticide. They killed Israelite women and babies… In 1984, Ronald Reagan declared the third Sunday in January as “Sanctity of Life Day” to commemorate the many lives that have been lost to abortion, which could also be called infanticide. And why did Ammon do that? Greed. It was unusual cruelty and inhuman violence all in the pursuit of “more”… God would not allow it to go unpunished then, and He will not allow it to go unpunished today. The Ammonites too, were destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. By the way, want to know where this area is today? Ever hear of Ammon, Jordan?

Because Moab desecrated the bones of Edom’s king, burning them to ashes…” Moab, too was descended from Lot, and their crime? It was not enough to kill the king of Edom – they desecrated the corpse. The “final straw” of their sin came not against the living but against the dead. This act could have been committed out of revenge, or purely in an act of defilement. This too, has happened in modern history when whole cemeteries are desecrated in an act of hatred. Racism is nothing new…

And with this we have come full circle around Israel, and again Amos says, “Thus says the LORD, for three transgressions and for four…” and the people may be thinking, “Who’s left? These are all of our enemies…” And when Amos says “Judah” I imagine the crowd going wild. “Yes! Finally Judah will get what she deserves…

Because Judah has rejected the Law of the LORD and not kept His statutes; their lies also have led them astray, those after which their fathers walked…” Judah had surely sinned in a lot of ways, and they too did some pretty atrocious things. In fact when we dig into the sins of Israel, if we look, we can see that Judah committed those very same types of sins against the poor and the innocent and the justice system – but Judah’s greatest sin was in rejecting the Law of the LORD. And it was for that, that they would be judged. Note – because the other nations did not have God’s Law, they were not judged according to God’s Law – but Judah was.

At this point we can imagine that the crowd is going wild. If Amos had been recruiting an army to go to battle, there would have been no shortage of volunteers. This is why it is important to put yourself in the story and not allow yourself to know any more than the people in the story know. Imagine the crowd’s reaction when Amos once again says, “Thus says the LORD, for three transgressions and for four…” and then he says “Israel… because Israel, has done this, and this, and this, I will not revoke its punishment…” 

Now there was likely no jeering or cheering – perhaps there was stunned silence. What was Israel’s crime? We will dig into these deeper as we go through this book, but here Amos presented several counts to the indictment. In verses 6-8; there was injustice against the innocent and taking advantage of the poor. There was a corrupt justice system and gross immorality, as well as usury or loan sharking and idolatry, and then in verses 9-12 there was the crime of ingratitude for all that God had done for them as a people, followed by the verdict that the heavenly judge would mete out, which we just don’t have time to get into.

But here’s the thing I want us to get from this. What makes God “roar” today? Because, because, because – God’s punishment is always brought on by a “because”. What if today Amos said, “For three transgressions of Betty, or your name, or three transgressions of Washington Pike or your church, and for four, I will not turn away your punishment”. Because you (fill in the blank) I will not relent…

But we’re under grace! Will there still be judgment? You bet there will. Remember the churches of Revelation? There is always a consequence to sin. Yes, our sins have been forgiven. Yes, we have been saved by grace – but we will be judged by our works – not condemned, but judged.

But there’s one more “because” I want to share. This one is found in John 3:18. We know John 3:16, and maybe even John 3:17, but John 3:18 says, “Whoever believes in him [that is Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (italics added.)

In world and Biblical history (remember – this is real) – at near the same time Amos was delivering God’s word to Israel, several hundred miles away, Jonah was reluctantly delivering a word from God to Nineveh. The Ninevites listened to a foreign prophet who didn’t love or care one bit for them but the Israelites did not listen to a foreign prophet who did care for them and was a burden bearer for the Lord on their behalf.

Last week we talked about being a burden bearer… this week and throughout the rest of the book we will be prodded to look at our own sin. Yes we are under grace, but God’s moral Law must be obeyed. One writer put it this way (Dave Black) “When grace is abused and the Law forgotten – a terrible price is to be paid.”

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: