When the Lord reveals his judgement against sin, will you cry to him for mercy or refuse to listen? This whole book is a warning.
Vision 1 – locusts (v1-3)
As the Lord speaks first, he says he’s preparing locusts. It’s not just a vision of an accident. The Lord intends it. When they come, there will be devastation. Amos cries out for forgiveness. He’s from the southern kingdom yet he is moved to compassion for people who don’t like him. The Lord listens and relents, not because they don’t deserve it but because he loves to listen to the prayers from his people. Keep on praying.
Vision 2 – fire (v4-6)
Once again, the Lord is calling for judgement, this time by fire. The land is devoured. Land after fire or locusts look similar. There’s nothing left. Again, Amos responds and cries out. Israel had taken their name from Jacob. Jacob, without God’s blessing and grace, would’ve been nothing. The Lord had shown him kindness. Again, the Lord relents. He is teaching Amos and us that he does listen when we pray.
Vision 3 – plumb line (v7-9)
This is a different vision to the previous two. The Lord is saying Israel is the wall. They were built as they were made to be. Although we’re not told explicitly, they are no longer the straight wall they once were. This time, Amos doesn’t plead on their behalf. They aren’t what they should be. When Jesus came, he is the only person who kept God’s law perfectly. We can look at the life of Jesus and see how far we are from that life. He is the plumb line and we all fall short.
Response 1 – Amaziah (v10-13)
Amaziah doesn’t want to listen to Amos. He’s a priest but doesn’t want to listen to God’s word. Are there things that our community doesn’t want to hear? Amaziah cares more about the king’s sanctuary than the Lord’s.
Response 2 – Amos (v14-15)
Back in 3:8 Amos states the sovereign Lord has spoken. He listens. As the Lord has been revealing his judgement, he listens and cries out to the Lord for mercy. We should speak up. The Lord has called all Christians to speak about him.
A judgement against the priest (v16-17)
Everyone is guilty. God’s judgement against sin is fair. On the cross, God showed his judgement in the clearest way that he could. The full anger of God poured out, the sky darkened. Will we cry out to him for mercy or refuse to listen and face judgement ourselves?
The Israelites are looking forward to the Lord’s coming (5:18). They’re looking forward to the day when God’s people will have a wonderful future. It’s a good thing to long for. This will be a day of judgment against them (5:18-20). There is no escape. Appearances can be deceiving. For the Israelites in Amos’ time they thought they were doing pretty well. Amos is here to reveal the truth underneath. They instead have a false hope in themselves.
A false hope in themselves (5:21-6:7)
They might look fine but on the inside, they’re dead. Hypocrisy, wickedness. They’re hoping in themselves through their religious acts (5:21-27). Their acts are rituals, superstitions. They’re whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:27). They’re trusting in military success (6:1-3) and their material wealth (6:4-7). They’ve got everything they could possibly ever need. Amos reminds us that a false hope leads to judgment.
A false hope leads to a true judgment against sin (6:8-14)
God’s judgment will be complete. Whole cities will be destroyed. There is an appropriate fear of the power and might of the sovereign Lord. It’s a picture of God’s complete judgment against sin. It’s just. It’s what the people deserve. These people have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness. God’s judgment is fair. God’s people will face judgment and exile for rejecting him. We can think we’re better than them, that we wouldn’t do the same.
We need a true hope in the Lord’s rescue
We need to realise we can’t do it by ourselves. We need to throw ourselves on Jesus’ mercy. It’s only through his death that God can be just and be merciful. A false hope in ourselves, whatever that may be, will bring judgment, but a true hope in Jesus will bring rescue. Whatever good things we do will never be enough because we all fail. This passage is a reminder to look to Jesus. In Jesus, each and every person is valued. Success is measured by seeking Jesus and clinging to him day by day.
Amos seems to be stirring our hearts to ask if we’re actually at peace with God. We are in danger if we fool ourselves, but God says to Amos “Come with me if you want to live.” (Terminator reference). This passage was often quoted in the American civil rights movement in the 50s. Amos announces he’s on the side of the vulnerable.
The troubling announcement of God’s wrath in this chapter begins with a lament. A lament is a song for the brokenhearted, or a song for when you’re at your lowest. God views his people in the OT as a coming marriage. He’s grieving in v2. Israel was meant to be a nation of blessing but they’ll be brought to almost nothing. Why has Israel become a depleted nation? They weren’t seeking God himself (v5). These are significant places. The people would’ve been appalled. They forgot the Lord himself. So often we want the benefits of a relationship with God but not God himself. We want what God can give us, but not God. What happens when God’s people do this? Nothing good.
Our default setting is to worry about ourselves instead of others. When we seek what we can get from God, we put our own selfish wants first. God’s beloved people are brought to almost nothing. They hate justice or do nothing about injustice. Do we know what peace even is? Amos shows peace is a right relationship with God and a right relationship with our neighbour. We’re only at peace with God when we seek him as he has revealed himself to us.
God directly appeals to his people when he says “seek” (v4, v6, v14). God’s people had forgotten who he was. They’d forgotten that he was good. He reminds us exactly who he is (v8-9). God call us to live (v14-15). Seek the God who champions the weak. He invites us back into peace with him. The passage ends with wailing in the streets (v16-17). God calls us to seek him as he reveals himself. He points us outwards to the whole city.
Amos reveals to us the severity and intensity of God’s justice. God is the hero of the brokenhearted. He won’t allow the oppressed to remain oppressed. God isn’t done with us. When we turn to God, he turns us to our neighbours. He reveals himself to be ultimately the God who is with us.
In Jesus, we have every spiritual blessing. He’s the morning light that dawns in our darkness. Jesus is God with us and shows us mercy. In Jesus we are called out of our old way of living to be able to truly love our neighbour. We are freed from the oppression of our sin. Each of us is invited to seek God and live for him.
The kingdom was split in two (northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah). They were pretty strong and prospering. Amos was a shepherd, a farmer. God called him as a prophet. He sends him a message. Amos was sent from the south to the north. The words aren’t too pleasant – the Lord roars from Zion (1:1-2). Jerusalem is the place of God’s temple and the Lord roars (Revelation).
The Lord roars in judgement against the sins of the nations (1:3-2:3)
The Lord is to be feared. He roars in judgement against the sins of the nations.
The pattern of the judgements:
- The Lord speaks
- The serious nature of sin
- An example of their sin
- The judgement of the Lord
- The Lord speaks
You don’t have to be a Christian to know that some things are bad. That’s what these nations are doing (1:3). Nothing is left standing. These are horrific sins. They are all against other people. No one should read this and think God’s judgement is unfair. When he comes to judge sin, nothing will stand in his way. Just as these nations have destroyed others, they will be destroyed.
Imagine being an Israelite hearing this. Thank God that he is going to judge this evil. What God says will happen, happens. He does still see the evil around us and he will judge it. The Lord roars against the sins of the nations. It’s a warning. It’s easy to point at the sins of others. We are just as bad. We have hurt others and we know we’ve done wrong. As Christians we can’t sit back smugly.
The Lord roars in judgement especially against the sins of those who claim to be his people (2:4-16)
Judah is judged because they’ve rejected the law of the Lord. They’ve broken the laws that God himself gave to them. Israel doesn’t escape this judgement. The root of their sin is the same as Judah’s. They were supposed to be a light to the nations. God has acted again and again to rescue and bless Israel but they’ve thrown it back in his face. Israel has no defence. It seems not a single person will get away. They’re stuck. This is certain. Amos was speaking at around 760BC. By 722BC the nations had been conquered. This is a warning. We are no better than the Israelites. To be a Christian is to know that you deserve God’s judgement.
We can be comforted in Jesus. It should make us more dependent on him and his gracious rescue, but we need to be warned. Being one of God’s people isn’t just a label. It’s an internal change that’s shown by an outward way of life enabled by the Holy Spirit. If we deny the truth with our actions, are we really Christians? The Lord sees and will judge all of our sin. Our only refuge is found in Christ. Let’s cast ourselves on his mercy.
The gospel the apostles taught is preserved in Luke’s account. The Holy Spirit they relied on is with every believer. We should have the same confidence. How is the church going to grow? There are three scenes in this passage. We can have full confidence because God is building the church on the foundation of his word.
When Christians feel weak, open God’s word to strengthen one another (18:18-23)
Paul had already spent a year and a half in Corinth. It’s likely he felt weak as God spoke to him in a vision. He’s strengthened by the word that God speaks to him. Why does he take an unusual route? He points the church to God when they feel weak. He uses God’s word to preach the message of the gospel. The church is built as the word spreads widely (19:20). When we feel weak, let’s open God’s word.
When Christians disagree, explain God’s word more accurately to one another (18:24-28)
Apollos appears faultless. He’s mentioned in 1 Corinthians 1:11-12. He speaks eloquently and is very persuasive. The Corinthian church had started to quarrel. Paul isn’t criticising him. It’s God’s word, not engaging speakers that advance the gospel. One godly Christian couple with a Bible have all they need. Who likes to be corrected? Apollos cares more about the gospel than about his own reputation. As we open God’s word with each other, we are participating in a great activity, as we grow as Christians.
When people are confused, teach God’s word until they are clear (19:1-7)
Paul teaches them until they are clear (19:4). He’s so committed to teaching the Ephesians that he remains with them for two years. As Christians we need to rediscover how to disagree well. It seems that the twelve men aren’t Christians when Paul meets them. On hearing the gospel they receive the Holy Spirit. Why does Luke seem to emphasise the gifts of tongues and prophecy? He wants to reassure his readers that they are Christians. The context of which tongues and prophecy happen needs to be understood in terms of 1 Corinthians 12-13. People may believe different things about prophecy. As we talk to each other, have the Bible open. Let’s listen and meet with the Lord about these things.
It’s God’s word, not our experiences that build churches.
It can be hard to keep speaking about Jesus. We can be too busy, or frightened. What if we say the wrong thing? What about hard questions? Life wasn’t so different in the early church. It’s strangely encouraging that even Paul needed God to intervene to encourage him to continue speaking.
Paul is in Corinth on his own and none of his companions are with him. It’s not that different from Athens. It’s a powerful Roman colony. They’re not interested in Paul. It’s a daunting place for Paul to be on his own.
Christianity is the fulfilment of all of God’s promises
Christianity is the continuation of the faith of all Jews everywhere. It’s the completion of the promises the Jewish people were looking forward to. Paul knows that Christianity is a hope for all Jewish people. He’s willing to do whatever is necessary in order to speak in any place about Jesus. God’s promised Messiah was going to be greater than a human king. This has been God’s plan since before the creation of the world. Doesn’t that give us confidence to speak? We have God’s hope for the world to share.
The Lord is the one gathering a people for himself
It’s not just down to Paul, or any person. If you’re a Christian, do you realise that’s a miracle? It should encourage us that it’s not completely up to us, but we need to keep speaking. Paul has proclaimed the gospel and despite opposition, people are becoming Christians. The ruler of the synagogue and his family became Christians. One new people under Jesus Christ. We need to have confidence in him.
The Lord commands us to speak, and promises to be with us
The Lord is faithful to his promises. He uses a Roman non-Christian to protect Paul from harm. Paul is able to stay there for a year and a half. How can we make disciples unless we speak? We should keep on speaking because the hope of Christianity has always been God’s plan.
We all hope for all kinds of things. Some are good, some aren’t so good. If we’re Christians, God calls us to a different hope. Our hopes are often about our own situations in our lives now. The book of 1 Peter has lots to say about the hope we are called to (1:3-4). Hope is central to this letter. It’s a future hope (v1, 4, 6, 10). The Christian life is one of a living hope, sharing in Jesus’ glory until he returns.
The Christian life can only be explained by this living hope
Live a good life now (2:12) even if it means being hated and accused of being wrong because Jesus is coming back. Our hope isn’t just for now but for the future promised by God. Why would a Christian slave keep working hard? Only if they’ve got a living hope for something more than this life. Why would you go out of your way to show kindness to someone who’s hated you? Only if you have a living hope. It’s a wonderful way of living but it’s still hard. When Jesus comes back he will remake the world as it should be. We don’t deserve to be part of that.
It’s only possible to lead a church in the way Peter describes if you have this living hope. He was one of Jesus’ closest followers. What’s the motivation to be a humble serving church leader? Verse 4. Isn’t it just easier to want an easy life? Peter says to be submissive to church leaders. Humble service is only possible if you have this living hope.
The Christian life is shaped by this living hope
Living a missional life is about remembering that the whole Christian life is lived for the glory of God. That’s what helps us share the good news of Christianity with others. It’s hard (v7). It’s okay to be anxious if we’re taking our anxieties to God because he cares for us. Be self-controlled and alert (v8). The devil wants the pain of suffering to stop people from being Christians. He wants you to keep the fact you’re a Christian secret. The best way to resist him is to meet Christians in local churches. We are to support and challenge each other. We need to be reminded that we’re not alone when we suffer.
Are your choices shaped more and more by your living hope for Jesus’ return in glory, even knowing that this might mean suffering for you? How do you use your time, money and home? Seeing a Christian living with this hope speaks volumes.
Christians can live distinctively because of the living hope that we have. We live distinctively in order to point others to Jesus. Living distinctively, especially in tough times, is what allows Christians to share the hope that we have.
Noah is an example of a distinctive life. It’s a story of God’s judgement on the world. Noah is far from a perfect person but was the best of a bad lot. He listened to God and built the ark. He was ignored by others. Only eight were saved. Through Jesus’ death, God declares throughout history the justice of his rescue. Jesus rules over all. In one sense, the ark saved Noah, but it was simply the evidence of his faith in God. Baptism is a symbol of us dying and being risen to new life. We don’t think of it as being distinctive. For Peter’s first hearers that might have meant death. Peter says it’s worth it to be distinctive. It’s a way of saying that we’re not good enough.
Imagine living in a country with a corrupt government. The world says to get out of that situation. Start a resistance. We think it makes sense to get even. Peter says to submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake (2:13). It’s not easy to submit to injustice. Why? It’s distinctive. It gives Christians the opportunity to tell others about Jesus. What does our culture say? Fight back. It’s controversial to submit yourselves to your masters (2:18). Peter says even when they’re beating you, stay, because it’s a way of being distinctive. What does our culture say? Get out.
Peter says to be distinctive from the world. He says to repay evil with blessing (3:9). This isn’t a call to stay in harm’s way. We should encourage people to move away from abusive partners. Don’t take vengeance into your own hands. We’re called to follow Jesus’ example (2:21). We know that Jesus suffered unjustly. He lived the only perfect life (2:22-23). We point people to Jesus as we inherit a blessing (3:9). Peter quotes Psalm 34 in 3:10-12. We are called to live distinctively in every area of our lives.
Are you ready to give a reason for the hope that you have (3:15)? When we live distinctive lives for Jesus, people will ask us why. That gives us the chance to give a reason for the hope that we have. We have this hope because Jesus has rescued us.
Are there things that we find easy to talk to others about? There are also things that we find hard to talk about. Do we find it hard to talk about Jesus? We are commanded to do so. We know that everyone needs Jesus yet we find it harder to talk about him than about football. Christians are to offer sacrifices acceptable to God (v5) and declare his praises (v9).
The problem is that we all find evangelism difficult. If a building was on fire we wouldn’t sneak out, we’d tell others to get out. So why do we find evangelism hard? We’re lazy. It’s easy to keep our heads down. There’s a spiritual battle as well. The devil doesn’t want people to become Christians. It can be hard to be rejected. Sometimes we’d rather not know what people think. Another problem is that we don’t know what to say.
Peter knows that telling others about Jesus is hard. He was so frightened of a little girl that he wouldn’t admit he was a follower of Jesus. Yet God used him to tell lots of others about Jesus. Part of being a Christian is that this world is no longer our home. We’re aliens and strangers in the world. People will think we’re strange. Even if you live a good life people will accuse you of doing wrong, because that’s easier than accepting the message of Jesus. What do we do?
We are to keep seeing who we are together because of Jesus. He is the living stone, the one that shapes what the building will look like. The cornerstone of a building always needs to be right; it’s the key stone for the whole building. Jesus shapes the building that Christianity is. Yet this cornerstone was rejected (v4). The same thing happens today. People reject him as King. Christianity says we are not good enough for God. It causes people to stumble. Jesus is precious to God as he’s his own son and is precious to us as he rescues us. The more we look at Jesus the more we will see who we are because of him.
We are a spiritual house and a holy priesthood. We are now God’s priesthood (v9). That’s why he uses Christians to call others to follow him. We are royal because we are children of the King. We are a chosen people. Once we weren’t a people (v10) but now we have received mercy because Jesus died to rescue us. One person doesn’t make a nation. This is what Christians are called to be together. It’s who we are so that we live good lives among the pagans (v12). This is how God calls Christians to live for him, to live distinctively because of who we are in Jesus. This gives us opportunities to declare his praises so that others follow him.
Sometimes we can either not live distinctively or hide away and not spend time in this world. When others become Christians you can see the change in their lives. People see when Christians live distinctively. It’s only possible to do this together, when we love and support each other when times are tough. People will see this and will be drawn into the community of the church.
Related Bible Studies:
When it’s tough being a Christian the temptation is to live like everyone else. These people had similar struggles. It’s hard to live distinctively as a Christian when times are tough.
Christians live distinctively because we have a living hope
Leviticus is quoted, which is all about how God’s people are to live differently from those around them, but not be separated from them. They are to shine as a light for all to see. It’s tough to live distinctively. Not joining in gossip. Not speaking out about issues from a Christian viewpoint. Thankfully it’s not about what we do, it’s about what Jesus has done.
So why live distinctively? If we are Christians this is who we are. Living distinctively shows the truth of who we are. We have been purified, born again. If we are a Christian we are a child of God and so we show the family likeness. Whether we’re close to our families or not, we still pick up things from them. It’s no different being a Christian. We don’t conform to the evil desires we used to have. We are to live as our Father expects us to. We are to live in reverent fear.
We’ve been redeemed (v18). We’ve been bought back. We’ve been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus (v19). His life for our life. His death for our death. Jesus was willing to come and pay that cost so that we could be redeemed, freed. If you’ve been a hostage and are then rescued, you are free from that life so you can live differently. We’ve been purified (v22), washed clean. Why would we go back to where we were?
The way that we purify ourselves is by obeying the truth. It’s not about our actions, it’s about putting our trust in Jesus. Peter reminds us about needing to be born again of the Spirit. Our bodies don’t last. We’re all born once but through Jesus we are born again. We are born imperishable, lasting forever because God’s word lasts forever. Once you’ve tasted this truth (2:3), of course you’ll live in light of it. Nothing compares. We long for it even if life can be hard.
In light of this
We are to be prepared for action. We are to fix our eyes on the prize. The hope of Christianity is not for today (fully). It’s nothing compared to every day in heaven. We are to love one another. Christians are a family. We are to live our lives distinctively together. We are to get rid of destructive qualities (2:1). They’re things that are part of the world rather than part of God’s people. We are to be supported by other Christians who aren’t jealous, but honest about the difficulties. We spur one another on and help each other live distinctive lives. It can be hard but it’s who we are. We are called to live this way as we wait for Jesus’ return.