Tuesday, April 16, 2013


For the week beginning Sunday April 14, 2013

(Empty worship doesn’t please GOD)
Amos 5:1- 6:14

In the book of Amos, chapters 5:1 - 6:14, we find the third, fourth, and fifth messages of the prophet Amos, who prophesied in the eighth century along with Isaiah, Hosea, and Micah. In the opening words of chapter 5, verses 1-2, we see a “dirge” or “funeral song” that was probably designed by GOD to provoke a great lament from the wayward children of Israel because of their sins. Here the stench of death seems to cast a pall over Israel as it moves ever closer to destruction at the hands of the Assyrians in 722 B.C.
In verse 3 one can sense that the blessings of GOD to “increase the offspring”, which, had been promised to Abraham (blessings that could only be experienced by an obedient generation), has now been temporarily interrupted by the sins of a disobedient generation. Instead of having a tenfold increase, they will experience a tenfold decrease.
Israel is told not to “seek” GOD within their defiled houses of worship, but rather they should look to find HIM among the poor and oppressed. Here the Hebrew word used for “seek” is “daras” and it means “to turn to GOD in trust and confidence”. If we are to continue to mix the holy with the profane in our places of worship, i.e. in our music and other unGODly church activities, we can expect to do it without the presence of GOD. Here in verses 4-5, GOD says, if we really want to respond to HIM, we can find HIM among the poor, and the oppressed, and the way to express our faith in HIM, is by standing against oppression, or being “just” in all of our ways at all times.   
In verses 10-13, we see a continued denunciation, by GOD, through the prophet Amos, of the legal injustice that was being perpetrated by the “Dayyaneh Gezeloths” (Robber Judges) who sold their court decisions to the highest bidder in those days. Here GOD also rebukes the Government workers, who overtaxed the poor, and the landlords, who overcharged the poor for rent in sub-par housing while all the time claiming to be children, or followers of GOD.
In verses 14-15, we see that the possibility still exists for the people of Israel to separate themselves from these evil practices, as GOD urges them to repent, and begin to do that which is good and just, and flee from evil. In verses 16-17, Amos concludes his third message of this prophesy, by returning to his opening plea, and reminding Israel of the severe death penalty involved, if they failed to heed GOD’s warnings.
In the Greek, the word used to describe those involved in religious pretense and public show is “hupokrites” (hoop-ok-ree-tace). It is from that word that we derive our English word “hypocrite”. In verses 21-24, Amos reminds the Israelites of yet another of their fatal flaws. It was their tendency to live in “religious hypocrisy”. GOD’s anger is always directed largely at those involved in “religious hypocrisy”. It was then, and it still is today. It is a kind of “empty worship” that GOD simply will not tolerate, especially from the church leaders. Here GOD gives a stern warning to those involved in religious hypocrisy. HE makes it quite clear that HE detests their showing off in public and then living an unGODly life in private. HE will not accept their tithes or offerings, and their hymns of praise are only noise to HIS ears, and so, HE will not listen to them. GOD tells us, that, instead, HE wants to see “a mighty stream of justice”, flowing from among us, and “a river of righteous living” that will never run dry (v.23-24).
In Amos chapter 6, verses 1-14, we find the prophet’s fifth and final message. It is a message and chapter that is totally dedicated as a warning to the rich and powerful, who wield power in Israel, by way of their worldly success and prosperity. Those who have become prideful and complacent in their own luxury will suffer the same fate as the powerful surrounding nations whom they strive to imitate. Their “pride” will be crushed into “humility” by an enemy that GOD would raise up against them (Assyria), and there will be no safe place of refuge that can be obtained by their wealth. In fact, GOD says they will be the first to feel the effects of HIS wrath (v.7). 
Riches are not intrinsically evil, but, too often, wealth promotes self-indulgence and makes us indifferent towards others. Remember, no one ever saw the dangers of prosperity and material things as clearly as JESUS did (Mark 10:17-31), and that is why, the more we gain in life, the more we need GOD, and not, the opposite.
When the Israelites were poor, they were humble and full of worship. However, the fuller their pockets became, the emptier their worship became. To go with everything in life, we need GOD, and with wealth and prosperity we need HIM all the more.  It is very possible to be wealthy and also have a heart for GOD, but history tells us that most people refuse to pursue both, and indeed, most choose “empty worship and prosperity”, over GOD.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

                                           LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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