BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday April 21, 2013
CAN I GET A WITNESS
(Being a witness to the Gospel of CHRIST through our behavior)
Throughout biblical history GOD has used spiritual visions through HIS prophets, as both, an encouragement to HIS people, and, also as an indication of their moral deficiencies. The prophet Amos’s ministry is centered, in particular, on the streets outside the luxurious homes of the rich and famous in northern Israel, whom, GOD called him to condemn.
Inside those homes the residents reclined on their ivory laden beds and couches feasting on meat and exotic wines while listening to and singing the latest popular secular (idle) music, from artist who, talent-wise, often compared themselves to King David (Amos 6:4-6). In Amos chapters 3-6, we saw the prophet listing a myriad of reasons why GOD must punish HIS wayward people. Among those reasons were pride, social injustice, religious hypocrisy, and economic disparity.
Here in chapter 7, Israel has already been charged and found guilty by GOD for their falling away, and their covenant violations. In this passage, Amos begins to relate to us, a series of five visions that he received from GOD. These visions foretell the results of a coming judgment from the LORD. We see here in chapter 7, the revelation of the first three visions, with the final two being revealed in chapters 8-9.
The first vision is that of a vast swarm of locust that cast a dark cloud over the land and began devouring all of the green vegetation. The “locust” was a well-known instrument of punishment used by GOD in Old Testament times, and whenever this type of punishment was handed down, the people could expect that it would be followed by famine and sickness also.
Amos says that this would occur after the king’s share had been harvested, and just as the main crop was blooming (v.1). The first crop in Israel was taken by King Jeroboam to feed his vast army and its animals that were used in war, and so, the remainder of the people would have to wait a whole year for food, an impossible undertaking for mere humans and animal life.
After seeing this first vision, Amos prayed a “prayer of intercession” for the people of northern Israel, that, GOD would relent from HIS anger against them. Amos knew that no one could survive such a devastating blow. And so, because of Amos’ earnest petition, the LORD decided not to fulfill the first vision (Vs. 2-3).
The second vision that the LORD showed Amos was one of HIM preparing a great fire. It was a fire that had already burned up the depths of the sea and all of the land. Again Amos interceded in prayer for Israel, and again, GOD postponed HIS punishment upon the people (Vs.4-6). And even though the prayers of the righteous does prevail most of time, eventually, those who are interceded for must at some point began to “line up” and turn their lives towards GOD. If we can glean anything from Scripture, surely we’ve learned that there is a limit to how long GOD will put up with our foolishness before HE will exact punishment upon us, and, on the land where we stand.
The “Plumb Line” was a basic and simple tool used in building and construction in biblical times. It consisted of a small “weight” that was tied to the end of a cord or string. It was held up against a wall to detect its vertical “trueness”. We can liken GOD’s test or measurement of our morally to the use of this instrument in construction. GOD wants us to see how “true” we are in regards to our “vertical relationship” with HIM.
In verses 7-9 we see the third vision of Amos. It is a vision of a “Plumb Line” test. In this vision Amos sees the LORD standing by a wall that has been built using a Plumb Line. GOD is holding the Plumb Line against the wall to check its vertical straightness. The LORD then asked Amos what did he see, and he replied, “A Plumb Line”. Then the LORD said to Amos, “I will test MY people with this Plumb Line. I will no longer ignore all their sins. The pagan shrines of your ancestors and the temples of Israel will be destroyed, and I will bring the dynasty of King Jeroboam to a sudden end”.
Apparently, when the LORD administered this Plumb Line test, the people failed miserably. In fact, they were shown to be quite far off in their “vertical relationship” with GOD. And so the whole construction of their “perverted horizontal relationship” with paganism and immorality had to be torn down so Israel could be “rebuilt”, or “restored” into a “right relationship” with GOD.
In verses 10-17, an idolatrous priest in Bethel, by the name of Amaziah is told about the visions and prophesies of Amos. He hurriedly gets a message to King Jeroboam informing him of the dim forecast for himself and for northern Israel. Amaziah, perceiving the visions to be a plot against the king, sent orders to Amos, commanding him to leave and go back to Judah and preach his message there. However, Amos spoke boldly to Amaziah telling him that he was not one of his “paid prophets”, nor was he ever “trained” to be one. He went on to tell the misinformed priest that he was just a shepherd who also took care of fig trees. The LORD called him away from his earthly duties so that he might attend to and obey the divine commands of GOD.
Even here in the twenty-first century our churches are filled with preachers and church leaders whose only desire is to kiss up to the pastors they sit under, while ignoring the Word of GOD altogether. In verse 13 we see the phrase “the king’s sanctuary”. This phrase reveals the heart and allegiance of the chief priest, Amaziah, to the king, Jeroboam, and not to GOD.
In our modern Christian Churches, with all the money being made and offered to pastor’s, assistants, and other church workers, it becomes easy to become confused as to where one’s allegiance should lie, and oftentimes, we let our loyalty to an “ungodly”, or, “out-of-focused” pastor pull us out of the will of GOD also. The danger always exists, that, in our zeal to please and protect our “human leaders”, we lose track of the fact that our ultimate loyalty must be to JESUS CHRIST, the HEAD of the Church, and not towards man (Psalm 118:8). We don’t want to follow, nor let any man lead us to Hell, by reason of our desire to obtain or maintain a position in the Church, nor, for how much of Caesar’s money it pays.
It is absolutely critical that all church leaders have a personal, experiential relationship with CHRIST, the HEAD of the church, so that they will be able to help each other when one is leaning towards going astray, or is in error of Scripture and needs correcting.
When we align our thinking with CHRIST and GOD’s Word, we will automatically, be able to detect that which is right, from that which is wrong, even though, as humans, we will still error from time to time. But remember, it is just as much ungodly to let the errors of a pastor or other Church leader go unchecked, as it is to intentionally commit the error yourself. After all, we are our brother’s keeper, and no man, is right all the time. Everyone in the Church needs to be undergirded.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website