Friday, June 5, 2015

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 7, 2015

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JUDGMENT ON ISRAEL AND JUDAH
(Keep GOD’s Law or you will go astray)
(Amos 2:4-16)

The prophet Amos was a contemporary of the prophets Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah. His message was directed at the northern Kingdom of Israel, even though he physically resided in the southern Kingdom of Judah. He begins his prophesy by announcing judgment on the surrounding nations such as Syria, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, and Ammon (Amos 1:3-2:3), before later changing his focus to Judah and northern Israel itself (Amos 2:4-9:10).
In his scathing condemnation of GOD’s chosen people however, Amos severely denounces, in particular, the social sins and injustices of the nation, government and judicial corruption, greed, and the worship of false gods. Here in this book, a series of “five stern messages” unfold, and yet, when all is said and done, it ends with little hope that Israel was interested in changing her unjust behavior towards the indigent, the weakest sector of their society, and nor were they willing to improve their intolerable disrespect towards the GOD WHO, quite literally, sees all that they do.      
The events in the Book of Amos take place during one the most prosperous times in northern Israel’s history. Their dynamic king, Jeroboam II, had led them in war to successful victories over their hostile neighbors, and, as a result, had won control of the lucrative trade routes that now poured wealth into Samaria, Israel’s northern capital.
It was a golden age for the wealthy that built grand homes and proud public facilities, near the popular worship centers of Bethel and Dan, and in those days, the fertile land of northern Israel presented bumper crops year after year. Unfortunately, beneath the glitter, glamour, and prosperity of this golden society, lay the dark tragedy of social injustice and economic disparity.
In those days, as is the case now, the rich had little regard for their, less fortunate, Jewish brothers, or, for that matter, had little regard even for GOD HIMSELF, or, HIS sacred Laws. The poor were mercilessly oppressed by merchants who used “unjust weights of measure in the marketplace”, and, by “robber judges” (“Deyanneh Gezeloth” in the Hebrew) whose justice was for sell to the highest bidder.
And so, it is against this backdrop of “prosperity” and “wickedness” that we find the prophet Amos, a farmer and shepherd from the town of Tekoa in nearby Judah, being called by GOD to deliver a resounding message to his wayward kinsman in northern Israel. In this deeply penetrating prophesy, Amos exposes the very underbelly of this seemingly upright society.
In Amos 1:1-2, he writes of the receiving of his prophesy from GOD, just two years before the earthquake that occurred during the reign of Uzziah, king of Judah. Here he describes what he had seen and heard, as the LORD’s roar of judgment vividly places an “imaginary noose” around the necks of Judah and northern Israel. He first, reveals how GOD would serve justice on Israel’s surrounding neighbors (Vs. 3-2:3), and then later, he reveals just how GOD would tighten that noose to choke off the sins of Israel itself.
In chapter 2, verses 6-8, Amos’ message focuses on northern Israel (namely Ephraim), who would be the first of GOD’s chosen nation to fall (in 722 B.C.). Ephraim, the most influential of Israel’s twelve tribes, during that period, had used that influence to lead the whole nation into sin. They had perverted justice by oppressing the poor, and in many cases, by selling poor and honest people into slavery in exchange for silver, gold, and, sometimes, for as little as a pair of sandals. They also famously committed the sexual sin of “incest” (father and son sleeping with the same woman), and held festivals to their idol gods, sacrificing to them, money, and things that they had stolen from others.
The oracles of the Old Testament prophets such as Amos, in a very real sense, are aimed at the hearts of generations of people who are fortunate enough, or blessed enough, to read and hear them. They are attempts by GOD to soften the hard-heartedness that has been brought on by pride, selfishness, and greed. Hopefully, the prophetic messages of HIS faithful servants will touch and soften those hearts to the needs of the poor and oppressed, those who have been brought down by circumstances that are not self-imposed, and cause them to seek to remedy those injustices that contributed to their condition, and condemned them to poverty and hopelessness.  

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
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