Friday, June 19, 2015

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday June 21, 2015

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REBUKED FOR SELFISHNESS
(GOD abhors selfishness)
(Amos 6)

In Amos chapter 6 we find the prophet’s fifth and final message. It is a message that is totally dedicated as a warning to a certain number of people who wielded great power in Israel, by way of their worldly success and wealth. Amos lived in a time when Israel lavished in great material and financial prosperity. The lengthy reigns of King Jeroboam II in the north, and King Uzziah in the southern kingdom of Judah, had greatly stabilized and expanded the divided territories of Israel as a whole.
Judah, under the leadership of King Uzziah, had conquered the Philistines, who were situated to their north, the Ammonites, who dwelled to the east, and all of the Arabic states, who dwelled beyond their southern borders. In northern Israel, Jeroboam II was able to extend his borders northward into Aram and reclaim Israel’s land that had been lost earlier in Transjordan.
Through their expansions, Israel was able to gain control over the lucrative trade routes triggering a boon for many of her cities, and as a new upper class of citizenry emerged, the poor became targets of governmental and economic exploitation. Just like in today’s society, luciferic laws and ordinances were put in place for the express purpose of generating monies from an already financially oppressed segment of the population.  
This message from GOD, through the lips of the prophet Amos, tells us plainly that HE will not hold blameless, those who have become selfish, prideful and complacent in their own luxury. Here GOD sends a stern warning that such people will suffer the same fate as the powerful surrounding nations whom Israel strove to imitate, and, who had been brought down to a state of humbleness before them. Their “pride” will be crushed into “humility” by an enemy that GOD would raise up against them (Assyria in 722 B.C.), and there would be no safe place of refuge that could be obtained or bought by their power and wealth. In fact, GOD says, the rich and powerful who were self-oriented will be the first to feel the pinch and effects of HIS wrath (v.7). 
Wealth itself is not intrinsically evil, but, too often, wealth promotes self-indulgence, and makes us indifferent towards others. It is “the love of money” that is the root of all evil, not the money itself. We fall away from GOD when we fall in love with the things of this world, and so it will bode us well to remember that, the more we gain in life, the more we need GOD, and not, the opposite.
When the Israelites were poor, they were humble, unselfish, 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, however, 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 (playing church) and prosperity”, over GOD.
Even though both Samaria and Jerusalem are mentioned in the opening line of this passage, Jerusalem, the capital city of the southern kingdom of Israel had only just began to awaken GOD’s terrible wrath. However, northern Israel (Samaria was its capital) were well along their way, as far as trying the patience of GOD. And so the remainder of this passage serves as a warning to them and their prideful, selfish, sinful lifestyles which was also leading all of the other people of Israel, both north and south, into disobedience to GOD.
In verse 2 GOD advises the rich and affluent of Israel to go and pay a visit to the former great pagan cities of Calneh and Gath and see how HE had brought them down because of their selfish pride and arrogance, and their hedonistic lifestyles. They had put away every thought of GOD’s warnings of coming disasters believing that their wealth could extricate them from any dangers or troubles. They sprawled around in their luxurious lifestyles, fancying themselves to be great musicians as King David was, drinking wine by the bowl-full, wearing sweet perfumes, and caring nothing about the nation they were sucking dry, both spiritually and physically. GOD had also warned them too, that they would be the first to go into captivity, and, they were (Vs.3-4).
No one ever understood the dangers of prosperity and materials things as clearly as JESUS did. Because of HIS unprecedented closer walk with GOD the FATHER, HE learned very early in HIS “human life” that, money and material things could fix a person’s heart very firmly to this world. In fact, a person can gain such a large stake in it, or have such a huge interest in it, that they will find it very difficult to even contemplate leaving it. In truth, if it were not for our “love of the things we have”, most of us wouldn’t find it that difficult to die.
Even for professed Christians, who should understand clearly that this life is immediately followed by “eternal life” in Heaven, still struggle with the idea of having to leave the wealth we’ve acquired in this world behind. It is said that, out of every one hundred people that can withstand adversity, only one of that hundred is able to handle prosperity humbly. A person is usually judged by two standards when it comes to prosperity; one is “how we came about it”, and two is “how we use it”. Will we use it as if we have undisputed possession of it? Or, will we remember that we hold it only in stewardship to GOD?
And so, in the final analysis, it all boils down to this question, “How bad do we want salvation? Do we want it bad enough to relinquish the people and things of this world? To many of us, just like the rich young ruler in Mark chapter 10, the answer to that question is, “I want it, but I don’t think I want it as much as all that (as we point to our things)”.
It’s really, in the end, all about “salvation”, and JESUS sums up the whole doctrine of salvation in a nutshell when HE states, in effect, if a person is to depend upon his or her own efforts to achieve salvation, then, it is impossible for anyone. Salvation is a gift from GOD, and with GOD, all things are possible. If a person relies totally upon his or her possessions, they can never be “saved”. However, if they can bring themselves to rely upon the “saving power” and “redeeming love” of GOD, they can enter “for free” into the Kingdom of Heaven.
That’s the thought that JESUS stated then, and that’s the thought that the Apostle Paul and all the New Testament writers wrote about in all of their doctrinal letters, and that’s the thought that, still, for us today, is the very foundation of the Christian Faith.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander  





                                 
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