Friday, July 28, 2017

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday July 30, 2017

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(The results of judgment)
(Amos 7)

   Throughout biblical history GOD has communicated “spiritual visions” to HIS prophets as, both, “an encouragement” to HIS people, and, as “an indication of their moral deficiencies”. The prophet Amos’ ministry is focused primarily on the streets of northern Israel, just outside the luxurious homes of the rich and famous, whom, GOD called him specifically to condemn.
    Inside those homes, the residents were 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 pagan artists, who, talent-wise, compared themselves to the, now famous psalmist, King David (Amos 6:4-6).
    In Amos, chapters 3-6, we saw the prophet Amos listing a myriad of reasons why GOD must punish HIS wayward people, Israel. 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, for their covenant violations.
    In this particular passage, Amos begins to relate a series of five visions that he received from GOD, that foretell the results of HIS coming judgment upon Israel. We see here in chapter 7, the revelation of the first three of those visions, with the final two being revealed in chapters 8 and 9.
    The first vision is that of a great swarm of locust that was so vast, it actually cast a dark cloud over the entire land of Israel. When they came, they quickly devoured all of the green vegetation in sight. As we all know, the locust was a frequent instrument of punishment that was used by GOD to deal with HIS wayward people in biblical times, and whenever this type of punishment was handed down, because of its devastating effect on the land, it was naturally always followed by sickness and famine.
    Amos says here, that, this event would occur after the king’s share had been harvested, and just as the main crops were blooming (v.1). As a rule, the first crops in Israel would be taken by the king to feed his vast army and the animals that were used in battle. This meant that the remainder of the people would have to wait a whole year for the second crop to be produced, before there would be ample food for them and their animals.
   After seeing the first vision, Amos prayed “a prayer of intercession” for the people of northern Israel, asking that GOD would relent from HIS anger against them. He knew that no one could survive such a devastating blow as the LORD had just shown in the vision. The people were usually only stocked with enough grain to carry through the first harvest that was taken by the king. A failed crop in the second year would bring about widespread starvation in Israel. And so, because of Amos’ earnest petition of intercession, and GOD’s penchant for showing mercy even upon the guilty, the LORD decided not to fulfill the events of the first vision (Vs.2-3).
    In the second vision, the LORD showed Amos a scene that depicted HIM setting a great fire. It was a fire that had already burned up the depths of the sea and all of the land. Again Amos petitioned to the LORD that HE might postpone HIS dreadful punishment, and again, the LORD granted his request for leniency for the people of northern Israel (Vs.4-6).
    However, even though the prayers of the righteous does prevail probably most of the time, eventually, those who are interceded for must at some point, began to line up and turn their hearts toward 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 exacts punishment on us, and on the land on which we stand.
    In the ensuing “vision of the plumb line” we are reminded of a very simple and basic tool which was used in building and construction in biblical times. It consisted of a small “weight” that was tied at the end of a “cord” or a “string”. It was held up against a wall to detect its “vertical trueness”. We can liken GOD’s test and measurement of our “moral trueness” to the use of this construction instrument. GOD wants us to see how “true” we are in our “vertical relationship” with HIM.
    In verses 7-9 we see 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. HE then asks Amos what does 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 (spiritual flaws). 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 upon Israel, the people failed miserably, by way of crooked behavior. In fact, they were shown to be very 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 that Israel could be “re-built”, or, “restored” into a “true vertical relationship with GOD”.
    In the final segment of this chapter (Vs.10-17), an idolatrous priest in Bethel, by the name of Amaziah is told about the visions and prophesies of Amos. He hurriedly gets the message to King Jeroboam informing him of the dim forecast for himself, and, for northern Israel. Amaziah, perceiving Amos’ visions as being “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 boldly continued to speak to Amaziah telling him that he was not one of his “paid prophets”, and nor was he “trained” to be one. He went on to tell the “misinformed” priest that he was just “a shepherd” who took care of fig trees. But the LORD called him away from his earthly duties so that he might attend to, and obey, the divine commands of GOD.
    Even, and especially, here in this, the twenty-first century, our “professed” Christian Churches are filled with ministers and Church leaders whose only desire is to “kiss up to the pastors” that they sit under, while completely ignoring the Word of GOD altogether. Here in verse 13 we see the phrase “the king’s sanctuary”. This phrase reveals the true heart and allegiance of the chief priest, Amaziah, to King Jeroboam, and not to GOD.
    In this day and age, in our modern churches, with all the money being made and offered to pastors, their 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-focus” 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 actually lose track of the fact, that our ultimate loyalty must be to JESUS CHRIST, “the true HEAD of the Christian Church”, and not to the man, who sits under HIM (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, and nor, for the love of the money that holding that position might earn us.
    It is absolutely critical that all Church workers, first, have a personal, experiential relationship with CHRIST, the undisputed HEAD of the Christian Church, so that they will be able to help each when one is leaning toward going astray, or who may be operating in error of the Scriptures that we are all sworn by GOD to uphold.
    When we align our thinking with CHRIST JESUS, through a careful study of HIS Word, we will automatically be able to discern that which is right, from that which is wrong, even though, as humans, we will still come into error from time to time. However, we must remember that it is just as much unGODly to let the errors of a pastor, or other Church leaders, go unchecked, as it is to intentionally commit the error ourselves, because, after all is said and done, “we really are our brother’s keeper, and no man is right all of the time. Everyone in the Christian Church needs to be undergirded by one another, all of the time, as no man is an island.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

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