(James 1:22-25)”Do not deceive yourselves by just listening to his word; instead, put it into practice. Whoever listens to the word but does not put it into practice is like a man who looks in a mirror and sees himself as he is. He takes a good look at himself and then goes away and at once forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks closely into the perfect law that sets people free, who keeps on paying attention to it and does not simply listen and then forget it, but puts it into practice – that person will be blessed by God in what he does.”
What from God’s Word here will you put into action this week?
Indeed, James would seem to be bent on contradicting Paul, when he says that “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26), but in reality there is no contradiction at all. James means by “faith” empty professions of belief, creeds that are mere lip service, in the same sense as the saying of Jesus: “Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven” (Matt. 7:21).
No one would have agreed with him more than St. Paul. The kind of “works” which Paul condemns, is the hopeless attempt to win salvation by observing all the niceties of Jewish moral and ceremonial law. Whereas the kind of “works” that James regards as indispensable, is the practice of Christian behavior that Paul binds together inseparably with the possession of Christian faith.
Do we just read the Bible and not have people read the Bible through our actions. Do we mark our Bible and not have the Bible mark us.
Religion that is not commitment, trust, and service is not religion at all. There is no merit in being trained on Christian doctrine if we do no more than that. We have only to look at the Old Testament, to see that the real reason why Abraham‘s faith is extolled is that he was the kind of man who was prepared to sacrifice his son, because he believed it was the will of God. Even Rahab receives honorable mention for assisting Joshua’s spies. In other words, faith without deeds to back it up is an empty shell (James 2:1-26). When someone claims to have faith, what he or she may have is intellectual assent – agreement with a set of Christian teachings – incomplete faith.
Amos Book Overview
The occasion for Joel’s prophetic ministry was a plague of locusts which was consuming Judah. The fact that no historical record of such a plague has endured does not mean tis event was simply an allegorical (story) device of the writer. Rather, this underscores the truth that even the worst natur4al or national disasters fade from memory when attention is turned to something that endures forever – an eternal God and his future kingdom.
|793 b.c.||Jeroboam II becomes king of Israel
|760||Amos becomes a prophet to Israel
|753||Hosea becomes a prophet to Israel|
|752||King Shallum of Israel is assassinated|
|750||Amos’s ministry ends
|740||Isaiah becomes a prophet to Judah|
|Purpose:||To pronounce God’s judgment upon Israel, the northern kingdom, for its complacency, idolatry, and oppression of the poor|
|To Whom Written:||Israel, the northern kingdom, and God’s people everywhere|
|Date Written:||Probably during the reigns of Jeroboam II of Israel and Uzziah (Azariah) of Judah (approximately 760-750 b.c.)|
|Setting:||The wealthy people of Israel were enjoying peace and prosperity. They were quite complacent and were oppressing the poor, even selling them into slavery. Soon, however, Israel would be conquered by Assyria, and the rich would themselves become slaves.|
|Key Verse:||“Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry” (5:24).|
|Key People:||Amos, Amaziah, Jeroboam II|
|Key Places:||Bethel, Samaria|
|Special Features:||Amos uses striking metaphors from his shepherding and farming experience—a loaded wagon (2:13), a roaring lion (3:8), a mutilated sheep (3:12), fat cows (4:1), and a basket of ripe fruit (8:1, 2).|
|served as a prophet to Israel (the northern kingdom) from 760-750 b.c.|
|Climate of the times||Israel was enjoying peace and economic prosperity. But this blessing had caused her to become a selfish, materialistic society. Those who were well-off ignored the needs of those less fortunate. The people were self-centered and indifferent toward God.|
|Main message||Amos spoke against those who exploited or ignored the needy.|
|Importance of message||Believing in God is more than a matter of individual faith. God calls all believers to work against injustices in society and to aid those less fortunate.|
|Contemporary prophets||Jonah (793-753 b.c.), Hosea (753-715 b.c.)|
Ever met a “Justa”? “Just a salesman.” “Just a secretary.” “Just a farmer.” Or “Just a custodian.” “Just a” implies that one’s calling or occupation is fairly insignificant, not very important in the grand scheme of things. We would feel much better if we could say with pride: world-class athlete, high-powered politician, best-selling author, brain surgeon, dynamic evangelist, CEO, television star, or rocket scientist. Self-esteem would soar, people would take notice, and God could use us to change the world. Being a “justa” feels small and ordinary.
By most standards, Amos would be considered a ”justa.” After all, he wasn’t a prophet or priest or the son of either. He was just a shepherd, a small businessman in Judah. Who would listen to him?
But instead of making excuses, Amos obeyed and became God’s powerful voice for change.
God has no “Justas.”
God has often used “justas” – shepherds, carpenters, fishermen … Whatever your station in life, God can use you. Check out Amos’s example and God’s message and be willing to be used by your Lord.
Amos wasn’t much. He was a “justa” … just a servant of God. But that was enough.
When we hear, “He’s a man of God,” the images that most often come to mind are some famous evangelist, a “Reverend,” a missionary, or the campus minister—professionals, Christian workers, those who preach and teach the Word as a vocation.
Surely Amos was a man of God, a person whose life was devoted to serving the Lord and whose life-style reflected this devotion—but he was a layperson. Herding sheep and tending sycamore-fig trees in the Judean countryside, Amos was not the son of a prophet; he was not the son of a priest. As a humble shepherd, he could have stayed in Tekoa, doing his job, providing for his family, and worshiping his God. But God gave Amos a vision of the future (1:1) and told him to take his message to Israel, the northern kingdom (7:15). Amos obeyed and thus proved he was a man of God.
Amos’s message has had an impact on God’s people throughout the centuries, and it needs to be heard today by individuals and nations. Although they were divided from their southern brothers and sisters in Judah, the northern Israelites were still God’s people. But they were living beneath a pious veneer of religion, worshiping idols and oppressing the poor. Amos, a fiery, fearless, and honest shepherd from the south, confronted them with their sin and warned them of the impending judgment.
The book of Amos opens with this humble shepherd watching his sheep. God then gave him a vision of what was about to happen to the nation of Israel. God condemned all the nations who had sinned against him and harmed his people. Beginning with Aram, he moved quickly through Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab. All were condemned, and we can almost hear the Israelites shouting, “Amen!” And then, even Judah, Amos’s homeland, was included in God’s scathing denunciation (2:4, 5). How Amos’s listeners must have enjoyed hearing those words! Suddenly, however, Amos turned to the people of Israel and pronounced God’s judgment on them. The next four chapters enumerate and describe their sins. It is no wonder that Amaziah the priest intervened and tried to stop the preaching (7:10-13). Fearlessly, Amos continued to relate the visions of future judgment that God gave to him (chapters 8–9). After all the chapters on judgment, the book concludes with a message of hope. Eventually God will restore his people and make them great again (9:8-15).
As you read Amos’s book, put yourself in the place of those Israelites and listen to God’s message. Have you grown complacent? Have other concerns taken God’s place in your life? Do you ignore those in need or oppress the poor? Picture yourself as Amos, faithfully doing what God calls you to do. You, too, can be God’s person. Listen for his clear call and do what he says, wherever it leads.
|1. Announcement of judgment (1:1–2:16)
2. Reasons for judgment (3:1–6:14)
3. Visions of judgment (7:1–9:15)
|Amos speaks with brutal frankness in denouncing sin. He collided with the false religious leaders of his day and was not intimidated by priest or king. He continued to speak his message boldly. God requires truth and goodness, justice and righteousness, from all people and nations today as well. Many of the conditions in Israel during Amos’s time are evident in today’s society. We need Amos’s courage to ignore danger and stand against sin.|
|Everyone Answers to God||Amos pronounced judgment from God on all the surrounding nations. Then he included Judah and Israel. God is in supreme control of all the nations. Everyone is accountable to him.||All people will have to account for their sin. When those who reject God seem to get ahead, don’t envy their prosperity or feel sorry for yourself. Remember that we all must answer to God for how we live.|
|Complacency||Everyone was optimistic, business was booming, and people were happy (except for the poor and oppressed). With all the comfort and luxury came self-sufficiency and a false sense of security. But prosperity brought corruption and destruction.||A complacent present leads to a disastrous future. Don’t congratulate yourself for the blessings and benefits you now enjoy. They are from God. If you are more satisfied with yourself than with God, remember that everything is meaningless without him. A self-sufficient attitude may be your downfall.|
|Oppressing the Poor||The wealthy and powerful people of Samaria, the capital of Israel, had become prosperous, greedy, and unjust. Illegal and immoral slavery came as the result of over-taxation and land-grabbing. There was also cruelty and indifference towards the poor. God is weary of greed and will not tolerate injustice.||God made all people; therefore, to ignore the poor is to ignore those whom God loves and whom Christ came to save. We must go beyond feeling bad for the poor and oppressed. We must act compassionately to stop injustice and to help care for those in need.|
|Superficial Religion||Although many people had abandoned real faith in God, they still pretended to be religious. They were carrying on superficial religious exercises instead of having spiritual integrity and practicing heartfelt obedience toward God.||Merely participating in ceremony or ritual falls short of true religion. God wants simple trust in him, not showy external actions. Don’t settle for impressing others with external rituals when God wants heartfelt obedience and commitment.|
The literary genius of Joel shines through in the book’s structure, which flows smoothly from start to finish. Each section relates to what precedes it and what follows it. Hence, it helps to read the whole book in one sitting before studying its parts. The focus of the book is two-fold: (1) The ever present, practical problem of what to do about the locust plague; and (2) The future Day of the Lord, of which the current plague is a sign. In combining the two – event’s plus interpretation – Joel is performing the classic function of an OT prophet, that of conveying God’s revelation. Likewise, the borrowing of phrases from other prophets to speak a “new word” from the Lord in a new setting shows that Joel was probably an educated person, and had heard, if not read, the prophecies of Micah, Jeremiah and Isaiah. Joel expands the apocalyptic dimensions of these prophets.
1 Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be broken beyond repair.
2 When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan.
3 The man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father, but if he hangs around with prostitutes, his wealth is wasted.
4 A just king gives stability to his nation, but one who demands bribes destroys it.
5 To flatter people is to lay a trap for their feet.
6Evil people are trapped by sin, but the righteous escape, shouting for joy.
7 The godly know the rights of the poor; the wicked don’t care to know.
8 Mockers can get a whole town agitated, but those who are wise will calm anger.
9If a wise person takes a fool to court, there will be ranting and ridicule but no satisfaction.
10 The bloodthirsty hate the honest, but the upright seek out the honest.
11A fool gives full vent to anger, but a wise person quietly holds it back.
12 If a ruler honors liars, all his advisers will be wicked.
13 The poor and the oppressor have this in common—the Lord gives light to the eyes of both.
14 A king who is fair to the poor will have a long reign.
15 To discipline and reprimand a child produces wisdom, but a mother is disgraced by an undisciplined child.
16 When the wicked are in authority, sin increases. But the godly will live to see the tyrant’s downfall.
17Discipline your children, and they will give you happiness and peace of mind.
18 When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is happy.
19For a servant, mere words are not enough—discipline is needed. For the words may be understood, but they are not heeded.
20 There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking.
21A servant who is pampered from childhood will later become a rebel.
22A hot-tempered person starts fights and gets into all kinds of sin.
23 Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.
24 If you assist a thief, you are only hurting yourself. You will be punished if you report the crime, but you will be cursed if you don’t.
25 Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but to trust the Lord means safety.
26 Many seek the ruler’s favor, but justice comes from the Lord.
27 The godly despise the wicked; the wicked despise the godly.
“The Lord gives light to the eyes of both” means that everyone depends on God for sight. Both the oppressor and the poor have the gift of sight from the same God. God sees and judges both, and his judgment falls on those whose greed or power drives them to oppress the poor.
Parents of young children often weary of disciplining them. They feel like all they do is nag, scold, and punish. When you’re tempted to give up and let your children do what they want, or when you wonder if you’ve ruined every chance for a loving relationship with them, remember that kind, firm correction helps them learn, and learning makes them wise. Consistent, loving discipline will ultimately teach them to discipline themselves.
When the wicked are in leadership, sin prevails. In any organization—whether a church, a business, a family, or a government—the climate comes from the top. The people become like their leaders. What kind of climate are you setting for the people you lead?
“Divine guidance” refers to words from God received by prophets. Where there is ignorance of God, crime and sin run rampant. Public morality depends on the knowledge of God, but it also depends on keeping God’s laws. In order for nations and individuals to function well, people must know God’s ways and keep his rules.
This proverb is saying that a thief’s accomplice won’t tell the truth when under oath. Thus, by his perjury, he will hurt himself.
Fear of people can hamper everything you try to do. In extreme forms, it can make you afraid to leave your home. By contrast, fear of God—respect, reverence, and trust—is liberating. Why fear people who can do no eternal harm? Instead, trust God who can turn the harm intended by others into good for those who trust him.
|Since many of the proverbs came from King Solomon, it is natural to expect some of his interest to be directed toward leadership.
Other verses to study: 24:27; 25:13; 27:18.
|Qualities of a good leader||Reference|
|Doesn’t penalize people for integrity||17:26|
|Listens before answering||18:13|
|Open to new ideas||18:15|
|Listens to both sides of the story||18:17|
|Stands up under pressure||24:10|
|Stands up under praise||27:21|
|What happens without good leadership|
|Fools are honored||26:8|
|A wicked ruler is dangerous||28:15|
|A wicked ruler has wicked advisers||29:12|