Explore The Bible: Listen to God

7:22 PM

 

According to one survey, about three in 10 (29%) admitted to ignoring the check engine warning for a month or more before finally taking the car for a checkup. This is just one of many warning lights on most cars today. Though the lights are helpful, the driver must still pay attention to the warnings. The Explore the Bible Study: Listen to God, will remind you that the same is true for the warning signs God sends us. We must pay attention to His warning signs.

In your opinion, do you feel most believers are more or less likely to ignore God’s warnings? Do you believe unbelievers are less likely to recognize God's warning signs?

Throughout Old Testament times, prophets acted as “warning lights” for the people of Israel and Judah. They signaled warnings of impending judgment, but it was up to the people to listen to God. The Explore the Bible Study this quarter will focus on four prophets God sent to warn of God’s coming judgment on His people—Amos, Jonah, Hosea, and Micah. We begin with the warnings found in the book of Amos.

The book of Amos tells us that Amos was a businessman who bought and sold livestock in Tekoa (Amos 1:1), which was about six miles south of Bethlehem and ten miles south of Jerusalem in Judah. Amos prophesied during the time Uzziah reigned over the Southern Kingdom of Judah, and Jeroboam II reigned over the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It was a time of tension, war, and then a frigid peace between the north and the south. The Northern Kingdom was experiencing economic prosperity and military superiority during this time. Their victories over enemies had brought an economic boom, leading many to believe that God was pleased with them. However, they were mistaken. 

2 Kings 14:23-27 indicates that God had taken pity on them despite their wickedness. They had a great deal of religious activity, but their devotion to God had been replaced with insincere religiosity, and they failed to see their sin and need to repent. They thought they were right with God when in reality they were in danger and far from Him. Amos 1:3-2:3 tells us that they had become just as wicked as the wicked nations surrounding them.

It was in this context that God called Amos, a southerner from Judah, to go north to Israel and preach a message of judgment to both kingdoms. Through Amos, God reviews the wrongs they have committed beginning in Amos 2:4-8.

God’s warnings are specific – Amos 2:4-8

Amos’ pronouncement of judgment both Judah and Israel began with the same wording he had used against the foreign nations in Amos 1:3-2:3: I will not relent from punishing Judah for three crimes, even four. There comes a point when enough is enough even with God, as patient as He is. Just like a car warning system has specific warnings for specific issues, so God will be specific regarding our sins when He warns us.

Notice:

  1. God’s people consciously rejected and perverted God’s Word to suit their own wicked desires. How might this be expressed today by believers?
  2. God’s people oppressed their own. They sold them into slavery. Instead of helping people in need as the law intended, they misused the law for their own profit. How might this be expressed today by believers?
  3. God’s people treated the poor like the dirt upon which they trampled and obstructed the poor from any opportunities to better their situation. How might this be expressed today by believers?
  4. God’s people pursued perverted sexual desires. Both fathers and sons were having sexual relations with young female household employees. They took advantage of their position to abuse these young women. How might this be expressed today by believers?
  5. God’s people who were financially successful flaunted their sins before the Lord in their religious feasts before their altars by using the coats they had taken from the poor to lie on as they worshipped the Lord. They also brought wine to their feasts that they had purchased with the fines they had wrongfully collected from the poor. How might this be expressed today by believers?
  6. God’s people had profaned God’s name through all these actions. Instead of bringing honor to the Lord’s name and displaying the holiness and greatness of God to the nations, they treated God with contempt and brought disrepute upon the nation and the holy name of their God. How might this be expressed today by believers?

Notice what the Lord said He would do because of their sin in verses 5-6: “I will send fire against Judah, and it will consume the citadels of Jerusalem. . . I will not relent from punishing Israel.” Do you think God would ever do the same to His people or to you today?

God’s warnings come with some reminders – Amos 2:9-11

Amos pointed out seven things God had done for the people of God.

  1. The Lord had defeated their enemies, the Amorites. The Israelites were intimidated by the Amorites (Numbers 13:33); nevertheless, God defeated them on behalf of His people. 
  2. Not only did God defeat the Amorites, but He also once and for all removed them as a threat to Israel. The destruction of his fruit above and his roots beneath poetically describes how God ended the posterity of the Amorites.
  3. The Lord delivered His chosen people Israel from slavery in Egypt.
  4. The Lord led Israel through the wilderness with His providential care. He led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22), and He provided them with water and food (Exodus 15:22-27; 16:13-16).
  5. After being in Egypt for hundreds of years, God kept His promise to Abraham and caused his descendants, Israel, to possess the land of the Amorites (Genesis 15:13-16; 17:7-8).
  6. The Lord gave Israel spiritual leaders. The prophets were sent from God to proclaim His message to Israel. The Nazirites were spiritual leaders given to Israel to communicate a message of commitment to God, not so much by what they said but by how they lived.
  7. The Lord gave Israel ample evidence of His kindness toward them. Amos completed the Lord’s list of examples of His loving-kindness shown to Israel by asking the question, "Is this not the case, Israelites?" In other words, Israel could not plead ignorance when it came to a history of God’s dealings with His people. They knew what God had done for them, and they knew why. As a result, they were without excuse for their actions.

In what ways has God blessed believers today? 

Imagine how God feels when we blatantly disregard His blessings by choosing to do things that dishonors Him, mistreat others, or pervert His Word?

Some might say that God would not respond to believers in this manner. Yet, because He is Holy, He must judge sin. When we abuse the grace God has given, He will warn us and remind us of His blessings. Then He will discipline us.

There are catastrophic results when God’s warnings are ignored – Amos 2:12-16

After one more warning regarding their blatant sin of how they treated the Nazirites and God’s prophets, God described the catastrophic results of their unrepentant hearts.

  1. God will crush them. The weight of the judgment will be such that Israel will be crushed under its weight like a wagon under too heavy a load.
  2. No one will escape.
  3. Even the strong will be overcome.
  4. Warriors won’t survive.
  5. The archers in the military won’t be able to stand their ground.
  6. The foot soldier will not be able to save himself.
  7. The horse soldiers will be defeated.
  8. The most courageous warriors will be humiliated by fleeing the battlefield naked.

Amos’ foretelling of the slaughter of Israel’s army in this passage must have been unbelievable to his audience. Not since Israel’s days of glory under the reigns of David and Solomon had Israel amassed so great an army as they had during the reign of Jeroboam II. Even so, Amos’ portrayal is one of total annihilation of the military and the humiliation of the entire nation.

How would you have responded if you had heard Amos’ description of God’s judgment?

You Have Been Warned

God had warned the Israelites. This should have caused them to look back to their history with Him and realize that God is full of grace and desires to make people right with Himself. However, they ignored the message of the prophets including Amos. God’s judgment would eventually come in the form of the Assyrians. They would come and conquer Samaria and the entire nation of Israel by 722 BC, about 30 years after the prophet Amos preached.

What are ways that God uses to warn you that you are moving in a direction that will lead you to dishonor Him, mistreat others, or pervert His Word?

Are you willing to listen to God, or will you look for ways to justify your actions when you are warned about your own sin.

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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