Explore The Bible Study: Turn to God

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Have you ever served on a courtroom jury? How did it feel to be sitting in that courtroom? Courtrooms are symbols of the accountability that we believe everyone should face when they commit a crime. While we believe people should be held accountable for their crimes, do people believe they should be or will be held accountable by God for their sins? The Explore the Bible Study: Turn to God, will answer this question.

Amos 3 begins a new section of the book where Amos brings a series of three messages introduced by the phrase, “Listen to this message” (Amos 3:1; 4:1; 5:1) and was intended to remind the people of God that with much privilege comes much responsibility, and with much responsibility comes much accountability. Amos 4:1-13 will focus on Israel’s sin of self-centeredness and how it was expressed. Consider how God holds His people accountable today and eventually will hold all humanity accountable for how they respond to Him as we review the passages.

The Sin of Self-Indulgence – Amos 4:1-3

From our cultural perspective, addressing the wealthy women in Samaria, Israel’s capital city, "as you cows of Bashan," seems odd. But one must understand the cultural context. The region of Bashan is located east of the Sea of Galilee. It served as Israel’s “breadbasket,” with wheat as its primary crop and provided high-quality pastures for livestock (Psalm 22:12; Ezekiel 39:18). The best livestock in the land came from Bashan.

The phrase is an expression pertaining to their luxury and privileged circumstances. In our vernacular, the expression might be better understood as Amos addressing the “divas" of Samaria. He was not judging them for their affluence and wealth but for their self-indulgent lifestyle that led to a sense of entitlement. Others suffered to make sure every whim of theirs was met. It is a picture of extortion, exploitation, and manipulation from the poor to bankroll an extravagant lifestyle. While Amos focuses on the women of Samaria, it’s a message to all who commit the sin of self-indulgence.

As a judge pronounces a verdict, God describes a day when those living this self-indulgent lifestyle would be taken away with hooks. Like cattle, they would be hooked and dragged away. Amos was clearly prophesying about the Assyrian invasion and defeat of Samaria that would take place in 722 BC. God was going to call this self-indulgent society to accountability for their sins.

How is self-indulgence expressed in society today? How might it be expressed in the lives of those who profess Christ? How can we avoid this sin?

Not only did the people of God commit the sin of self-indulgence, but they also committed the sin of insincere or fake worship.

The Sin of Fake Worship – Amos 4:4-5

If someone were to say that the way you worship is fake, what would you think they were saying? How would you respond if you were welcomed at church with the phrase, “Welcome to worship, come on in and rebel”?

When God’s people would make their way to places of worship a priest or prophet would welcome them with a blessing that would include a welcome and an invitation to worship. However, Amos issued a sarcastic yet revealing invitation—"Come to Bethel and rebel.” Their worship practices did not honor God but only called attention to themselves. 

Every morning they would offer their sacrifices. These sacrifices were supposed to be made for the atonement of sins and to symbolize fellowship with God. Amos pointed out that they would boast publicly about their offerings, sacrifices, and tithes.

God saw through their religious veneer. Instead of pleasing Him, their fake worship served to deepen their transgressions and intensify God’s wrath.

How might this be expressed today by believers? How can a person’s worship practices be a cover-up for his or her sins?

Do you think some believers feel that religious fervor can be a substitute for faithful obedience to God?

Would you say that, in God’s eyes, fake or insincere worship is as sinful as false worship?

Not only did Israel sin through self-indulgence and through fake worship, but they also committed the sin of hard-heartedness.

The Sin of Hard-Heartedness – Amos 4:6-11

Amos described the following calamities that should have turned the hearts of Israel back to God but did not: (1) Famine; (2) Water shortage; (3) Crop Failure due to disease and insects; (4) Disease and death for humans and animals; (5) Some of their prominent cities were overthrown, yet God withheld total destruction. The nation had just come out of a period of domination by Damascus. But when that ended with Jeroboam II, they still did not repent and turn to God. 

Do you think God’s involvement in the events of verses 6-11 was redemptive in nature? When we see events similar to these taking place today, what should our response to God be? 

Not every calamity is a result of the unfaithfulness of God’s people today. Yet, when we experience any kind of calamity personally, as a body of believers, or as a nation, we should certainly seek God so He can bring clarity to the situation. If He reveals it is because of sin, then we should respond to God with repentance.

Sadly, in Israel’s case, God orchestrated the events to give them the opportunity to repent, but they refused bringing about a day of reckoning for their sin.

Sins Day of Reckoning – Amos 4:12-13

Amos informed the Israelites that they were to “prepare to meet your God!” In this meeting, they would give an accounting to Him. To emphasize the seriousness of the meeting, the prophet reminded the people of God’s power and sovereignty. Amos reminds them that God is:

  • The God who is the Creator of everything including the mountains, the wind, the dawn out of darkness, and the earth.
  • He is the God who reveals His thoughts to man. We are without excuse because God has spoken through the Law, the prophets, and He would soon reveal Himself through Jesus Christ the living Word and through the Bible. He has also revealed Himself through His creation so that no man is without excuse.
  • He is the God who commands the hosts of the heavens—the God of Armies. He alone had the power to bring judgment against them for their rejection of His grace. 

How could they have been as foolish as to disregard their covenant with the Lord God? How could they have ignored the Almighty God who graciously revealed His Word to Israel through His prophets? Sadly, they would realize their blunder when the Lord, the God of Armies came to meet them in judgment and wage war against His rebellious people.

How should the promise of standing before God impact how one lives? How does a person’s understanding of God impact how a person lives his or her life?

What About Today?

September 11, 2022 will mark 21 years since the attack of 9/11. Where were you? How did you respond? For those of you who remember 9/11 you may recall how church attendance and prayer was impacted by this event. Some thought we might be heading toward a spiritual awakening in our country. Now, 21 years later, consider where we are. A September 2021 article from Christianity Today summarized it this way: “For a few weeks after 9/11, people packed the pews, but it soon became apparent there was not a ‘great awakening or a profound change in America’s religious practices,’ as Frank M. Newport, Gallup Poll editor in chief, told The New York Times in November of 2001.”  

Don't you find it amazing how quickly we forget God and turn to sin? Yet, perhaps, through the circumstances and calamities we face, God is trying to remind us to turn to Him and to trust Him.

As you examine Amos’ words to a rebellious nation, consider why it is so hard for people to realize when God is trying to get their attention, confess their sins, and turn back to Him.  The Israelites had committed the sin of self-indulgence and self-reliance. They had faked their worship to call attention to themselves. They had ignored all God’s warnings. Their unwillingness to return to God would result in Him coming to them in judgment.

All who are outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ can expect that they will one day be called to accountability for their refusal to repent and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We who profess Christ will also be held accountable for how we have dealt with sin as  believers.

Examine your own life. Are there areas where God has continually revealed your sin and disciplined you for your rebellion, yet you still refuse to turn to Him? Respond to God’s invitation of forgiveness through Jesus Christ and commit to living a life that honors Him.

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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