Download these notes in word format: Amos course session 5
‘Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land…I will turn your religious feasts into mourning and all your singing into weeping (8:4,10)
Feedback on last session’s challenge:
Give time for anyone to share what they did from the challenge to take one specific action for justice.
- Does anyone have anything inspiring (or anything at all!) to share?
Introduce tonight’s theme: judgment and justice
- Has anyone heard anyone recently say something like ‘don’t judge me’ or heard someone criticised for ‘being so judgmental’?
- Why do people hate being the idea of ‘being judged’?
- Do you think there a difference between being judgemental about social issues like poverty and being judgemental about more personal moral issues like sex or swearing?
Judgment in Amos
God is crystal clear in the book of Amos: judgment is coming and those who act unjustly will not be spared God’s wrath.
Read Amos 8
Focus on Amos: 8:1-6
- Again, what are the issues that God condemns Israel for? (v.4-6)
The reality of judgment could not be clearer or more stark: ‘I will never forget anything they have done’ (8:7); ‘I will make that time like mourning for an only son (8:10). In the Hebrew culture of his day, Amos is making the strongest possible statements about the seriousness of injustice and Israel’s sin.
How does judgment sit alongside grace?
- Like Christians today, Israel considered themselves a ‘saved people’ by God’s grace (3:1). How should we understand this threat of judgment for unjust behaviour alongside the salvation God offers us through Jesus?
Traditionally, Christians have emphasised strongly that salvation is an act of God’s grace – and is not dependent on anything that we have done. This is a cornerstone of the gospel message. But God’s grace is twisted and misused if we allow it to help us sit light to issues of sin and judgment that are vividly emphasised in both the Old and New Testament. God had saved the Israelites, but he hated their complacency. God has saved us – but not so that we can live in cosy comfort, secure in our future salvation. God has saved us for a purpose: that we may glorify him. As Paul writes in Romans, ‘Do not be arrogant, but be afraid’ (11:20).
- So how does Jesus’ sacrifice and death on the cross relate to issues of justice in the world?
The Cross reminds us that God’s grace has come at a cost. It is not ‘cheap grace’ that simply ignores the pain and suffering caused by injustice. Jesus suffered and died so painfully on the cross to pay the terrible price of sin – a sin that has infected every area of life and which underpins all injustice. Jesus conquered these sins and offers us a new way of life; a different way – the way of the cross. The early Church did not just share a verbal message of forgiveness for sins but, like Jesus, they lived out ‘the full message of this new life’ (Acts 5:20). The life, death and resurrection of Jesus shows the full extent of God’s grace to us. But our faith in this grace should never lead to complacency in the way we live.
- How important to God are our actions, the way we live?
Fruit is used frequently in the Bible as a metaphor for how we live: what our lives actually produce. It is used by both John the Baptist (Luke 3:8), Jesus (Matthew 7:15-23 and Paul (Galatians 5:22-25). God wants our lives to be full of the fruit of his kingdom.
It is by the fruit of our lives that we are recognised as followers of Jesus because he has ‘appointed you to bear fruit – fruit that will last’ (John 15:16). On the day of judgement, Jesus is clear that it will not be just our words that count but whether we have done ‘the will of my Father’ (Matt 7:21). Jesus says ‘Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons, and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:22-23). Like Amos, Jesus is immensely challenging to us about the way that we live.
What does this mean for today?
- In your life, what have been the best things you have done or been involved in where you have felt effective for God’s purposes?
(Leaders: do encourage people to share stories of how they have seen the church make a difference to people’s lives and the local community. Try and inspire and encourage each other to bear fruit for God’s kingdom.)
- In what areas of your life do you want to be producing more fruit for God’s kingdom?
Read this verse before you pray:
‘God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.’ (Hebrews 6:10-12)
Give out to each person the final challenge to complete before the next (and final) session
Can you commit to one resolution that you want to make to take action for justice.
Ideas could be:
- Switching to buy a specific regular product fair-trade, switching your bank account to a more ethical bank, using eco-friendly washing products, signing up to a charity or organisation who work for justice, volunteering to help in a local community project, regularly visiting an isolated neighbour etc
- Come back next time with your resolution to share!
Just two considerations to remember: 1) make it realistic 2) pray about it