How does the course work?
Each session starts with a warm up question or activity and then aims to get everyone all participants to engage with the biblical text. Each session focuses on 1 or 2 chapters of Amos so encourage everyone involved to make sure they bring their bibles or provide them. Also a good proportion of each session focusing on application – what does the message of Amos mean day-to-day for our church and for us personally? To help this there is a short challenge that everyone is asked to complete before the next session.
Using the material flexibly
The studies are designed to last between 50 minutes and an hour – depending on how much discussion occurs. Please feel free to adapt the material to fit your context. We hope it will help you grapple with the challenge of Amos in a way that fits your home-group.
A challenge for each session
Each session had a simple ‘challenge’ for each member to do during the week. If people complete the challenge it will bring the studies to life as they come back with something to share. Leaders – encourage people to give the challenges a go – and lead by example! They should only take a matter of minutes and action on the issues under discussion needs to start somewhere. Make sure you give each person a copy of the challenge information included at the end of each session material.
Who was Amos?
Amos lived 8th century BC and he was a shepherd and a fruit picker from the Judean village of Tekoa. He was not part of the religious establishment and did not have a priestly background. Although Amos is from Judah, his prophetic message was directed at Israel. His messages of impending doom and judgement for the nation were unpopular and, from what we know, were ignored by those in power.
The context of the prophecy of Amos
Amos lived at a time when the kingdom of Israel was split – Jeroboam II was king in Israel in the North and Uzziah was king of Judah in the south. Jeroboam II was an enterprising and dynamic leader of Israel. He re-established the boundaries of his kingdom to give him control over important trade routes and this greatly increased the nation’s wealth (2 Kings 14:23-29). Economically Israel had never had it so good since the times of Solomon. But Jeroboam II ‘did evil in the sight of the LORD’ and did not turn the country from idolatry and injustice.
An uncomfortable message
The major themes in the book of Amos – judgment, injustice, lament, the sin of God’s people, repentance – are not easy subjects. Reading them today we may well be tempted to downplay the force of the message and dilute the challenge it brings. Whilst we should read Amos in light of the whole of scripture and God’s grace through Jesus, we need to prepare ourselves to read and discuss subjects which challenge us and provoke reactions.
As with all scripture, God’s message in a particular time and context (in this case, Israel in the 8th century BC) has the power to help us live God’s way in today’s world. Listening to the uncomfortable challenge of scripture should not de-motivate or depress us. Rather, it should lead us to action which is rooted in the hope we have in Jesus. As the writer of Hebrews puts it: ‘let us consider how we may spur one another towards love and good deeds’ (Hebrews 10:24).
Challenging the Church
Amos was speaking to those who considered themselves God’s people. They were highly religious and were enthusiastic worshippers. But God condemns their worship because it makes no real difference to their behaviour – and especially the way they oppress the poor. Amos’s message, like all Biblical prophecy, aimed to disrupt ‘the way things are’, to upset the status quo and bring change.
Will today’s Church hear Amos’ radical message of justice? Will it challenge us today?
The 6 sessions in this study
|1||A world of injustice||Amos 1 & 2|
|2||The kind of religion that is part of the problem||Amos 3 & 4|
|3||Lament and repentance||Amos 5|
|4||Pride, politics…and prophecy||Amos 6 & 7|
|5||Justice and judgement||Amos 8|
|6||Putting the world to rights||Amos 9|