Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for September 18

Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for September 18

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By Robert Olsen, Ph. D.
Associate Professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile


Amos 5:4–15

The choice (4–9)

One of the issues Amos had to confront was that the Israelites thought if they made the sacrifices required of them, they had done their duty.

However, God is not concerned solely about external actions. This was not only a struggle in Amos’ day, but it is also a recurring struggle for every era of history.

Even today, many people think if they go to church or if they read their Bible, then they are in good standing with God. This is the foundation of legalism, the idea that if I do the right things outwardly, then I am right with God.

Instead, God is concerned with the condition of the heart. Amos is not the only one who addresses this.

Hosea says, “For I desire faithful love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hos. 6:6). Samuel says, “Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams”
(1 Sam. 15:22).

Even Jesus had to address this repeatedly in His day when confronting the Pharisees. The solution to this is not only to read God’s word, but also to believe it and do what it says out of love for God.

The reality (10–13)

Even though Israelites were religious, their religious ways did not result in godly behavior. Instead of helping those in need and providing justice for the poor, they used their positions to abuse the poor.

Poor people are vulnerable to abuse because they have no power. It was not uncommon for people to bribe officials and cheat the poor out of their goods and money through taxes.

If we look around today, we see the same thing: Some wealthy people in power use their positions to gain money and power at the expense of the poor in society. But God judges those who mistreat the poor. If the Israelites did not change, God was going to destroy their country.

The solution (14–15)

In response to the news of judgment, Amos tells the people of Israel to turn from their wicked ways and work toward justice. There are several implications that can be drawn from this.

The first is the need to repent. God’s call to salvation involves repentance, which is turning from bad behavior and turning toward God and His desires. In order to become a Christian, repentance is required.

Once we are Christians, we need to continually live lives of repentance, allowing the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin, turning from our evil ways and living in a way that honors and glorifies God.

Christians should be concerned with the poor.

Jesus said, “You will always have the poor with you” (Matt. 26:11). This did not preclude Jesus from caring for the poor, nor should it keep us from caring for those in need.

This requires discernment. There are ministries whose purposes are to minister to people without housing.

By working with these ministries or making new ones, Christians can actually help solve physical problems for people who are homeless.

At the same time, believers can share the spiritual remedy for humanity’s eternal problem — the gospel. It is easy for us to look down on people who are struggling.

But God loves us while we are still sinners (Rom. 5:8), and we need to show the love of Christ by loving others unconditionally.

In addition, we need the Bible to dictate to us what justice is. We live in a world that talks about social justice, often in a nebulous, symptom-based way that does not take into account the biblical view of justice.