No matter what religious people do, they always are certain God would approve. (The contrast the writer is making is between religious people and righteous people. In this context, religious people know there are gods or a god, but do not depend on biblical revelation to determine the nature and character of deity. Righteous people use all of biblical revelation to consider and determine the nature and character of deity. Religious people commonly assume the nature and character of deity OR they absorb [with little question] the views of deity their culture reflects. Righteous people know deity exists by observing the world and life, but they also understand they cannot determine deitys nature or character unless deity reveals itself. Religious people are not bound by the Bible and revelations in it. Righteous people are.)
Discuss the fact that God likes what I Am doing, or Will ignore what I am doing, no matter what it is. The discussion should include the human tendency to make God like we choose for Him to be AND the common willingness to be religious rather than to seek righteousness. Perhaps discuss the difference in RELIGIOUS and RIGHTEOUS.
Consider as an example people in todays American culture. The example considers only people who are personally convinced that God exists (there are quite a number that reject any form of deity). How often do you hear people who believe that a god exists say, My God does not think that way. Or, My God would not do that. Or, That is not the value of my God. Or, My God wants me to be happy (or have fun). Or, That would never upset my God.
Use common attitudes often heard today to illustrate the previous discussion.
If that person is shown biblical declarations that contradict his or her view, he or she says to you, or murmurs under his or her breath, or says to self after you leave, That is not my God! Here, one holds a view of God formed by revelation from the Bible. The other holds a view of God determined by something other than the Bible OR some statements from the Bible plus something else.
A persons view of God may actually have little to do with the Bible. That view may be a reflection of the view of the family or of the culture.
In Amos 5:18, the people who received Amos message counted on the day of the Lord for vindication that would make everything okay. We could focus for several lessons on their concept of the day of the Lord and never note the point Amos made.
A popular view of God is this: God is not disturbed with what is happening in my life because (a) God likes me and (b) God understands. Discuss BOTH the strengths and weaknesses of that view. When is it (appropriately) an encouraging view, and when is it a deceiving view?
A way of ignoring Amos warning and reassuring themselves that everything would be fine was by trumping Amos warning through an appeal to the day of the Lord. It was similar to a Christian saying, When Gods final judgment comes, you will know I am correct! I am right and you are wrong, and God will prove it!
We often treat views of God as if we were playing a card game involving trumps. If the people of the Kingdom of Israel thought their concept of God was superior, they could ignore Amos warning. Their concept of God was correct, and Amos was wrongso they could ignore Amos warning.
To the people of the Kingdom of Israel, the day of the Lord was a good event, not an event to be feared. They did not have anything to fear from God, and the day of the Lord would prove they had no reason to fear.
They deceived themselves by making an event of undesirable consequences to be (in their thinking) a good event that would produce vindication.
God was not upset with them! Terrible times were not about to come! There was no danger on the horizon because God was upset with them! They were a religious people! The day of the Lord would show Amos how mistaken he was!
If we deceive ourselves we can convince ourselves that spiritually everything will be okay. If we think it will be okay, it is okay.
Amos said to them, You think the day of the Lord will deliver you! You think for you it will be a wonderful event! You could not be more mistaken! For people like you, the day of the Lord is not a deliverance event! You will be like the person who flees from a lion and runs into a bear. You will be like the man who goes to the security of his home, only to lean on the wall of his home and be bitten by a snake. The day of the Lord will not bring you light or brightness. Instead, it will bring you darkness and gloom.
Amos said they had deceived themselves. Their thinking was backwards and wrong. They were not looking at themselves or God honestly.
Why were they so sure that the day of the Lord would be an event that would deliver them from danger? Why did they think it would be an event that would prove that God was not upset with them? Whybecause they were a religious people who did the right things to keep God from being upset with them.
The reasons that led them to self-deception that were based on dishonest thinking are chilling! (a) They exchanged being religious for being righteous by putting being religious in the place of being righteous and (b) they were convinced that keeping God happy was just a matter of doing correct acts of worship.
Hundreds of years previously they had come from idolatrous Egypt, who worshipped many different gods. Though God sent Moses, worked through the miraculous wonders of the plagues, delivered them from slavery, rescued them by a path through the Red Sea, and gave them Canaan as their homeland, still they never got idolatry out of their system.
These people grew from a large family to a nation of slaves in an environment that stressed idolatry. All God did for them did not uproot the idolatry.
YWHW (Yahweh or Jehovah, often translated the LORD) to the Kingdom of Israel was one of many gods to be acknowledged or honored. Speaking simplistically, divinity in general was unconcerned with human affairs, but divinity could hurt humanity. Thus humanity must do the right things to keep a god content. Humanity did not dare do the wrong things and upset a god.
Two common concepts in that world were (a) there are many gods who exist in families, and (b) gods are not interested in the affairs of humans. Therefore they are more likely to hurt people than help people. The concept of there being One God who created and who was close to people because He cared was not a common concept. If you would like to see this One God contrasted with idolatrous concepts of gods (hundreds of years later), read Pauls sermon in Acts 17:22-31. Common views of deity were likely very different to your view of deity.
The Kingdom of Israel was certain they had done the right thingsfrom their perspective God had no reason to be upset with them. God said, I hate your religious festivals, your solemn assemblies, your burnt offerings, your grain offerings, your fat sacrifices, and your songs to Me. Why? Were these not the right things to do? They worshipped God. Why should He be upset?
It is easy to produce and believe in a view of God that is basically an extension of human thinking. Such views typically demand that God functions as humans want Him to function. It is easy to define God in terms of physical needs. Humans prefer for God to depend on them rather than they depend on God. If we produce deity, then deity approves of our desires and flaws.
God was upset because honoring Him in worshipful acts did not affect their daily acts. They failed to understand worship was meaningless if honoring God did not express itself in just, righteous daily acts.
We show that we honor God (a) in genuine acts of praise and (b) in the way we treat other people. Because people were created in the image of God, they were intended to be an extension of God. One of the important ways we show respect for God is by respecting people.
Amos made a profound accusation (also examine Acts 7:43). They took idolatry with them when they left Egypt (Amos 5:26), and never abandoned it! In spite of all God did for them, they never understood what it meant for God to be One, the only God (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Exodus 20:1-6). The result: exile awaited them.
Instead of leaving idolatry behind, they took idolatry with them. It always has been difficult to change peoples concepts.
Acts of worship are not a substitute for godly behavior. There is more to being righteous than keeping God happy.
A basic understanding of Christianity: the objective is not to keep God happy. The objective is to serve God.
For Thought and Discussion
1. Give (in this lesson) the contrast between religious people and righteous people.
Religious people hold a view of god that comes from many sources. Righteous people look only to the Bible for their view of God.
2. Illustrate this in American culture. For what basic reason does the difference exist?
The illustrations are reflected in American peoples statements that begin with My God does ... or My God does not ... The statements usually reflect a god that approves of what the person thinks or does.
3. For what did the Kingdom of Israel rely on the day of the Lord to produce? Why?
They relied on the day of the Lord to produce vindication.
It was a way of ignoring Amos warning and refusing to repent.
4. To the Kingdom of Israel the day of the Lord would be what? Amos said what?
To them, that day would be a good event. Amos said that they were terribly mistaken.
5. Why were they sure the day of the Lord would be a day of deliverance?
(a) They were a religious people.
(b) They did the right things to keep God happy.
6. What was Egypt religiously?
Egypt was idolatrous.
7. Why was the Kingdom of Israel certain God was not upset with them?
They were sure because they did the right things.
8. Why was God upset with them?
God was upset with them because their worshipful acts did not affect their daily acts.
9. What was Amos profound accusation?
They took idolatry with them when they left Egypt.
10. Acts of worship are not a substitute for what?
Acts of worship are not a substitute for godly behavior.
Link to Student Guide Lesson 8
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