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.)
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Acts of worship are not a substitute for godly behavior. There is more to being righteous than keeping God happy.
For Thought and Discussion
1. Give (in this lesson) the contrast between religious people and righteous people.
2. Illustrate this in American culture. For what basic reason does the difference exist?
3. For what did the Kingdom of Israel rely on the day of the Lord to produce? Why?
4. To the Kingdom of Israel the day of the Lord would be what? Amos said what?
5. Why were they sure the day of the Lord would be a day of deliverance?
6. What was Egypt religiously?
7. Why was the Kingdom of Israel certain God was not upset with them?
8. Why was God upset with them?
9. What was Amos profound accusation?
10. Acts of worship are not a substitute for what?
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 8
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