Passage: Amos 6:1-6; 7:1-9; 8:11-14
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
The book of Amos is “apocalyptic” literature, because its purpose is to reveal to us a greater perspective on truths we often can’t see. In Amos chapters 6-8, through visions and pronouncements, Amos reveals a greater perspective on three great truths.
First, God reveals the depths of Israel’s injustice. Northern Israel was living in a time of prosperity under the rule of King Jeroboam II. Throughout this time, however, Israel worshipped other Gods, and became like them—capricious, transactional—not pursuing covenant faithfulness or moral reform. This was especially so among the upper class, who engaged in oppression and exploitation at both a personal and a systemic level. Just as in Amos’ day, injustice in our own day is both personal and systemic in nature, and it’s only when we understand these dual aspects of injustice that we see how wide and deeply rooted the problem is.
Second, God reveals a vision of a plumb line being set in the midst of Israel. The purpose of the plumb line was to make sure that the building project was in correct alignment with its design. Israel’s plumb line was God’s own nature as revealed in his gracious rescue of them, and his righteous law for them. Unfortunately, Israel did not live “according to plumb.”
Finally, however, God reveals his word. Though the people could soon expect a “famine…of hearing the words of the Lord” (8:11), this famine would not last forever. God ultimately reveals his word to us in Jesus Christ, the word made flesh, full of grace and truth (John 1:14-16). Jesus is God’s ultimately plumb line dropped down from heaven, the living revelation of God’s grace and truth in a human body!
- A revelation of injustice (6:1-6)
- A revelation of God’s standard (7:7-9)
- A revelation of God’s word (8:11-12)
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide
Re-read the passage (Amos 6:1-6; 7:1-9; 8:11-14)
A revelation of injustice (6:1-6)
Q) Re-read Amos 6:1-6, possibly more than once. What images does Amos use to illustrate Israel’s injustice? Who is singled out specifically? How would you describe their attitude?
Q) Read Amos 2:6-8 and Amos 4:1, which further illustrate Israel’s injustice at the time. What is the nature of their injustice in these passages? How is it both personal/individual, and corporate/systemic?
Q) Pastor Bobby noted how it was actually Israel’s idolatry and spiritual adultery that led them to commit acts of injustice. Why do you think that idolatry and injustice are so often linked?
Q) It has been said that Evangelicals—particularly white evangelicals—are often very aware of individual instances of injustice, yet less aware of deeply rooted systems and patterns of injustice. Do you agree with this assessment? If so, why do you think this is the case? Why does God care so deeply about confronting systemic injustice?
Q) Have any of the events of the past few months, either with COVID-19, or with the ongoing national conversation of racial justice, made you more aware of systemic injustice? If so, how?
Q) What is one tangible step you might take in the next month to learn more about, or to begin to address systemic injustice in your local community?
A revelation of God’s standard (7:7-9)
Q) Re-read Amos 7:7-9. What is the image of God “setting a plumb line” meant to communicate?
Q) Pastor Bobby explained that God’s “plumb line,” or standard, for his people to measure themselves against, was his own character as revealed in his gracious acts and in his righteous law. Can you think of examples of how Israel was supposed to reflect God’s grace in their life together? Can you think of examples of how Israel was supposed to reflect God’s righteousness in their life together?
Q) What is your initial reaction to the fact that God has a “standard” (plumb line) to which he wants his people to conform? Does it feel like a straitjacket, or like liberating guidance on how to express our love for God and others?
Q) Many people outside of the church picture God’s standards as confining and oppressive. How might you help explain to someone you know who is not a Christian the truth that God’s “plumb line” is meant for our good?
A revelation of God’s word (8:11-12)
Q) Re-read Amos 8:11-12. Why was “a famine…of hearing the words of the Lord” a just punishment for Israel?
Q) Re-read John 1:14; 16-18. How is Jesus described there? In what sense is Jesus God’s own “plumb line,” dropped down from heaven?
Q) What difference does it make that God’s ultimate “plumb line” for us is not an abstract set of principles, or abstract moral standards, but a person—the person of Jesus?
Q) Pastor Bobby said that Christian maturity involves bringing everything—spiritually, socially, relationally, financially, etc—into alignment with the standard God has given us in the person of Jesus. Is there an area of your life that has been “out of alignment” with Jesus recently? What is it? How might you come back into alignment with him? Is there an area where we as a whole church community are “out of alignment”?
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.