The Potential of Problems
Life is full of pain and problems. But problems are not all bad. God wants to see if we will look up to Him and turn toward Him in the middle of hard times. Instead of letting our hearts become hardened, turning away from Him, we can draw near to God. God is inviting us to return to Him. To seek Him in the good places and in the hard places. His ways are always redemptive and His purposes are always good. The potential of problems is that we would wake up and see our need of God who uses all of our problems for our good and His glory.
Bible Reading of the Day: Amos 1-4
We are reading a new book today, so let’s learn a little about it first. This is from the Easy English Bible Commentary:
“Amos came from Tekoa, about 12 miles south of Jerusalem. He was a shepherd and he looked after fig trees. His home was in Judah. But God sent him away to Israel, which was north of Judah. (At that time, Judah was a different country from Israel.”
“Several ideas were important to Amos. One idea was that there is only one God. He is the God who rules the nations. Another idea was that God is the judge. The Israelites were responsible for their actions. They must expect God to decide what to do about their sins. But Amos says that there is hope. God gave two messages in pictures to Amos (7:1-6). Amos prayed against total judgment and God heard this prayer. God is the same God who brought Israel out of Egypt. He punishes nations but he also saves.”
The Potential of Problems—Problems Reveal Our Need of God
Israel’s people thought that worship was important. But although they worshipped God, they did not obey his law. Because of this, their worship did not bring anything good from God. Amos compared their behavior with the behavior of their ancestors. Their ancestors wandered for many years in the desert. This was why Amos spoke about the sacrifices in the desert (5:25). Some people explain it like this. Amos meant that he wanted no sacrifices. Instead of sacrifices God wanted people to behave in a true way. But perhaps Amos actually wanted people to know what was important. Sacrifices were good. But to behave in a true way was more important.
Amos used parts of songs as a way to say things. 4:13 and 5:8 are examples of this. The songs emphasized the message. Also, God gave Amos five pictures, which begin in chapter 7. The first four of these (7:1-3; 7:4-6; 7:7-9 and 8:1-3) are similar. Amos puts these four pictures together in the same way. The fifth picture (9:1-6) is different. It is less of a picture than the other pictures. It is like Psalm 139:7-12. There will be no escape for the people in Israel. It is a picture of extreme situations.” (Easy English Bible Commentary)
The Potential of Problems—Problems Bring Us to Repentance
There is a pattern in Amos’ preaching that was interesting. The phrase, ‘for three crimes, even four” was used 8 times in this book. I looked this up on gotquestions.org
“The phrase “for three sins . . . even for four” is a common phrase in Amos (1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6). Used a total of eight times in the book, these words play a special role in the way Amos communicates sin and judgment. “Three sins” represents fullness or completeness; “four” represents an overflow or a sin that is the tipping point for God’s judgment. The word sins or transgressions in Hebrew specifically refers to “rebellions.” The first two chapters of Amos contain eight messages against the nations, including Judah and Israel, condemning them for their rebellion against the Lord.”
“Interestingly, “for three sins . . . even for four” is not followed by four specific sins. In fact, the typical pattern is to list one or two sins and move on. Therefore, the expression is not meant to imply a specific number of sins but to communicate that there is an excess of sins that have led to God’s judgment.”
Each of Amos’s eight messages follows a similar pattern. First, there is the phrase “for three sins . . . even for four.” Second, one or two specific sins are mentioned regarding the nation being addressed. Third, a judgment is given. Amos starts with Israel’s enemies and ends with oracles against Judah and Israel.”
The Potential of Problems—God Redeems
While the book of Amos brings judgment against God’s people for their sins, it also brings hope. God was in a covenant relationship with His people. They were going to be held accountable.
“Listen to this message that the Lord has spoken against you, Israelites, against the entire clan that I brought from the land of Egypt: 2 I have known only you out of all the clans of the earth; therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities.”
What was it that God’s people had done?
- They worshiped outwardly but sinned inwardly.
- They did vile deeds
- And they oppress the poor and crush the needy (Amos 4:1)
- They rebel even at Bethel, where they were to worship.
- And they were incapable of doing right (Amos 3:10)
The Potential of Problems—God Uses Problems for Our Good
God uses hardship to try and bring them back.
- Amos 4:6, “I gave you absolutely nothing to eat in all your cities, a shortage of food in all your communities, yet you did not return to me. This is the Lord’s declaration.”
- Amos 4:7-8b, “I also withheld the rain from you while there were still three months until harvest. I sent rain on one city but no rain on another. One field received rain while a field with no rain withered . . . yet you did not return to me.
This is the Lord’s declaration.
- Amos 4:9 – God sent locusts . . . yet you did not return to me. This is the Lord’s declaration.
- Amos 4:10 – God sent plagues. . . yet you did not return to me. This is the Lord’s declaration.
- And in Amos 4:11 – God overthrew them . . . yet you did not return to me. This is the Lord’s declaration.
The Potential of Problems—Drawing Us Nearer to God
Those hard places in our lives can cause our hearts to harden. Doesn’t this world blame God when things don’t go well? But may God open our eyes to see that it is His kindness when our lives are disrupted by those hard places. Because when life is hard, we have two choices – look up to God and ask for help or turn away from God.
But there is a remedy—Seek God and live! God invites us to seek Him and to enter into a relationship with Him:
- Amos 5:4, “4 For the Lord says to the house of Israel: Seek me and live!
- Amos 5:6-7, “Seek the Lord and live, or he will spread like fire throughout the house of Joseph; it will consume everything with no one at Bethel to extinguish it. 7 Those who turn justice into wormwood also throw righteousness to the ground.”
- And in Amos 5:12-15, “For I know your crimes are many and your sins innumerable. They oppress the righteous, take a bribe, and deprive the poor of justice at the city gates. 13 Therefore, those who have insight will keep silent at such a time, for the days are evil. 14 Pursue good and not evil so that you may live, and the Lord, the God of Armies, will be with you as you have claimed. 15 Hate evil and love good; establish justice at the city gate. Perhaps the Lord, the God of Armies, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.”
The Potential of Problems—God Heals Our Pride
God was judging Israel for their pride.
Amos 6:8 “The Lord God has sworn by himself—this is the declaration of the Lord, the God of Armies: I loathe Jacob’s pride and hate his citadels, so I will hand over the city and everything in it.”
God gives 5 visions to Amos. Visions of judgment from God. Amos cries out to God to relent and God does. Friends, God’s punishment is always redemptive. Amos concludes the book of Amos with hope for the future.
Amos 9: 11-15
“In that day I will restore the fallen shelter of David: I will repair its gaps, restore its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old, 12 so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name—this is the declaration of the Lord; he will do this.
Scripture of the Day: Amos 3:7
“Indeed, the Sovereign Lord never does anything until he reveals his plans to his servants the prophets.”
- God is inviting us to return to Him.
- Seek God and live!
- His ways are always redemptive and His purposes are always good.
7-Fold One-Year Bible Reading Plan
Day #241: Amos 1-4
Scripture of the Day: Amos 3:7
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