Guests: Alden Thompson and Zdravko Stefanovic
Background and Literary Considerations
- Review the comments in the previous lesson about “vision reports.” What was the main purpose of these in general and how specifically does Amos use them–individually and the five of them together?
- The vision reports are judgmental and seem to progress in a certain direction, which is also punishing in its effects. What role does “judgment” play in the preaching of the prophets? Some suggest that the prophets were much too serious and harsh. Why is this so, or, at least, why does it appear to be the case? What in the job description of prophets makes them apparently unpleasant to be around for any length of time? Would you like one for a pastor? A roommate? A spouse? A friend of your children? More seriously, why do they seem to focus on gloom and doom? Why is it that “The prophet’s word is a scream in the night. While the world is at ease and asleep, the prophet feels the blast from heaven” (Heschel, p. 16)? Is this good news or bad? For whom? If you or members of your peer or family group were experiencing abuse of any kind, would it be important or not to hear that God stands up for the underdog and will make bullies pay? See Psalm 97:10.
Relevant Biblical Passages
- Amos 7:4-6 (Vision Report #2) – If the word “locusts” struck terror into the hearts of ancient farmers and those dependent on them, what would the word “FIRE!” do for them? While there were accidental fires in ancient Palestine, most were likely caused by thieving thugs and encroaching armies intent on pillage and plunder. The book of Judges speaks of Samson’s setting on fire the Philistine crops and archaeology has certainly provided sufficient evidence for the burning of buildings and cities, which happened all the time. If you lived then, what would this word signal to you and your family? How is it used in the Bible in connection with judgment?
What was the nature of this fire to be devouring the deep as well as the dry land? How severe this flame to inhale the turbulent tides of the sea, always seen as a danger to the ancients? At least one threat was being gobbled up! But the fire came on shore as well. Any escape from this fire? For whom was the fire intended? Does the text say anything about the wicked as the target of the judgment?
How is the judgment turned in this vision report? Are there any differences in Amos’ intercessory prayer here as opposed with that in the first report (verse 2)? Anything missing from this one? Has Amos’ request changed any? Why? What does this suggest for the flow of the judgment vision reports?
On what is hope based in this report? Is it because Israel has decided to repent? Is it because Israel would die without God? Is it God’s mercy? Does God repent? A word study in a good Bible dictionary might prove helpful here. What is the vocabulary of human repentance? Divine repentance? Are they the same?
Contributions to Study of Amos and the Bible
- As with the other vision reports, what do we know about Amos’ preaching style here? What do we know about God’s style of working with people? Is God fair? Is God beyond fair?
Lessons for Life
- What would happen if people related to other people (even the rascals of the world) like God does in this vision report?