By Dr. Talmage B. Skinner
Committed to Justice
Purpose: To identify how authentic worship develops a mature faith that is expressed in a social conscience.
Bible Lesson: Amos 5:10-15, 21-24
Key Verses: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” — Amos 5:24
A bit of background will help to understand Amos. After Solomon, the United Monarchy of Israel split into the Northern Kingdom (
In the north, kings changed very much like judges changed in the days of the Tribal Confederacy before Saul became the first king. The kings of
As the years passed, interesting and powerful people ruled
Into this apparent good time came Amos from Tekoa in
Amos said that God was tired of their “solemn assemblies and their music and sacrifice.” For Amos, it seemed that right living is more important than right worship. He is not saying that worship does not matter but that religious palaver without deeds and a reformed system is empty and evil.
The Hebrews, north and south, never dealt with the questions, “Does God exist?” God is Yahweh who brought them out of
We live in a materialistic society. Many of our churches just see who can put on the best show. We judge success with the accumulation of wealth and its being spent on lavish lifestyles. We honor people who are rich and seem to praise them for ruthless and unconcerned attitudes toward the poor.
Amaziah, the priest at
You do not dare disagree with the president because you will be called a traitor, but it goes much deeper than that. We get our worship and entertainment all mixed up. We pray that God’s will be done on earth, but then we choose policies in business and government that neglect not only the needy of the country, but all the miserable, trampled-on people of the world.
The older I get, the more aware I am of the simple truth that none of our material stuff will leave this life with us. The longer I am a Christian and study both the Old and New Testaments, the more I see a lack of concern – a deep concern for the poor and downtrodden of the world. I see a “lifeboat” mentality, which is “as long as we and our own are OK, do not worry about others.” We used to sing a hymn from the Cokesbury Hymnal called Others. We need to dust it off and not only sing it, but practice what it teaches.
God’s Indictment of
Purpose: To examine how divine judgment is neither punishment nor vengeance bout an expression of God’s faithfulness and truth.
Bible Lesson: Hosea 4:1-4; 7:12; 12:8-9
Key Verses: “There is no faithfulness or loyalty, and no knowledge of God in the land.” — Hosea 4:1
Hosea probably overlaps with Amos just a bit. He is from
The message of Hosea is more in his life than in his words. God tells him to marry an unfaithful woman whose name is Gomer. They have several children who are given symbolic/prophetic names. Gomer is indeed unfaithful to Hosea, and he divorces her and casts her out. Later on, he buys her and restores her to her position as his wife. This is a parable of the relationship between God and
In 9:1 and following, Hosea lists the indictment against
The sin of
All of this shows they do not know God. They know a magical being who grants their wishes. The God of Israel is not a fairy godmother. Some scholars think Gomer was a part of that Canaanite culture and the worship of Baal. Over and over again
Perhaps we must endure some hard times to be purified and return to the fold as people who know God and his ways. I do not believe that God makes bad things happen to people. I do believe God uses everything that happens to us to instruct, strengthen and purify if we are paying attention.
Purpose: To show that acts of worship we choose to offer cannot substitute for God’s demand for righteousness.
Bible Lesson: Isaiah 1:10-11, 14-20
Key Verses: “Seek justice rescue the oppressed.” — Isaiah 1:17
Yes! This scripture does sound a lot like Amos and Hosea. All of the great prophets are own the same page. At the heart of our religion is how we treat other people. Sometimes it is how you treat other Hebrews; but little by little until we get right in the middle of the message of Jesus, it is how we treat everyone, not just our own kind. The proof of worship is in the living and doing.
For a long time everything centered around offering sacrifice to God, sometimes even going so far as to offer human sacrifice, which was done to please God and gain his favor. All God wanted was for the people to “ … learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). Without a good understanding of the sacrificial system, the death of Jesus on the cross makes no sense.
Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice, and guess what? The sacrifice comes from God. Instead of sitting back and smelling all that burning meat, God offers the sacrifice that reconciles us to God. He replaces our attempts to bribe God with an atoning deed that ends all attempts to get God to save us, give us victory and all that our heart desires. The one we seek to honor graciously shows his love/forgiveness to us. What God wants is for us to respond to his action with action of our own; not action directed toward him, but toward others.
You cannot get to the meaning of Isaiah without chapter 6 and the story of Isaiah’s call and temple experience at the time of the death of King Uzziah. The heart of the chapter is his experience of the holiness of God and his own impurity. Also of importance is chapter 5 and the “Song of the Vineyard” telling of God’s displeasure with
One of Isaiah’s big tasks was to speak to the king about trusting in God rather than alliances with big or small countries for defense. As he looked at the world situation, he believed that God would use Assyria to purify
Recently I read that a presidential candidate said that it is important that other nations be afraid of us. I would rather they respect us and want to emulate our character. Making tons of money in our personal lives does not make up for wickedness and neglect. Power and wealth often keep individuals and nations from being good.
Purpose: To discover how we can live faithful lives in the midst of a secular culture.
Bible Lesson: Isaiah 55:1-3b, 6-11
Key Verses: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” — Isaiah 55:6
The Isaiah we see and hear about in chapter 55 is not the same person we met last week. Scholars believe that this material was written after the fall of
All of the great prophets preached doom and punishment for
Often overlooked in the Old Testament is how many times God forgave
The Deuteronomistic writers in the Old Testament had a simple formula: obey God and you will succeed and be blessed; disobey and you will be punished by bad things happening. We know that is too simple. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people.
They do make a point with this overly simplified formula. The ultimate good does come by seeking to do God’s will. To ignore it trivializes it in the long run and leads to destruction. Even then God is seeking our redemption.
Second Isaiah affirms that God did not jus put us here; he is always involved. Our creation is not just one magical act, but a maturing, learning developmental process of lifetimes and ages. Life is a teacher who illustrates our lessons through our experiences. Isaiah teaches us that God constantly makes all things new, that he has established an everlasting covenant, not just with David, but with all humankind. Our part should be gratitude and thanksgiving and hope for the future.
Seek first and always the
• Skinner is a retired member of the South Carolina Annual Conference and served as the chaplain at