DAY 1 – Amos 5: 18-24
**The lessons for this week deal with God coming in judgment. In the case of the Old Testament lesson, God comes to the wandering nation of Israel, now divided into 2 kingdoms: the Northern and the Southern kingdoms. [View the Map] The North has strayed off, seeking protection and security in other countries and kings. In the case of the Gospel lesson, God comes as a groom and finds his guests unprepared and distracted.**
In our Old Testament reading today, God had invited His people, Israel, to trust Him, and He had shown countless times when He protected and served them in the past. But instead God found them chasing after idols and ignoring His promises. God compares His dilemma to someone who enters his own house only to be bitten by a venomous snake. Israel had turned their back on God and sought safety and support in other kingdoms. Now God sees through all their ceremonies and worship, because the people were going through the motions. They were not genuine in looking to God above all things.
In enters Amos, a herdsman (shepherd), who was called to prophetically speak on behalf of God. The Assyrian nation to the north is about to descend on the Northern Kingdom, capture their citizens, and deport them throughout the Assyrian empire. All this God sees coming, and allows to happen as a consequence of their seeking hope and peace in other things.
Read Amos 5: 18-24
How can this passage apply to people inside the church today?
Amos mentions being righteous. How are we righteous? (read 2 Corinthians 5:21 for additional insight). What does this mean for our worship and sacrifices?
With Amos being a herdsman (shepherd), who else in the bible was a Shepherd? How does shepherd make God’s story come together?
Read this information about shepherds in Biblical Times:
The idea of shepherding, and in specific the idea of God acting as the Shepherd of His people, is a theme found throughout the Bible, from beginning to end. In Genesis 48:24, as Jacob, on his deathbed summarized his life, he declared that God had been his “shepherd all of his life to this day.” In Revelation 7:17, when the saints who come out of the tribulation are brought before God, John brings together two of the most striking images of the scripture by stating, "for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eye.” Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Joseph were all shepherds, as was Moses and David. It is also used figuratively to represent rulers of kingdoms and of God to his people (Psalms 23:1; 80:1; Isaiah 40:11; 44:28; Jeremiah 25:34,35; Nahum 3:18; John 10:11,14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4).
The duties of a shepherd in a country like Palestine were very demanding. In early morning he would take the flock from the pen, marching at its head to the spot where they were to be pastured. Here he watched them all day, taking care that none of the sheep strayed, and if any for a time eluded his watch and wandered away from the rest, would seek till he found and brought it back. Sheep require to be supplied with water, and the shepherd has to guide them either to some running stream or to wells dug in the wilderness and furnished with troughs. At night he brought the flock home to the pen, counting them as they passed under the rod at the door to assure himself that none were missing. Often his labors would not end at sunset. Often he had to guard the pen through the night from the attack of wild beasts, or the wily attempts of the prowling thief (1 Samuel 17:34).
Looking at the theme of shepherd, who else is in your life to help shepherd you?
What makes some better shepherds than others?
Take time to pray about specific people in your life, thanking God that they shepherd you.
DAY 2 – Matthew 25: 1-13
In our gospel today Jesus has withdrawn to get some rest. The disciples take this opportunity to ask Jesus when the Last Day will come. Jesus responds with a parable about a wedding that provides a warning for all listening and us today: be prepared spiritually! In the story the guests are waiting for the groom to arrive. The wait extends longer than expected, and as night sets in, the guests have to light their lamps. Unfortunately, the wait continues even longer, and some lamps begin to run low on oil. Some guests had planned ahead and brought spare oil, but others had not. Those running low must quickly go to a store to get more oil, but when they arrive back at the banquet, the groom has already arrived and taken the other guests in to the banquet. In the end they miss out because they did not have enough oil to wait as long as needed.
Read Matthew 25: 1-13
What sticks out to you about this reading? How does this reading apply to today?
Since we are eagerly waiting for Jesus’ return, would you prefer Jesus to come sooner or later and why?
What does it look like to have the “oil needed” to be prepared for Christ’s return?
Is there anyway to share your oil with others?
As a family write a letter to a persecuted Christian, encourage these Christians to stand firm in their faith as they continue to wait for the groom. Voice of the Martyrs Letters will be available at worship, and can be returned there.