Bible Readings & Prayer Points
Last month we looked at several of the ‘Minor Prophets’: Hosea, Joel, Obadiah and Jonah. This month we are going to consider the prophet Amos.
Monday 1st October
After the death of Solomon, due to the foolishness of his son, the kingdom of Israel divided into two parts: the northern kingdom of Israel (later called Samaria) and the southern kingdom of Judah, with its capital in Jerusalem. The prophet Amos was a native of Judah but had been sent by God to prophecy to the northern kingdom of Israel. Amos and Hosea preached to the northern tribes and later Isaiah and Micah preached to the southern tribes. The kings mentioned in these verses date this prophecy as having taken place during the first half of the 8th century BC. The nation was in an immoral condition, the religious life of the nation was nominal and the people were not living according to God’s law. Corruption and vice were everywhere and the poor were suffering.
Pray for the Fellowship Groups, that they would be times of good study of the Bible and fellowship together.
Tuesday 2nd October
Amos tells us that he prophesied during the reigns of Jeroboam king of Israel and Uzziah was king of Judah. We can read about the reign of Jeroboam in 2 Kings 14:23-29. His kingship is summarised in verse 24: ‘He did evil in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit’. Uzziah, on the other hand, was a good king in the beginning, as we read in 2 Chronicles 26:4-5: ‘He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Amaziah had done. 5 He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success’. Then he went astray, as we read in 2 Chronicles 26:16: ‘But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God…’ That was the situation in Israel and Judah when Amos began to prophesy.
Pray for the young people from our congregation who are studying in various colleges and universities, or who have left home to find work. Pray especially for those who have gone for the first time, in the past few weeks.
Wednesday 3rd October
The first part of Amos’ prophecy is marked out by two references to a roaring lion, one at the beginning (1:3) and one at the end (3:8). He speaks against the sins of the Gentiles (1:3 – 2:3), then the sins of Judah (2:4-5), then the sins of Israel (2:6-16) and then offers a general condemnation (3:1-8). Notice it is the Lord who roars like a lion. Just as people fear the nearby roar of a lion, so people ought to be afraid when the Lord roars against their sin. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31). The problem in Amos’ day and also in ours, is that men and women pay no regard to God and have no fear of the Lord. This makes them careless in their lives and there is often no restraint.
Pray for the Commission of Assembly meeting today in Edinburgh (a mid-term General Assembly) to discuss the proposal to set up a special commission to review the organisational and executive structures of the church.
Thursday 4th October
The first three Gentile peoples to be condemned are Syria (verses 3-5); Gaza (verses 6-8) and Tyre (verses 9-10). Syria, with its capital in Damascus, is condemned for its aggressive and violent warfare, accompanied by great cruelty and suffering. God says through Amos that he will not turn back his wrath (verse 3) and that their day of judgement will come. Damascus suffered defeat by the Assyrians in 732 BC. Gaza was the home of the Philistines. They were slave traders and God says that they will be punished for the way they traded in human beings. Gaza also fell to the Assyrians. The people of Tyre too had a hand in the slave trade, ignoring in the process treaties into which they had entered. In these judgements we see God’s concern for human beings, made in his own image, who had been abused and killed.
Pray for the Inverness College graduation today and for the Minister, in his capacity as Chaplain, as he opens the gathering with Scripture and Prayer.
Friday 5th October
Amos 1:11 – 2:3
In these verses we have another three Gentile peoples who are subject to God’s wrath for their actions. This time it is Edom (verses 11-13); Ammon (13-15) and Moab (2:1-3). Edom was guilty of hostility against the people of God and warfare against them. The anger, even fury, of Edom led to its condemnation. Ammon was guilty of an expansionist policy to increase its borders and enlarge its power. Gilead was the victim and even pregnant mothers were killed. God will not stand by in the face of such atrocity, so Ammon is condemned. Moab was also guilty of human rights abuses and violence even against the corpse of the king of Edom. God’s judgement would follow. In these verses we see that there is a rule of law in the world order and God will be the judge.
Pray for the Rev Stewart MacKay as he is inducted this evening to the parish of Dalneigh and Bona. Pray for the congregation, after a long vacancy, as they work alongside their new Minister.
Saturday 6th October
Amos now turns from the Gentiles to the people of God. First, he addresses the nation of Judah, his own people. The sins of Judah were the sins to which God’s chosen people had fallen so often: they broke God’s law and they worshipped other gods. The law of God had been given to the chosen people through Moses and was to be the guide for every aspect of their lives: moral, religious and civil. They also went after the same gods their fathers had followed. We might see the application in our own day, where men and women have forsaken the living God in order to worship a thousand false gods and have rejected the Scriptures in favour of their own views.
Pray for Christine MacDonald, still waiting in London for a transplant operation. Pray for Don in Lusaka, Zambia, ready to travel to London when a donor is found.
Sunday 7th October
Amos came from Judah but his calling as a prophet was to address the northern kingdom of Israel and to that he now turns. He speaks of the appalling way in which Israel treated the righteous, the needy, the poor and the oppressed. He speaks of their sexual immorality and their abuse of power. God cries out to Israel through the prophet, reminding them of all that he had done for them. He had defeated their enemies, he had sent prophets and others to guide them. The message is that God had done everything for his chosen people but they had rejected God and his law. Does this not in many ways describe our own nation in its abandonment of God?
Pray for the Girls’ Brigade Dedication Service today and the formal appointment of our two new joint-captains, Sheena Fraser and Jennifer Morrison. Pray for the Minister as he takes both services today and for Bill Flett as he takes the Raigmore service.
Monday 8th October
Amos here emphasises that the message he had delivered was from God himself. He was a prophet sent from God, not just a man giving his own opinion of the state of the nations. He notes that the Lord exercises his sovereign providence over all things: ‘When disaster comes to a city has not the Lord caused it?’ He also points out (verse 7) that, when God is going to act, he sends prophets with the message. Unfortunately, the people would not listen to Amos, just as they did not listen to Isaiah or the other prophets. The blindness of the Israelites to the truth of God and their refusal to accept the message led to their condemnation. In our nation today, most people do not listen to God’s word, nor do they believe that God will judge them. Nevertheless, like Amos we must continue to preach God’s word.
Pray for the church multimedia team, both in the church and at the Raigmore services. Give thanks for the way in which the members of the team use their technical skills to enhance our worship.
Tuesday 9th October
At this point in the prophecy we move beyond warnings and a call to repentance. Now God begins to lay out the judgement he will bring on his people. The prophet is called upon to testify against the house of Jacob (verse 13). The envisaged judgement will be severe. Looking back from our perspective, knowing the history of Israel and Judah and being aware of the return after the Exile, we know of the Lord’s compassion to his people but that is not the mood of these verses. Perhaps in modern Christianity we rush too quickly to speak about the love of God, an over-reaction to a harsh judgemental preaching of earlier days. Yes, God is love but, as we see in the prophets, he is also a God that will not tolerate sin.
Pray for the women who gather each Tuesday morning for Bible study. Ask that it might be a blessing to those who come, as they go deeper into God’s Word.
Wednesday 10th October
We go back over these verses to note that the people had no respect for law and order. The words used are unrest, oppression, plunder and violence. When there is a breakdown of law and order, a society begins to collapse in on itself and that was happening to Israel. As we read in verse 10: ‘they do not know how to do right’. The illustration in verse 12 concerns a shepherd. The law required a shepherd to prove that an animal had been killed by retrieving enough parts of the animal as evidence. Amos is saying that, just as two leg bones and a piece of an ear is all that is left of sheep, so the corner of a couch and part of a bed will be all that is left of Israel. The couches and the beds were symbols of their desire for luxury, idleness, sensuality and bodily pleasure.
Pray for the Ministers of the Church of Scotland. With over 200 vacancies, many are carrying a heavy burden. Pray too for those who are ill, those who are suffering from stress-related illness and those who have lost heart in the midst of difficult days.
Thursday 11th October
Having spoken of their immorality, their violence and their sensuality, Amos now turns the spotlight on their religion. He demonstrates that they had abandoned the true religion which God required. The ‘altars of Bethel’ refers to the cultic worship established by king Jeroboam and his successors. This was in clear defiance of God’s instruction that the main place of worship was to be the temple in Jerusalem. They still carried out all the ceremonies and rituals but they were meaningless. Many in our day have abandoned true God-given worship and instead go through the motions of a religious life, pleasing themselves and making up their worship as they go along.
Pray for the Senior Citizens’ lunch in the Raigmore Community Centre and pray that the Gospel message will be heard, understood and received.
Friday 12th October
Amos spells out his message with particular reference to the women of Bashan. These were clear examples of his prophetic message to Israel. They were interested only in outward, bodily pleasures and not in the things of the Spirit. They dominated their husbands and failed to live as God required. They oppressed the poor and needy. Even at Bethel and Gilgal, the so-called places of worship, they failed to worship God. As our own society becomes more affluent and people have more money and more leisure time (compared to their parents) we do not see people seeking after God, instead they seek after pleasure. As we read in 2 Timothy 3:4-5: people become ‘lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God’.
Pray for Open Doors today, thanking God for the people who come in and asking God to use conversations to help them see their need for Christ.
Saturday 13th October
This chapter ends with a strong statement concerning the sovereignty of God. God had tried everything to bring the people to their senses and to show them the need for repentance. He had sent famine, drought, blight, plagues, disaster and so on. He had given many warning signs of his displeasure but the people had ignored them. Nevertheless, God issues here one final call to repentance: ‘Prepare to meet your God, O Israel’. Where do we stand in all of this? Have we ignored signs of God’s displeasure? Is God at the end of his patience with us? Is he offering us a final opportunity to repent? Are we prepared to meet our God?
Pray for the Scottish Bible Society and for its Chief Executive, Elaine Duncan. Pray that more and more openings will be found to get God’s Word into the hands of men and women and children, both here and overseas.
Sunday 14th October
The call to repentance is intermingled in these verses with indications of impending judgement. In verses 1-3, Amos describes what will soon happen but then makes another call to repentance. The people are called, in verses 4 and 6, to ‘seek the Lord and live’. They must not go to the cultic worship places of Gilgal, Bethel and Beersheba, instead they must turn to the Lord. Sadly, in our world people try to find God in many places and through many means. They go to places where they ‘feel near to God’ or they go on pilgrimage, or they try various forms of meditation. The truth is that we must seek God directly, through Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit. If we seek the Lord in that way, then we shall live, and the life is eternal.
Pray for the Minister as he takes both services today, including the baptism of Daniel McGowan. Pray for Ian Challinor as he takes the Raigmore service and for the Rev… as he takes the Gaelic service.
Monday 15th October
Amos makes it clear that there is only one God, the one who is creator of the stars and of everything else. He can turn darkness into light and night into the morning. Who is this God? Amos says, ‘The Lord is his name’. The tragedy of the Israelites is that the one true living God had chosen Abraham, entered into a covenant with him and then renewed that covenant with his descendants. He had given them the law through Moses and blessed them in every conceivable way. Was ever a nation more blessed? Yet they had rejected this God in favour of the idols of the nations round about and followed the religious practices of the pagan nations. Surely this is an astonishing thing? Yet, have not many in our own day done the same?
Pray for the Minister as he attends a meeting of the Council of Assembly in Edinburgh today.
Tuesday 16th October
This is a dreadful picture of lawlessness. The honest judge and the honest witness are equally reviled. The poor are cheated, in order to swell the coffers of the rich. The righteous are oppressed, bribes are taken, the poor cannot get justice in the courts and ‘the times are evil’ (verse 13). God through Amos tells the rich and powerful that they will not get away with their injustice and they will not live in pleasure and comfort in their fine houses. Instead their day of judgement is coming, when their nation will fall. All of the great empires of the past fell when decadence, lawlessness and the love of pleasure replaced honesty, integrity, justice and righteousness. So it will be with similar nations today. Is ours among them?
Pray for the sick and housebound members and adherents in the congregation. Pray too for their carers and families. Pray that, even when unable to come to church, they might find comfort in the Scriptures and in prayer.
Wednesday 17th October
Once again, we have a call to reformation and renewal, particularly moral and spiritual reformation. In particular, we have a call to real life. The statement in verse 14 is striking: ‘Seek good, not evil, that you may live’. The way to life is to seek God and to seek the good. We cannot live otherwise and expect true life. Jesus said in Matthew 4:4: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’. Life is about more than bodily existence, it is about knowing God. Jesus also said in John 11:25-26: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die’. Many people think that they are alive because they can walk, speak, eat and talk. True life, eternal life is to know God.
Pray for the many people in the congregation suffering with cancer, of various types and at various stages. Give thanks for those who treatment has been successful. Remember especially those who are awaiting results of scans and other treatment.
Thursday 18th October
The other point being made in these verses concerns morality. Notice verse 15: ‘Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph’. In other words, if you really want to know God’s blessing it is not enough to go through religious services, rituals and festivals, you must live in the right way. This was also the message of Isaiah 1:12-18. Isaiah said, ‘Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations – I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them… Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow’. This is the way of true religion.
Pray for the Gathering this morning. Those who come enjoy the time of friendship and fellowship over tea and coffee. Pray for June McGowan and the team of helpers. Pray too for the Deacons’ Court meeting this evening.
Friday 19th October
Amos tells the people of Israel that the Day of the Lord is coming but for them it will be a day of darkness, not light. For them, it will be a day of judgement. Then in verses 21-24 he echoes the words of Isaiah that we read yesterday: ‘I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!’ The message is very clear: religion without good deeds is not true religion. God is more interested in justice than in religious rituals.
Pray for those who have been bereaved, both very recently and also in the past few years and who continue to feel the deep pain of separation and loneliness.
Saturday 20th October
The key point being made in these verses is that the people of Israel and Judah were proud and this pride would be their downfall. Amos says that they were ‘complacent’ (verse 1) meaning that they had no real grasp of the perilous nature of their situation. Amos and other prophets had told them that unless they changed their ways, God’s judgement was coming, in the form of an attack by their enemies. Yet they were complacent, believing that all would be well (as some false prophets were saying). They were sleep-walking into disaster. Many today, facing the end of their lives without Christ are similarly complacent. All will be well, they say, I’ve always tried to do my best. The true is that nothing is well and their complacency will lead them straight to Hell.
Pray for the Highland Theological College, for the staff and the students. Pray for Hector Morrison, the Principal, as he leads the institution.
Sunday 21st October
The other message of these verses is that they were obsessed by luxury and moral indifference. This is described in verses 4-6: ‘You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph’. Their priorities were all wrong and Amos tells them that they would be among the first to go into exile. It is hard not to see a similar attitude in our society today. Men and women will do almost anything to obtain more leisure and pleasure but they do not consider the state of the nation or even the state of their own souls.
Pray for the Minister as he takes both services today and for Bill Flett as he takes the Raigmore service.
Monday 22nd October
Here God expresses his view of the Israelites. They might be proud and complacent but the Lord is angry and will not relent in his judgement. He is utterly alienated from his people and their failure to obey him. Their behaviour is unnatural (like horses running up cliffs, verse 12). As far as God is concerned their greatest achievements and their military victories are meaningless. In fact, the Lord was soon to bring an enemy who would not be defeated and who would not turn back, an enemy who would drive them into exile. The message for us is that no matter what we think of ourselves and no matter how highly we rate our achievements, God’s assessment is what matters and he judges by a different standard.
Pray for former Probationers: Ross Macaskill and family, Scott McRoberts and family, and Dougie Wolf and family.
Tuesday 23rd October
The Lord begins to show Amos what the end of Israel would look like. Immediately Amos begins to pray for the Israelites and to plead with the Lord not to totally destroy them. It soon becomes clear that the Lord had no intention of destroying them completely. Some would survive, those whom other prophets called the ‘remnant’. It is surely astonishing, when we consider all the sins of Israel and Judah, as described in the books of Kings and Chronicles, that some would survive the judgement of God. Yet God always remembered the covenant he had made with his people. In our day, as we see churches shrinking and closing and as we see the apathy towards the Gospel in our society, we might conclude that the end result will be no Christians left in the land in the future. The answer lies in the promise and covenant of God. He will not abandon his people completely, there will always be a remnant.
Pray for the Minister as he attends a meeting in Rutherford House in Edinburgh and then in the evening speaks at the UHI Christian Union.
Wednesday 24th October
Amaziah, a priest, did not take well to the prophecies of Amos. He sent a message to the king complaining about what Amos was saying. Amaziah and the other religious leaders of the people were telling them that all would be well, but Amos was saying the opposite, declaring that the people would be taken into exile. Amaziah tells him to go back south to Judah where he came from and to stop prophesying in Bethel. Amos explained that he was a shepherd in Judah, until called by God and sent to the northern kingdom of Israel. Since he was sent by God to deliver a message he must continue to do so. This gives us a picture of a faithful man of God. Very often the message from God is not acceptable to those who hear it. When that happens, some change the message to make it more acceptable. Amos, the faithful man of God, refused to do so. We must be similarly determined to be faithful.
Pray for Fraser and Dawn Jackson in South Africa. Pray for Fraser’s work as he develops an electronic library system for various colleges and universities and for Dawn as she goes into prisons to share her faith. Pray for their children James and Ruth who have just returned to the UK after spending the summer in SA.
Thursday 25th October
Amos received a vision from God. The vision consists of a basket of ripe fruit. Fruit is not picked when it begins to bud but when it is ripe. There is a proper time for gathering in the fruit. God uses the illustration to tell Amos that the time is ripe for judgement upon Israel. There follows a description of some of the reasons for Israel’s downfall. In particular, God is angry at the way they have treated the poor. They ‘trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land’ (verse 4). They can’t wait for the feast days and sabbaths to be over so they can go back to cheating and making money. They ‘skimp the measure’ and ‘boost the price’. That is to say, their business methods are immoral and their trade is carried on dishonestly. The Lord loves justice.
Pray for Neil and Rachel Rae as they settle back into life in the UK after returning from the Philippines.
Friday 26th October
The Lord through Amos says that even the land itself and the normal processes of weather will bear witness against Israel. An earthquake, the rising and falling of the Nile (perhaps reminding them of God’s mighty acts against Egypt through Moses), and an eclipse of the sun, will all be signs to them. Even the usual times of celebration will become times of mourning, as we read in verse 10: ‘I will turn your religious feasts into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day’. When God turns joy into mourning and laughter into tears, they will know that the end is near.
Pray for the Kirk Session meeting tonight and for the Preparatory Service thereafter. Pray that God will bless this communion week-end with an outpouring of his Spirit.
Saturday 27th October
These words are very striking. God predicts a famine but not a famine in the usual sense: ‘I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it’. God was sending his last prophets before the final defeat to their enemies and their journey into exile and they were not listening. They were certainly not listening to Amos. Do we value the Word of God and cherish its truth and importance? If not, there will come a time when even that is taken away.
Pray for the services tomorrow and for the administration of the Lord’s Supper. Pray that God will pour out his Spirit upon us and that we will be spiritually enriched.
Sunday 28th October
In this time of a ‘famine of the word of God’, the people might search for a word from the Lord but they were looking in the wrong places. In particular, the young people of the nation would look elsewhere and worship other gods. We know from the history of Samaria (the northern kingdom of Israel after the Exile) that they worshipped many gods and even those who worshipped the true God did so in false ways. Many today search for spiritual truth and spiritual light but they do not find it because they are looking in the wrong places.
On this Bible Sunday, pray for the Minister as he takes communion services in the church and at Raigmore and pray for Donald McVicar as he takes the evening service.
Monday 29th October
Amos has a vision of God bringing destruction upon the false shrines and altars which had been created in Israel. The kings of Israel did not want the people going down to Jerusalem, lest they should reunite with Judah and submit to the king in Jerusalem. So, they built altars in Bethel and Gilgal for the worship of God. The problem was that God had not sanctioned this. So now there is a vision of the destruction of these false places of worship. There is a truth which is very important here: God himself determines how and where the people should worship him. True worship is God-centred worship based on God’s commands.
Pray for the Presbytery of Inverness, for the new Moderator, Joyce Mitchell (a Deaconess) and for Scott McRoberts who has become the new convener of the Business Committee
Tuesday 30th October
In these verses we have a description of the authority and power of the Lord to carry out the impending judgement upon Israel. He is the sovereign God, the one who made and oversees all things. He establishes his own authority from heaven and controls all that happens on the earth (verses 5-6). The Lord is his name! He raises up nations and brings them down, he moves them across the face of the earth and the Israelites are no different from the other nations in this respect (verse 7). Having affirmed his own authority as the Lord God, we are then told of the judgement which was to come. It would not be total destruction but ‘all the sinners’, would die by the sword. Do we recognise the power and authority of God?
Pray for the Minister as he takes an Assembly at Raigmore School and pray too for the Word at One service.
Wednesday 31st October
Despite everything that we have seen so far in this book of Amos about the impending judgement of God on a sinful people, it finishes on a positive note. Yes, the people of Israel would shortly be defeated by their enemies and taken away into exile but that would not be the end of the story. God tells us through the prophet Amos, that a time would come when he would bring his people back from Exile and re-establish them. Once again, they would know the blessing of God. They would rebuild the ruined cities, plant vineyards, grow their food and live in their own land. Never again would they be uprooted. The message here is that our covenant-keeping God might bring temporal judgement on his people for their sin, but he would never totally abandon them or break his covenant promises.
Pray for the plans to establish the Rutherford Centre for Reformed Theology and for the search for office space in the Inverness/Dingwall area.