Reading 1 - Neh 9:8
"You found his heart faithful to you" (Neh 9:8).
Examples of faithfulness in service:
Samuel (1Sa 3:20);
David (1Sa 22:14);
the temple overseers (2Ki 12:15);
the workers (2Ch 34:12);
Hananiah (Neh 7:2);
Abraham (Neh 9:8);
the treasurers (Neh 13:13);
Daniel (Dan 6:4);
Timothy (1Co 4:17);
Epaphras (Col 1:7);
Tychicus (Col 4:7);
Onesimus (Col 4:9);
Paul (1Ti 1:12);
Moses (Heb 3:2,5);
Gaius (3Jo 1:5);
Jesus Christ (Rev 1:5); and
Antipas (Rev 2:13).
Reading 2 - Amos, overview
The Man: Amos was a native of the little village of Tekoa, a few miles south of Bethlehem in Judah. He is described as a herdsman (Amos 1:1; 7:14: in two different words which probably mean, respectively, a keeper of sheep and a keeper of oxen), as well as a gatherer of sycamore fruit (Amos 7:14: probably figs); this sounds very much like a lowly farm worker. Many of the metaphors used by Amos in his prophecy reflect this humble background. [It is possible that, instead of a humble herdsman, Amos was a "trader" of livestock, an occupation which might explain his travels between Judah in the south and Israel in the north.]
The Times: The historical period covered by the reigns of Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel is very significant. Jeroboam II (who reigned c 783-743 BC) led a great revival of Israel's political power, casting off the Syrian yoke from Israel and extending her borders even beyond those achieved by Solomon (2Ki 14:25,28). Simultaneously in the south Judah was "benefiting" from a similar political revival. Uzziah conquered the Philistines and the Arabians, took tribute from Ammon, fortified Jerusalem, and built walled cities for defense of his borders (2Ch 26:6-15). Of course, political developments in a wider field, under the hand of God, were the real explanation. The period 800 to 750 BC was marked by Assyrian involvements to its north and internal struggles in Egypt. This left Israel and Judah with more or less free hands to become, for a short while at least, dominant powers in the land of Canaan. The effects of these "successes" were disastrous in both civil and religious life. Owing to increased control of important trade routes, wealthy classes emerged in the people of Israel. The poor were increasingly oppressed, and the rich lived lives of immoral self-indulgence. Civil justice was corrupted; the spirit of the Law of Moses was abandoned, even while nominal worship of Jehovah flourished. Their God was with them! or so it seemed: had He not given them wonderful prosperity? But it was all a delusion. The "sepulchre" was whitewashed on the outside, but inside were "dead men's bones": greed, dishonesty, licentiousness.
1. Judgments against the nations: Amos 1:1–2:16
a) Introduction: Amos 1:1–2
b) Judgment of neighboring nations: Amos 1:3 – 2:3
c) Judgment of Judah and Israel: Amos 2:4–16
2. Three oracles of judgment against Israel: Amos 3:1 – 5:17
a) A declaration of judgment: Amos 3:1–15
b) The depravity of Israel: Amos 4:1–13
c) A lamentation for Israel's sin and doom: Amos 5:1–17
3. Two oracles of woe against Israel: Amos 5:18 – 6:14
a) Woe against Israel's perverted religion: Amos 5:18–27
b) Woe against Israel's complacent pride: Amos 6:1–14
4. Five visions of judgment against Israel: Amos 7:1 – 9:10
a) The devouring locusts: Amos 7:1–3
b) The flaming fire: Amos 7:4–6
c) The plumb line: Amos 7:7–17
d) The basket of ripe fruit: Amos 8:1–14
e) The judgment of the Lord: Amos 9:1–10
5. The promise of Israel's restoration: Amos 9:11–15
Coming Judgments: The judgments Amos had in mind were probably those to be brought upon Israel and Judah by the Assyrians, and then the Babylonians. These soon-to-be-powerful nations are not mentioned by Amos at all, but their approaching shadow looms over his message. When they finally came, then the smaller nations, whom Israel had thought they need not fear, rose up against Israel -- Syria, Philistia, Edom, Moab, and Ammon joining themselves with first the Assyrian and later the Babylonian against their ancient enemy Israel. The result of God's judgments was the carrying away into captivity (Amos 5:18-20,27).
The Return: But the promise of Amos was that, after the captivity had run its course, the tested and chastened remnant of Abraham's seed would be brought back to the Land. The almost unrelieved burden of Amos' earlier message gives way, in his very last utterance, to a message of hope and renewal (Amos 9:11-15).
Israel's return from captivity in the days of Ezra and Zerubbabel, Haggai and Zechariah, was a near-term fulfillment of this prophecy.
Amos 9:11,12 is quoted by James in Acts 15:16-18 to support the argument that God intended to include Gentiles among His people. So there was a first-century fulfillment of Amos' prophecy.
The chastening judgments of God, followed by the restoration of a humbled people, provide us a pattern by which we might discern developing events in our own day. How might this be? This outline is suggested:
Israel prospering in their own land in the Last Days,
but surrounded by Arab nations,
and practically indistinguishable from them in character and conduct,
is subjected to attack by Assyria/Babylon...
...and also by Edom, Moab, Ammon, Syria, and the Philistines,
loses all it has worked for and accumulated,
and is carried away in another captivity,
out of which a remnant turns to God and is saved (by calling upon the Messiah!),
so that God will bring them back once again to their own Land, this time in righteousness as well as prosperity!
And so, in the near future, for the first time, will Amos' very last words be truly and completely fulfilled: " 'I will plant Israel in their own land, NEVER AGAIN TO BE UPROOTED FROM THE LAND I HAVE GIVEN THEM,' says the LORD your God" (Amos 9:15).
Reading 3 - 1Ti 1:3
"As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer" (1Ti 1:3).
The Greek noun "parangelia" and its corresponding verb "parangello" appear six times in 1Ti, translated as either "charge" or "commandment". The words are strictly used of commands received from a superior and transmitted to others -- down a "chain of command".
Paul was quite concerned for his young disciple Timothy, and went to great effort to remind him of the truth and charge him to keep it and encourage its keeping in the lives of those in his care: First, Paul wanted to charge Timothy to remain strong in his personal faith, so that he might fight a good fight: "holding on to faith, and a good conscience" (1Ti 1:18,19). "I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1Ti 6:13,14).
In a similar vein, Paul knew the dangers of false doctrine. "I urged you... that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer" (1Ti 1:3). Following a discussion of specific false teachings (1Ti 4:1-10) and their refutations, Paul concludes: "These things command and teach" (1Ti 4:11). Even those who nominally adhere to proper teaching need direction. "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God" (1Ti 6:17). Living up to these charges (commandments) brings real benefit in this life as well as in eternity: a pure heart full of agape love, a conscience unfettered by sin and false doctrine, and a sincere faith, not weakened by hypocrisy (1Ti 1:5).
If we would be disciples, we should mind the charges given to Timothy.