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Subject: Christian Religious Studies
Topic: True Religion and Social Justice
Lesson Objectives: At the end of the lesson, learners should be able to:
i. Explain what true religion is,
ii. Recount the social vices at the time of Amos and in Nigeria today,
iii. Point out that our Christian leaders need courage to break up against the areas in the society especially as it affects the government,
iv. Recognise that there is punishment for evil doers,
v. Point out that at times, those who speak the truth are in danger of losing their lives of facing opposition by their compromising colleagues.
True Religion (Amos 5:21 – 24)
Apart from social justice that had been corrupted, true religion of the Israelites was no longer practised as they have deviated from observing the covenant made with God. Their hearts were not truly with God, they only pretended by fulfilling the physical obligations of worship such as payment of tithes and offerings sacrifices while the real fear of God was not in them. This was the reason for the social injustices and oppression which characterised the society at that time.
True religion had been polluted with the worship of idols, a case in point was the golden calves made by Jeroboam which he put, one at Bethel and the other at Dan. This Bethel was the place of worship for the Israelites by them. Also there were also other idols brought in by foreign women that various kings of Israel had married. All these combined to pollute the true worship of God in Israel. Because sin had eaten deep into their life, Israel became a nation that hated truth. People that showed them the way of the Lord were harassed rather than turning to God with their whole heart, they felt they could appease God by their numerous sacrifices. God rejected their offerings and sacrifices because they were not from people of pure hearts.
“I hate, I despise your feast, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings. I will not accept them and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justification roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever – owing stream’ (Amos 5:21 – 24).
The Theme of Amos’ Message To The Israelites
i. The people should repent and seek God with all their strength and might so that God would surely forgive them and repent of the evil he intended to bring upon them.
ii. The people should uphold justice in all their dealings.
iii. Righteousness should be transparently seen in their life.
iv. God was after their hearts and not after their songs and burnt offerings.
v. They should do away with foreign religious practices.
vi. The days of the Lord should be kept with ordinances and statutes.
Lessons To Learn
i. People should worship the Lord in truth and in spirit and not just by more outward expression of morality.
ii. Payment of tithe and offerings is meaningless if Christians do not live upright life.
iii. The society should love those who speak the truth. Abhorring the truth enhances evil which may lead to catastrophe for the society. If the Israelites had hardened to the warning of the prophets, probably they would have escaped being taken into captivity.
iv. Too much love for luxury and pleasure drag people into all kinds of evil and social vices. This was the case with the Israelites; let us endeavour to avoid it.
v. In Nigeria, bribery, corruption and cheating (“419”), oppression of the poor by the rich, injustice in the law court etc, have their roots in love of money, pleasure and luxury. All these have created more hardship in the Nigerian society. Christians should follow the way of the Lord for a better society.
Amos prophesied in Israel when there was religious and social decadence in Israel. His message centered on correcting the social ills by appealing to the people to uphold justice and righteousness, hence Amos was generally referred to as a prophet of social justice and righteousness. He also implored the people to forsake their evil ways and turn to God with all their hearts. By this, he canvassed for true religion in Israel. He also warned the Israelites of the imminent danger due to their failure to repent and serve the Lord in truth and in spirit. He said God would raise a nation that would destroy Israel and they would go into captivity. He equally gave a message of hope that if people would repent and turn from their evil ways; God would also repent from the evil He intended bringing upon them.
Social Justice (Amos 2:6 – 8, 4-5; 1:20, 7:10 – 17, 8:1 – 14)
There was a high level of social moral decadence in Israel as at the time Amos prophesied. The focus of his prophesy was mainly injustice which had eaten deep into the social life of the Israelites. The ordinances and statutes of God as given by Moses were not strictly followed. In fact, there was no true fear of God in the mind of the people. God was annoyed. Amos was therefore called by God to go and warn the people of the punishment that await them if they failed to repent from their evil ways.
The theme of Amos’ prophecy is summed up in the book of Amos 2:6 – 8:
“For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes. They that trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted; a man and his father go into the same maiden, so that my holy name is profaned: they lay themselves down beside every altar upon every garments taken in pledge; and in the house of God they drink the wine of those who have been condemned” (Amos 2:6 – 8).
By this statement, Amos was invariably addressing the following issues:
i. The judges took bribes and perverted justice. The poor were denied justice because the judges collected bribes from the rich and passed judgement in their favour.
ii. The poor were robbed of their properties. They pledged such property to borrow money, but when they were unable to redeem it, such property would not be returned to them.
iii. The rich exploited the poor by selling to them with false weights and measures, thereby becoming richer at the expense of the poor who they exploited. The society was made up of “haves” and the “have not”.
iv. There were also cases of forced slavery. Some poor farmers who borrowed money from the money lenders were forced to become servants to the lenders when they could not pay back. The poor were humiliated in various ways.
v. Sexual immorality was in the increase. In some cases, such reckless sexual acts were carried out in the house of God. This was a great abomination in the sight of God.
vi. Both the wine from those fined and the garments taken from those that pledged were supposed to be kept untouched but the rich slept on these garments and drank the wine even in the house of God.
vii. Amos called the Samaritan women cows of Bashan because some of them indirectly took part in this humiliation, intimidation and oppression by encouraging their husbands to bring home their ill gotten wine for them to drink.
(a) Opposition against Amos by Amaziah
When social injustice and religious malpractices of Israel had reached its peak. Amos condemned the social and religious immoralities among the people. The priest of the royal sanctuary of Bethel Amaziah reported Amos to the King accusing him of conspiracy and sedition.
Amos was then ordered to go back to Judah where he belonged to prophesy, he pronounced the following curses on Amaziah.
i. Amaziah’s wife would become a harlot in the city.
ii. His sons and daughters will be slain by the sword.
iii. His land would be divided by line
iv. Israel would surely go into exile away from its land.
(b) Reasons why those who opposes God would be condemned
i. Since God is our creator, it is very wrong to oppose Him.
ii. Opponents of God are evil to other; they deceive others.
iii. They should be condemned because their teaching leads to unhappiness and destruction.
iv. They violate God’s law, word and will.
As Amos pointed out the evils in the society, he warned the people on the punishment that would come upon them if they failed to repent.
i. Amos said the Samaritan women would be taken into exile in hook that is, fish hook and they would be cast into Harmon. As they took part in the oppression of the poor by encouraging their husbands to do evil, they would be humiliated in like manner and taken to exile. (Amos 4:1)
ii. Those who exploited the poor to build for themselves houses of hewn stone would not dwell in the houses not like to drink the wine of the vineyard they planted. They would all be taken to exile as punishment for their numerous sins (Amos 5:11).
iii. “In all squares, there shall be wailing; and in all streets they shall say, ‘Alas! Alas!” (Amos 5:16). This shows that the punishment that would come upon them would be so great that the people would weep bitterly.
iv. “Your wife shall be a harlot in the city, and your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword.” (Amos 7:17). All these statements point to the fact that the Lord would raise a nation that would fight Israel, defeat them and take them into captivity.
v. All the people hoping on the business that they would carry out over the years and possible exploitation of the poor would have their hope dashed while their feast would be turned into mourning. (Amos 8:1 – 14)
Vices Condemned By Amos Which Are Still Rampant In Our Society
i. Oppression of the poor by the wealthy: Low wages are paid to the poor for services rendered to their masters or employers.
ii. Injustice in the courts: The rich bribe their way through in the courts and the poor rarely receive just judgement.
iii. Cheating in business: Some rich and influential business men have perfected the art of edging or pushing the poor out of business.
iv. Luxury: With much of the national revenue in the hands of a rich few who daily become richer at the expense of the poor, the rich build palaces and own expensive limousines and enjoy all forms of luxury at the expense of the poor.
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Take a quick test for this lesson
i. “I am neither prophet, nor prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman and a dream of sycamore trees.” Give an account of the event which led to this statement? What else did the speaker say on this occasion?
ii. Describe any three practices which Amos condemned in the religious life of Israel and indicate three things he recommended in their places.
iii. Enumerate the various social vices in Israel which Amos addressed in his prophecies.
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