Week 38: Daniel, Hosea, Joel, and Amos

Prepare these questions for Sunday, December 15, 2013.

The book of Daniel details the life and visions of Daniel, a young Israelite captured and deported to Babylon during the Babylonian invasion of Judah. Against great odds, in the midst of his literal enemies, Daniel maintained his faith in God and God was miraculously faithful in return.

1. Throughout this book, Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are faithful to what God has called them to do. They do not eat the royal wine and food and yet they are healthier than the other captives (Chapter 1). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego do not serve Babylon's god or worship the king's golden statue and are thrown into a furnace for it; yet they survive (Chapter 3). Daniel continues to pray to God against a written decree by King Darius and is thrown into a lion's den, survives, and encourages a change of heart in the king (Chapter 6). When these men were faithful, God was able to use them to influence the world around them. What is God calling you to do that could change your world, but may have uncomfortable or unwanted consequences? (although being eaten by lions is probably not a concern)

2. This book has several visions and dream interpretations (including the one that sparked the phrase, "the writing on the wall"-chapter 5). The ultimate point of all of these messages is that God is in control and that He will remain faithful to His people. Is this a truth you hold in your own life? How might you behave differently if you truly believed that God would never leave you, no matter how difficult your circumstances?

Hosea was a prophet who spoke to the northern kingdom of Israel for several years around 750 B.C. or so. Israel had blended their religion with that of the local peoples and depended far more on their institutions and rituals than they did on God and His law. Hosea used the imagery of an unfaithful woman to describe Israel during these turbulent years and encouraged the people to allow God to redeem and forgive them.

3.   Hosea's private life reflected God's love for Israel. Hosea married a woman known for being promiscuous (v. 1:2-3) , forgave her when she was unfaithful, and promised his own fidelity to her (v 3:1-3). If Hosea, with God's help, could forgive Gomer and God could forgive Israel, what sins could you possibly have that keep you separated from God? What purpose did Hosea's story serve for the Israelites and for us today?

Joel was a minor prophet who spoke about one specific event: a famine caused by a swarm of locusts. It is uncertain when this book was written or even when the famine happened since it doesn't reference any specific kings or battles as clues. Joel's main purpose was to encourage the Israelites to turn toward God in this time of crisis and not away from Him.

4. Read verses 2:12-13. What does God want from the Israelites? What does He want them to know about Him?

Amos was a different kind of prophet in Judah (the Southern kingdom). In fact, he is identified as a shepherd in the opening verses instead of as a prophet. His basic message is that God is angry at the injustice, corruption, greed, and selfishness of the people. The poor were oppressed, the justice system was corrupt, and the wealthy kept this process going. For his efforts, Amos was exiled, but his words were recorded for future generations.

5. Read verses 5:18-27. What is God's message in this passage? What does this passage say about the heart of God and His priorities? (Interestingly, verse 5:24 became a rallying point for the American Civil Rights Movement and is carved on the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. That's free information right there.)

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