Uniform 06.21.2015: From Ivory Beds to Homeless Shelters

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Amos 6:4-8, 11-14

These verses from Amos are a scathing commentary on the lives of the comfortable. Chances are, if you’re reading this article (or discussing it in a Bible study, etc.), you are fairly comfortable. You may not have a bed made of ivory and bowls full of wine at your disposal, but you probably have running water. An indoor toilet. Heat in cold weather. Enough money to buy at least a meal a day. A way to travel to your place of employment—or, if you don’t currently work, a way to provide for your needs.

But it’s also likely that there are people in your city who don’t have these things. Have you ever seen them? Do you know any of them? Do you understand what their lives are like on a daily basis?

Several months ago, my Sunday school class spent an afternoon serving at a local food kitchen. Everyone who came had seen his or her share of pain, loss, and desperation. Some of them looked into our eyes and smiled. Others kept their heads down, whether from shame or weariness. We served them all gladly and brought extra cake to share. Then we went home to our cozy houses, safe and secure. As of this writing, we have not returned.

I think many of us are like my class: we see a need, we feel a tug on our hearts to help, and we take the time to go and serve. But it’s difficult to follow up. Schedules get in the way. We feel uncomfortable. We don’t know the best way to help.

Yesterday, I learned about a little girl named Hailey Fort. From the moment she first saw a homeless person at age 5, Hailey has worked tirelessly to help those with no place to live. Providing a simple sandwich grew into planting a garden that will supply more than 200 pounds of food per year for the homeless. Hailey’s latest project, at age 9, is to build low-cost sleeping shelters for homeless people. According to the article, she was trying to raise $1,000 on a GoFundMe page. But when I clicked on the link, I found that since her story went viral, Hailey had to keep raising her goal because of people’s generosity. Last time I checked, she’s at more than $25,000 on her way to $30,000!

This is a child, and she is making a life-changing difference for people in need. May God give us open hearts, willing spirits, and tireless hands to go out of our comfortable homes and do likewise.

Source: Genevieve Shaw Brown, “9-Year-Old Girls Building Personal Homeless Shelters for Her ‘Friends,’” ABC News, 4 June 2015, http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/year-girl-building-personal-homeless-shelters-friends/story?id=31506753 (accessed 7 June 2015).

Discussion

1. How often do you encounter needy people in your daily life?
2. Have you ever helped a needy person? If so, how? What was the result? Were you able to follow up with him or her?
3. What makes it difficult for us to take that first step and help someone in need? After helping one time, what makes it difficult for us to stay in touch and continue to be supportive?
4. How do you think God views our way of life in comparison with the ways that others live in our city? What do you think God would have us do about it?
5. Think of ways that your class can make a difference—even in the life of one needy person. What resources do you already have? What supplies would you need to gather? When would be the best time for you to follow through on your plans for this ministry? How can you ensure that you maintain a relationship with those in need?

Reference Shelf

Amos 4:6-12 echoes several motifs that the reader of the Twelve has encountered in Hosea and Joel. These motifs center on YHWH’s use of calamities in an attempt to get YHWH’s people to return to their God; e.g., famine, drought, blight, mildew, and locust plagues (cf., Amos 4:6-12; Hos 2:8-9; Joel 1–2). In keeping with the message of Amos, however, these motifs function differently in Amos than in Hosea and Joel. In Hosea and Joel, these motifs were part of a call to the people to change, while in Amos YHWH’s attempts to motivate Israel to change via natural disasters are reported as failures leading to pronouncements of punishment.

The hope for fertility also links Amos to other writings in the Twelve. As articulated in 9:13-14, this hope essentially reverses the judgments made earlier in Amos that affect the land (e.g., 4:6-11; 7:1-3, 4-6). Yet 9:13 and 14 present two substantially different paradigms. The first displays a utopian scenario, where the only problem is harvesting all the produce prior to the time of replanting and where wine flows from the mountains and hills like water. To be sure, these images are poetic and probably not intended literally; nevertheless, the images depict a carefree setting where life’s sustaining needs are met unequivocally. By contrast, the second image in 9:14 appears far less ambitious. In this scenario, it is enough to replant and rebuild with the hope of being present to participate in the harvest. The hope for restoration of the supra-abundant and normal fertility of the agricultural processes (9:13, 14 respectively) likely entered the text at different points. Amos 9:14-15 may well have followed 9:11 as a unified promise of restoration for the Davidic kingdom that was expanded with 9:12, 13 in order to connect Amos with Obadiah (9:12) and Joel (9:13). This development is evidenced in the fact that both 9:12 and 9:13 significantly expand the scope of the surrounding promises (9:11, 14).

Reference

James D. Nogalski, The Book of the Twelve: Hosea–Jonah, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2011) 270.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum and book since 2001. She attends church and leads an adult Sunday school class in Macon, Georgia. She enjoys reading fiction, spending time with her two daughters (ages 10 and 8), and watching television shows on Netflix. Her goal for 2015 is to tackle the bass clef on the piano.

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