Colourful Characters in the Old Testament: Amos
An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To explore how God calls some people to stand up for what is right even if it makes them unpopular.
Preparation and materials
- You will need an interactive whiteboard or flipchart, a plumb line and a roll of wallpaper or plain white paper, plus some pieces of Blu-Tack.
- Familiarize yourself with the story of Amos in the Old Testament book of the same name.
1. When I was at primary school, one of the games we played in class was Simon Says. Does anybody here know how to play that game? What are the rules? You have to follow and do exactly what Simon – and nobody else – says. If you don't follow Simon, you are out of the game.
Play a quick game of Simon Says. Stop after the second person or group is out.
2. How did being out feel? On the whole, people hate to feel different. They don't like to be out.
3. Can you think of a famous children's tale about someone or something being different, being the odd one out?
Yes, The Ugly Duckling. How do you think the ugly duckling felt when others were making fun of it?
If you can, write a few of the children’s responses on the whiteboard or flipchart.
It may not have liked being different. Can you think of any situations where a pupil might feel like the odd one out?
4. Today we are going to hear a Bible story about Amos.
Amos was a simple shepherd living in the south of Israel many years before Jesus was born. He was sent by God to take a very unpopular message to the people who lived in the north of the country.
It was a time when those who were wealthy made a lot of money and looked as if they were very religious, with all their festivals, offerings and sacrifices, but God was not happy about what they were doing so he sent Amos to tell them to change the way they lived and worshipped. He had to tell them that God turned a deaf ear to their songs and instrumental music and he refused to accept their offerings and sacrifices. The Lord was not pleased with them. I wonder why?
Amos gives the people God’s message
Amos stood in the middle of the marketplace at Bethel and openly accused the market traders of cheating their customers. They weighed incorrectly and overcharged to such an extent that the poor people could not afford to buy things. He even accused them of selling rubbish, but charging the prices paid for top-quality goods.
God wasn't pleased with the way the rich wasted money while the poor were treated like dirt. Poor people were forced to sell their winter cloaks and freeze and some of them who were in debt were sold as slaves just for the sake of the price of a pair of shoes. All of this was done in order for the rich to get richer while the poor became poorer.
The rich people, in their grand clothes and expensive scent, were accused by Amos of forcing others to steal and cheat in order to keep them in luxury. All of this had to stop.
God commanded them to treat all fairly and to be kind. While people were treated as things, God would not accept the rich people's empty worship. All their songs and worship were pointless if the way the poor were treated did not change.
Amos challenged the people to 'let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream' (Amos 5.24, NRSV). He told them that actions speak louder than words. Genuine deeds of mercy would do more to impress the Lord than carefully prepared sacrifices or melodies played on the harp.
5. Do you know what this is?
Show the children the plumb line.
Any ideas who uses one of these and for what?
A decorator will often use one to make sure that the wallpaper he or she is pasting on the wall is straight. Can I have a volunteer?
6. I want you to help me paste this roll of wallpaper (or paper) on the whiteboard or flipchart, but, just in case I get in trouble with the cleaners, I think we should use Blu-Tackrather than wallpaper paste.
Place the paper in such a way that it appears to be out of line and 'paste' another next to it.
Are these straight? What can we use to check? Yes, the plumb line!
Adjust the paper, using the plumb line as your guide.
7. Amos also knew about plumb lines and told the people that God would use a plumb line to check them and then they'd see how wonky their lives were!
8. Do you think the people liked to hear the message that Amos had for them from God?
No, they didn't want to hear his uncomfortable message. They were doing quite well without him, thank you very much. They certainly didn't like a poor country shepherd from the South telling them, the rich sophisticated people from the North, that they were wrong. How dare he do that? Who did he think he was? What made him think that God was giving him such a message to give to them? He was only a simple, smelly shepherd, out of place in the middle of a wealthy city. He was an ugly duckling that did not fit in, he stood out.
Pause and change the tone a little.
9. Let me tell you another story. On the way to a seaside village on the west coast of Wales was a row of cottages. There was a gap between some of the cottages and permission was given to build a house there.
After the foundations had been laid, they started building. It looked so out of place – the walls seemed crooked compared with all the other cottages around it. The locals thought that the builder had skimped on the foundations. After it had been finished, it was out of line with the cottages and slanted away from them. It certainly looked like the ugly duckling.
The owners asked the builders to check the plans and the walls because they were worried about the new house. When they checked, though, the new house matched the plans and all the walls were straight. The new house was fine – it was the older cottages that were the crooked ones! It was found that this was because the foundations for the older cottages had sunk over the years.
10. Amos must have looked so out of place to the rich people of Bethel. Like the new house in Wales, it wasn't Amos who was crooked and out of line – it was the rich people who wouldn't listen to God or turn away from their wrong ways.
11. History shows that the people did not listen to Amos' warnings. Within 40 years of his visit, however, the Assyrians had invaded Israel and the Northern kingdom had ceased to exist.
Time for reflection
We thank you that we have a guide to show us if our lives are straight.
Thank you that Jesus is our plumb line.
We pray especially today for the poor in our world and the relief agencies working to help them.
Help us to help them, too.
Ideas for follow-up activities
1. Visit Christian Aid’s 'Global Gang' (www.christianaid.org.uk/resources/games/index.aspx) and Tearfund’s (www.tearfund.org) websites and find out more about their work. Use the information found to produce a multimedia presentation on the work of either Christian Aid or Tearfund in a specific country.
2. There is an often-quoted saying: 'Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.' What do you think this means? Can you think of other sayings that could be used on a poster? Why not design a publicity poster using this slogan?
3. Devise a board game based on the work of Christian Aid or Tearfund.
4. During circle time, discuss the idea of being the odd one out or ugly duckling.
'Seek ye first the kingdom of God, (Hymns Old and New (Kevin Mayhew), 652, 2008 edition)