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days, and I will not smell in 25 Have ye offered unto me your solemn assemblies.
sacrifices and offerings in the 22 Though ye offer me burnt wilderness forty years, O house offerings and your meat offer- of Israel ? ings, I will not accept them : 26 But
have borne the taneither will I regard the peace bernacle of your Moloch and offerings of your fat beasts. Chiun your images, the star of
23 Take thouaway from me the your god, which ye made to noise of thy songs; for I will yourselves. not hear the melody of thy viols. 27 Therefore will I cause you
24 But let judgment run down to go into captivity beyond Daas waters, and righteousness as mascus, saith the Lord, whose a mighty stream.
name is The God of hosts.
LECTURE 141). Terrors and mercies are both motives to repentance. Though the Lord had spoken in the previous chapter as if it were too late for Israel to repent, this appears to have been only as a means of moving the people to repentance. For the burden of the present chapter is this, “Seek ye me, and ye shall live.” First we have a lamentation for Israel's fall, then follows this express exhortation to seek God, with a promise of life ensuing if they did so. But they must not seek to idols at the same time. Neither must they pervert judgment. They must honestly seek the great Creator of the heavens and earth, the wonders of whose creation are here briefly described, as well as the righteous dealings of his providence.' He knows, He tells them, all their transgressions, and all their gross sins, such as perverting justice and oppressing the poor. But yet, enormous as their wickedness must have been in his sight, He still again exhorts them to seek good and not evil, that they might live; promising that so should the Lord of hosts be with them; He still charges them, as though it were not yet too late, to “abhor that which is evil,” and “cleave to that which is good.” Rom. 12. 9. But then suddenly the Lord speaks of wailing and mourning as though sure to overtake them, warns them that the day of the Lord, in which they might else have looked for joy, would prove a day of darkness to sinners, assures them by a strong figure of speech that escape is impossible, renounces their sacrifices as abominable unto Him, when He looked in vain for judgment and righteousness, and especially refers to their idolatrous practices as the object of his loathing, and the cause of the captivity which He denounces against them. Was it then too late for them to repent, or not? Were these threats of judgment incompatible with these promises of mercy ? Assuredly they were not. Rather they were designed to excite to repentance. The terrors of the Lord are one means of persuasion. But if neither his terrors nor his mercies will persuade, then his judgments will not fail to take effect.
The luxury of the rich in Israel is denounced. i Woe to them that are at ease lency of Jacob, and hate his pain Zion, and trust in the moun- laces: therefore will I deliver up tain of Samaria, which are nam- the city with all that is therein. ed chief of the nations, to whom 9 And it shall come to pass, if the house of Israel came ! there remain ten men in one
2 Pass ye unto Calneh, and house, that they shall die. see; and from thence go ye to 10 And a man's uncle shall Hamath the great: then go take him up, and he that burneth down to Gath of the Philistines: him, to bring out the bones out be they better than these king- of the house, and shall say unto doms? or their border greater him that is by the sides of the than your border?
house, Is there yet any with thee? 3 Ye that put far away the evil and he shall say, No. Then day, and cause the seat of vio- shall he say, Hold thy tongue: lence to come near;
for we may not make mention 4 That lie upon beds of ivory, of the name of the LORD. and stretch themselves upon 11 For, behold, the LORD comtheir couches, and eat the lambs mandeth, and he will smite the out of the flock, and the calves great house with breaches, and out of the midst of the stall; the little house with clefts.
5 Thatchant to the sound of the 12 Shall horses run upon the viol, and invent to themselves rock? will one plow there with instruments ofmusick,like David; oxen? for ye have turned judg
6 That drink wine in bowls, ment into gall, and the fruit of and anoint themselves with the righteousness into hemlock: chief ointments : but they are 13 Ye which rejoice in a thing not grieved for the affliction of of nought, which say, Have we Joseph.
not taken to us horns by our 7 Therefore now shall they go own strength ? captive with the first that go 14 But, behold, I will raise up captive, and the banquet of them against you a nation, O house that stretched themselves shall of Israel, saith the LORD the be removed.
God of hosts; and they shall 8 The Lord God hath sworn afflict you from the entering in by himself, saith the Lord the of Hamath unto the river of the God of hosts, I abhor the excel- wilderness.
LECTURE 1412. The vanity of trusting in our own strength. This is a chapter of awful import to those who live a life of heedless luxury. And the doctrine which it teaches is strongly enforced by a corresponding passage in the Epistle of St. James, beginning thus : “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.” Jas. 5. i. lu the Old Testament we may be the more surprised to find these words of warning to the wealthy; seeing that abundance of this world's good things is the promise of the Law to the devout. But the
wealth which is denounced, both by the prophet and by the apostle, is that which is amassed to the detriment of others, that which is spent in wasteful self indulgence. And so also it is of thos . who trust in riches that our Saviour speaks, when He says that they shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. But then how few have riches, without being tempted to trust in them! How few very great estates or fortunes are amassed, without wrong done to some, or to many, directly, or indirectly! how few are possessed, without the owners being apt to become self indulgent, arbitrary, vain, wasteful in their expenses, sumptuous in their fare, frivolous in their pursuits, and all too indifferent to the wants, temporal and spiritual, of their poorer brethren ! Surely there must be now many among the rich who might find their own case not ill described in this account of the wealthy in Israel, “ That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; that chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David; that drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments : but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.”
Most pointedly is a want of consideration for the afflicted here reproved in the prosperous. Most solemnly does the Lord straightway afterwards declare, that He abhors all such grandeur in bis people, and that He will deliver up to destruction the city so abhorred, “ with all that is therein." Most striking is the contrast of death and desolation then brought before the view, the house of feasting turned into the house of mourning, the gay throng all gone, and the dead man carried out in solitary silence, for his bones to be burnt by the nearest of kin left; the straitened condition of the besieged city not admitting of access to a sepulchre, and the horror stricken consciences of the guilty people not allowing them to “make mention of the name of the Lord !" And to escape from this judgment, God signifies, is hopeless, no more practicable than to run with horses on a rock, or to plow there with oxen; not practicable by any skill or strength of man, the only means these rich but wicked men seem ever to have thought of resorting to. They might indeed have escaped by repentance. This is always to be understood. They could not escape by taking to themselves horns, that is to say, exulting in their own strength. This is that which is always meant when God pronounces his judgments inevitable. What folly then for man to “rejoice in a thing of nought,” to cling to the vain hope of saving himself by his own ability! What madness not to cast ourselves wholly on the mercy and grace of God, freely confessing our sinfulness, admitting our helplessness, and looking only unto God for salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Judgments threatened to Israel and to Amaziah. i Thus hath the Lord God 10 Then Amaziah the priest of shewed unto me; and, behold, Beth-el sent to Jeroboam king he formed grasshoppers in the of Israel, saying, Amos hath beginning of the shooting up of conspired against thee in the the latter growth; and, lo, it midst of the house of Israel: was the latter growth after the the land is not able to bear all king's mowings.
his words. 2 And it came to pass, that 11 For thus Amos saith, Jerowhen they had made an end of boam shall die by the sword, and eating the grass of the land, then Israel shall surely be led away I said, o Lord God, forgive, I captive out of their own land. beseech thee: by whom shall 12 Also Amaziah said unto Jacob arise ? for he is small. Amos, thou seer, go, flee 3 The Lord repented for this: thee away into the land of JuIt shall not be, saith the Lord. dah, and there eat bread, and
4 Thus hath the Lord God prophesy there : shewed unto me: and, behold, 13 But prophesy not again any the Lord God called to contend more at Beth-el: for it is the by fire, and it devoured the great king's chapel, and it is the king's deep, and did eat up a part. court.
5 Then said I, O Lord God, 14 Then answered Amos, and cease, I beseech thee: by whom said to Amaziah, I was no proshall Jacob arise? for he is small. phet, neither was I a prophet's
6 The Lord repented for this: son; but I was an herdman, and This also shall not be, saith the a gatherer of sycomore fruit: Lord God.
15 And the Lord took me as 7 Thus he shewed me: and, I followed the flock, and the behold, the Lord stood upon a Lord said unto me, Go, prowall made by a plumbline, with phesy unto my people Israel. a plumbline in his hand.
16 Now therefore bear thou 8 And the LORD said unto me, the word of the LORD: Thou Amos, what seest thou? And I sayest, Prophesy not against said, A plumbline. Then said Israel, and drop not thy word the Lord, Behold, I will set a against the house of Isaac. plumbline in the midst of
17 Therefore thus saith the people Israel: I will not again LORD; Thy wife shall be an pass by them any more: harlot in the city, and thy sons
9 And the high places of Isaac and thy daughters shall fall by shall be desolate, and the sanc- the sword, and thy land shall be tuaries of Israel shall be laid divided by line; and thou shalt waste; and I will rise against die in a polluted land: and Isthe house of Jeroboam with the rael shall surely go into captisword.
vity forth of his land. LECTURE 1413. That God rules all with unerring justice. Two desolating judgments are here made to pass in review before the mind of the prophet, under inspiration of the Lord. And on his deprecating these visitations in behalf of helpless Israel, it is stated, in each instance, that “ The Lord repented for this : It shall not be, saith the Lord.” It is good for us then sometimes to consider what God could do, and might do justly, by way of punishing man's iniquity. It is good for us to intercede in behalf of a wicked world, lest He send a blight on our produce, or a consuming fire on our earth, and bring us to nothing in his wrath. But though the blight of devouring insects, and the consuming fire, were stayed by the prophet's prayer, it was not so with the plumbline which next he saw applied as an emblem of God's dealings with his people. This probably signifies, that whereas the blight and the fire would destroy all alike, there should be a more exact administration of justice in the judgment actually inflicted; the most guilty being most severely punished, and the faithful, if any such were left, and doubtless there were some, having a way made for their escape, in the general desolation of their country. This certainly is the principle of God's dealings with mankind, not to destroy the righteous with the wicked. And if in some instances his judgments seem to us general and indiscriminate, this is for want of our knowing who are righteous and who wicked, or for want of our duly considering how much it may hereafter redound to the gain of the best amongst mankind, to have fared here for a short time as ill or worse than the worst.
We have in this very chapter an instance in point, to shew us how little we are able to form a judgment beforehand. Amaziah the priest of Bethel, the idolatrous priest of the golden calves, brings a plausible accusation against Amos, and recommends him to fee from the wrath of the king, and to suppress the voice of prophetic truth in the precincts of the king's court. Amos owns he was no prophet by birth or training, until called from an humble avocation to prophesy to the Lord's people. Here we have on one side power and authority used for an unjust purpose, with every apparent probability that it will prosper and prevail. On the other hand the prophet appears to have no recognized office to plead, and no resource but to take refuge as advised in the land of Judah. But as we read on, the veil is lifted up. Prophecy discloses events that no one could surmise. The Lord is applying the plumbline of justice to the persecuting priest of Bethel. And the result is thus expressed by the mouth of the persecuted prophet: “ Therefore thus saith the Lord; Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land : and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.” Let us then judge nothing before the time; except so far as to hold this for certain, that God deals with all his people, and rules over all the world, by a line of impartial justice, by a rule of unerring truth.