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The Chastisement of the Chosen Nation
With this chapter the second division of the prophecy begins, going on to the end of chapter 6, embracing the word of the Lord to Israel, a last solemn remonstrance ere carrying out the predicted judgment we have just been noticing.
It is not merely the ten tribes that Amos addresses under the name of “sons of Israel” in this prophecy, but “the whole family which [the Lord] brought up from the land of Egypt” (ver. 1). They are viewed as one nation though divided into two kingdoms at that time. Their special privileges made them far more responsible than their ignorant heathen neighbors. “You only,” He says, “have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities” (ver. 2). This is a divine principle we should never lose sight of. “Responsibility flows from relationship.” Because Jehovah had separated Israel from the nations, and taken them into covenant with Himself, they were expected to yield that obedience which their favored position demanded; otherwise they must be the special objects of His disciplinary dealing. The same is true as to the assembly of God in this dispensation, viewed collectively, and of every individual saint likewise. We are called to walk worthy of our exalted vocation; and if we do not, we incur our Father’s discipline. Nor does chastisement prove that God’s heart is hardened against us; but the contrary. It is His love that leads Him so to act. The world may go on in its folly, and know little of such governmental care; but it must be otherwise with the people who are called by the name of the Lord.
Verse 3 lets us into the secret of true fellowship. Two can walk together only when they are agreed. It is not a question of seeing all details alike, but of having common thoughts as to the ground of their communion together. God cannot walk with gainsayers in that intimate, happy sense that is here contemplated. Neither can saints walk together in holy association if the one seeks to honor God, and the other has lapsed into loose thoughts and evil ways.
Beginning with verse 4, the prophet declares the reason for his message. Results spring from adequate causes. The trumpet was to be blown, that the people might tremble, for God was about to bring evil upon them. “Shall there be evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?” is His challenge. This verse has perturbed some, over-zealous for the reputation of the Lord of hosts. But evil is, of course, calamity (not sin), as we have seen in the first chapter of Joel, and which God uses as His rod of discipline. Of this Amos was to warn the careless inhabitants of the cities of Israel.
He has good cause to prophesy. God has revealed His secrets to him. Therefore he must boldly proclaim them. “The Lord God hath spoken; who can but prophesy?” (vers. 4-8). This is high ground indeed; but it is the only proper ground for one who essays to minister divine truth. If God has not spoken, then one man’s guess is as good as another’s; one philosopher’s speculations are as worthy of credence or consideration as those of his fellows. But if God Himself has spoken, as He has in His Word, that at once settles everything for the one who fears Him. His servant has naught to do but proclaim what has been revealed, rejecting “oppositions of science, falsely so called,” and all “vain imaginations.”
This is the value of Scripture; and of this Satan would subtly seek to rob us at the present time. God has revealed His will in His Word. “The Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets.” Therefore the man of faith accepts the prophetic writings, to which the Lord Jesus has set His seal, as a final court of appeal; knowing that “holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” Here faith triumphs, where mere reason stumbles in the dark; vainly endeavoring to peer into the future, to explain the past, or to understand the present.
It has often been alleged by opponents of the inspiration of the Bible that unless we were prepared to believe that the writers of the various books were infallible, it was idle to talk of the unerring Scriptures; and this in face of the solemn declaration of the Lord Jesus that “the Scripture cannot be broken.” But the question of human infallibility does not come in at all. When God speaks, one needs but to be obedient, not infallible, in giving out what He has made known. So it was with Amos and his fellow-servants of the prophetic band. An amanuensis need not have exact knowledge of the events concerning which he writes at the dictation of another. He hears the word, and transcribes accordingly. Thus can we understand the Old Testament writers, “searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify (or point out) when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow.” It is only unbelief that could make any difficulty here.
The prophetic message is given in vers. 9 to 15. Israel’s dispersion is foretold; but that a remnant shall be saved is likewise made known.
In the palaces of Philistia and Egypt it is to be published that, because of their sins, the Lord God would no longer be a bulwark to His people. The nations that had once been witnesses of His power would now witness His righteousness. When His people walked not with Him, He could only give them up to chastisement.
But as the Eastern shepherd “taketh out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear; so shall the children of Israel be delivered that dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus on a couch.” The shepherd who lost one of the flock would have to be responsible for the same, unless he could bring proof that it was torn of beasts; therefore his anxiety to recover a portion, if only the tip of an ear, of the creature devoured. So shall God preserve a portion of Israel, though a very small remnant, from being devoured by the wild beasts of the Gentile empires. Their transgressions must be visited upon them because of their idolatrous practices, of which the altar at Bethel, set up by Jeroboam the son of Nebat, was a standing memorial. Its fall would involve the destruction of those who gloried in their wealth and reveled in luxury, careless of the fallen state of Israel. This is more fully gone into in ch. 6:1-6, which will be noticed in its place.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Amos 3". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29