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CRITICAL NOTES.] Hear] Cf. beginning of chaps. 5 & 6, indicating this chap. to be one whole address. Whole] Though the ten tribes threatened, yet all Israel are concerned and warned.
Amos 3:2. Known] Not only love and care, but gracious fellowship and treatment (Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 4:20); “including both the motive and result of election.”
GOD’S CHASTISEMENT OF A COVENANT PEOPLE.—Amos 3:1-2
Before the end of chastisement can be answered its nature must be discerned. In itself it may seem of no moment, but when viewed as the expression of God’s purpose it is significant. Israel therefore should hear, for God Himself speaks and will punish. Thrice does Amos address the same solemn call to a nation whose former favours do not exempt from impending ruin—“Hear this word.”
I. The grounds for chastisement. God always deals wisely, and often gives reasons for certain proceedings against us. The grounds of Israel’s punishment are specified.
1. Peculiar relationship abused.
(1) Individually abused—“children of Israel.” Each member of the tribes, every person in the nation, was owned and cared for by God.
(2) Socially abused—“the whole family.” God separated them from others, and united them into one family. This was a natural protest against selfishness, a merciful design to secure obedience to the Supreme Lawgiver, and a method of Divine mercy to mankind. “At that time will I be the God of all the families of Israel.” But Israel cherished not the disposition of children and disowned their relation to God. “If I be your father where is mine honour?”
2. Distinguished privileges neglected. “Which I brought up from the land of Egypt.” They were redeemed from bondage and brought up, led to Canaan. This redemption was like a second creation, and a special ground for gratitude. But God’s goodness to the nation was forgotten, and his gifts despised. Remarkable deliverances are remembered by God, and should be improved by us.
3. Special obligations denied. God blessed and loved them like no other people. “You only have I known of all the families of the earth.” Others were aliens; they were children. They were distinguished by rank and favour, “made a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.” But they dishonoured their character, and violated their obligations to God. Iniquity in some is disobedience to express commands, revolt against Divine authority, and the addition of ingratitude to sin. “Forget not all his benefits.”
II. The design of chastisement. The nearer to God the greater the fall from him. Professors can either praise or profane the name of God. Their sins are more provoking than those of other men. They are against greater light, a higher principle of life, and more exalted relationship. God will not wink at sin in his most favoured children. “Therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities.”
1. Punishment to purify moral character. God will have all his children to be like him. Bastards may escape, but sons must be chastised. Luther cried, “Strike on, Lord, strike on, for now I know that I am thy child.” “As a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee.”
2. Punishment to fit for greater service. Afflictions remind us of forgotten duty, give discipline for future life, and fit us for a world of sin and sorrow. They make us more fervent and holy, stronger with God and more pitiful to men.
“More skilful in self-knowledge, ever more pure
As tempted more; more able to endure
As more exposed to suffering and distress;
Thence also more alive to tenderness” [Wordsworth].
3. Punishment to warn others of danger. “Against the whole family “was the judgment denounced. They were the elect and beloved of God, but their sins only deepened their guilt and made them a warning to others. The lessons imparted to one people are for the benefit of another. There is unity and aim in the moral life of all nations. Exalted privileges everywhere bring heavier responsibility, and shameful abuse severer punishment. Hear this word of the Lord. For “the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 3
Amos 3:1-2. Special favours. Men are not to be envied simply because they are endowed with special favours. Those very endowments, unless they are faithfully used, only augment responsibility, deepen guilt, and ensure a more terrible retribution. Where much has been given much will be required. It will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, &c. [Dr Thomas].
Amos 3:3. Two] The prophet and the Spirit of God. Israel did not believe that God threatened such denunciations by the prophets (ch. Amos 6:1-3; Amos 1:7-8). Amos spoke because God commanded him.
Amos 3:4. Lion] roars when the prey is before it, before it actually seizes it, and there is no possibility of escape. “After the roar there immediately follows both slaughter and laceration. For as a rule it only roars with that sharp roar when it has the prey in sight, upon which it immediately springs.” A young lion] which goes in pursuit of prey, and is distinguished from the one that lies silent until the old one brings prey near; then the scent rouses him.
Amos 3:5. Bird] God not only has the nation ripe for judgment in his power, but the judgment is deserved. As birds are not taken without the net of the fowler, and he does not take it up until he has secured his prey, so God not only threatens, but is prepared to execute.
Amos 3:6. Trumpet] blown in the city alarms every one; the coming evil should rouse from self-security (Ezekiel 33:1-5).
Amos 3:7. Lord] This explains all the similes. God is the author of these calamities. Prophets] being servants of God, must obey him in setting forth judgments upon Israel (Jeremiah 20:9; Ezekiel 9:11).
Amos 3:8.] As when the lion roars all men fear, so when God speaks I must prophesy (Acts 4:20; Acts 5:29).
DIVINE INTENTIONS AND EXECUTIONS.—Amos 3:3-8
In a few similes drawn from daily life, the prophet answers objections which break the force of his threatenings and establishes his right to prophesy. The words might be taken to describe the nature of the punishment mentioned in Amos 3:1; Amos 2:1. It is from God and not any secondary source.
2. It is deserved.
3. It is prepared.
4. It will certainly be executed.
5. There is no possibility of escape. “As the net does not spring up without catching the bird, that has sent it up by flying upon it, can ye imagine that when the destruction passes by, ye will not be seized by it, but will escape without injury” [Hitzig]? We shall take the words as a solemn warning to rouse careless sinners, and show that word and deed are one with God. He will execute what he threatens.
I. Threatening is identified with execution. Threats are not simply to frighten men. Punishment will not come, unless it has been prepared.
1. Punishment is intended. You have no need to presume on God’s favours and God’s presence with you. You do not agree and walk with God. You forget his law, and dishonour his name. There is a reason for the severity. If you walk contrary to God, he will not walk with you. If we grieve the Holy Spirit and offend God, they will depart from us.
2. Punishment will be executed. God will not warn of calamity unless there be fit objects of his indignation. His threats are not empty sounds. He has said and will do, spoken and will perform. The lion only roars when he is about to spring on his prey, and God only threatens when he is about to punish. He can neither lie nor change; he is faithful and true.
II. Execution must be traced to God himself. The word and the providence of God declare this.
1. God’s servant declares the truth. God has revealed his secrets to the prophet, and he utters the purpose of God and not his own. What right had he to speak? some would say, and the reply is: he was the servant of God, specially called and qualified. He shunned not “to declare the whole counsel of God.” His strength consisted in knowing that he was doing his Master’s will, and speaking his Master’s word. “The Lord hath spoken, who can but prophesy?”
2. God’s providence entrapped the nation. Calamities which befall nations and kingdoms do not happen by chance. God’s hand must be seen in them. If a bird is caught in the snare, the snare was designed for it. So when a people are involved in judgments, God has prepared the peril and misery for them. And as no fowler takes up the net without securing the prey, neither will God withdraw his judgments until he has accomplished his purpose. Men may resist this truth, but it is seen every day. Misfortunes as punishments are not casual, but come from God. They have a real author, a definite cause, and a special aim. God sends them in righteous retribution, determines beforehand who shall suffer, and who escape. “He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct? he that teacheth man knowledge, shall he not know” (Psalms 94:7; Psalms 94:9; Micah 6:9)?
III. Warning is given before the execution of threatening. In the last image the prophet seeks to rouse them to a sense of danger before it be too late. Repentance may break the snare, and men may be delivered in mercy.
1. The alarm is given. “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid?” They heed the sound which warns of approaching danger, tremble in fear, and seek to escape. Or when the punishment has actually come, they ascribe it to the right source, and humble themselves before God. “Shall there be evil in a city and the Lord hath not done it?”
2. The danger is made known. “The lion hath roared, who will not fear?” &c. God speaks through his servants, who reveal his hatred to sin, and his justice in punishing it. He has always warned of the danger before it actually comes. “Thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.” The living ministry and the written scripture are a perpetual warning to men of a judgment to come. Be not found unprepared. We may repent now, but if we obstinately continue in sin God will be just in the punishment of it. “I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words nor to my law, but rejected it.”
WALKING IN AGREEMENT WITH GOD.—Amos 3:3
Taking these words generally we learn—
I. Agreement with God is necessary to walking with God. “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” God and the sinner are not in agreement. They are at variance in heart and life. There is nothing common between them. They are opposite, as two travellers walking in different directions. Those who justify self and disobey God, must recognize their guilt, and avail themselves of the blood of Jesus. They must agree with God—
1. In disposition.
2. In character.
3. In conduct. There is a basis for friendship in Christ, and men may live at peace with God. “Be ye reconciled to God.”
II. Agreement with God will show itself in walking with God. Friendship naturally develops itself in unity of mind and pursuit, in acts of gratitude and love. David and Jonathan were real friends, and walked together. Abraham was the friend of God because he obeyed God and had perfect confidence in him. If we are agreed with God, we shall seek to please and obey him. Our life will be like that of Enoch, a constent, habitual, daily walk with God. Walking together is a common act of human fellowship, indicating “evenness and similarity of gait,” interchange of thought and opinion, and anxious desire to “keep step.” Walking implies action and progress. Our life should be devoted to God, and our deeds performed through and for God. If we are God’s people, his will will be the rule and his glory the end of our life in all things. “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever things I command you.”
III. Disagreement with God will interrupt walking with God. “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” When companions disagree they never walk together. Sin is disagreement with God, separates from him, and puts us in opposition to his will and word. It is a breach of the agreement, and a step in a crooked direction; “For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” Outward profession, without love and conformity to God, will prevent us walking with God. Insincerity of any kind will grieve the Holy Spirit and offend God. God will never walk with us unless we walk with him. God is ready to walk with us, “But if ye walk contrary unto me” (margin, “at adventures with me,” or another reading, “at hap-hazard with me,” in jerking, spasmodic fashion), “then will I also walk contrary unto you” (Leviticus 26:0).
“My business now is with my God to walk,
And guided by his holy eye to go;
Sweet fellowship with him to cultivate,
And his unclouded countenance to know” [J. F. Elwin].
PREPARATION FOR REVIVAL.—Amos 3:3
The believer is agreed with God concerning the Divine law; that it is “holy, and just, and good”—that a breach of the law should be visited with penalty; agreed with God in the atonement for sin which God has provided in Christ; and at one with God in his love of holiness. This agreement gives us power to walk with God. As a Church our hearts are set upon a revival of religion in our midst. We need as the first and most essential thing that God should walk with us. If we desire his presence we must perfectly agree with him both in the design of the work and the method of it.
I. Let us avow our desire that in our present efforts we may walk with God, otherwise our strivings after revival will be wearisome, and always end in disappointment. If we are not favoured by God’s presence in our attempts at revival, prayer will be greatly dishonoured and the Church left in a worse condition than it was before. Consider the blessings which flow from God’s presence upon the ministry, the Church, and the congregation, and let this confirm your desire.
II. If we would have the presence of God, it is necessary that we should be agreed with him. We must be agreed with him as to the end of our Christian existence; as to real desirableness and necessity of the conversion of souls; as to the means to be used in revival, and as to our utter helplessness in this work. If any good should be done all the glory must be given to him.
III. Let us put away all those things which offend our God. Before God appeared at Sinai Israel had to cleanse themselves for three days. So here. Is there pride in me? Am I slothful? Am I guilty of worldliness? Am I covetous? Am I of an angry spirit? Is there any lust in me? If so God will not walk with me. If the Master’s spirit is in you, and you long to see brighter and better days, lift up your heads with confidence in him who will walk with us if we be agreed with him [Spurgeon].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Amos 3:3-7. In these verses are Five Parables all showing God’s moral government in the affairs of the world and of his Church; and that nothing in the history of either happens by chance, but is ordered by him, using the natural elements and the greatest nations of the world as instruments for the punishment of sins committed after deliberate warning, and for the manifestation of his power and glory [Wordsworth].
Amos 3:3. Walking with God.
1. As individuals we must be reconciled with him.
2. As churches, co-operate with him.
3. As a nation, promote his glory.
Amos 3:6. The voice of God in the city. No chance, fate, nor second cause has sent the evil. It must all be traced to God. His voice must be heard—
1. In the consciences of its people. They have a presentiment of danger at the sound of the trumpet, hasten together and devise means of escape. However stupid and blind in sin, God has a witness within men, that sin brings sorrow, and is the cause of their misery. Hence the appeal, “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?”
2. In judgments upon its sins. Drunkenness, debauchery, neglect of God’s house, and contempt of his word. “Evil is of two sorts, evil of sin and evil of punishment. There is no other; for evil of nature, or evil of fortune, are evils, by God’s providence, punishing the evil of sin. Evil which is sin the Lord hath not done; evil which is punishment for sin the Lord bringeth. The providence of God governing and controlling all things, man doth ill which he wills, so as to suffer ills which he wills not” [Pusey].
Amos 3:7. In this verse a high honour is vindicated to the prophetical office. The holy men of God were, by inspiration, entrusted with a knowledge of the Divine purposes, in so far as it was necessary for them to divulge them to the world [A. Elzas].
God’s secrets with his servants.
1. In the spiritual insight into his word. Our darkness does not comprehend the light. God imparts understanding, the threatenings become more solemn, and the promises more precious.
2. In the revelation of his will to man. God has spoken to men through patriarchs, prophets, and apostles. He speaks to us by the ministry now, and does nothing without disclosing it to his servants. This has ever been the law of the Divine procedure. Nothing is coming upon men which has not been revealed. “The grand outlines of the plan of Divine providence, and the events of history, to this day and to the end of the world, were made known to the prophets of Israel and Judah, and a very large proportion of them, many ages before they took place; so that a general history of mankind, as to the most important facts, might be composed from their writings” [Scott in loco].
Amos 3:8. Who can but. The intensity of feeling expressed in these words indicates—
1. An inward struggle. Shall I keep back or proclaim the unwelcome truth? Shall I alienate some, harden others, and render myself unpopular (Jeremiah 20:9; Ezekiel 33:7)? Here under depressing influence. To such inquiries the answer is, “The Lord God hath spoken.”
2. The declaration of a necessity. Every true servant must utter the word given to him. Moses, though slow of tongue; Isaiah, of polluted lips; and Jeremiah, though a child, were not excused. The apostles were influenced by this spirit (Acts 4:20); and Paul exclaimed, “Necessity is laid upon me, yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.”
3. The assertion of a law. God calls and commands his prophets, their own spirits prompt them: hence they cannot hesitate or refuse; they must speak, whether men will hear or forbear. “Who can but prophesy?”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 3
Amos 3:3. When God walks with a nation that nation prospers, but if that nation falls to words with God, quarrels with him about his will and law, and rushes perversely into sinful courses;—nay, if there be some in it who have no God at all, who do their best to extirpate his very name from the earth which he himself has made, then we cannot expect that God should continue to walk with such offenders. Consider whether there has not been enough in England, and especially in this great city, to make God angry with us? Has there not been grievous disagreement between the dwellers in this city and God [Spurgeon]?
Amos 3:3-6. The first question was taken from travellers, the second from wild beasts, the third from fowlers; the fourth question implies that inasmuch as God had a purpose in sending tribulation, he will not remove it until that design is answered; and the fifth, that an awakening should be the result [Ibid.].
Amos 3:9. Publish] upon (the floor of) the palaces, some; others, over them, to call the princes and inhabitants to hear and see the acts of violence, and testify against Israel. “Ashdod, one of the Philistian capitals, is mentioned by way of example, as a chief city of the uncircumcised, who were regarded by Israel as godless heathen; and Egypt is mentioned along with it as the nation whose unrighteousness and ungodliness had once been experienced by Israel to satiety. If therefore such heathen as these are called to behold the unrighteous and dissolute conduct to be seen in the palaces, it must have been great indeed” [Keil]. Tumults] Heb. denotes a state of confusion and noise in which order and justice are overthrown by open violence.
Amos 3:10. Regard not] Not merely ignorant, but cherish a state of mind hostile to knowledge. Moral corruption blinded the power of discernment, so that the magnates of Samaria had no regard for right.
Amos 3:11.] Whatever was boasted of would be removed.
Amos 3:12.] By an appropriate and pastoral image the prophet declares that if a scanty remnant escape it will only be by miracle, like fragments of sheep left by the lion. Grandees who sit on costly divans and rest in ease will escape with great difficulty (ch. Amos 6:1-4).
NATIONAL CALAMITIES.—Amos 3:9-12
The sins of Israel are to be punished, and heathen nations are summoned to witness. This turn in the address indicates the exceeding sinfulness of the sins, such as to surprise the heathen and put Israel to shame.
I. National guilt. Sin brings shame. From the heights around the injustice of Israel is beheld.
1. Moral sensibility impaired. “They know not to do right.” God has planted a sense of right in the breast of every one. This should be cultivated and strengthened. Indulgence in sin blunts this moral sensibility, and men at length become unable to do and perceive good. The love of evil blinds the power of discernment, and brings moral corruption (Jeremiah 4:22). “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.”
2. Public justice perverted. Courts of law were the scenes of injustice, and the rights of the people were neither known nor cared for. The poor were oppressed. God and his law were set at nought, violence and robbery prevailed, and evil customs reigned supreme.
3. Shameless fraud committed. “Who store up violence and robbery in their palaces.” One sin leads to another. Riches gained by fraud will never be used as means of benevolence and justice. All oppression is cruel; but to defraud the poor to increase unrighteous wealth is aggravation most insulting to God (Psalms 11:5; Psalms 12:5). Men may store up their treasures, and fill their palaces, to crush the poor and cheapen their luxuries. But “sin pays its servants very bad wages,” says a quaint author; “for it gives the very reverse of what it promised. While the sin of oppression promises mountains of gold, it brings them poverty and ruin. Injuries done to the poor are sorely resented by the God of mercy, who is the poor man’s friend, and will break in pieces his oppressor.” “The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them, because they refuse to do judgment.”
II. National disorder. “Behold the great tumults in the midst thereof.” Injustice and cruelty in the upper will ever bring alarm and confusion in the lower classes. A people intent on gain, turning law upside down, will create great tumults. National honour has been stained, and a reign of terror introduced by national disorders. Tumults have darkened the pages in the history of Greece, lost some of the noblest sons of Rome, and been terrible punishments to France. Let England remember that licentiousness and cruelty, fraud and oppression, will create confusion in the people; that wealth unlawfully gained, and unjustly stored; that mammon and pleasure habitually worshipped, will only “treasure up wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”
III. National disgrace. It is a shame to any person to have his guilt and punishment revealed to others. “Every nation,” says Ryan, “is ashamed when its disgrace is proclaimed to other nations, and especially if those nations are remarkable for their hostility to it. Of all nations that have ever existed, the Israelites were most vulnerable in this respect. The position which they were taught to maintain, the exclusiveness of that system which was given to them of God, made them conspicuous objects of attention to other people, and exposed them most completely to the language of reproach and scorn in the day of their humiliation.” But God puts men to shame now, to keep them from everlasting shame and contempt.
IV. National invasion. Civil discord would be followed by the ravages of an invading enemy. “An adversary” would hem them in on all sides, encircle the land and assault their habitations.
1. Power which they abused shall be taken away. “He shall bring down thy strength from thee.” They would be bereft of all strength and resources on which they depended (Proverbs 10:15). When God is angry strength will prove weakness, and wealth end in poverty.
2. Palaces which they stored shall be destroyed. “Thy palaces shall be destroyed.” Palaces are no defence to fraud and oppression.
3. There would be a general and complete overthrow of the kingdom, with only a remnant of escape. The rulers had been guilty of oppression and robbery; disregarded these evils in others, notwithstanding the tumults and disorders they created; and filled their palaces with the fruits of robbery. But as an appropriate punishment their violence should be broken, and their wealth stolen from them. “The spoilers must themselves be spoiled.”
“To wrong-doers the revolution of time brings retribution” [Shakespeare].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Amos 3:9-10. God’s assessors in judgment. The character assigned to the inhabitants of Philistia and Egypt is virtually that of assessors, who not only take cognizance of, but concur in the judgment executed (cf. Amos 3:13, lit. “Hear ye and testify against the house of Jacob”). From this we learn that in the execution of his righteous judgments God desires to obtain a verdict in the impartial human conscience. What is here figuratively represented by the neighbouring nations taking their stand on the mountains of Samaria takes place inwardly and silently in the minds of men. It is analogous to what in modern times is termed the verdict of public opinion. No institution is in danger until a sentence has been recorded against it in the tribunal of conscience and right reason. And the like may be said of the general stability and independence of nations. In such a case as the present two important ends are served.
1. The witnesses or jurors give a human attestation to the righteousness of the Divine procedure, and thus justify the ways of God. That they are themselves guilty and sinful makes their verdict all the more emphatic.
2. They thus obtain a truer and deeper acquaintance with God and his ways, and what they have seen in others becomes a warning to themselves [The Preacher’s Lantern, vol. 4].
“Heaven gives the needful but neglected call.
What day, what hour, but knocks at human hearts,
To wake the soul to a sense of future scenes?” [Young.]
Amos 3:10-11. Righteous requital.
1. Requital from God. “Thus saith the Lord God.” “There was no human redress. The oppressor was mighty, but mightier the avenger of the poor. Man would not help, therefore God would. An adversary there shall be even round about the land; lit. an enemy, and around the land” [Pusey].
2. Requital by means of their own sons. “Man’s sins are in God’s providence the means of his punishment. Their spoiling should invite the spoiler, their oppressions should attract the oppressor; and they, with all which they held to be their strength, should go forth into captivity” [Pusey].
“The cries of orphans and the oppressor’s rage
Doth reach the stars” [Dryden].
3. Requital justified by human testimony. “Publish in the palaces of Ashdod.” The transgressions of which Israel were guilty were to be manifest to others, and attested by the human conscience. “The Lord will be justified in his sayings and in his works, when he executeth judgment on us, and shall be cleared, even by the most unjust judges, when he is judged.”
Amos 3:12. The miserable remnant.
1. A remnant robbed of glory. Bereft of the national glory which once belonged to them, yet just enough to show that they had once been a part of it.
2. A remnant saved. After God’s righteous vengeance had accomplished its end, a remnant only shall be saved (Joel 2:32). “Taken out for the good of others, not their own.”
3. A remnant, injured by violence, rescued from danger, like a sheep almost devoured by the lion; taken at the last extremity, a monument of God’s mercy, and a proof of exposure to violence and risk.
As shepherds, ministers of God have to defend the flock against wild beasts and robbers. Carelessness should not permit one to be lost or injured. The Good Shepherd seeks to rescue all. Let none sit in ease and carnal security, lest they be destroyed by the lion going about seeking whom he may devour.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 3
Amos 3:9. Samaria. The metropolis of the kingdom of Israel was built on a round hill, near the middle of a large valley, surrounded by mountains on every side, by which it was completely overlooked. From these elevations persons might distinctly see what was done in the city [Elzaz].
Amos 3:10-11. They might seem to be secure and at ease in Samaria and Damascus, but vain would every such remedy against fear and sorrow prove. From the strong city, from the soft couch, they would be dragged to misery and destruction. In about 40 years after the time of this prophecy we read (2 Kings 17:3) of a siege of Samaria which lasted three years, at the end of which the city was taken; and after the horrors of war, the spoiling of their palaces and their wealth, the remnant was dragged into a distant land, to endure the miseries of captivity and exile [Ryan].
Amos 3:13. Hear] Addressed to heathen who have now to witness the punishment upon Israel.
Amos 3:14. Altars] Vengeance upon the centre from which spread the evils (1 Kings 12:32). Horns] destroyed in utter contempt and desolation (Exodus 27:2).
Amos 3:15. Houses] Eastern monarchs have summer and winter residences: the former upon mountains or in forests, the latter in cities and sheltered situations (Judges 3:20; Jeremiah 36:22). Ivory] Houses and palaces richly ornamented with this material will be entirely ruined. Samaria is threatened with the overthrow of its palaces, and the extermination of its people. Nothing will avail if righteousness be wanting in the day of the Lord (Proverbs 10:2).
DIVINE VISITATION.—Amos 3:13-14
These verses renew and raise the threatening to a higher degree. God will visit the transgressions of Israel upon him, and utter destruction will be the consequence of moral corruption.
I. The seats of idolatry overturned. A people guilty of false worship are incapable of seeing the evil and the danger of it. Sentence must be uttered against the house of Jacob, for they cannot escape Divine judgments.
1. The centres of idolatry destroyed. “The altars of Bethel” were the source of their sins, the fountain-head of their superstitions. A special judgment is pronounced against Bethel the religious, and Samaria the political, seats of corruption.
2. The objects of idolatry destroyed. Destruction is threatened against the horns of the altar, and all attractions to idolatry. These were to “be cut off” with violence and “fall to the ground.”
3. The votaries of idolatry destroyed. The teachers and supporters were to have their punishment according to their prominence. Their support was withheld, and their doctrines proved false. Their religion was not defence, and all their hopes were disappointed. Natural religion can never be a substitute for revealed. Those who trust in the former and reject the latter will sink into ignorance and sin. Every kind of false worship, instead of helping, will become an object of Divine displeasure. “So shall Bethel do unto you because of your great wickedness.”
II. The palaces of grandeur pulled down. “The great houses shall have an end, saith the Lord.” The mansions of the rich, with their pomp and splendour, extravagance and folly, shall be spoiled by the enemy. The capital shall be robbed, and all its magnificent palaces destroyed. Pride is not in keeping with prosperity. Prodigality to ingratitude will only increase misery. Habitations decorated with art and inlaid with ivory, which exclude the presence of God, will have an end and dissolve to dust.
III. The retreats of luxury destroyed. Luxury and pride generally follow idolatry. But we have “the same minute filling up of the picture,” says one, “in the threatenings against the luxurious retreats of the rich. ‘The winter house,’ with its comfortable shelter from the influences of cold; ‘the summer house,’ with all its spacious provision to secure a cool retreat from oppressive heat; ‘the house of ivory,’ which might show the refined taste of its possessor; and ‘the great house,’ which would display his wealth and give room for his revelry—all were marked, like trees in a forest; their end was determined, it would quickly come.” The palace of the prince and the cottage of the poor, the spacious mansion and the fortified castle, will one day come to ruin. Let us “build high,” and secure “that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Amos 3:13. Divine visitation. I. In relation to the prophets of God. A new charge is given to Amos and the rest of God’s servants, to understand the message themselves and proclaim it to others. “It is of little avail to testify, unless we first hear; nor can man bear witness to what he doth not know; nor will words make an impression, i.e. leave a trace of themselves—be stamped in or on men’s souls—unless the soul which utters them have first hearkened unto them” [Pusey]. II. In relation to others. “In the house of Jacob” the testimony must be given; but Philistines and Egyptians, as Amos 3:9, are called upon to witness. Not only God’s servants, but others have need to be roused from their slumber and quicken attention to the word and authority of God. In the space of six verses the prophet earnestly repeats the words, “saith the Lord.” Men of our time should not question nor limit the message of the gospel. Be imbued with the spirit of Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.” III. In relation to their design. The punishment of sin and the correction of God’s people. Sin is the procuring cause of all punishment. God may endure long, but will at length vindicate his holiness and visit “the transgressions” upon those who commit them.
Amos 3:14-15. We are strongly reminded here of what in recent years befell Paris and Rome, which have occupied analogous positions in the Papal world, to those which were then held in Israel by Samaria and Bethel [Preacher’s Lantern, vol. 4].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 3
Amos 3:14-15. Visit. The sins of a nation draw judgment after them as the moon draws after it the billows that beat upon the shore. Let no nation hope to escape judgment until it gets rid of sin. Judgments are but sins ripened into a harvest, subterranean fires breaking into volcanoes [Dr Thomas].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Amos 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30