free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!
CRITICAL NOTES.] This word] A mournful song (2 Samuel 1:17-10.1.27). Take up] Lit. lift up as if to cast down upon them.
Amos 5:2. Virgin] The Israelite state unsubdued by foreigners. Fallen] Violent death (2 Samuel 1:19-10.1.25), a figure of the overthrow of the kingdom. Rise] in the existing order.
Amos 5:3. Went] to war. The depopulated city is touchingly described (Deuteronomy 28:62).
THE FUNERAL DIRGE.—Amos 5:1-30.5.3
“In order to impress Israel the more, Amos begins this his third appeal by a dirge over its destruction, mourning over those who were full of life and thought themselves safe. A dirge like that of David over Saul and Jonathan, over what once was lovely and mighty, but which had perished” [Pusey].
I. The death of the nation. Israel was spiritually dead and debased. Like a virgin, she had lost her purity and fealty to God.
1. The state was destroyed. “She hath fallen.” Fallen by her sins and from her dignity.
(1) Inwardly destroyed. “She is forsaken upon her land.” Her true interests were neglected by her friends. She was forsaken by her own rulers and guides. With all her strength and resources she was morally helpless and none could defend her.
(2) Violently destroyed. “Cast down upon her soil.” She was prostrated by inward tendency and outward force. “Then will I leave thee upon the land, I will cast thee forth upon the open field” (Ezekiel 29:5; Ezekiel 32:4).
(3) Hopelessly destroyed. “There is none to raise her up.” Weakened by moral corruption and intestine strife; despised by men and forsaken by God, she could rise no more. Nothing can prop up a rotten nation, nor save a doomed people. Ichabod may be written when God has departed from us.
2. The people were decimated. The city from which thousands went equipped for war could scarcely muster one hundred. The people, cut off by sword and pestilence, could not furnish more than a tithe of their population. One common doom befell larger and smaller cities. The whole kingdom was helpless and ruined. “And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude; because thou wouldest not obey the voice of the Lord thy God.”
“Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
where wealth accumulates, and men decay.”
II. The mourning for the nation. God is gracious in showing to us our sins, and if we heed the accusation we may escape the lamentation. But people are obstinate and opposed to God.
1. The prophet mourned. This word which I take up against you.” He views the nation as dead, and he attends the funeral. He mourns not in poetic words, but in deep feeling. Every faithful minister at some time or other does the same. Samuel mourned over Saul; David wept because men kept not the law of God; Jeremiah grieved, and Paul had “great heaviness and continual sorrow.” Lamentations over fallen churches and wails over lost souls are most touching and too common! “I will weep bitterly; labour not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my people.”
2. The people mourned. Sad was the change and most distressing the condition of Israel. Sorrow entered every family; the state was deprived of its subjects; and there was none to help in her degraded condition. “If,” says a writer on this book, “an enemy who had depopulated our towns, and killed our fathers and mothers, were to come to our abodes, how would all rise to ruin such an enemy. We should do as the Jews did by Paul when they looked on him as an enemy (Acts 21:27-44.21.28), ‘they stirred up all the people and laid hands on him, crying out, Men of Israel, help!’ So should we encourage each other against sin and suppress it, saying:—‘Magistrates, ministers, men and brethren, help; sin is what destroys our people, wastes our cities, unpeoples our towns, opposeth the laws, and brings confusion everywhere.’ ”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 5
Amos 5:1-30.5.3. In a piteous lamentation of the miserable state of the Church of Christ in England in the reign of Queen Mary, written by that worthy martyr of God Nicholas Ridley (Works, Parker Society), we meet with most affecting reasons for sorrow and tears [Ryan].
“If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.” [Shakespeare.]
Amos 5:4. Live] Not only remain alive, but possess real favour.
Amos 5:5. Bethel] “A strong dissuasive from idolatry derived from the predicted fall of the objects and places of false worship.”
Amos 5:6. Lest] Danger threatened. Like fire] consuming everything before it (Deuteronomy 4:24; Isaiah 10:17; Lamentations 2:3).
SEEKING GOD AND RENOUNCING SIN.—Amos 5:4-30.5.6
Departure from God is the root of all sorrow. Reformation therefore must beradical and not formal. God has not utterly abandoned Israel. He speaks as “our God,” ready on our return to him to deliver and bless. “Seek ye me and ye shall live.”
I. The urgent request. The prophet repeatedly urges them to seek God (Amos 5:4; Amos 5:6; Amos 5:14), from whom they had wandered and whom they had offended.
1. God is the object sought. We must seek him not for any selfish ends, not for gifts, nor for anything out of him. What is the world without him? All may be found and enjoyed in him. Some pursue pleasure, riches, and wealth, others find in God their chief good. “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.”
2. God must be sought earnestly. The seeking is diligent and anxious. Infinite good is more desirable than created good. We must not seek God anyhow, but with earnestness and perseverance. The pursuit is not an indefinite desire, the mere natural working of the mind, but an intense longing for God. “Ye shall seek me and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
II. The needful caution. “But seek not Bethel,” &c. Israel sought God at Bethel; but idolatry is opposed to seeking God, and must be renounced. The worship of God cannot be reconciled with the worship of Baal.
1. Outward forms will not avail. Gilgal and Bethel were ancient places, but empty forms. The truth once taught there had become powerless, and Israel had ceased to obey. Men may plead beauty, antiquity, and prevalence of forms; but we are admonished to abandon them all and trust to the living God. Idolatrous customs will ensure and increase our condemnation. They are an abomination to God. “Seek ye me,” and “pass not to Beersheba.”
2. False hopes wiil disappoint. Bethel was not the house of God. Gilgal would go into captivity, and Beersheba would soon be in ruins. The pleasant things of Gilgal passed into the hands of the enemy. All hopes of residence there were disappointed, and bitter was the remorse of the people. Schemes of worldly happiness and forms of idolatry will utterly fail. False confidences allure men to destruction, do not avert danger nor quench the fire of Divine anger against sin. Idols of every kind are vanity. An idol is nothing in the world (1 Corinthians 8:4; 1 Corinthians 10:19); and “they that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.”
III. The encouraging promise. “And ye shall live.”
1. Ye shall escape danger. If the fire broke out none could quench it. Bethel, the centre of idolatry, would be consumed. But if they sought God, they would escape and be delivered from calamities. The sinner can only be saved from eternal death in Christ. For “who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?”
2. Ye shall obtain God’s favour. We may be delivered from outward danger, from sickness and distress, yet not redeemed from sin—preserved in natural existence, but deprived of real enjoyment. Life in any sense is good, for “a living dog is better than a dead lion!” The soul can only live when converted, refreshed, and oured of its ills. “Your heart shall live that seek God.” In his favour is life, and “thy lovingkindness is better than life.”
DIVINE JUSTICE A CONSUMING FIRE.—Amos 5:6
This verse is an awful picture of sin and Divine retribution which breaks forth in violence upon ungodly nations.
I. The fuel. “The house of Joseph.” Sinners make themselves fuel for the flame, ripen themselves for destruction. Rotten and unfruitful branches of the Church will be burned. “Behold, they shall be as stubble, the fire shall burn them, they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame.”
II. The conflagration. “Lest he break out like fire.”
1. The Divine nature is like fire. “Our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-58.12.29; Isaiah 33:14). Holy anger and holy love are found in God. He that is light and love may become, by the power of his wrath, a consuming fire. “A fire goeth before him and burneth his enemies round about” (Psalms 97:3; Deuteronomy 4:24).
2. The Divine procedure is like a fire. When God is provoked to anger judgments will burn the wicked like chaff. Pestilence and war ravage and waste like fire. “The material of sorrow and distress accumulates from period to period. Violation of God’s laws, followed by disregard for social duties, prepares both governments and people for tumult and war. The spark of discontent falls on some portion of the mass, suddenly it blazes forth, and is rapidly communicated from one part to another, till everywhere the signs of woe are seen, ‘blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke.’ ”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Amos 5:4. Such as find a distance and are seeking to make it up, may not speed at first, yet that should not weaken their hands, nor will they be accounted less penitent, or be further from acceptance, that they are but pursuers and not enjoyers; for, approven repentance here is not to find God, but to seek him, and these get the promise, Seek ye me, and ye shall live [Hutcheson]. Seek and live. Equally simple and definite are the monition and the promise. Man knows what he has to do, and what to expect. Not merely is warning given, but also promise and the reverse. The gain is certain if one fulfils the condition, but the condition is indispensable. [Lange]. Ye shall live. God’s gracious promises must be held before sinners, lest in despair they go from sin to sin. For how can one feel genuine repentance if he has no hope [Ib.].
Amos 5:5. This is the law of God’s dealings with man; He “curses our blessings,” if we do not use them aright (Malachi 2:2). Christ, the Corner Stone, will break to pieces those who fall upon it; and it will grind to powder those on whom it falls (Matthew 21:44). Our holiest Gilgals—our Sacraments, our Scriptures, our Sermons, our Sundays—which were designed by God to roll away from us the reproach of Egypt, will be rolled away from us, if we do not use them aright, and will roll us downward into our destruction [Wordsworth].
Amos 5:6. Seek. The oft pressing of a duty imports:
1. The excellency;
2. The necessity;
3. The difficulty of doing it: else what need so many words? [Trapp].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 5
Amos 5:4-30.5.6. Jeroboam pretended that it was too much for Israel to go up to Jerusalem. Yet Israel thought it not too much to go to the extremest point of Judah towards Idumæa, perhaps four times as far south of Jerusalem as Jerusalem lay from Bethel. For Beersheba is thought to have lain some 30 miles south of Hebron, which is 22 miles south of Jerusalem; while Bethel is but 12 to the north. So much pains will men take in self-willed service, and yet not see that it takes away the excuse for neglecting the true [Pusey].
Amos 5:6. “Justice is the great but simple principle, and the whole secret of success in all government. It is as essential in the training of an infant as in the government of a mighty nation.”
“Justice, like lightning, ever should appear
To few men’s ruin, but to all men’s fear.” [Sivenam.]
Amos 5:7-30.5.9.] God in his omnipotence in contrast with the ungodly people, indicating that he who can destroy should be feared. Wormwood] Justice embittered, corrupted, and made hateful cf. ch. Amos 6:12; Deuteronomy 29:17).
Amos 5:8.] God in creation, moral government, and judicial procedure described almost in words like Job 9:9,
Amos 5:10. Hate] the reprover who condemns their sins; Amos himself, or judges at the gate who put down injustice (Isaiah 29:21; Jeremiah 17:19).
Amos 5:11. Take] Burdensome taxes levied in kind from the wheat of the needy to pamper the lusts of the great [Henderson].
Amos 5:12. Bribe] Lit. a price to deliver from sentence. “The judges allowed the rich murderer to purchase exemption from capital punishment by the payment of atonement money, whilst they bowed down the right of the poor. “This illegal (Numbers 35:31).
Amos 5:13. Silence] “A chosen silence towards vile corrupters of law and justice who will nothing mend though reproved; or silence before God, owning his justice in punishing such sinners” [Poole].
JUDGMENT TURNED TO WORMWOOD.—Amos 5:7
The proper place for these words, many think, is after Amos 5:9. They might be taken in connection with the charges there, or separately as here.
I. The impartial administration of justice is pleasant. Justice is one of the four cardinal virtues, and regarded by Plato as including all human duty. It was made of first importance in the Hebrew code. Laws were given to protect life and property, to secure rich and poor against violence and wrong. It was the duty of the judges to interpret and administer, not to make or give laws. When just laws are obeyed by kings and princes, confidence is strengthened, peace prevails, and judgment is in sweet odour. “For law guards the people and magistrates guard the law,” says Becon. “National happiness must be produced through the influence of religious laws,” says South. “The king by judgment establisheth the land.”
II. The partial administration of justice is bitter. Let justice be done though the heavens fall is often the cry. But many cast it down from its lofty position and trample it under-foot. As God’s vicegerent it is dethroned in the laws of the nation and the hearts of the people. Partiality and injustice make void the best laws, increase the burdens, and embitter the toils of life. They rob man, disorder society, and offend God. They turn judgment to wormwood. Good laws are a blessing or a curse, a corrupt spring or a fountain of life, as they are administered. “One foul sentence doth more hurt than many foul examples,” says Bacon, “for these do but corrupt the stream, the other corrupteth the fountain.” “Ye have turned judgment into gall and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock.”
“Laws grind the poor and rich men make the law” [Goldsmith].
GOD GREATLY TO BE FEARED.—Amos 5:9-30.5.10
Israel were exhorted to forsake unrighteousness and seek God. The prophet tells them who God is and what he does, that they might know him. He is the Creator and Governor of the universe, infinite in resources and omnipotent in power. How can they contend with him? Seek him in penitence, despise not judgment, for he is great and greatly to be feared. For three reasons God is to be sought.
I. God displays omnipotence in the creation of the world. “Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion.” Amos read the power of God in the stars and names those well known to shepherds. The Pleiades were arranged in their splendour and Orion was bound in its place by him (Job 9:9). He created the heavens and all the hosts of them by the breath of his mouth. He keeps the planets and directs their motions. Tempests and fogs, judgments and earthquakes, may darken the sky, but do not hide the power of God. The Divine edict is still in force (Genesis 1:3), preserves and marshals the constellations of heaven. “Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades or loose the bands of Orion” (Job 38:31)?
II. God displays omnipotence in the government of the world. He is seen in all its vicissitudes. In multitude and magnitude, in minuteness and mystery, his works are unsearchable.
1. In changing seasons. Literally he turns night into day by the rising, and day into night by the setting, sun. We find a constant presence, an abiding power, in the seasons of the year. Creation “is but the projected shadow of a throne that overlooks the high places of the universe, filling them with the changeless splendour of a Moral Presence.” In all movements there is no caprice but unchanging law. “He appointeth the moon for seasons, the sun knoweth his going down.”
2. In benevolent designs. Light and darkness are both necessary. Day and night indicate the perfection of Divine arrangement. God has “set the one over against the other” that we may appreciate both. In all changes of nature we have benevolent design. So in spiritual seasons, in prosperity and adversity; we have shadows of death and days of rejoicing; “the morning of hope, the noon of enjoyment, and the night of sorrow.” Each is given in proportion to our faith and the sovereign will of God, whose work is perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4).
3. In great calamities. The flood may not again destroy, but it typified fearful inundations which God “pours out upon the face of the earth.” He sends rain in mercy and in judgment. He permits the clouds to send their torrents and the sea to burst its bounds. His power is employed to bless or to punish, to turn the sorrow of the penitent to joy, or the light of the wicked into darkness. Amos predicts a future calamity like that in which God brought in the flood upon the world of the ungodly. “Fear ye not me? saith the Lord; will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it, and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?”
III. God displays omnipotence in the retributions of the world. Those that are strong with sinful strength, that defend their spoil, shall be overcome. Desolation will attack every place that was deemed inaccessible. Man’s might is perfect weakness with God. He prevails against the strong, rescues the weakest saint, and destroys all vain confidence. Then if man’s strength cannot defend him when God is angry—if God’s power in creation and in providence is employed in giving retribution to men—what will be the fate of those who trust to their own fortress and rebel against God? Learn—
1. How ruinous to resist a God of such majesty and power.
2. To submit to his chastening rod.
3. To seek and adore him in the most severe and hopeless trials. For “there is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Amos 5:8. The shadow of death into morning. This typifies redemption—
1. From sin, which is darkness of heart and life.
2. From spiritual misery (Isaiah 9:1).
3. From sorrow and suffering (Job 16:16; Jeremiah 13:16; Psalms 24:4).
4. From the grave (Job 3:5; Job 34:22; Job 38:17). “Amos first sets forth the power of God, then his goodness. Out of every extremity of ill God can, will, does deliver. He who said, let there be light, and there was light, at once changeth any depth of darkness into light, the death darkness of sin into the dawn of grace, the hopeless night of ignorance into the daystar from on high; the night of the grave into the eternal morn of the resurrection which knoweth no setting” [Pusey]. So light, when abused or neglected, He so withdraws it, as at times to leave no trace or gleam of it. Conscience becomes benighted, so as to sin undoubtingly: faith is darkened, so that the soul no more even suspects the truth. Hell has no light [Ib.].
It is not enough to see God in nature and providence or second causes; but we ought so to see him in them as to commend piety to our hearts and press us to it, therefore the exhortation runs, “seek him that maketh,” &c. First, it is an argument to seek him, that he “maketh the seven stars,” &c. It is held out—
1. That God is worthy and ought to be sought and served, who is not only above men and creatures on earth, but his power is in the heavens.
2. He is able either to ruin or refresh men by means and second causes, which are at a great distance from them, even by the influence of the stars.
3. The very vicissitudes and change of seasons and weather are God’s works wherein he is to be seen, and which should invite us to seek him. Secondly, his turning the shadow of death into morning and making the day dark with clouds, teacheth that God can change or settle conditions, as he pleaseth; and if he settle, none can shake, and if he shake, none can establish. And therefore the short path to well-being is to seek him. Thirdly, his calling for the waters of the sea and pouring them out, &c., teacheth that God hath showers of comforts and deluges of miseries to pour out as he pleaseth [Hutcheson].
Amos 5:9. He employs his power and wisdom in vindicating the cause of those who cannot help themselves, and in so remarkable a way, that when the weak have been spoiled by their oppressors, and their oppressors have entrenched themselves in fortified places, even then he causes “the spoiled to come against the fortress.” Hence—
1. Let the impenitent tremble.
2. Let the righteous “be still.”
3. Let those who are moved with fear repent and be saved [Ryan].
MANIFOLD AND MIGHTY SINS.—Amos 5:10-30.5.13
The duty pressed from consideration of God’s power is still urged on account of Israel’s sins and God’s judgments upon them. These sins are “manifold” and “mighty,” countless in number and aggravating in nature.
I. They hated the public monitor. “They hate him that rebuketh at the gate.” Those who reproved in God’s house, in courts of justice or in places of concourse, were despised. When wisdom lifted up her voice she was not heard (Proverbs 1:21). When men are impatient under reproof and deaf to good counsel it is an evil sign.
1. They detested the rebuker. Judges were so wicked, that they could not endure those who opposed or rebuked their unrighteous decisions. Claimants and witnesses who pleaded for equity were insulted. Men who defended innocence and cried against injustice were hated beyond degree.
2. They abhorred the upright. Amid general corruption some few, like Noah, witnessed for God and were exposed to ridicule and contempt. Veracity is the bond of society, and all who value the interests of mankind will esteem a truthful man. The example, prayers, and life of the upright are a blessing to any community (Proverbs 11:11). To hate them and put them to silence is the way to ruin. Yet men love darkness rather than light, and cannot endure those who reprove their sins. Ministers become enemies because they tell the truth. They “make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.”
II. They practised shameful oppression. “Your treading is upon the poor.” The poor were persecuted as if enemies to the State. If they sued for justice they could not get it. “He remembered not to show mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart.”
1. Judges took unlawful bribes. “They take a bribe.” Injustice and violence were connived at; the helpless were trampled in the dust, and the rich unjustly acquitted. He that rules over men must be just and rule in the fear of God. “A bad magistrate deprives us of the blessing of just laws.” Sir Matt. Hale could not be corrupted, and Paul would not bribe his judge for freedom (Acts 24:26) “A gift perverteth the ways of judgment.”
2. Judges indulged in unbounded selfishness. They imprisoned the righteous, and would only release him for money. They robbed the poor to build houses, plant vineyards, and minister to their own luxury. Their mansions of hewn stone were monuments of extortion. They might preserve from disease (Leviticus 14:34-3.14.38), and be free from decay. But men who secure themselves and enlarge their possessions by injustice will destroy both. Those who ruin others to live in grandeur and state. will find that they build on false foundations and will be robbed of their possessions. “Thou shalt build an house, and thou shalt not dwell therein; thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes thereof.”
III. They necessitated prudent silence. “Therefore the prudent, shall keep silence.” We must bear open testimony to holiness and truth; but there is “a time to keep silence and a time to speak.” When pearls are cast before swine, when men are deaf to reproof and all warning is useless, then servants of God keep solemn silence. In times of iniquity and judgment, of danger and distress, silence to man may be a duty; but the prudent will speak to God in secret prayer. “For the Lord our God hath put us to silence and given us water of gall to drink, because we have sinned against the Lord.”
“Bedewed and silent as a summer’s night”
TIMES OF PRUDENT SILENCE.—Amos 5:13
The prudent man will be well disciplined in mind and speech, will carefully watch for opportunities and improve them. Great wisdom is required to know when and how to speak. It is a time to be silent—
I. When reproof is ridiculed. In the treatment of a fool we must restrain ourselves, and neither indulge his folly nor cherish his spirit. Pride should never be reproved with pride, nor passion checked with passion. Discretion is needful in rebuke. “Wise mariners do not hoist sails in every wind,” says Bp Hall. Jeremiah turned away from false prophets in silence (Jeremiah 28:11). Christ sets us an example in giving kind answers to rude speeches. “Speak not in the ears of a fool; for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.”
II. When reproof would increase guilt. Men are often hardened and infatuated; deliberately shut their ears and refuse instruction. Reproof would then only add to their guilt and misery. Christ in mercy withheld his tongue before such persons. It is best to “let them alone.” Rebuke might stir up a torrent of abuse and frustrate the design in view. A conceited man needs no direction, thinks his own way right, and follows it to his ruin. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.”
III. When reproof is silenced by calamities. God’s dealings in personal affliction and public judgments call for silence. “It is an evil time.” We are perhaps to blame and cannot reprove others. Under his frown we must hold our peace (Leviticus 10:3). In his mysterious providence we learn to be still (Psalms 46:10). Whatever social or national yoke is put upon us we must “sit alone and keep silence” (Lamentations 3:28). There are times when we must reverently adore God and submit to his chastisements; when the pride of the wicked and the pleading of the righteous are put to silence. “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it” (Psalms 39:9; Nehemiah 9:33; Hebrews 12:9).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Amos 5:7-30.5.13. To seek God and renounce unrighteousness and oppression. To enforce this exhortation three pictures are made to pass in rapid succession before the eye.
1. The righteous Judge. They are reminded that Jehovah, whose omnipotent power, as manifested in the heavens and on the earth, is described in majestic terms, selects as the special object of his vengeance the strong oppressor (Amos 5:8-30.5.9). Amos 5:9. Literally, “That flasheth forth destruction upon the strong, and destruction cometh upon the fortress.”
2. The sin judged. The flagrant maladministration of justice. Claimants or others who sought to maintain the cause of right in the gate, or place of public trial, were rebuked. Truthful witnesses were frowned upon. The poor were trodden under-foot, and justice was sold for burdens, or, as it should rather be rendered, “presents of wheat” (Amos 5:10-30.5.11 a).
3. The judgment to be inflicted. Deprivation of all the fruits of their unjust gains and oppressions. They are reminded that though the prudent found it necessary to keep silence in so evil a time, and their deeds thus escaped public exposure, God was acquainted with their “manifold” and “mighty” sins (Amos 5:11 b, Amos 5:12) [The Preacher’s Lantern].
Amos 5:12. “[know your manifold transgressions,” &c.] The sins of some men. Manifold and mighty. Sins committed with a mighty hand and a haughty spirit. The disobedience of Pharaoh, the “rage” of Sennacherib, and the pride of Herod the Great. Sins injurious to men and offensive to God. The mighty sins of the text and those mentioned by James (Amos 5:7-30.5.10).
2. God’s intimate knowledge of these sins. “I know your” sins. You may try to conceal them, darkness and dissimulation may hide them from the gaze of men: but I know them. Nothing can be hidden from the eye of the great Judge. He knows though he does not avenge. We should not flatter ourselves that God sees not and will not punish our sins. All things shall one day be made manifest. “There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, and hid that shall not be known.”
Amos 5:13. This may be applied to abstinence from speaking in three ways.
1. From reviling. When injury is inflicted the natural impulse is to return it. Other weapons failing, the tongue is always ready. It must be restrained if we would be disciples of Christ. Vindictive words are absolutely forbidden.
2. From reproof. It is indeed an evil time with the sinner when reproof is not to be used (Hosea 4:17; Ezekiel 3:26).
3. From explanation. The best course is to commit our cause to God. The devil, who in an evil time forges the accusations which are often made against the people of God, can suborn the witnesses too [Ryan].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 5
Amos 5:8-30.5.9. Power is that glorious attribute of God Almighty which furnishes the rest of his perfections: ’Twas power which made his ideas fruitful, and struck the world out of his thoughts. ’Tis this which is the basis of all things; which constitutes the vigour of second causes, and keeps the sun and moon in repair. Omniscience and goodness, without a corresponding power, would be strangely short of satisfaction; to know everything without being able to supply defects and remedy disorders, must be a grievance; but when omnipotence comes into the nation the grandeur is perfect [Jer. Collier].
“It often falls, in course of common life,
That right sometimes is overborne of wrong.
The avarice of power, or guile, or strife,
That weakens her and makes her party strong.
But Justice, though her doom she do prolong.
Yet at the last will make her own cause right.” [Spenser.]
Amos 5:10. Who is there that sometimes does not merit a check? and yet how few will endure one [Feltham].
Amos 5:11. “Built houses,” &c.
“You take my house when you do take the prop
That doth sustain my house; you take my life
When you do take the means whereby I live.” [Shakespeare.]
Amos 5:13. Keep silence. Euler lived at Peterburg during the administration of Biron, one of the most tyrannical ministers that ever breathed. On the philosopher’s coming to Berlin, after the tyrant’s death, the late queen of Prussia, who could hardly get a word out of him, asked him the reason of his silence. “Because,” said he, “I come from a place where if a man says a word he is handed” [Whitecross].
Amos 5:14. Spoken] They fancied that God was with them by virtue of the covenant with Abraham (John 8:39).
Amos 5:15. Perhaps] indicates difficulty in their case, not uncertainty with God (cf. Genesis 16:2; Joel 2:13). Peradventure (Exodus 32:3). Remnant] preserved in the approaching judgment, as Joel 3:5; Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 10:21-23.10.23.
SEEKING GOOD AND ENJOYING GOD.—Amos 5:14-30.5.15
These words supplement the previous paragraph, in which Israel were exhorted to renounce idolatry, an offence to God, a crime against man. Now the order is reversed. Good must be sought and evil avoided, that mercy may yet be shown to a remnant of the people.
I. The course recommended. “Seek good and not evil.” The negative and positive side of human duty.
1. Seek the good. Good is needful, and all men seek it. “Who will show us any good?” The soul is formed to know and love the good. As the plant turns towards the sun, so the soul seeks for good. But men seek in the wrong direction. They seek gratification in earthly things, and exclude God from their pursuits. They have a desire for him, a capacity to enjoy him, but move not in the direction to him. Seeking good is defined as loving the good. The right affection must be cherished. Depraved appetites and vitiated tastes must be renewed. A change of disposition is necessary to reformation of life. “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
2. Hate the evil. Aversion is needful as well as affection. We have something to hate and something to love. Our sympathies and antipathies are not at variance, they differ in intensity, gain power according to their objects, and greatly influence our conduct. We evince the soundness of conversion by loathing and forsaking what God hates. We cannot love God without hating evil. The fear of the Lord is seen by departing from evil. “Positive virtue,” says one, “promotes negative virtue.” “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil.”
3. Practise justice. “Establish judgment in the gate.” Israel must raise up and firmly support what they had thrown down. In their courts of law and in common practice they must be truthful. Neither bribe nor self-interest should divert men from judgment. The penitent will be just to man. In words and deeds he will give to all their due. Profession without principle is an insult to God. “What a man is in private duties, that he is in the sight of God, and no more,” says Dr Owen. We cannot serve God, unless we are right with men. “Put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well.”
“Be what thou seemest, live thy creed,
Hold up to earth the torch Divine,
Be what thou prayest to be made,
Let thy great Master’s steps be thine.”
II. The benefits of adopting this course. Self-interest is not always the right motive to urge; but the benefits of serving God are manifold.
1. Human life is preserved. “Ye shall live.” Calamity would take away their life, but deliverance would preserve it. In general, sin by its own nature and by the judgments of God upon it brings men to an untimely end. The wicked do not live out half their days. Worldliness wears out the spring; but piety contributes to the length and enjoyments of life. Religion promotes temperance and self-control. It redeems body and soul from morbid excitement and moral disease. “Righteousness tendeth to life.”
2. God’s grace is received. “The Lord God of Hosts will be gracious,” &c. The sinner is not only delivered from present danger, but blessed with grace to live a holy life. God’s grace is infinite and free. Former displeasures will not hinder him from bestowing it upon those who seek it. Penitent nations and feeble churches may hope for his returning favour. “God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation, he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted with him.”
3. God’s presence is enjoyed. He “shall be with you as ye have spoken.” Israel boasted of being God’s people, and desired God to be with them in sin. But the “righteous Lord” cannot dwell with an unrighteous people. It is a delusion to talk of God if we do not seek him, to expect his presence when we do not walk in his commands. “If ye were Abraham’s seed ye would do the works of Abraham.” It is only when we repent and return to God that we enjoy his favour. God is always present to protect in the way of duty, as “the God of Hosts.” “Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Amos 5:15. It may be. I. If so, for what reasons?
1. Men do not deserve deliverance. “The expression ‘perhaps he will show favour’ indicates that the measure of Israel’s sins was full, and no deliverance could be hoped for if God were to proceed to act according to his righteousness” [Keil].
2. God in sovereign mercy has promised it. This is not the language of uncertainty. The difficulty is not with God, but with man. “Except ye repent,” &c. II. If so, on what conditions? Negatively and positively stated.
1. Not by presuming on outward relation to God. God must be sought and found.
2. By pursuing right, (a) Right towards God. “Hate the evil and love the good.” (b) Right towards man. “Establish judgment.” To these conditions the hope, though humiliating to carnal security, is attached: perhaps God will then be gracious to a remnant of Joseph.
The verse sets forth—The relation between the negative and positive duties of life; or—
1. The nature of true penitence—seeking God.
2. The evidence of true penitence—hating evil.
3. The reward of true penitence—God’s protection and favour in life; or,
1. God the object sought.
2. Evil the difficulty in the way.
3. Divine favour and blessings the motive to urge the pursuit.
“God gives encouragement to such as sincerely seek him; yet he would not have them absolutely expect deliverance in temporal judgments, when provocations are come to a height: and he seeth it meet to exercise them with uncertainties that they may be yet more diligent, and prove their real piety by submission in those things” [Hutcheson].
“Temporal promises are made with an, It may be: and our prayers must be made accordingly.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 5
Amos 5:14-30.5.15. We must not envy the doers of evil, but depart from their spirit and example. As Lot left Sodom without casting a look behind, so must we leave sin. No time or parley is to be held with sin, we must turn away from it without hesitation, and set ourselves practically to work in the opposite direction [Spurgeon].
Amos 5:16. Therefore] if ye seek not God, there will be lamentation not only by professional mourners, but in the streets of the city, in all towns of the kingdom, and in places where joy is expected.
Amos 5:17. Pass through] as in Egypt (Exodus 12:12; Nahum 1:12), taking vengeance and creating death wail.
Amos 5:18. Woe] to the confident who deceive themselves with false hopes. Desire] Deriding the prediction of the prophet (Jeremiah 17:15; Ezekiel 12:22). “It was an impious daring of God to do his worst” [Elzas].
Amos 5:19.] Two figures from pastoral life illustrate the false hope of escape. Fleeing from a lion to meet a bear means that whoever escapes one danger will fall into another. The bear spares none, and the serpent’s bite in the hand is fatal. “In that day every place is full of danger and death; neither in-doors nor out-of-doors is any one safe; for out-of-doors lions and bears prowl about and in-doors snakes lie hidden, even in the holes of the walls” [Corn, a Lap.].
Amos 5:20. Bright.] i.e. to those who do not turn from evil.
THE DAY OF THE LORD.—Amos 5:16-30.5.20
Amos 5:16. “Therefore.” God foreseeing that they will not forsake sin continues the threatening (Amos 5:13). Israel misapplied the words of Joel (Joel 2:31; Joel 3:4), thought that the day of the Lord would be deliverance to them and destruction to their enemies. The prophet warns them of false security. In blind infatuation they long for its approach, but it would be a day of unmitigated evil.
I. The day of the Lord described. A day of universal darkness and distress. The judgments were extensive as the manifold guilt.
1. A day of Divine displeasure. God would be with them not in the way they expected and boasted; in judgment, not mercy. “I will pass through thee.” There would be a repetition of the events in Egypt. He would not pass over them in forgiving love, as the angel passed by the blood-stained doors; but through them in punishment severe and exact. Some as stubble or wood are ripe for Divine judgments (Nahum 1:10; James 3:5). God may have passed by them, but soon will pass through them. Nations may escape at one time and fearfully suffer at another. “For there was not a house where there was not one dead” (Exodus 12:12; Exodus 12:30).
2. A day of universal mourning. “Wailing shall be in all the streets.” (a) Mourning in all places. In the streets of the city, the vineyards of the fields, and the highways of the country; in centres of business and scenes of joy, would be lamentation and wailing. The hum of men and the mirth of children were turned into grief. There was “a vintage not of wine, but of woe.” God’s displeasure turns joy into mourning and robes all things with darkness and death. (b) Mourning by all persons. “The skilful” the professionals of lamentation, and the real mourners, the husbandmen called from the country, blended their cries together. Alas! Alas! The punishment was unequalled and the grief beyond expression. Sorrow will find all that are guilty, and none can escape. “Take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run down with tears, and our eyelids gush out with waters. For a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion, How are we spoiled!”
3. A day of darkness without light (Amos 5:18-30.5.20). Calamities darken the brightest day. The day of present trouble is often without light. But no day so gloomy to impenitent sinners as the day of judgment. The word of God and the voice of conscience darken the prospects of the wicked. Unless they flee to Christ the future will be “even very dark, and no brightness in it.”
4. A day of calamity without escape. Two comparisons illustrate this. (a) No escape by flight. To flee from the lion would only be to meet a bear. To escape from one danger was only to fall into another (cf. Jeremiah 48:44; Isaiah 24:18). “He shall flee from the iron weapon, and the bow of steel shall strike him through.” (b) No escape by shelter. If a man rushed into a house and leaned in confidence upon the wall a serpent would bite him. Men often meet with destruction where they expect safety. “Evil shall hunt the wicked man to overthrow him.” If men escape present they cannot the future judgment. It is vain to expect mercy at that day if we despise it now. Come to God instead of fleeing from him. “Who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth?”
II. The day of the Lord threatened. “The Lord saith thus”—
1. Though long delayed it will come. To prove his love and give time for repentance God delays his promise. But he is not slack and forgetful. Threatening may not suddenly be executed, for “he is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish.” Remember the nature of God and his determination to punish. “Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
2. Though apparently far off it will come. All things continue as they were, but may unexpectedly change. The flood interrupted the order of nature. If we realize the past, it will help us to believe the future. “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.”
3. Though ridiculed by ungodly men it will come. “Scoffers walking after their own lusts” cry, “Where is the promise of his coming?” Join not their ranks. Heed not their ridicule. The promise is uttered and cannot be retracted. The coming is gradual, certain, and will soon be felt. Atheists should beware and presumptuous sinners should fear. The primeval world has changed, the deluge of Noah swept the earth, and a terrible day awaits impenitent sinners. “A little while, and he that shall come will come and will not tarry.”
III. The day of the Lord desired. “You that desire the day of the Lord.” Their previous history would lead them to desire this time, and their subsequent life proved the spirit in which they did so.
1. The day may be desired in a wrong spirit. Israel applied the glowing descriptions of future times in a carnal sense. They expected a temporal Messiah, and knew neither their own character nor the nature of the day coming. They were not prepared for it, and what should have been a blessing turned out to be a woe to the nation. “Darkness and not light.” Men desire the day—(a) In a spirit of contempt. The Israelites sarcastically might wish for the day (Isaiah 5:19; Jeremiah 17:15). Who cares for the day? let it come. (b) In a spirit of delusion. They desired some change, and thought the next would be for the better. The prophet seeks to undeceive them. Self-deluded sinners will find out their mistake at last. (c) In a spirit of folly. “To what end is it for you?” What will it profit you? Are you ready for it? Many would be glad to leave this world who are not fit for the next. They have but little reason to desire what will be darkness and not light to them.
2. The day may be desired in a right spirit. Some are ready for the day, delighting themselves in God and his service. They are preparing for death and waiting for the coming of Christ. In the common events and mysterious providences of life they pray not in scorn, “Let him make speed and hasten his work that we may see it; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it.” Woe to him who desires when he should dread the day of the Lord! “Blessed is that servant” who is ready and waiting, “and whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.”
DEATH NOT ALWAYS DESIRABLE.—Amos 5:18
We may apply this to the day of death. Often in trouble and disappointment men express a wish that God would take away their life, supposing that it is better for them to die than to live. We cannot be sure of the sincerity of their desire; and they may not be sure of it themselves. Under the pressure of present feeling, they imagine death would be welcome, and perhaps if it actually came they would decline its aid. If they would not they ought. For their fleeing from trouble is as if a man did flee from a lion and a boar met him, &c. Let me beg these sons of sorrow to inquire—Whether the event they long for will be a real remedy for their complaints. Are they sure that death will be annihilation? perfectly sure that there is nothing beyond the grave? Can they prove that there is no future? or that in this state there is only happiness and no misery? Judas hanged himself, went to his own place, which was worse than his former condition, with all the horrors of its remorse. If Scripture be true all are not happy at death; none are then happy without a title to heaven and a meetness for it. Have you this title? this meetness? Do you love holiness? Without this could you be happy in a holy place? in a holy state? in holy employments, &c.? Is the Redeemer precious to your souls? Nothing can make us happy but what relieves our wants, fulfils our desires, and satisfies our hope. Without holiness no man can see the Lord.
How absurd, then, to wish to leave this world for another, before you are sure the exchange will be for your advantage. For advantage it cannot be if you die unpardoned and unrenewed. Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord. Out of him, out of refuge, and the avenger of blood is upon you. Out of him, you are out of the Ark and exposed to the Deluge. The day of your death is not better than the day of your birth. Your privations and distresses here are only the beginnings of sorrow, a drop to the ocean compared with hell. And once gone from time, no return. Therefore instead of wishing this important period ended, be thankful that it is prolonged, even in a vale of tears; account that the long-suffering of God is your salvation, for he is not willing that any should perish.
Remember also that disappointment and sorrow, which make you impatient, may prove the greatest blessing; the valley of Achor a door of hope. God does not afflict willingly. He renders earth desolate to induce you to seek a better country. Away, then, with every thought of desperation. Arise and go unto your Father, waiting to receive graciously and love freely. If tempted to despair, cry, “Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me.” “Come unto me, all ye that labour,” &c. The Athenian said, “I should have been lost, if I had not been lost.” In affliction Manasseh found his father’s God, We often pity those who have seen better days. But if they forgot God in prosperity, and in their adversity have thrown themselves into his arms—these are the best days they ever saw. This will be your case, suffering friend, if you seek God and commit your cause to him. He will turn the shadow of death into the morning, and you shall join the multitude who say—It is good for me that I have been afflicted [Jay].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Amos 5:16. It costs men nothing to own God as a Creator, the Cause of causes, the Orderer of all things by certain fixed laws. It satisfies certain intellects so to own him. What man, a sinner, shrinks from, is that God is Lord, the absolute disposer and master of his sinful self [Pusey].
Woe, woe, going up from every street of a metropolis, in one unmitigated, unchanging, ever-repeated monotony of grief. Such were the present fruits of sin. Yet what a mere shadow of the inward grief is its outward utterance [Ib.].
Amos 5:17. If there were joy in any place it would be in the vineyards; vineyards are places of mirth and refreshing, grapes make the wine, which makes glad the heart of man. Therefore when he threatens, that in all vineyards there shall be wailing, it is as much as if he said, There shall be sorrow in those places where usually the greatest joy is found, or there shall be sorrow in every place. Joy shall dislodge and give place to sorrow, for I will pass through thee, saith the Lord [Caryl].
Amos 5:17-30.5.18. I. The certainty of the day. Saith the Lord.” II. The method of its approach. “I will pass through.” III. The consequences of its arrival. “Darkness and not light.”
Amos 5:18. To what end is it for you? Self-examination would teach—that they would gain nothing in the day—that it should be delayed, rather than desired, if not prepared for it—that the evil spirit in which it is longed for should be eradicated, and that men should seriously consider their ways and submit to God.
Amos 5:19. The path of light would prove a path of increased danger—the place of confidence, expected shelter and repose, would become the place of pain and wounding unto death [Ryan]. From both lion and bear there might be escape by flight. When the man had leaned his hand trustfully on the wall of his own house, and the serpent bit him, there was no escape. He had fled from death to death, from peril to destruction [Pusey].
Amos 5:20. Shall not? He appeals to their own consciences, “Is it not so, as I have said?” Men’s consciences are truer than their intellects. However they may employ the subtlety of their intellect to dull their conscience, they feel, in their heart of hearts, that there is a Judge, that guilt is punished, that they are guilty. The soul is a witness to its own deathlessness, its own accountableness, and its own punishableness [Pusey].
The godly will have some light in trouble (though temptation hide it from them, Isaiah 50:10), and may sometimes attain to some measure of allowance (Psalms 112:4); and may certainly expect that there will be a clear and comfortable issue from their troubles (Micah 7:8); yet it is terrible to think how dreadful a day of vengeance will be to the wicked, how grieving and perplexing their miseries will be, and how destitute of present comfort and future hope they are [Hutcheson].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 5
Amos 5:16-30.5.20. Ill-gotten gains are a dangerous and uncertain possession. God can easily take them away, and turn our joy into mourning. “That which is dyed with many dippings is in the grain, and can very hardly be washed out” [Jer. Taylor]. Men do not love to be brought into contact with realities, or be reminded of coming “days of darkness.” There is an unwelcome message to the conscience, Art thou ready to meet this solemn—this hastening season? If you regard death as a friend, prepare to entertain it; if an enemy, prepare to overcome it.
Amos 5:21.] Festivals and sacrifices will not avert judgments. Your feasts] of human origin, not Divine appointment (Isaiah 1:10-23.1.15); the expression of Divine abhorrence is most emphatic.
Amos 5:23. Noise] as singing is contemptuously called.
THE RITUAL WITHOUT THE MORAL.—Amos 5:21-30.5.23
The judgments threatened will not be averted by feasts and sacrifices. God expresses his abhorrence to mere ceremonial observances, and will not accept heartless worship. “I hate, I despise,” &c. Notice—
I. Religious assemblies without true worship. Israel had feast days, to abstain from servile work and rejoice in God; solemn assemblies, to worship God and put themselves under some restraint. But in these things they followed their own device, or imitated the worship at Jerusalem; substituted human inventions for Divine institutions; “your feast days,” not mine; and thus prefigured many more who call themselves Christians. Men uphold the means of grace, attend the worship of God, but the name of God they will not adore. They defend religion, appoint ordinances, and put formal for spiritual service. They pervert the times and the places in which they should meet God. Solemn assemblies, social and private prayer, may prove a curse and not a blessing. Outward worship and superior privileges may increase our condemnation, and cause rejection in the sight of God. “I despise your feast days.”
II. Daily sacrifices without true obedience. They offered burnt-offerings, tokens of self-sacrifice; peace-offerings, signs of gratitude, from fat beasts, the best they could get; but they were not regarded. “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?”
1. Their ritual was external. The grandeur of the gift is nothing without the heart of the giver. Costly offerings are of no value without love. God hates dissembled worship. It is double iniquity. “The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination; how much more when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?”
2. Their conduct was immoral. They despised the poor and neglected judgment; cherished uncharitable feelings, and had no desire to do right. Love to God must be seen in right conduct towards men; true worship, in pure morality; and faith, in good works. God smells not the savour of splendid rituals without consistent lives (Leviticus 26:31). He may accept the moral without the ritual, but never the ritual without the moral. “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”
III. Instrumental music without true melody. It was noise, not melody; pleasing to man, but distasteful to God. Church-music is often mere display—intoned with energy, and ending in self. Music is the expression of emotion, the outburst of praise to God. When rightly conducted it will be attractive to man and honouring to God. In times of revival it has elevated the heart and quickened the life. But the best gifts of nature and art may be made instruments of evil. Music is abused when joined with immoral poetry and allurements of sin. When grace is not in the heart we do not sing with the spirit and with the understanding. If the life is not in tune with the lips, God says, “Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Amos 5:21-30.5.22. Israel had feasts of solemn joy and the restraint of solemn assemblies. They offered whole burnt-offerings, the token of self-sacrifice, in which the sacrificer retained nothing to himself, but gave them freely to God. They offered also peace-offerings, as tokens of the willing thankfulness of souls at peace with God. What they offered was the best of its kind, fatted beasts. Hymns of praise, full-toned chorus, instrumental music! What was wanting, Israel thought, to secure them the favour of God? Love and obedience. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And so those things, whereby they hoped to propitiate God, were the object of his displeasure [Pusey]. Here is a warning to all who think to please God by elaborate musical services in his house; while they do not take heed to worship him with their hearts, and to obey him in their daily life [Wordsworth].
Amos 5:24. The sound of music, rolling in full chorus, will not profit in a drought of justice and righteousness. “Praise is not seemly in the mouth of a sinner, for it was not sent him of the Lord” (Sir. 15:9).
When justice is duly administered it is said to ran down as waters, &c. Now waters and streams run not to one man’s house, or door, but the stream offers itself to every man, it runs down to the poor man’s door as well as to the rich man’s door, it runs by the meanest cottage as well as by the princely palace. Righteousness must run like a stream; it must be a common, a universal good [Caryl].
The first outward step in conversion is to break off sin. He bids them let judgment, which had hitherto been perverted in its course, roll on like a mighty tide of waters, sweeping before it all hindrances, obstructed by no power, turned aside by no bribery, but pouring on in one perpetual flow, reaching all, refreshing all, and righteousness like a mighty (or ceaseless) stream. True righteousness is not fitful, like an intermitting stream, vehement at one time, then disappearing, but continuous, unfailing [Pusey].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 5
Amos 5:21-30.5.23. A man is not what he saith, but what he doeth. To say what we do, and not to do what we say, is but to undo ourselves by doing [Dyer]. Hypocrisy is filling up some radical defect with some shallowy pretence [Binney].
“’Tis mad idolatry
To make the service greater than the God.” [Shakespeare.]
Amos 5:24. Run] judgments like a flood over the land [Keil]. Others take it as an exhortation to practise justice and truth.
JUDGMENTS LIKE A FLOOD.—Amos 5:24
The verse is to be explained according to Isaiah 10:22, and threatens the flooding of the land with judgment, and the punitive righteousness of God [Keil]. In this sense the judgments of God are like a flood.
I. In the method of coming. Terrors and troubles are often compared to waters in Scripture.
1. They come suddenly. All at once they burst upon men in sin and carnal security. When they say peace then sudden destruction cometh upon them.
2. They come supernaturally. God, and not any second cause, sends them. “God hath broken in upon mine enemies … like the breaking forth of waters.”
3. They come violently. They carry away all opposition, and roll direct to their place.
4. They come abundantly. One after another in dreadful succession upon individuals and nations, until the purpose of God is accomplished.
II. In the mischief they create. Floods and mighty streams are fearful in themselves, but when sent by Almighty power to chastise who can resist them?
1. They create consternation. Men are terrified and seek every possible way of escape. The late floods in England and France illustrate this. Divine judgments are intended to rouse men from slumber and lead them to God. “For when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”
2. They cause universal devastation. They sweep the city and the country, and spread destruction on every hand. The mansions of the rich and the dwellings of the poor are overcome with the rolling stream. So God’s fierce anger goes over men as mighty waters, to drown their possessions and take their comforts. “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts; all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.”
“Wide o’er misfortune’s surging tide
Billows succeeding billows spread;
Should one, its fury spent, subside,
Another lifts its boisterous head.”
Amos 5:25. Have] Lit. Did ye, equivalent to denial, some; others, not entire suspension of sacrifice, but mixed with idolatry. From of old they had been recreant to God. Their present offensive worship was only a continuation of the idolatry in the wilderness. Their sins were the very sins of their forefathers (Ezekiel 20:39).
Amos 5:26. Borne] aloft in pomp, the portable shrine or model tabernacle. The idolatry censured is of Egyptian origin. A literal god of stars cannot be proved [Lange].
Amos 5:27.] Banishment of the people far beyond the borders of their own land. Beyond] the capital of Syria, in which you trust for help instead of me (Acts 7:43): combines into one the several passages from prophecy. A most unlikely event then; but Thus saith the Lord indicates its certainty.
HEREDITARY SINS AND GRIEVOUS PUNISHMENT.—Amos 5:25-30.5.27
Hereditary sin was the second reason why the day of the Lord would be to them a day of distress. From the earliest period their hearts had been alienated. As heirs to the guilt and imitators of the ways of their fathers, they must be carried into a far country. Continued provocation will bring greater punishment than ever.
I. The same system of idolatry was practised. If we carefully compare the text with Deuteronomy 32:17; Joshua 24:14, and Ezekiel 20:26, we find that Israel were guilty of idolatry in the wilderness.
1. They misrepresented the true God. They made images for themselves in direct opposition to God’s command. In the very tabernacle of Jehovah they bore the shrines of Moloch and Remphan. Amos declared the men of his day to be addicted to the same sins and identified with the same disgrace. Some men inherit the lusts as well as the lands of their ancestors. The idolatry of the fathers is seen in the worship of the sons. Thus we forfeit the distinction which God gives and entail one of our own. “I will cause you to go into captivity.”
2. They worshipped false gods. “Have ye offered unto me?” Here lies the emphasis. Notwithstanding all their pretensions and sacrifices they offered not to God. “They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods, whom your fathers feared not.” We are not safe because we have a Protestant Bible and orthodox creeds, abundant churches, and religious privileges. The same tendency is in our hearts to forget the revealed character and despise the claims of God—to create and honour other gods, and amid constraining reasons for cleaving to God, make images of things in heaven above or in earth beneath. “Their heart was not right with him, neither were they steadfast in his covenant.”
II. The same perverse spirit was cherished. Stephen quotes this charge against the people, as a signal proof of perverseness of heart which had always been shown by the nation. Even in days of wonderful deliverance and multiplied acts of Divine favour they cherished a rebellious heart. Men are found now resisting the Holy Spirit as their fathers from generations before them have done. They partake of the sins of their progenitors.
1. In copying their example;
2. In commending their errors; and
3. In cherishing their spirit. Thus we may identify ourselves with sins which we do not really commit. “Neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.”
III. The same kind of punishment was inflicted. If we partake of other men’s guilt we are liable to the same punishment. Israel suffered in a similar way to those in ancient days.
1. They fell under severe displeasure. Murmuring and rebellion brought upon a former race the judgments of God. Their carcases fell in the wilderness, a warning to all generations of idolatry and unbelief.
2. They were excluded from the land of promise. One race did not enter Canaan; the other was driven out of it into exile. Instead of warding off the curse, they secured its reversion. The day came when they presumptuously desired and brought darkness, not light; judgment, not deliverance. They were carried “beyond Damascus,” beyond all hope of return (2 Kings 17:6). Learn—
1. That God gives a record and warning from the punishment of men’s sins.
2. That he who commits and cherishes a sin, puts himself in the company of those who have been guilty of it from the beginning of the world.
3. That it is a principle with God to punish more severely, if less judgment do not work the end for which they are sent.
4. If men would seriously meditate upon God’s greatness and power, they would not sleep securely under his awful threatenings. Thus “saith the Lord, whose name is the God of Hosts.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 5
Amos 5:25-30.5.27. The fact that physical, mental, and moral qualities are hereditary, is proved in the persistent characteristics of races and nations. Jewish and negro types, Chinese and Japanese, have had the same characteristics for centuries. So features of morality are stamped upon descendants. By walking in the steps of their fathers, nations and families reap the same harvest. We have hereditary transmission of sins and punishment.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Amos 5". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent