CRITICAL NOTES.] The visions continued from ch. Amo
Amo . Summer] Late fruit, fully ripe (2Sa 16:1; Mic 7:1); a symbol of a people ripe for judgment
Amo . Howl.] Songs of joy (ch. Amo 6:5; 2Sa 19:36) would be turned into lamentation on account of the dead. Silence] Lit. silently, not with customary rites and professional mourners; the terror of God and dread of the enemy would make them afraid to speak. "An admonition to bow beneath the overwhelming severity of the judgment of God, as in Zep 1:7 (cf. Heb 2:18 and Zec 2:13)."
A BASKET OF SUMMER FRUIT.—Amo .
Under a new type the final subversion of the state is represented. As summer fruits portend ripe harvests, so the sins of Israel ripened them for destruction. Taking the basket of fruit as an emblem of ripeness for judgment, notice—
I. A ripeness which is gradual. Nothing is matured at once. There must be seed-time before harvests; buds and flowers before fruits. Individual character is of slow growth. Seeds of national ills ripen secretly. The interval between the spring and the reaping time is defined in nature and religion.
II. A ripeness which is ruinous. Men grow in wickedness as well as in holiness; ripen for destruction as well as for salvation. God's dealings influence according to moral condition. The sun which melts the wax hardens the clay. The dew and rain water the earth, but injure the fruit. God's mercies and judgments ripen for glory or for shame. A condition which is spiritually rotten can produce nothing but decay and untimely end. Some people are like stubble laid out to dry in the sun and ripen for the fire. "They shall be devoured as stubble fully dry."
III. A ripeness which terminates existence. "The end is come upon my people." In summer nothing more is to be done but reap the crops. Good or bad, the time is come and it must be cut down. God's dealings with Israel were completed. They had neglected to reform. Their harvest was past and their summer ended. A period comes when God no longer spares a people. The fruit must be gathered and devoured by the enemy. The days are fulfilled and the end is come (Lam ). "An end is come, the end is come; it watcheth for thee; behold, it is come."
FRUIT FROM THE HEAVENLY ORCHARD
We may derive from these words the following lessons.
1. God gives fruit. "The fruit of the Spirit," &c. "The tree of Life that beareth all manner of precious fruit."
2. God's fruit is ripe. "It is summer fruit." The fruit of sin is sour; sweet to the taste, but bitter afterwards—"pleasures of sin for a season." Hence—
3. God's fruit is wholesome, like all ripe fruit, regulating and adjusting food of other sort. Christianity is a grand controlling and regulating force. The soil that grows the fruits of the Spirit cannot nourish growths of an opposite character.
4. God's fruit is satisfying. Even ripe fruit is not long satisfying. Lawful pleasures do not bring contentment. The fruit that the soul craves grows not in earthly orchards.
5. God's fruit is sustaining. Certain kinds of fruit will appease appetite for awhile without any sustentation. The fruit of God imparts strength that is permanent; in care, sickness, bereavement, and death.
6. God's fruit is stimulating. It is the fruit of the vine, "the true vine," yielding "the best wine." It is the stimulus of waning powers; prompts to action where energies would otherwise be dormant.
7. God's fruit is plentiful. "A basket of fruit," always replenished, multiplying in the use, like the "twelve baskets" of fragments, &c. The basket always filled. There is no dearth in God's orchard; no grudging in his supplies; enough for all, everywhere, at all times.
8. God's fruit is cheap. "Wine and milk, without money and without price," &c. [The Study].
A DAY OF SADNESS.—Amo
The prophet now describes the greatness of approaching judgments to rouse attention to a sense of danger—universal mourning and universal death would afflict the land.
1. Temple music would be turned into grief. The songs and sacred solemnities of the temple would cease. Mirthful music would end in grievous misery. Sin turns the greatest joy into the greatest heaviness, the loudest music into the bitterest howlings. If men do not sing in a day of grace, they will howl in a time of wrath. "Those that will not serve God with gladness of heart," says an old author, "in the abundance of all things, shall serve him in sadness of heart in the want of all things (Deu )."
2. Mortality would be prevalent in every place. Sin brings sword, pestilence, and famine (Eze ); sweeps away its thousands, and fills the land with lamentation and mourning. History tells of populations carried away by Divine judgments like leaves before the wind (Isa 64:6). The picture in Israel is a type of many a fact in providence. Many dead—dead in every place and buried in common pits, without customary rites. Grief could find no vent to relieve itself. The sorrow could not wear away in utterance. The burden was intolerable and the silence universal. The living and the dead were solemn as the grave. How sad that everlasting death which awaits an ungodly race!
"Death loves a shining mark, a signal blow" [Young].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Amo . A basket, &c.
1. A type of God's goodness in nature. He gives fruit in due season, in rich abundance, &c. He never left himself without a witness (Act ).
2. A type of human diligence in co-operating with God. Beasts eat without industry. Man has to till the ground and cultivate the trees. The fruit must be gathered and the basket made. If we do not work, neither can we eat. "There is a basket of fruit which is so ripe, that it has been gathered, and it is a sort of fruit—summer fruit—which will not keep, which will not lay by until winter, but must be eaten at once. It teaches—
1. That there is a ripeness in God's purposes. God always times his decrees. In the first and second advent of Jesus Christ. In our own personal affairs God gives deliverance not in thy time, but in his. Trust him for mercy in its time, &c.
2. That nations have their ripeness, and that when they come to their ripeness they must be destroyed. Sceptics may entertain doubts concerning individual transgression and personal punishment, but history proves that national judgments have been sent from God. Take Babylon, Greece, and Rome. We as a people are guilty, and should not be proud and self-righteous.
3. That there is a ripeness of men as well as of summer fruit. With the righteous a time of ripening for heaven, a ripening in knowledge, experience, and spirituality. With the ungodly a ripening in the love of sin and hardness of heart, a ripening for eternal judgment! Take heed! Be renewed in heart and ripened for eternal glory" [Spurgeon].
Amo . The manner in which the truth is conveyed to the prophet's mind by different representations reminds us of the course pursued towards the apostles by the Lord, and teaches that we should endeavour to answer the purpose of God, and to let the truth sink deeply into our minds, that being clearly understood it may powerfully affect us, and make us ready to impart it to others [Ryan].
First, those nearest destruction are often the most negligent and stupid. They need to be told often of their danger and roused to diligence. God warns them often and leaves them without excuse. Second, the servants of God have need to be instructed that they may warn others. Attention to the revelation must be quickened. Behold. The vision itself must be seen and explained. "What seest thou?" They must declare nothing but what they have received. "Thus hath the Lord God showed unto me."
Meditate carefully on the object presented to view. It suggests the idea of a tree which had been planted, tended, watered with the rain and dew; it had blossomed, budded, brought forth fruit; its work was done; the fruit was gathered; no pains of the gardener, no change in the season, no influence of the sun, could now alter the character of that fruit. At previous times, when the leaves and blossom came forth, there would be room for anxiety or hope; there would afterwards be room for doubt as to its future size and goodness, according to its progress during the weeks of its growth,—but now all was over. They were either apples of Sodom, or pleasant to the eye and good for food. Now was the time not to cherish their growth, but to try their quality. "The end is come" [Ryan].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 8
Amo . God hath done more for Britain, or certainly as much, as he did for Abraham's race, and even if we have not rebelled as often as Israel in the wilderness, yet our little rebellions are great because of the greatness of God's goodness. Oh, Christians, be in earnest that the land may be filled with grace; that the torrent of our iniquities may be dried up, lest haply that supposition of a great historian should at last become a fact, and the New Zealander should yet sit on the broken arch of London Bridge, wondering that so great a city could have passed away [Spurgeon].
Amo . Mirth. Many a sigh is heaved amid the loud laughter of folly. Take the fullest cup of earth's best joys. What is this to satisfy desire, to allay trouble, to meet eternity? Even the present end of this short-lived mirth is heaviness, sometimes so intolerable, that death is fled to as the cure of anguish; and to avoid the fear of hell the wretched sinner leaps into it. At best eternity will change this mirth, when that will remain which would be the most desirable riddance—the sting of conscience, as enduring as the pleasures of sin were momentary [Bridge].
Amo . Hear] The nobles hated reproof. Swallow] Heb. gape after, earnestly desire (Job 7:2); pant after goods as wild beasts for prey. They sought to rid the land of all the poor. 5 and 6 describe the method of doing this. New moon] Festivals were impatiently kept; they begrudged the regular holiday and suspension of trade (Num 28:11; 2Ki 4:23). Set forth] Lit. open out to sell. Falsifying] Heb. perverting the balances of deceit (Hos 12:7). Money was weighed. They increased the price both ways, dishonestly trading and breaking the command (Deu 25:13-15).
Amo . Poor] Made so poor that he was necessitated to sell himself for silver, which he owed, or a pair of shoes, which he could not pay for.
Amo . Sworn] to punish such conduct, by the pride, by Himself (Hos 5:5; Hos 7:10). Forget, i.e. leave unpunished.
Amo . Punishment] will be so great that the earth shall quake, its inhabitants mourn, and the globe will rise and fall like a flood
Amo . Noon] Darkness then an emblem of great calamities (Jer 15:9; Eze 32:7-10); a type of judgments upon ungodly people and of the great day of accounts.
Amo . Feasts] will be turned into mourning; baldness as a sign of it (Isa 3:24; Jer 48:37). Mourning deep as that for the death of an only son (Jer 6:26; Zec 12:10).
THE DEEDS OF COVETOUSNESS.—Amo
After describing the calamities, Amos now sets forth the ground of these calamities. Israel had broken both tables of the law and sinned against great light and love. They sought to secure themselves in irreligion towards God and unrighteous conduct towards men. In their oppressive and covetous rapacity they are summoned to hear threatenings against their cruel deeds. "Hear this." Their covetousness is seen—
I. In cruelty to men. An avaricious man is naturally a selfish man. He makes laws of his own and regards not the interests of others. He isolates himself from the common brotherhood, and constitutes himself an all-absorbing and enlarging circle.
1. Oppression of the poor. "O ye that swallow up the needy." They panted for the needy as wild beasts for prey, and sought to rid the land of the poor. Those who devour the poor without pity or compassion are inhuman in their disposition. They have iron teeth, vent their wantonness where there is no power to resist, and eat up the people "as they eat bread" (Psa ). "There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw-teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men."
2. Selling and enslaving the poor. "Buy the poor for silver." The nobles of Israel oppressed the needy, that they might eventually trade in them. They gained the purses, and then sought the persons of their bondmen. Corn was dear, and they resolved to make merchandise of men. The mean and selfish estimate their fellows at a contemptible price. "A little silver or a pair of shoes." Human nature is insulted, the rights of property disregarded, and the laws of liberty trampled upon, by greedy oppressors. "He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker; but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor."
II. In contempt for the worship of God. "When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn?" They kept the Sabbath with a weary, impatient spirit. Religious services were too great restraints upon them. "When will this service be over, that we may attend to business again?" Covetous men are formal and hypocritical in their devotion. Their hearts are in the mart, the field, and the ways of "buying, and selling, and getting gain." The world does not tire them, they are not anxious for a day of rest. Religion is irksome. It interrupts worldly pursuits and is often turned into means of traffic. Men crowd the temple with tables like the money-changers, and convert the Sanctuary into a palace of Mammon. They reject the true God and worship a false one. They begrudge time for Christian worship, and like Doeg are detained before the Lord, when they long to be in the counting-house. "Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it!"
III. In fraudent trade with men. If men grudge time for God, they will grudge right to man; if they resist the claims of piety, they will soon fall into tricks of dishonesty. These tricks are manifold. A few are given in the text.
1. False weights and measures. In two ways they defrauded the poor—(a) diminishing the measure, "making the ephah small;" and (b) increasing the price, "and the shekel great." They doubly deceived, by paring down the quantity and by uneven balances obtained more silver for what they sold. This was disobedience to the law (Lev ), and violation of the conditions on which they held the land (Deu 25:13-15). In robbing God you indulge a propensity to injure man; in giving less and taking more than you ought you bring a double curse—deprivation of blessing and increase of pains which pierce the soul with many sorrows. "Take heed and beware of covetousness."
2. Adulteration of food. "Sell the refuse of the wheat." The bran or unfilled grain which fell through the sieve. The worst was sold and the best paid for. The poor are victimized now. Short weight and short measure are too common in England. Almost every article of food is adulterated, and even poison sold for bread! Men are hard-hearted, dishonest, inexorable as the taskmasters of Egypt, in driving bargains! We are influenced by the spirit of gain, and worship too much in the temple of Mammon. Every nation has its idol, and money is our god. "The love of money is the root of all evil."
THE CURSE OF COVETOUSNESS.—Amo
Good men would rather be poor by providence than rich by sin. He that becomes rich by unlawful means, that hasteth to be rich, may haste to his ruin, and shall not be innocent or unpunished (Pro ; 1Ti 6:9-11). Covetousness, more than any other sin, brings its own punishment. But in addition to this God often visits it with positive infliction, as in the text.
I. The certainty of the curse. "The Lord hath sworn." If oaths among men confirm a promise, does not God's oath indicate immutable purpose? He swears that he will never forget any of their works. All men's doings are known to God. No lapse of times nor change of circumstances veil them from his omniscient glance. Iniquity is never forgotten until forgiven in Christ. Flight of years may efface the memory, but cannot ward off the fruit of transgression. God can sooner cease to be, than forget to punish the wickedness of men. He may seem to forget, but a faithful record is kept, an immutable purpose is formed, and eventually justice will give its reward. "Woe, and a thousand woes, to the man who is cut off by an oath of God, from all benefit of pardoning mercy."
II. The terribleness of the curse. Mark the emphasis of the question—"shall not?" The appeal is to human consciences. How can it be otherwise? Great sins bring grievous judgments.
1. Curse like an earthquake—will bring terror and consternation. The land is represented as shaking, returning to primeval chaos, and suffering under the weight of sin. Wicked men are a curse to the earth, and all creatures testify indignation against their conduct (Psa ; Rom 8:22). "For this shall the earth mourn and the heavens above be black."
2. Curse like a flood—will rise up and deluge the land; calamities shall overflow them. Judgments will be like the breaking forth of waters. Floods of sorrow, like the deluge of old, sweep impenitent sinners from the earth. General calamities affect insensate earth, until it casts out or drowns its wicked inhabitants. "The Lord God of Hosts is he that toucheth the land and it shall melt, and all that dwell therein shall mourn; and it shall rise up wholly like a flood, and shall be drowned as by the flood of Egypt."
III. The suddenness of the curse. "The sun to go down at noon." It is not a gradual, a natural, but unlooked-for, untimely sinking. So the sun of prosperity rises and shines upon the wicked in all its splendour; but God darkens the sky in the clear day. The darkness is blacker in contrast with the light; the sorrow the sadder when it succeeds festive joy. Thus prosperity ends in ruin and sinful prospects fade away. "Her sun is gone down while it was yet day: she hath been ashamed and confounded."
IV. The consequences of the curse. Prosperity is turned into misery, and mirth into mourning. Their common and holy feasts, their domestic and temple songs, into lamentation.
1. Mourning universal. "Every one mourn" (Amo ). Rich and poor without exception. Judgments were prevalent as the sins (Hos 4:3), penetrated all ranks and suffered none to escape.
2. Mourning with ceremonial rites. Instead of gay attire they would put on sackcloth. It was not the time for ornaments and fine clothing. Baldness would be upon every head. They would either shave in sorrow, or pull the hair off their heads in anguish (Ezr ). Inward distress revealed itself in outward signs.
3. Mourning most bitter. "As the mourning of an only son." The death of an only son was regarded as the most mournful of events. In Egypt one universal cry arose from the death of the firstborn. Parents may lose one out of many and be comforted in the possession of others. But the loss of an only child can never be repaired. "Make thee mourning as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us."
4. Mourning without relief. It is not an eclipse, but a going down of the sun. The duration of sorrow is unto posterity, the end of the kingdom. The clouds will not vanish soon away. The wrath of God would abide upon them. When they looked for an end, the day would still be bitter. At evening time sometimes light will arise; but to the impenitent the day grows darker, and the night will be darkest of all. Bitterness will be the issue, and the end the beginning of sorrows. "What will ye do in the end thereof?" (Jer ). "This shall ye have at my hand, you shall lie down in sorrow."
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Amo . Covetous men.
1. Are cruel to others.
2. Selfish in their aims.
3. Dishonest in their conduct.
4. Weary in religious worship. They are never at rest in their minds, never satisfied in their possessions, and never idle in their pursuits.
The value worldly men set upon the poor. Dross and dung, the filth and offscouring of society (1Co ). Contrast this with God's judgment of the poor. He esteems them the excellent of the earth (Psa 16:3); the glory of the world (Isa 4:5); and too good for ungrateful men (Heb 11:38). If men make a prey of the poor, God will make an example of them.
Sin in wrong measures once begun is unbroken. All sin perpetuates itself. It is done again because it has been done before. But sins of a man's daily occupation are continued of necessity, beyond the simple force of habit and the ever-increasing dropsy of covetousness. To interrupt sin is to risk detection. But then how countless the sins which their poor slaves must needs commit hourly, whenever the occasion comes! And yet, although among us human law recognizes the Divine law, and annexes punishment to its breach, covetousness sets both at nought. When human law was enforced in a city after a time of negligence scarcely a weight was found to be honest. Prayer went up to God on the Sabbath and fraud up to God on the other six days [Pusey].
Amo . The excellency of Jacob. By this title he would teach—
1. That nothing beside God can make a people truly excellent, enjoy what dignity and excellency they will.
2. That it is great ingratitude of a people, when being excellent through him, they do not acknowledge him, nor walk answerable [Hutcheson].
The favour and presence of God with a people is the glory and excellency of a people. It is not corn, wine, women, health, wealth, or multitude, that make a nation happy, for then Turks and Tartars, Barbarians and Indians, would excel God's people, for they abound in these external comforts; but happy is that people whose God is the Lord (Psa ; Psa 148:14; Jer 2:11; Luk 2:32). Hence Moses glories in this above all other privileges (Deu 4:7-8). The fruition and enjoyment of God's favour is the life of our lives, and the honour of our honours; without this we may write Ichabod upon all that we have. Hence the greater is their sin who dishonour him with sin and turn the glory which he hath put upon them into shame. This makes the Lord to swear that he will strip them of their privileges, and make them naked as in the day when they were born [Hall].
Amo . This will be a sudden ruin, a check in the midst of apparent prosperity, irresistible as the waters of a flood, sudden as the setting of the sun at noon, gloomy and dreadful as a darkness which should at once succeed to the light of a clear day. Those feasts, which had been the instruments of their pleasure and the cause of much of their sin, would be succeeded by mourning; luxurious and licentious music would give place to sounds of bitter lamentation. Instead of purple and fine linen, sackcloth would be their clothing, and delicious ointments and costly tiaras would be followed by baldness [Ryan].
1. To any man the sun sets at noon, when he is suddenly snatched away by death in the very midst of his life.
2. When he is suddenly destroyed in the midst of earthly prosperity.
3. "But it has still wider application. When the Lord shall come to judgment, at a time when the world, in its self-security, looketh not for him (cf. Mat ), this earth's sun will set at noon, and the earth be covered with darkness in bright daylight. Every judgment that falls upon an ungodly people or kingdom, as the ages roll away, is a harbinger of the approach of the final judgment" [Keil].
Changes in human destiny and experience. Clear days, dark days, and bitter days.
Sin is a bitter thing. Bitter in itself and its consequences. It promises pleasure and brings pain; liberty, and brings bondage; happiness, and brings misery. Its misery is personal and eternal, darkness without day, sorrow without relief.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 8
Amo . Oppression.
"Press not a falling man too far" [shakespeare].
Deliver him that suffereth wrong from the hand of the oppressor; and be not faint-hearted when thou sittest in judgment (Ecc ).
Amo . Sabbath. In God's house and business forget thine own; be there as a member of the Church, not of the commonwealth. Empty thyself of this world, thou art conversant with the next. Let all thy senses have no other object but God; let thine ears be open, but thine eyes shut. Remember God regards the heart of the worshipper. We are never safe till we love him with our whole heart whom we pretend to worship [Bp Henshawe]. Deceit. Commerce is a providential appointment for our social intercourse and mutual helpfulness. It is grounded with men upon human faith, as with God upon Divine faith. Balances, weights, money, are its necessary materials. Impositions, double-dealings; the hard bargain struck with self-complacent shrewdness—this is the false balance forbidden alike by law (Lev 19:35) and gospel (Mat 7:12). Men may commend its wisdom; God not only forbids, but abominates it [Bridge]. A straight line is the shortest in morals as in geometry [Rahal]. Honesty is the best policy.
Amo . Covetousness. The man who sets his heart on riches must necessarily be a stranger to peace and enjoyment. Fear, care, anxiety, suspicion, and jealousy place him on a constant rack. To the toil of getting is added the trouble of keeping his pelf. Avarice is insatiable as the grave, or rather as a gulf without bottom. The more this passion is supplied with fresh fuel the more vehement the flame [Rusticus].
Amo . Go down. So use prosperity that adversity may not abuse thee. If, in the one, security admits no fears, in the other, despair will afford no hopes. He that in prosperity can foretell a danger, can in adversity foresee deliverance [F. Quarles].
Amo . Famine] The light and comfort of God's word shall fail; they despise now what they shall look for in vain then.
Amo . Wander] Lit. reel, like drunken men. Seek] under pressure of calamity.
Amo .] Hunger and thirst so great that the strongest give way and faint, how much more the weak (Isa 40:30).
Amo . Sin] The calves by which Samaria sins. God] The other golden calf at Dan (1Ki 12:26-30). Liveth] Formula of the oath. Swearing by these objects shows that young men and maidens journeyed to Beersheba and worshipped idols. The ground of all their misery was forsaking God, who commands all appeals to be made to Himself as the Creator and Governor of all things (Deu 6:13; Deu 10:20).
A FAMINE OF THE WORD.—Amo
The prophet now predicts far greater evils than temporal judgments. A famine of the word, one of the saddest events that could happen a Divinely taught people. This is the last and sorest of all calamities. When God will not speak to men by his servants and word it is a sign that he will punish and reject them.
I. The word of God is the true nourishment of man. Every kind of life requires nutriment. Man has a higher life than appetite and sensation. His spiritual nature is sustained by the word of God alone. A real communication from God is essential to life. Man has ever longed for this. Speak, Lord! has always been the cry of humanity. God has spoken. His word satisfies the cravings of the heart and solves the problems of life. Here is wisdom for the ignorant and righteousness for the guilty; comfort for the sorrowful and redemption for the lost; milk for babes and strong meat for mature age. It is meat indeed and drink indeed. "I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food." "Thy words were found and I did eat them."
II. Contempt of the word of God may bring a famine of the word. "I will send a famine." God had raised up and sent prophets to the people; but they despised religious instruction, profaned God's sanctuary, and persecuted his servants. God can withhold religious privileges and leave people in darkness according to his good pleasure. But when they despise the word he will withdraw it. He will cease to give when his gifts are scorned; to love, when his love is contemned.
1. With individuals there is often a famine of the word. A person for a long time enjoys gospel light and hears the Scriptures explained and enforced. He trifles with these advantages and heeds not the word. Circumstances change, business calls elsewhere, and in foreign lands or distant colonies he finds no provision. He is not fed with the bread of life. Many a sick chamber has been embittered and many a dying hour darkened by the remembrance of warnings despised. "They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof" (Pro ).
2. In the sanctuary there is often a famine of the word. When the gospel is rejected and ministers silenced; when the temple is profaned by worldly influences, and religious worship becomes a wearisome toil; God will take his blessings away, and men shall know the price by seeking them and shall not find them. The seven Churches of Asia Minor and the desolate shore of Northern Africa are solemn examples of this.
3. In the nation God can send a famine of the word. Unto the Jews were committed the oracles of God. They were highly exalted and Divinely instructed. But ungodliness crept into the temple, corruption tainted the king, and violence filled the land. Direction from God was a part of their blessedness. The want of that direction has now left them a wandering, helpless people. In their distress they cry as of old, "We see not our tokens, there is not one prophet more, not one is there among us that understandeth any more."
III. A famine of the word is the sorest judgment upon any nation. It is a miserable state to cry for bread and have none.
1. A famine of the word is a greater evil than a famine of bread. The soul is superior to the body, and knowledge, love, and truth are more necessary than bread. Man does not live by bread alone. The mind requires food and cannot feed upon husks. If hunger and thirst be painful, how much more lack of spiritual sustenance! Men have hunger, though not always conscious of it. Appetite will be quickened in trouble, and like Saul they will be sore distressed. "God is departed from me and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams."
2. A famine of the word will cause the strongest to succumb. "The fair virgins and the young men faint for thirst. The beauty of the virgin and the vigour of youth decay without knowledge." All flesh is grass, and the goodliness thereof as the flower of the field. But God's word abides in its blessed nature and permanent results. Our choicest privileges and fairest sex, our education and wealth, are vain things. The withdrawment of God will cause them to wither away. Physical suffering will follow spiritual famine. "Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed; yea, poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction."
3. A famine of the word will leave a nation in a deplorable condition.
(1) In a weak condition. When men faint and thirst they are helpless. Hungry within and scorched with the wrath of God without, who can stand? The wicked faint and sink under their burdens, and have not a shower of rain to quench their burning thirst (Eze ).
(2) In afallen condition. "They shall fall." Fall into danger and the darkness of idolatry and superstition. Men who forsake God will eventually, like Saul, consult wrong sources of comfort and shall not find it.
(3) In a hopeless condition. "Never rise up again." Without the word we are without bread and without strength; without comfort and without hope. When the word goes, God himself departs, and there is none to deliver us. "God hath forsaken him; persecute and take him."
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Amo . The judgment.
1. Its Author. "I will send."
2. Its certainty. "Thus saith the Lord."
3. Its period. "The days come," suddenly and presently.
4. Its consequences. (a) Hunger and thirst. (b) Exile and anxiety. (c) Unsuccessful search. 5. Its importance. "Behold," calling attention to its direful and dreadful nature. "Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water," &c.
Amo . Natural strength falls far short of the strength God gives to his weak people (Isa 40:29-31); it cannot endure nor carry us through calamities and judgments for sin. Young men shall faint, and those whose condition pleads for pity and respect shall not be spared. "In this hopelessness as to all relief, those too shall fail and sink under their sufferings, in whom life is freshest and strongest, and hope most buoyant. Hope mitigates any sufferings. When hope is gone, the powers of life which it sustains give way" [Pusey].
1. The calamity. "They shall fall and never rise again." Though a man fall, if he has hope of rising again, it brings a certain degree of comfort and strength: but Israel fell into captivity and were not restored. If gentle means cure not, God will make a final end.
2. The reason of the calamity. Idolatry in the form of oaths and ascriptions of powers of life to the golden calves. They sware—
1. By the sin of Samaria.
2. By the god of Daniel
3. By the manner of Beersheba. By strange gods which they had set up in these places. The whole land was infected by a popular, degrading system which they had set up, and which was the cause of their final overthrow.
The judgment of men and the judgment of God differ much. That which man calls here by way of honour a god, that God calls by way of dishonour and detestation a sin and abominable (Jer ; Jer 44:4). Thus the world calls riches substance, goods happiness (Psa 4:6), but the Holy Ghost calls them vanities, thorns, husks, unrighteous mammon. That which is highly esteemed in the sight of carnal, superstitious men is an abomination in the sight of God [Hall].
Fall fatally, irrecoverably, as old Eli did when his neck was broken, but first his heart. The ten tribes for their idolatry and contempt of the word never returned out of captivity. From the famine foretold what could follow but irreparable ruin, though for a time things might flourish (Pro )? Of that spiritual famine let us be most impatient, and say as Luther did, I would not live in paradise without the word; but with it I could make a shift to live in hell [Trapp].
Two subjects in this chap. attract our notice.
1. God's ordinances slighted. Let those who turn the Sabbath into a day of trade, and rob their fellow-men of their comforts by their extortions, as they rob God of his honour by their heartless worship, see their own portraits in the address of the prophet; blush for shame, and tremble at the destiny of those who continue in such a state.
2. Religious instruction withdrawn. It may not be now exactly with them as with Israel. They may not be wholly excluded from the warning voice of the prophets of God; but the time approaches when repentance will no more be preached to, or be available for, them. When no deliverer will be exhibited to their view, as exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins, their souls will die of an eternal famine. No "bread of life" shall be presented to them for food! No water of life shall quench the flame which guilt shall enkindle in their consciences [Cobbin].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 8
Amo . When Divine judgments come upon a race which has forgotten and forsaken God, the once despised and hated word is appreciated again. Men "hunger and thirst" for it, but often at first not in the right way. They desire as speedily as possible to hear of promises and consolations, and to these every ear is open. But it is in vain. We now need expect no new revelation from God. We have "his word" in the Scripture. But when this is a long time despised, it follows at last that there is no one to preach it, and without a living preacher it is finally lost. Or if it is preached it has no power to console, and men fail to find what they seek. Thus ensues a longing which is not satisfied. The result is otherwise only when men bow in penitence under the Divine threatening as deserved, and under the Divine Spirit inwardly blame themselves for previous apostasy. But who knows whether man will find room for repentance? Before he reaches that point, while he is in the midst of his vain longing for comfort, he may be snatched away [Lange].
"There's not a joy the world can give like that it takes away."
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Amos 8". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week after Epiphany