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CRITICAL NOTES.] Amos sees God standing, fixed in purpose, by the altar. Posts] Thresholds (Isaiah 6:4). Cut] Human victims demanded; wounded with fragments of broken columns (cf. Psalms 68:21; Habakkuk 3:13). Last] Those left cannot escape.
Amos 9:2.] The Lord everywhere will pursue and destroy them (ch. Amos 2:14). Hell] Though they hide themselves in the deepest holes and caverns of earth. Climb] the greatest heights (Job 20:6-7; Jeremiah 51:53).
Amos 9:3. Carmel] One of the highest mountains, full of caves and forests (Judges 6:2; 1 Samuel 13:6). Serpent] A great sea-monster (Isaiah 27:1).
Amos 9:4. Go] willingly into captivity; the sword shall slay them. Set] “God has fixed His eye upon them, i.e. has taken them under His special superintendence (cf. Jeremiah 39:12); not to shelter, protect, and bless, but for evil, i.e. to punish them” [Keil]
THE FINAL CALAMITY.—Amos 9:1-4
In previous visions we see the ripeness of the people and the nearness of judgment. In this God himself is engaged to execute it. The temple at Bethel is a fitting emblem of the nation, which gathers round it. The command is given to smite. It shakes, falls, and buries the multitude under its ruins. The sanctuary was overthrown by the judgment of God, and the kingdom of Israel totally destroyed.
I. The nature of the calamity.
1. It is moral. God stands upon the altar and smites the idolatrous temple. He is ready to depart from them and punish them for apostasy. He was forsaking his people because they had forsaken him. God warns men, before he departs from them. But idolatry provokes him, and turns the place of sacrifice into a throne of vengeance. The posts and pillars of the temple are smitten. “Begin at my sanctuary” (Ezekiel 9:6). The nearer to God, the greater the provocations; the higher the privileges, the nearer to judgment (Daniel 9:12; 1 Peter 4:17).
2. It is complete. It involves the utter destruction of the kingdom, the overthrow of the nation in its corporate existence.
(1) The heads of the people. “Cut them in the head, all of them.” Civil and religious leaders had neglected their duty, forgotten their dignity, and disregarded the good of the nation. God is no respecter of persons. Head or heel they cannot escape. “He is terrible to the kings of the earth.”
(2) The posterity of the people. “I will slay the last of them with the sword.” God will slay all the remainder, their families and their posterity, all that are left, unto the very last. Justice is unsparing. Great and small, kings and common people, must suffer. Universality in sin brings universality in punishment. Neither pre-eminence nor poverty can protect from guilt. When the head is smitten, the body faints, and every member suffers with it.
II. The certainty of the calamity. None can escape, for God is Omniscient (Amos 9:2-4), and God is Omnipotent.
1. God has determined to punish. He appears in an attitude of judgment; fixed in purpose, to prohibit sacrifices and avenge his honour. Israel’s iniquity was like that of the house of Eli, which “could not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever” (1 Samuel 3:14).
2. It is impossible to escape punishment.
(1) The loftiest heights cannot protect them, (a) Carmel, with its caves and its forests, a hiding-place for robbers and runaways, could afford no refuge. “I will search and take them out thence.” (b) Heaven itself could not hide them. If they fixed their throne in the stars, and climbed the highest regions of space, they would fall into the hands of God. From thence would he humble, judge, and condemn them. “Thence will I bring them down.”
(2) The greatest depths cannot hide them, (a) If they were to “dig in Hell,” in the deepest and most secret places of the earth, God would find them. “Thence shall my hand take them.” (b) “Though they be hid in the bottom of the sea,” the deadly serpent would bite them (Isaiah 27:1). Diving would avail no more than climbing. Height and depth, light and darkness are alike open to the Omnipresent God. Men would gladly hide themselves from God’s presence, but they cannot.
(3) The longest distance cannot shelter them. Captivity might seem safe, for men do not often slay those whom they carry away. But God would discover them among their enemies, and remotest countries could not befriend them. Sinners would gladly dig into hell or climb up to heaven to escape from God’s presence; but God is everywhere. “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me” (Psalms 139:7-11).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Amos 9:1. Standing upon the altar. The place of mercy turned into judgment. The Bible, the means of grace, and every altar of idolatry, literal or spiritual, will be smitten by God. Abused altars will be turned into seats of justice, and cry for vengeance, not sacrifice. “They were in counterfeit of the sacrifices which God had appointed, they offered would-be-atoning sacrifices, and sinned in them; God appeared standing, to behold, to judge, to condemn” [Pusey].
Amos 9:2 to Amos 4:1. The power of Divine judgments.
2. The subservience of God’s attributes in their execution.
3. The impossibility of escaping them. “Every syllable is important, even though at first it may seem otherwise. The Holy Spirit designs to shake off our self-flatteries and rouse our innate torpor, that we may not think of God as of ourselves, but know that his power extends to all hiding-places” [Calvin].
I. Desperate efforts of sinners to escape. They dig, they climb, and “they go into captivity,” willingly, in presumption and fear. In presence of danger men are roused to most strenuous efforts. They multiply endless means, and think they can get out of every trouble by turning away from God, II. Fruitless efforts of sinners to escape. What the Psalmist says of God’s omnipresence (Psalms 139:0) the Prophet declares concerning his justice. All refuge is hopeless and ruin is inevitable. No depth of delusion nor human devices can secure the sinner from the serpent-bite of conscience here, and no mountains nor hills can hide from the presence of God hereafter. Only in Christ can refuge be found. Escape for thy life.
He contrasts Mount Carmel, which rises abruptly out of the sea, with depths of that ocean which it overhangs. Carmel was in two ways a hiding-place.
1. Through its caves (some say 1000, some 2000) with which it is perforated, whose entrance sometimes scarcely admits a single man; so close to each other that a pursuer would not discern into which the fugitive had vanished; so serpentine within, that 10 steps apart, says a traveller, we could hear each others’ voices, but could not see each other.
2. Its summit, about 1800 feet above the sea, is covered with pines and oaks, and lower down with olive and laurel trees. These forests furnished hiding-places to robber-hordes at the time of our Lord. In those caves Elijah probably at times was hidden from the persecution of Ahab and Jezebel. Carmel, as the western extremity of the land, projecting into the sea, was the last place which a fugitive would reach. If he found no safety there, there was none in his whole land. Nor was there by sea [Pusey].
GOD’S EYE FIXED ON SINNERS.—Amos 9:4
This is a figurative expression setting forth a solemn thought. As we indicate pleasure or anger by the look of the eye, or the form of our countenance, so God in providence fixes his “eyes over the righteous,” but his “face is against them that do evil” (Psalms 34:15).
1. In displeasure at his guilt. God is not indifferent to human conduct. He sets his eye upon all wicked deeds, and will give them no countenance nor support. If men obstinately rebel against him, he will show his displeasure against them. “I will set my face against that man” (Ezekiel 14:8 : Leviticus 20:3; Leviticus 26:17).
2. In tracking his steps. “I will search and take them out thence.” God discovers the hypocrisy and finds out the hiding-place of men. They are watched as by spies, guarded as by sentinels; hemmed in and forbidden to escape. In repose and occupation, by night and by day, alone and with others, God narrowly looks into all their paths (Job 13:27).
3. In determination to punish his sin. “For evil and not for good.” The evil man is checkmated in life, followed by Nemesis, the prediction and in part the experience of justice. He flees from himself, from conscience, from God, and meets them all! His punishment is everywhere below, how then can he escape hereafter? If the eyes of Tamerlane had such power that men could hardly endure to behold them, what must the eyes of God be? If the frown of Augustus Cæsar or Queen Elizabeth was death, who can endure the anger of God? “For his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings” (Job 34:21-22).
“So writhes the mind remorse hath riven,
Unfit for earth, undoomed for heaven,
Darkness above, despair beneath,
Around it flame, within it death” [Byron].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 9
Amos 9:1-4. Hide themselves. God is everywhere, not as the air is everywhere. The air is part in one place and part in another; God is all in every place. God is wholly in the height of heaven, and wholly in the depth of hell; wholly in the length of the earth, and wholly in the breadth of the sea. All God is in all things, and all God is without all things; He is without all things, and not shut out of anything. He is in all things, and not included in anything. So the ancients speak of this wonderful mystery of God’s omnipresence [Caryl].
“Heaven hath its countless eyes to view men’s acts.
Can we outrun the heavens?
However wickedness outstrips men, it has no wings to fly from God” [Shakespeare].
Amos 9:5.] God is omnipotent, able judgment. Toucheth] Dissolves the stability of the earth (Psalms 46:7; Psalms 75:4).
Amos 9:6. Stories] Lit. steps, perhaps in allusion to Solomon’s throne (1 Kings 10:18-19). Troop] Lit. a band dividing the waters above from those beneath the heavens (cf. Genesis 7:11). Others, all the elements and living creatures, called the host (Genesis 2:1). God has bound the waters by perpetual decrees, and all creatures are subject to his control (Psalms 103:20-21).
GOD’S POWER A GUARANTEE OP HIS TRUTH.—Amos 9:5-6
These words confirm the threat in the preceding verses; describe the nature and the works of God; and present him in majesty and might, able and determined to administer justice.
I. He created the universe. “He that buildeth his stories in the heaven.”
1. He made the heavens. He arranged them in their place and fixed them in their distance. The clouds, the aërial heavens, are balanced by his hand (Job 37:16). He suspends, condenses, and pours out their contents at his pleasure. The starry heavens derive their glory from him. The heaven of heavens is the palace of the Great King. Like a stately building, God has reared (artistically and beautifully put in order, arranged, Hebrews 11:3) the celestial spheres in stories one above another; the lowest, like steps, leads to the highest, the material to the spiritual, earth to heaven. “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things,” &c.
2. He founded the earth. He drew the plan and prepared the place, provided the materials and laid the foundation. “Thou hast also founded the earth,” given it order, beginning, and firmness. The “troop in the earth,” all the elements of nature and all the creatures of the world, are linked together as bands of men (2 Samuel 2:25), or yoked in submission to his will (Isaiah 58:6). “When I call unto them they stand up together.”
II. He governs the universe. He sits above earth and heaven, ruling all creatures and directing all agencies. Men only see law in the evaporation of water from the sea, the electric agency which binds it in the cloud, and in the current of air which wafts it to the land. But God creates rain and disperses it over the earth. “He calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth.” He creates the earthquake and the flood. Fire and frost, thunder and lightning, promptly obey his command. “He sendeth out his word and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow.”
III. He can destroy the universe. “The Lord God of Hosts, is he that toucheth the land.”
1. The ability with which he executes his word. Threats are formidable according to the power of him that threatens. We laugh at impotence and fear omnipotence. The power which reared the world is irresistible. How hopeless the case of those who have the powers of all creation against them! “Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.”
2. The ease with which he executes his word. He only touches the land and it melts; the lightness of the effort indicating the might of the power. The blast of God’s breath melts the mightiest armies like wax before the fire (Psalms 68:1-2). The highest and most solid parts of the earth feel his glance. “He toucheth the hills, and they smoke.” He merely breathes, and men perish (Job 4:9). Sinai trembled; and should we be more insensible than material creation? With one touch the earth would reel before him, or return to chaos. “He uttered his voice; the earth melted.”
3. The method in which he executes his word. He turns the land into a sea by rain or inundations; drowns it like the deluge of Noah or “the flood of Egypt.” Think of the disaster in Chili in 1868. God, enthroned above, “calleth for the waters of the sea.” They rise at his bid. “He pours them out upon the face of the earth,” and “all that dwell therein shall mourn.” The prophet wonders why men do not fear God, whose power is displayed in heaven, earth, and sea, and with a word of his mouth can melt the wicked like snow before the sun. “Fear ye not me? saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at my presence?” &c. (Jeremiah 5:22).
“How dare they, then, offend, when God shall see;
That must alone both judge and jury be?” [T. Randolf]
CREATION THE MIRROR AND THE MIND OF GOD
Men forget with whom they have to do and against whom they sin. The prophet therefore sets forth the majesty and power of God, who was able to do whatever he uttered against them. Sinners should fear to offend him, and speedily make their peace with him.
I. Creation reveals the nature of God. Every act of God is a manifestation of God; an egress of his nature. Power is seen in the creation and upholding of the universe in all its wonderful changes and combinations; wisdom, in its design and beauty, the adaptation of means to ends; benevolence, in its arrangements and enjoyments. Everywhere we have signs of the existence of a Being of intelligence and goodness. The heavens “declare his glory,” and the earth affirms his “eternal power and Godhead.” How strange to be unmindful of “goodness beyond thought, and power Divine!” Why not discern him,
“Who plann’d, and built, and still upholds a world
So clothed with beauty, for rebellious man?”
II. Creation reveals the mind of God. It has been called Adam’s library. The prophet read the mind of God in the Book of Nature, and discovered laws for the guidance of man.
1. The works of God subserve the purpose of God. God is not merely present in “laws,” “phenomena,” or “second causes.” He does not govern the world by proxy, like ancient monarchs ruling their empires. All things are made to subserve the design for which they were created, never cease to obey his will and reflect his power and goodness. The earth trembles, the floods rise, and calamities happen to fulfil the ends of his administration.
2. The works of God reprove the indifference of man. Israel had despised the word of God, and are directed to the ways of God, to rouse attention to his will. Sensible evidence should affect us. God teaches us by signs in heaven above and earth beneath. We should be stirred up to praise him (Proverbs 16:4), warned of the danger of offending him, and led to fear him. If he can alter the course of nature, and turn established laws into scourges for sin, we should not rebel against him. “Because they regard not the works of the Lord, nor the operation of his hands, he shall destroy them and not build them up.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
1. God’s name.
2. God’s works—Creation and providence.
3. God’s judgments—Earthquakes and floods.
4. God’s design. “All that dwell therein shall mourn.”
God not seen in his works. I. Great indifference exists. Men see, but do not observe. Like Hamlet’s ghost, they have “no speculation in their eyes.” Hence they know nothing of the grandeurs by which they are surrounded, and never rise from Nature up to Nature’s God. II. Defective knowledge abounds. God is seen by many in his wisdom and power, acknowledged to be the Creator and Governor of the world, but not as a God of truth and justice, rewarding virtue and punishing sin. Divine perfections cannot be separated. Power is linked with holiness, and justice with truth. The Creator is the Moral Governor of the universe. To think of him at a distance, or judge of his purpose by one attribute of his being, is unreasonable. We cannot shun his presence. We only escape his anger by forsaking sin which causes it. “Because there is wrath, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee.”
1. God a Being of infinite perfection.
2. All things are under his control.
3. Nothing can hinder the accomplishment of his purpose.
4. It is ruinous to rebel against such a Being of almighty power and majesty.
5. It is blessed to have him for our Saviour and Friend.
“Take heed: for God holds vengeance in His hand
To hurl upon their heads that break His law.” [Shakespeare.]
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 9
Amos 9:5-6. Creation. How close does it bring the Creator to us, to regard him, not so much as having made the world, as still engaged in making it; i.e. by supplying the life on which its laws, and thus its being and incidents, depend. “Depend upon it (says an eloquent preacher) it is not the want of greater miracles, but of the soul to perceive such as are allowed us still, that makes us push all the sanctities into the far spaces we cannot reach. The devout feel that wherever God’s hand is there is miracle; and it is simply an undevoutness which imagines that only where miracle is, there can be the real hand of God” [Grindon].
Much of the glory of God in creation is hid by a train of second causes, through which few look to the first [Howe].
Amos 9:7. As children] No longer highly favoured Israelites, but acting like Cushites. Their election of no avail. They had become like the heathen, accursed as Ham, black as Ethiopians, whose skin symbolized spiritual darkness (Jeremiah 13:23). Brought up] Israel’s deliverance from Egypt no more than the bringing of Assyrians out of former dwelling-places.
Amos 9:8.] Election therefore will not save the idolatrous nation. God’s eye turned upon them, watched in order to punish them (Psalms 34:14). Not utterly] Threatening is mitigated; grace saves a few.
GOD’S COVENANT DOES NOT INVALIDATE HIS WORD.—Amos 9:7-8
In these words Amos confirms the certainty of punishment. Israel were a sinful nation, and neither pious ancestors nor covenant relations could prevent their destruction.
I. God’s covenant may be undervalued and violated. Israel professed to be God’s people, and boasted of descent from holy progenitors. A noble ancestry is of no worth unless we follow their example. The piety of predecessors does not justify, but aggravates our sin. With good patterns before them men should live better. But they degenerate into heathens and idolaters. God values them no more than the most contemptible nations of the world. Their sins had made them like other people. The gold becomes dim; the children of Israel become children of the Ethiopians. We may boast of our election, and be esteemed by others for our profession; but if we break God’s covenant, we cannot expect God’s protection. What the Apostle says of circumcision applies to election. It is a benefit to none but those who keep the law (Romans 2:25). It will not avail us to say “Abraham is our Father,” unless we do “the works of Abraham” (John 8:39; Romans 9:7-8).
II. God’s special providences in fulfilling his covenant may be abused. The plea was that God would not cast off his people; for he delivered them from bondage and pledged himself to be their God. True, God chose them that they might love him, and so long as they kept his law he protected and saved them. Special favours do not exempt from Divine justice. They lay us under greater obligation to obey; for those who have much will be punished more severely for their sins, and from them much will be required. Special deliverances may become common providences. Redemption from Egypt was no more to Israel than the leading of the Philistines and Syrians out of their former into their present dwelling-places. Those who neglect or abuse their privileges are guilty—
1. Of great ingratitude.
2. Of great rebellion. When men abuse their mercies, and despise the God of mercy, it is only just with him to strip them of their honours and visit their sins.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
1. External privileges no ground for boasting before God. Others may possess them. They may be taken from us. What was designed as a favour may lose its result by our conduct.
2. External privileges do not preserve from degenerate conduct. Israel lost their character and were esteemed as heathens. Conventional Christians and corrupt Churches are as bad as Infidels and Turks.
3. External privileges are no guarantee against punishment for sin. God accounts sin under such circumstances all the baser. Instead of hiding the guilty, such gifts abused expose them to greater condemnation. If we live not up to the obligation of God’s mercies, we forfeit the honour of them.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 9
Amos 9:7. Ethiopians. Inconsistency has been execrated in every age, as the assassin of religious character and peace, introducing anarchy and confusion into the repose of Christian Churches, casting stains upon garments which ought to be kept unspotted from the world, and by evil influence directly and bad example indirectly, throwing a reproach upon the cause of Christianity, and making the tongues of its enemies to blaspheme [W. S. M.].
“Like—but oh! how different” [Wordsworth].
Amos 9:9.] The figure explains how. For] God will disperse Israel, shake them with other nations. Wheat and chaff are mixed together. The wicked, chaff and dust, fall through the sieve and perish; the grain (solid grain), the godly, will be preserved, every one shall be saved (Matthew 22:12; Luke 22:31).
Amos 9:10. Sinners] who say in self-confidence. Prevent] To meet one round about, i.e. to come from every side. All self-secured sinners shall perish, but the righteous shall be delivered. History proves, that the kingdom of Israel, the most profane and idolatrous, fell first by the Assyrians; that Judah continued long after, enjoyed considerable prosperity under Hezekiah and Josiah; that a remnant of Israel, left by Assyrians, were united to Judah, and that others joined them. After the sifting-time comes the prosperity.
THE SIFTING PROCESS.—Amos 9:8-10
Punishment is again threatened, but mitigated. All shall not be destroyed. A remnant shall be sifted and preserved. But the impious and proud will be cut off with the sword.
I. The nature of the process. Like precious grain, God’s people have to be purified and fitted for use.
1. It is a violent process. “I will sift,” i.e. cause them to be moved, shaken, or jostled about by other nations. We have need to be shaken. We get deeply rooted in our pursuits, confirmed in our sins, and require no light measures to wean us from the world.
2. It is an extensive process. Israel were not to be unsettled among one nation, but many. Their life was to be spent “among all nations.” The Jews have been found in every country of the globe almost. The whole earth in the design of God has thus become a sieve to his people. Each change in business and residence may be a sifting to preserve from sin and prepare for service. “Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.”
II. The results of the process. The righteous shall be saved and the wicked destroyed.
1. The grain is preserved. “Yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.” God’s eye is upon every one of his people, in their trials. Like a refiner of gold, he sits watching the process. Jewish history and Church history prove that this sifting results not in destruction, but purification. “At the present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” Not one precious seed shall be lost. “It is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones should perish.”
2. The chaff is destroyed. “The sinners of my people shall die by the sword.” The same process to one will be salvation, to another destruction. Like chaff, the wicked are worthless in their character and doom, blown away with the wind or burned in the fire (Psalms 1:4). God spares the wicked for the sake of the godly now; but a separation will come. Each will go to the place for which he is fitted and destined. “He will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Amos 9:8. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, especially,
1. Observing sinners,
2. Scrutinizing character, and
3. dealing out justice.
Amos 9:9. I will sift.
1. God the sifter of his people.
2. Making Divine purposes real facts. “I will command.” He wills and it is done.
“When God commands, who dare oppose, Or ask Him why, or what He does?”
God’s people are sifted–
1. By God. Abraham, the Centurion, and the Syrophenician were tried and approved.
2. By Satan. As Peter, saved by the prayer of Christ (Luke 22:31-32). “The blast of temptation struck down the leaves; but the root stood fast.”
3. By the world. (a) Its infidelities, (b) Its persecutions, (c) Its opinions. “In the world ye shall have tribulation,” &c.
“This concise prophecy contains a draught of determinate history: the kingdom, the body politic, to be destroyed from off the face of the earth; but the people, the stock, not to be destroyed. The people to be sifted through all nations; but the seed so sifted not to perish, nor its least grain to fall to the earth. It has a history made up of opposite particulars; destruction and preservation, scattering and particular custody, combined. It is the true outline of Jewish history. Is it of any other whatever?” [Davidson on Prophecy].
Amos 9:10. Which say. I. The impious spirit of sinners. Ignorant, false, confident, and presumptive.
2. The great disappointment of sinners. Their sayings do not make facts. Punishment does overtake them, suddenly and grievously. “Evil is often nearest those that put it at the greatest distance from them.” Hope of impunity is only the refuge of the proud and rebellious; God by his judgments will change their verdict, and prove it to be a refuge of lies (Isaiah 28:15). Flee to Christ, and he will be your hiding-place in the storm.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 9
Amos 9:8-10. Sift. Gold in the ore is a treasure; but it is when it has passed through the refiner’s hands, and has received the stamp of currency, that it becomes of acknowledged value, and fit for adaptation to all the circumstances and conveniences of life [W. S. M.].
Fiery trials make golden Christians; sanctified afflictions are spiritual promotion [Dyer].
Amos 9:11. The booth] The fallen shepherd, hut (not the palace), indicating the feeble condition of the family and nation. Wall up] the rents; the two divided nations should become one. Raise up] Enlarge and finish the building as of old (2 Samuel 7:11-16).
Amos 9:12. They] God’s people possess Edom, the enemies of the Church, as the gift of God: some, “the remnant of Edom and of all the heathen that are or shall be called by My name, shall possess Me, the Lord.” There shall be a grand future restoration.
Amos 9:13.] The land shall be blessed. The plowman overtakes the reaper. One harvest shall scarcely be gathered before preparation shall be made for another; a fulfilment of Leviticus 26:5. Eminences themselves shall drop down in rich juice of grape.
Amos 9:14.] The kingdom shall be prosperous; fallen cities rebuilt; vines planted and enjoyed no longer by the enemy. Reviving activity would be seen everywhere.
Amos 9:15.] All this perpetual. Plant] Firm and lasting establishment of them; trees not torn up, but firmly rooted and eternally flourishing in joy and peace (Jeremiah 32:41). This is a beautiful type of the building up, enlargement, and establishment of the Christian Church through Christ. In Him earth will become an Eden, and the Lord will again dwell with a holy people.
THE FALLEN TABERNACLE REARED AND ENLARGED.—Amos 9:11-12
The book which began with dreadful judgments ends in sublime visions. The prophet has bewailed the sins of different cities and denounced the wrath of God against them. Now we find him predicting blessings for the heathen. The funeral dirge is turned into a song of mercy. The prophet is rewarded for faithful service, and is comforted with the thought, that after the destruction of ungodly elements, Divine grace shall rear, enlarge, and prosper a kingdom which shall never be destroyed. Amos 9:11-15 might be taken together as including the vision, but we shall treat them separately. From Amos 9:11-12, we get a description of the restored tabernacle.
I. The fallen tabernacle shall be reared up. “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David.”
1. Raised from its fallen condition. It was not a magnificent palace, but “the fallen but.” It had been rent and ruined by divisions and wars. Sin will cause any kingdom to decay and any Church to fall. It impoverishes royalty, impairs human dignity, and throws into the lowest condition. But Divine grace can build up and beautify what sin has pulled down. In the human heart, the Christian Church, and the heathen world God is building up a holy temple for the perpetual residence of His Spirit (Ephesians 2:22).
2. Repaired in its breaches. “And close up the breaches thereof.” Sin breaks down moral barriers, creates divisions in the family and the fold. God sets up new stones in the walls, heals divisions, and unites men in love and loyalty to himself.
3. Completed in its original design. “I will build it as in the days of old.” God will finish and complete the building according to its ancient grandeur in the days of David and Solomon (2 Samuel 7:11-16); and in harmony with his purpose. The kingdom of David is a type of the kingdom of Christ, the Son of David. The Christian Church may be reduced in circumstances, and almost ruined in prospect; but that is no reason for despair. The humble cot, the shattered tent, may be raised to greater worth and adorned with greater beauty than the temple of old. “Thou shalt arise and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time is come.”
II. The fallen tabernacle shall be greatly enlarged. “That they may possess the remnant of Edom,” &c. Formerly the Church was confined in narrow limits, but now it shall spread itself over all nations.
1. The Edomites, near neighbours, yet bitter enemies, shall become peaceful citizens.
2. The heathens, the Gentiles, should be called. The prophet pronounced woe upon these nations at first, but now he speaks of them as called by the name of Jehovah. The most desperate and the most distant may be converted to Christ. We should be glad at the conversion of others, and remember that the promise is unto us and our children, and as many as the Lord our God shall call. There is a bright vision for the future. God is daily increasing the number of his people. Jew and Gentile shall be called, enrolled in one family, and be distinguished by one name. “Ask of Me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”
THE SPIRITUAL GLORY OF THE RAISED TABERNACLE.—Amos 9:13-15
Behold, the days come, there are more blessings in store yet. From the fulfilment of Amos 9:11-12, shall result abundance of produce in the land, Amos 9:13, great prosperity in the nation, and perpetual duration of the kingdom [Keil].
I. The land shall be blessed with the greatest fertility. No more curse, nor failing crops. We have in this scene—
1. Earnest activity. The seedsman, the ploughman, and the reaper are all engaged in their special duties.
2. Abundant crops. So rich and productive is the land, that the mountains drop down sweet wine, and all the hills melt (Joel 3:18).
3. Wonderful rapidity. The harvest lasts unto the vintage, and the vintage continues to the seed-time. There is one continuous produce, one perpetual round of toil and success.
II. The inhabitants shall enjoy the greatest privileges. As the land of Israel shall be no more smitten with drought, so the citizens shall enjoy the rich benefits of their peaceful labour.
1. Joy would be restored. “I will bring again the captivity of my people.” Misfortune and misery should once more be turned into prosperity.
2. Freedom would be reclaimed. “They shall build the waste cities.” Delivered from the fear of the enemy, they are active for God. Men are captives, and only made free in Christ. In the gospel Christian Churches are chartered with liberty of worship and action. Hence they build waste places, and inhabit them with renewed blessings.
3. The fruits of labour would be enjoyed. Wicked men toil for others, and not for themselves. The Jews would no longer sow and others reap. They would build cities, plant vineyards, and make gardens, and enjoy the fruits of their efforts. “My servants shall build houses and inhabit them, and plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them.”
4. Perpetual security would be granted. They would be no longer a homeless, wandering people. God would fix them, perpetually establish them in the land. When God plants, man cannot uproot or destroy. “I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and my whole soul.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Amos 9:12. The restoration was not to be for themselves alone. No gifts of God end in the immediate object of his bounty and love. They were restored in order that they, the first objects of God’s mercies, might win others to God; not Edom only, but all nations upon whom God says my name is called [Pusey].
The call of the Gentiles.
1. The call of a remnant as in Edom; so Scripture everywhere speaks of the converted as a residue.
2. The call of those specially related to God. Those who sincerely invoke his name and seek his covenanted mercy (Acts 15:15-17).
Amos 9:13. Mountains. Symbols of barrenness, idolatry, and difficulty of cultivation set forth the fertility and fulness of the Christian Church.
1. The prosperity of the Church. “I will plant them.”
2. The security of the Church. “Saith the Lord thy God.”
3. The perpetuity of the Church. “They shall no more be pulled up.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 9
Amos 9:11-15. Future days. Nothing good bursts forth all at once. The lightning may dart out of a black cloud; but the day sends his bright heralds before him, to prepare the world for his coming [Hare].
The brightest day has not yet dawned, the widest conquests have not yet been achieved. Is not the Church challenged to nerve herself for greater effort, and to array herself in a more imposing habit? “Put on thy strength, O Zion, put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem!”
“O! scene surpassing fable, and yet true,
Scene of accomplished bliss, which who can see,
Though but in distant prospect, and not feel
His soul refreshed with foretaste of the joy?”
THIS book consists only of twenty-one verses, and is the shortest in the Bible.
The Author. Obadiah (Servant of Jehovah) is a proper name frequently met with, but little is known concerning our Author. Some identify him with the pious courtier in the palace of Ahab (1 Kings 18:3); some with the overseer of the workmen in 2 Chronicles 34:12; but the silence of Scripture is in significant contrast with the anxiety of men to know something of him.
The Time. “In all probability the prophecy was delivered between the year B. C. 588, when Jerusalem was taken by the Chaldeans, and the termination of the siege of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar. During this interval, that monarch subdued the Idumeans and other neighbouring nations” [A. Elzaz]. The contents of the book and its relation to the prophecy of Jeremiah seem to confirm this view.
The Book. “The subjects of the prophecy are the judgments to be inflicted upon the Idumeans on account of their wanton and cruel conduct towards the Jews at the time of the Chaldean invasion, and the restoration of the latter from captivity. The book may therefore be fitly divided into two parts; the first comprising Obadiah 1:1-15, which contain a reprehension of the pride, self-confidence, and unfeeling cruelty of the former people, and definite predictions of their destruction; the latter Obadiah 1:17-21, in which it is promised that the Jews should not only be restored to their own land, but possess the territories of the surrounding nations, especially Idumea” [Elzaz].
The style is original and fresh. “Vividness, connectedness, power, are characteristics of it. As it begins so it continues and ends. It has no breaks, nor interruptions. Thought follows on thought, as wave rolls upon wave, but all marshalled to one end, marching on, column after column, to the goal which God hath appointed for them. Each verse grows out of that which was before it, and carries on its thought. The cadence of the words in the original is a singular blending of pathos and strength. The pathos of the cadence consists in a somewhat long-sustained measure, in which the Prophet dwells on the one thought which he wishes to impress; the force, in the few brief words in which he sums up some sentence” [Pusey]. “Among all the prophets,” says one, “he is the briefest in number of words; in the grace of mysteries he is their equal.”
“The reason why the book occupies its present unchronological position in the Hebrew Bible is supposed to be the connection between the subjects of which it treats and the mention made of ‘the residue of Edom,’ at the conclusion of the preceding book of Amos” [Elzaz]. “The chronological position of Obadiah illustrates an important truth concerning God’s dealings with mankind, viz. that he never executes a judgment, or inflicts a punishment, on a nation or individual, without having given some previous warning as to the hateful character and dangerous consequences of the sins for which the judgments are inflicted. He did not denounce his judgments on Nineveh by Nahum, before he had given warning to Nineveh by Jonah; and he did not denounce his judgment upon Edom by Jeremiah, before he had given warning of the approaching visitation by Obadiah” [Wordsworth].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Amos 9". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter