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The Lord is still pleading with Israel, and most solemn pleading it is. The Lord showeth also, how ineffectual hitherto his punishments to reform had proved.
Under the similitude of the fat bulls of Bashan the Prophet shews how Israel had oppressed the poor and lean among them. And under the figure of fishermen, he sets forth how in the end they that oppressed should be dragged away. The Reader will observe from hence, what is always connected together, haughtiness and cruelty to men, where the heart is rebelling against God.
It should seem that in the midst of all their transgressions they still carried on a shew of religion. Like their idolatrous neighbours around, they would not be totally void of some form of worship, and therefore set up the appearance of it in Bethel. Some have thought, that they had not only openly established idol worship there, but that the whole nation was guilty of it, But we know that in the grossest moments of idolatry, in the days of the kings of Israel, the Lord had seven thousand in Israel who did not bow the knee to the image of Baal. 1 Kings 19:18 ; Romans 11:3-4 .
Here we have an account of the Lord's sore judgments upon Israel; by famine, by withholding the fruits of the earth, and by marking his judgments in a distinguishing manner, causing it to rain upon one city and not upon another; by pestilence, blasting, and mildew; by the destruction of the sword; and by particular marked providences to some, not unlike the overthrow of Sodom; these were among the methods the Lord was pleased to take to rouse Israel to a sense of sin, and to an awakening concern for his pardoning love and mercy. But the Lord adds, and repeats it many times, as if feeling for his people, yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord! Reader! how sure and certain it is, as the gospel of Christ teacheth, and this scripture fully confirms, there can be no return to the Lord in a way of repentance and faith, until the Lord first comes to the sinner in a way of grace and mercy. Grace must first enter the heart, before the heart will cry out, Lord! save, or I perish! Oh! how blessed is it to have such provisions of grace preserved for the recovery of his people in the person of Jesus, when the enemy hath at any time been thus triumphing over the Lord's redeemed with an high hand! When thus the Lord gives grace, then, and not before, Israel is prepared to meet his God as a covenant God in Christ.
READER! the continuance of the Lord's expostulations with his ancient Church, Chapter after Chapter, will not fail I hope, to operate both upon your heart and mine, to the same conclusion as it did in the Apostle's mind; that sin will then indeed appear to be sin, when by the holiness of the commandment it is discovered to be exceeding sinful. Depend upon it, until by the sovereign grace of God in the heart, the proper nature and malignity of sin is brought home in its proper colors, the children of God, as well as others, have but too slight views of sin. It is only when God the Holy Ghost lays judgment to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, that the sinner lays low in the dust before God, and never presumes to open his mouth anymore in a way of justification, or in softening transgression. And the same solemn considerations will serve to teach, why it is among the Lord's redeemed that the nations of sin, from the remains of indwelling corruption, do sometimes rise up with such violence afresh, and distress so exceedingly the soul. It is to shew the believer, after all his attainments, what a poor creature he is in himself; and what he would be if not kept by the Almighty power of God, through faith unto salvation. And what can tend to endear Jesus equal to a daily, hourly sense of our need of him? What can so effectually operate, under the Lord's grace, to hide pride from our eyes, and to keep open a perpetual spring of humbleness, and faith, and godly sorrow for sin; as such motions from within, that we are still in the body? Precious Lord Jesus! be thou increasingly precious every hour, and then those workings of a corrupt nature, kept under and restrained by thee, will be overruled to thy glory, and our soul's welfare. Blessed be that glorious covenant, which shews the ruin, and brings the remedy! Though sin hath reigned, and doth reign, unto death; yet shall grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Amos 4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany