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GOD’S COMPLAINT AGAINST US
Amos 2:13. Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves.
THE effect of long-continued provocations is to weary out our patience. Some few occasional offences we can easily forgive: but when they are repeated from time to time, they gall the mind, and produce considerable irritation, and stir us up, either by word or deed, to avenge ourselves. Something of this kind is represented as passing in the mind of God. We must not indeed conceive of him as if he had the same passions with ourselves; but yet he will so suit his dispensations to our conduct, that they shall bear the stamp of retributive justice, and accord, in a measure, with what is produced in the world by human passions. Hence he speaks of himself after the manner of men, in order to accommodate himself to our weak and carnal apprehensions: and, having told his people how greatly their transgressions had been multiplied against him, he declares, as one whose patience was quite exhausted, that he was “pressed under them, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves.”
Let us consider,
What reason God has for this complaint against us—
We need not enter minutely into the particular accusations brought against the Israelites of old: in a general view, they may be reduced to three; which may with equal justice be laid to our charge:
Our disregard of his laws—
[God had given his people laws, which they violated without remorse [Note: Compare ver. 6–8. with 2 Chronicles 19:6-14.19.7. 1 Kings 21:3-11.21.4.Leviticus 18:8; Leviticus 18:8; Leviticus 18:15.Exodus 22:26; Exodus 22:26.]. And has he not prescribed the moral law as the rule of our conduct? and is it not in all respects “holy, and just, and good?” Yet how have we obeyed it? Have we studied it with a view to find out the will of God? Have we been restrained and regulated by it as far as we knew it? Have we not, on the contrary, transgressed it in ten thousand instances? Have we not been swayed by the considerations of our worldly honour and interest, more than by a regard to God’s authority? Where our own will has stood in competition with God’s, have we not been ready to say, like Pharaoh, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?”
Do we then suppose, that the Governor of the universe is indifferent about the observance of his laws? Or, if he be not, must he not be “fretted [Note: Ezekiel 16:43.],” “grieved [Note: Psalms 78:40.],” and “vexed [Note: Isaiah 63:10.],” with our rebellions, and even “broken with our whorish heart [Note: Ezekiel 6:9.]?” Lot vexed his righteous soul from day to day, on account of what he saw and heard in Sodom [Note: 2 Peter 2:8.]: and must not He who is infinitely holy, and who sees all the iniquity in the world at one view, be overwhelmed, as it were, with grief and vexation at our iniquities? Surely the comparison in the text rather falls short of, than exceeds, the truth: for we have “drawn out iniquity as a cart rope [Note: Isaiah 5:18. with Bishop Lowth’s note upon it.],” continually adding fresh materials, and protracting it, without intermission, to an unknown length; and therefore well may God complain, that “we have wearied him with our iniquities [Note: Isaiah 43:24.],” and that he is “pressed under us as an overloaded cart.”]
Our mindfulness of his mercies—
[God particularly specifies the mercies he had vouchsafed to Israel, which had only served to aggravate their guilt [Note: ver. 9–11.]. And what innumerable mercies has he conferred on us! How has he formed us in the womb, and made us perfect in all our members; when we might have been hideous monsters, that could not endure the light of day! How has he furnished us with rational faculties, when many of our fellow-creatures are idiots, yea, less rational than the beasts! Above all, how has he endued us with an immortal soul, capable of knowing, serving, and enjoying God to all eternity! How has he kept us through the helpless years of infancy, and brought us in safety to the present hour; while thousands have never lived to receive instruction, or been cut off in the midst of their iniquities! Yet in what manner have we requited him for all his mercies? Have we blessed and adored and magnified him for all his love? Have we endeavoured to improve our time and faculties in his service? Have not rather the multitude and continuance of his gifts been the occasion of our entirely forgetting the Donor?
Make this your own case. If you had a servant whom you were daily loading with benefits, and yet could never prevail upon him to testify the smallest sense of his obligations to you, would you not be wearied at last, and think it right to discard such a worthless person from your service? And do you imagine that your heavenly Benefactor is not grieved at your ingratitude? Hear how he complains of it; and judge for yourselves: “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me: the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know; my people do not consider [Note: Isaiah 1:2-23.1.3.].” “What could have been done more for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes [Note: Isaiah 5:4.]?” Do these complaints argue no weariness on the part of God? Do they not manifest that he is “pressed under us beyond measure,” and scarcely able to sustain any farther load? May we not soon expect him to say, “I am grieved with that generation; and swear in my wrath, that they shall never enter into my rest [Note: Psalms 95:10-19.95.11.]?”]
Our contempt of his blessed Gospel—
[The summit of Israel’s wickedness was that “they said to the prophets, Prophesy not [Note: ver. 12.]. Now God has sent his prophets to us, to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation through a crucified Redeemer, and to declare that all who believed in that Saviour should receive the Holy Spirit, as their Teacher, their Sanctifier, their Comforter [Note: Acts 2:38-44.2.39.]. But how have we received their message? Have we cordially embraced the Saviour? Are we seeking yet daily and hourly the influences of the Holy Spirit? Are not many of us rather ready to despise the Gospel, and to dispute against its truths as over-righteous fancies and enthusiastic dreams? Do not even those who profess to embrace the Gospel, shew by their lives how little they regard it in their hearts? And do not the very services which they present to God, provoke him to say, “Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth; they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them [Note: Isaiah 1:14.]?” Is not such a contempt of his Gospel most painful to him, and most destructive to us [Note: Matthew 21:37-40.21.41.Hebrews 2:3; Hebrews 2:3; Hebrews 10:28-58.10.29.]?
See then the grounds of complaint which God has against us; and say whether the assiduity of harvestmen in loading their carts with the sheaves does not too much resemble us, who are thus incessantly loading God with our iniquities, till he can bear no more? Yea, we help and encourage each other in the work, as if we were afraid that we could not otherwise heap up upon him a sufficient load.]
The manner in which this complaint is made, calls us especially to consider,
What reason we have to be deeply concerned about our state—
Wherever we see in Scripture the word, “Behold,” we may be sure that there is something worthy of our most solemn attention. And well may that word be prefixed to the declaration in the text, since an accumulating of such a load of guilt is a “treasuring up of a proportionable weight of wrath [Note: Romans 2:5.].” Let three things then be considered by all who are thus offending God:
God is able to vindicate the honour of his injured majesty—
[Survey the universe, and ask, Whether he who formed it out of nothing, be not able to avenge himself on such worms as we are? If that be not sufficient, cast an eye into the bottomless abyss of hell, and ask, ‘Who formed it? and, On what occasion? and, Who are the inhabitants of those dreary mansions?’ Or, if you choose rather to see what notices of his power and wrath you can find on earth, ask of the antediluvians, and they shall tell thee; or of the cities of the plain, and they shall warn thee; or of the Jews, who are scattered over the face of the whole earth, as living monuments of his indignation. As God said to his people of old, “Go to my place, which was in Shiloh, and see what I did to it, for the wickedness of my people Israel [Note: Jeremiah 7:12.];” so would I refer you to all these instances, that you may know what a God “you have to do with;” and that “him who walketh in pride he is able to abase [Note: Daniel 4:37.].” If any doubt yet remain upon your mind, go and provide an answer to that question which Job put to his contentious friends; “God is wise in heart, and mighty in strength; who hath hardened himself against him, and prospered [Note: Job 9:4.]”.]
As he is able, so is he determined, to avenge himself—
[God has warned us plainly, that “the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God [Note: Psalms 9:17.].” But this is not all. He is like a man bearing with indignities for a time, under a pleasing expectation, that the vengeance which he shall shortly execute upon his enemy shall be signal and complete. See with what firm determination he prepares himself for his vindictive work, “whetting his sword, bending his bow, and making ready the instruments of death [Note: Psalms 7:11-19.7.13.];” and swearing most solemnly by his own life and perfections, that “as soon as he has whet his sword, he will render vengeance to his enemies, making his arrows drunk with their blood, and causing his sword to devour their flesh [Note: Deuteronomy 32:40-5.32.42.].” See with what pleasure he looks forward to that period, when, like a man who has thoroughly avenged himself, his wrath shall be pacified by the entire destruction of his foe! “I have set the point of my sword against them, that their heart may faint, and their ruins be multiplied: Ah! it is made bright, it is wrapt up for the slaughter [Note: Ezekiel 21:15-26.21.17.].” “Mine anger shall soon be accomplished on them, and I will cause my fury to rest upon them, and I will be comforted [Note: Ezekiel 5:13.]:” “So will I make my fury towards them to rest, and my jealousy shall depart from them, and I will be quiet, and be no more angry [Note: Ezekiel 16:42.].” Farther, see what delight he expresses when the time for vengeance is arrived! “Ah! I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies [Note: Isaiah 1:24.]:” “I will see what their end shall be; for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith [Note: Deuteronomy 32:20.].”
Should not such declarations as these appal us? Should they not convince us what “a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God?”]
The time for retribution is fast approaching—
[When the cart is already overladen with corn, the heaping of sheaves upon it must quickly cease. And when our God is already “pressed under us,” so that he can scarcely sustain any further weight, we may be sure that “the measure of our iniquities is nearly full,” and that the hour of vengeance draws nigh. Methinks, God is at this moment saying, in reference to us, “My Spirit shall not strive with them any more [Note: Genesis 6:3.].” “To me belongeth vengeance and recompence: their foot shall slide in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste [Note: Deuteronomy 32:35.].” What a mercy is it that there is yet an hour’s respite allowed us! How should we redeem the time! How should we avail ourselves of the present moment, to flee from the wrath to come! How should we tremble, lest the order should be already given, not to take us to the granary of heaven, but to cast us into the flames of hell!
“Behold” then, brethren! “behold,” what a God you are offending, and in what danger you stand! One more sheaf perhaps may complete the load: and will you proceed to lay it on? O cease from your fatal work, and cry to your long-suffering God for mercy ere it be too late!]
What a burthen ought sin to be to us!
[You have heard what a burthen it is to God; that he even groans under it, and is weary to bear it. And ought it not to be a burthen to us who have committed it? Ought not we to be “weary and heavy-laden” with a sense of it [Note: Matthew 11:28.]? Ought we not to feel it as an insupportable burthen; “to be troubled for it; to be bowed down greatly, and to roar for the disquietness of our hearts [Note: Psalms 38:4-19.38.8.]?” Turn then to God, ye people; “be afflicted, and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy into heaviness: humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God [Note: James 4:9-59.4.10.];” “and put your mouths in the dust, if so be there may be hope [Note: Lamentations 3:29.].”]
What obligations do we owe to Jesus Christ!
[Jesus has borne the burthen of our sins, not only as our Creator and Governor, but as our Redeemer. Even in the former view, he has been “grieved at the hardness of our hearts [Note: Mark 3:5.],” and has groaned over us [Note: John 11:38.], and found his burthen almost insupportable [Note: Mark 9:19.]. But, in the latter view, O what has he sustained? the guilt of all the human race! the wrath of an avenging God! Go, listen to his cries and agonies in the garden of Gethsemane! See the blood issuing from every pore of his body! Trace him to Golgotha, and behold him expiring on the cross: Ask, What was the cause? and you will find that he was sinking under the weight of your iniquities, and if He was thus overwhelmed with the load, what must become of us, if we, after all, should have to bear the curse due to our sins? Let every eye be fixed on him with humble, grateful adoration. Let every one look to his vicarious sacrifice for pardon and peace. And, as he has thus graciously “borne our sins in his own body on the tree,” let us trust in him. Let us “go to him weary and heavy-laden, and we shall find eternal rest to our souls.”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Amos 2". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany