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Verse 1-ch. 6:14
Part II. THREE ADDRESSES PARTICULARIZING THE SINS OF ISRAEL AND ANNOUNCING IMMINENT JUDGMENT.
§ 1. First address: the prophet begins by showing Israel's ingratitude for past mercies (Amos 3:1, Amos 3:2), and his own commission to announce the coming judgment (Amos 3:3-8). They have drawn this upon themselves by iniquities which astonish even heathen nations; and they shall be punished by the overthrow of the kingdom and the destruction of their city (Amos 3:9-15).
The peculiar favour which God has shown the Israelites enhances the guilt of their ingratitude and increases their punishment. Hear this word. Each address (Amos 4:1; Amos 5:1) begins with this solemn call. O children of Israel. The summons is addressed to the twelve tribes, as the following words prove; but the succeeding denunciation is confined to Israel, Judah being only indirectly warned that she may expect a similar fate unless she turns in time. I brought up from the land of Egypt. This is mentioned as the crowning act of God's favour (Amos 2:10).
Have I known; i.e. loved, acknowledged, chosen. So in Hosea 13:5 God says. "I knew thee in the wilderness;" and St. Paul (2 Timothy 2:19), "The Lord knoweth them that are his" (comp. Nahum 1:7). The peculiar relation in which God allowed Israel to stand to him is much dwelt upon (see Deuteronomy 4:8, Deuteronomy 4:20; Deu 14:2; 2 Samuel 7:23; 1 Chronicles 17:21). Therefore I will punish you; literally, visit upon you. They must not presume upon their privileges; the retention of God's favour depended upon obedience to his Word (Exodus 19:5): the nearer they were brought to God, the greater their guilt if they fell from him. Unlike the nations denounced in the former chapters, Israel had sinned against light and knowledge and love, therefore the sentence on her must be heavier (comp. Ezekiel 9:6; Luke 12:47; 1 Peter 4:17).
Before announcing more particularly the coming judgment, Amos, by a series of little parables or comparisons, establishes his right to prophesy, and intimates the necessity laid upon him to deliver his message. He illustrates the truths that all effects have causes, and that from the cause you can infer the effect.
Can two walk together except they be agreed? or, except they have agreed? The "two" are God's judgment and the prophet's word. These do, not coincide by mere chance, no more than two persons pursue in company the same end without previous agreement. The prophet announces God's judgment because God has commissioned him; the prophet is of one mind with God, therefore the Lord is with him, and confirms his words. The application of the parables is seen in Amos 3:7, Amos 3:8. The Septuagint, reading differently, has, "except they know one another."
Will a lion roar, etc.? The lion roars when he has his pray in sight, and is about to spring upon it. So God makes the prophet utter his voice because he is ready to execute vengeance. The second clause expresses the same fact in different terms. The young lion (kephir) is not a whelp, but one able to provide for itself. He growls over the prey which he has in his lair. So Israel lies helpless as the words of God's threatenings strike upon him.
The thought here is that the punishment is deserved as well as certain. A bird is not caught unless a trap is set for it. The trap which the sinner sets for himself is sin. Can a bird fall in a snare (pach) upon the earth, where no gin (moqesh) is for him? i.e. is set for him? The "gin" is a net with a stick for a spring, which flew up when touched, carrying part of the net with it, and thus the bird was enclosed and caught (see Kitto, 'Cyclop.,' s.v. "Fowling," 2.36). The LXX. probably read yoqesh, as they translate, ἄνευ ἐξευτοῦ, "without a fowler." So the Vulgate, absque aucupe. The second clause should be, Shall a snare (pach) spring up from the ground without taking anything? The snare, or trap stick, would not rise if it had not caught something. The sin is there, and the sinners shall surely not escape. When God appoints retributive punishments for the guilty, and announces the same by his prophets, they may be expected with absolute certainty.
The prophet must needs speak: shall not his denunciation arouse alarm among the people, as the trumpet suddenly heard in a city excites the terror of the inhabitants (comp. Ezekiel 33:2-5)? Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? The "evil" is affliction, calamity, malum poenae. As states have no future, all temporal calamities in their case may rightly be regarded as the punishment of sin. Thus the ruin impending, on Israel was sent by the Lord, whose agent was the enemy now approaching. All phenomena are ascribed in the Bible to Divine operation, no second causes being allowed to interfere with this appropriation (see Job 1:1-22.; 1 Samuel 18:10; 1 Kings 22:19, etc.; Isaiah 45:7). The verb "do" is often used absolutely, the context defining the result (see note on Haggai 2:4).
This and the following verse apply the foregoing, parables All the evils announced come from the Lord; but he brings none of them on the people without first warning by his prophets (comp. John 13:19; John 14:29). His secret (sod); unrevealed till then. Septuagint, παιδείαν, "instruction;" so the Arabic.
As the lion's roar forces every one to fear, so the Divine call of the prophet forces him to speak (Jeremiah 20:9; Eze 2:8; 1 Corinthians 9:16, etc.). St. Gregory, moralizing, takes the lion in a spiritual sense: "After the power of his Creator has been made known to him, the strength of his adversary ought not to be concealed from him, in order that he might submit himself the more humbly to his defender, the more accurately he had learned the wickedness of his enemy, and might more ardently seek his Creator, the more terrible he found the enemy to be whom he had to avoid. For it is certain that he who less understands the danger he has escaped, loves his deliverer has; and that he who considers the strength of his adversary to be feeble, regards the solace of his defender as worthless" ('Moral.,' 32:14). Of course, this exposition does not regard the context.
Having vindicated his own commission, Amos proclaims what God purposes to do unto Israel. He is bidden to summon the heathen Ashdod and Egypt to bear witness to the iniquities of Samaria, which should bring about the overthrow of the kingdom, the destruction of the city with its altars and palaces, and the exile of the people.
Ashdod (Amos 1:8). God bids the prophets (publish ye) summon the inhabitants of the palaces of Philistia (of which Ashdod is the representative) and Egypt, because they had been the chief enemies of his people, and in their sight had mighty works been wrought for Israel; thus they could appreciate her iniquity and ingratitude. Some, translating al "upon," say that the prophets are bidden publish their message upon the flat roofs of the palaces, that it may be heard far and near. Keil thinks that not all the inhabitants of the town are summoned, but only those who live in the palaces, who alone "could pronounce a correct sentence as to the mode of life commonly adopted in the palaces of Samaria." But this seems an unnecessary refinement. The Septuagint reads, Ἀναγγείλατε χώραις ἐν Ἀσουρίοις, "Proclaim ye to the regions among the Assryians," doubtless by some mistake of copyists. Assemble yourselves upon the mountains of Samaria. The city of Samaria was built on a hill which stands alone in the valley or basin, but it is surrounded by higher mountains, from whence, though at some distance, spectators could look down into its streets, and, as from the seats in an amphitheatre, behold the iniquities transacted there. Their implacable enemies, the Philistines, and those they were then courting, the Egyptians (Hebrews 7:11; Hebrews 12:1), are alike called to witness this spectacle. Tumult; the disorder, where might makes right. LXX; θαυμαστὰ πολλὰ, "many marvels," as if the sight were a surprise even to the heathen. The oppressed (ashuqim); better, the oppressions, i.e. of the weak at the hands of the powerful (comp. Amos 2:6; Amos 4:1). It was to the eternal disgrace of Israel that there were doings in her cities which the very heathen would condemn.
They know not how to do right. The Samaritans have lost all sense of justice, the foundation of social life (Jeremiah 4:22). LXX; Οὐκ ἔγνις ἂ ἔσται ἐναντίον αὐτῆς, "She knew not what things shall be before her." Store up violence; i.e. the fruits of violence and robbery, what they had wrung from the poor by oppression and rapine.
An adversary. The Hebrew is forcible, the Lord speaking as though he saw the fee present: "an enemy and around the land." Ewald and Hitzig take tsar as an abstract noun, "distress;" the LXX. and Aquila, pointing it differently, read, Τύρος, but the continuation of the sentence is scarcely to be deemed a translation, κυκλόθεν ἡ γῆ σου ἐρημωθήσεται "Thy land shall be made desolate round about thee" The adversary meant is Shalmaneser, who attacked Israel more than once and besieged Samaria; or his successor, Sargon, who claims to have reduced the city and removed the inhabitants (2 Kings 17:1-41 and 2 Kings 18:9, etc.; see Introduction to Micah). Thy strength. All wherein thou trustedst shall be brought down to the ground (Obadiah 1:3). Palaces, in which were stored the fruits of injustice and rapine (Amos 3:10).
The prophet shows that the chastisement is inevitable, and that only the smallest remnant, the most worthless among the inhabitants, and they with much difficulty, can escape. The illustration from a common incident in a shepherd's life is very natural in Amos. Taketh; better, rescueth. So below, shall be taken out; shall be rescued. The usual explanation is that a shepherd attacks the lion which has seized one of his sheep, and rescues from it the most worthless parts—"a couple of shank bones or a bit, or tip, of an ear." But as an attack on a lion would be an abnormal act of courage on the part of a shepherd, and the comparison is with things likely and usual, it is probable that the meaning is that the shepherd finds only these poor remnants after the lion has left his prey. So such a poor remnant shall be rescued from the ten tribes of Israel. That dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed; that sit at ease, lounging in the cosiest corner of the divan, an image of indolent ease and careless security in the face of impending judgment. And in Damascus in a couch; LXX; καὶ ἐν Δαμασκῷ: Vulgate, et in Damasci grabato. The Syriac and Jewish Versions agree in considering the word "Damascus" to be a proper name. The other modern rendering takes it to mean the material which we call "damask," or something similar. Hence our Revised Version gives, "on the silken cushions of a bed;" and others, "on the damask of a couch." Dr. Pusey retains the old rendering, on the grounds that there is no evidence to prove that the manufactures for which Damascus was celebrated in after time existed at this period, its exports being then wine and white wool (Ezekiel 27:18), and that the Arabic word dimakso (which critics have cited as connected with the term "damask") has nothing to do with Damascus, and meant raw, not manufactured, "silk." He translates, "in Damascus, a couch," and explains this to mean that Damascus, which Jeroboam II had won for Israel (2 Kings 14:28), "was a canopied couch to them, in which they stayed themselves." This agrees with the ancient Jewish interpretation, which explains the clause to mean that the Israelites would some day depend for help on the Syrians represented by Damascus A third exposition, favoured by the Latin Vulgate, makes the words to mean, "on a couch of Damascus;" i.e. a Syrian couch of a costly and luxurious nature. This comes to the same as the modern rendering given, above and seems to be the easiest explanation of the expression. The difficulty depends chiefly on the punctuation of the word דמשךְ; or them may be some corruption in the text. What the LXX. meant by their rendering is problematical, Κατέναντι τῆς φυλῆς καὶ ἐν Δαμασκῷ, "The children of Israel who dwell in Samaria in the presence of the tribe and in Damascus."
Hear ye; Septuagint, Ἱερεῖς ἀκούσατε, "Hear, O ye priests." The address is to the heathen, already summoned (Amos 3:9) to witness the sins of Israel, and now called to witness her punishment, In the house; better, against the house of Jacob, the tribes of Israel (Amos 3:1). God of hosts. God of the powers of heaven and earth, and therefore able to execute his threats. Septuagint, ὁ Παντοκράτωρ, "the Almighty."
That in the day, etc. This verse is rightly joined to the preceding, as it particularizes the threats which the heathen are summoned to testify. Visit upon; equivalent to "punish" (Zephaniah 1:8). Altars of Bethal. We read of one altar being set up by Jeroboam I (1 Kings 12:29, 1 Kings 12:33), but doubtless others had been added in the course of time. The denunciation of 1 Kings 13:2, 1 Kings 13:3 is here repeated. The horns of the altar. These were certain projections at the four angles of the altar, perhaps in the form of an ox's horn, on which the blood of the sin offering was smeared, and which therefore were considered the holiest part of the altar (see Exodus 27:2; Exodus 29:12; Le Exodus 16:18). The instruments of idolatry or impure worship should share the destruction of the idolaters.
The winter house. The luxurious habits of kings and princes had led them to have different houses for the various seasons of the year, facing north or south as the case might be (comp. Judges 3:20; Jeremiah 36:22). Septuagint, τὸν οἶκον τὸν περίπτερον, "the turreted house," which Jerome explains, Domum pinnatam, eo quod ostiola habeat per fenestras, et quasi pinnas, ad magnitudinem frigoris depellendam. Houses of ivory; panelled or inlaid with ivory, such as Ahab had (1 Kings 22:39). Solomon's throne was thus decorated (1 Kings 10:18; comp. Psalms 45:8). (For the Assyrian practice of veneering in ivory, see Rawlinson, 'Ancient Monarchies,' 1:463; comp. also Homer, 'Od.,' 4.73; Virgil, 'AEneid,' 6:895.) The great houses; better, many houses; Septuagint, ἕτεροι οἶκοι πολλοί, "many other houses." Not only palaces, but many private houses, shall be destroyed (comp. Isaiah 5:9, where the same words are used).
Amos 3:1, Amos 3:2
The judgment of apostates a foregone conclusion.
This chapter, like Amos 5:1-27. and 6; opens with a call to attention. God is going to speak, and his voice is worth listening to. He is going to speak a word, moreover, the issues of which are capital. To attend to his communication is as vitally important as dutiful.
I. GOD, WHO HAD ONLY SPOKEN ABOUT THE HEATHEN, SPEAKS TO ISRAEL. Syria and Edom and Tyre may never have heard of the doom to which they were going down. Their first intimation of the tempest of Divine wrath was likely the falling of the first drops. Their chance of repentance and escape was in this way minimized. Left in ignorance of the danger of advance, there was little likelihood of their turning hack of their own accord. But Israel hears from inspired lips that never lied the guilt of her sin, and its inevitable end. This putting of "prophecy between his secret and its execution" is a special favour on God's side, and a corresponding advantage on her side, whilst, like all advantage, it involves a proportionate responsibility.
II. GOD'S SPECIAL REGARD FOR ISRAEL HAD EXPRESSED ITSELF IN PECULIAR FAVOURS.
1. He had constituted them a family by themselves. Other nations in their rise had been left to circumstances and the play of natural affinities. Israel had been called out of the peoples, constituted a nation by itself, furnished with a national organization and policy, and set consciously to work out an exalted destiny. This was fitted to awake a lofty national aspiration, and give direction and dignity to the national life. The choosing of God's people out of the world is the beginning of his favours.
2. He had brought them out of Egypt. This was an act of Divine power, an instance of Divine championship, an expression of Divine distinguishing favour, and a beginning of Divine help, which contained in it the promise of more to come. Conversion, following on election (Acts 13:48), is another privilege of God's people, and another spur to grateful service.
3. He had taken them into intimate personal relations. "Known," etc. This is "practically equivalent to electing, including both the motive and result of election" (Keil). God took special notice of them, set them in a gracious relation to himself, acknowledged them to be his people, and brought to hear on them the influences that are over coming forth on those in covenant with him.
III. JUDGMENT IS INEVITABLE WHERE MERCY HAS BEEN RECEIVED IN VAIN. "Therefore will I visit," etc. (Amos 5:2). Mercy extended is made here the ground of judgment denounced. Each gift bestowed in the past is a count in the present indictment.
1. It is inevitable as punishment. Sin by God's professing people is specially heinous. It involves ingratitude to a special Benefactor, insensibility to his love, contempt of his gifts, and disregard of special claims on their allegiance. The guilt is in every aspect extreme, and so the punishment is sure.
2. It is inevitable as testimony. God's honour is closely identified with his people's conduct, which must therefore be closely looked after. Any sin in it must be rigidly punished if God would vindicate his purity and impartiality, hating sin as such, and wherever it appears. "It is necessary that God should vindicate his own honour by making it appear that he hates sin, and hates it most in those that are nearest him" (M. Henry).
3. It is inevitable as discipline. Judgments are corrective as well as putative, In this aspect they are sure, and will be severe in proportion to the love and mercy despised. Whom God leaves without correction he bastardizes (Hebrews 12:8), but he expresses fatherly interest in the application of the rod. Judgment with Israel was just a change of corrective treatment. Mercy had failed, and now love would try another way, that nothing might be left undone to separate Israel from sin. This is why judgment begins at the house of God.
No smoke without fire.
God cannot utter empty threats. His every declaration is bona fide. When he roars he is about to rend. Let, then, the doomed sinner tremble. For all his insensibility he is no better than a dead man.
I. SIN INVOLVES DISCONNECTION FROM A HOLY GOD. "Can two walk together," etc.? This deep principle involves that:
1. Israel, quarrelling with God, cannot reckon on his company. For so far God had associated with them. In Egypt, in the wilderness, in Canaan, he had vouchsafed them close companionship. But their rebellious attitude against him, approaching as it was a climax of irreconcilableness, must make a continuance of intimate relations impossible.
2. The prophet, walking as he did with God, must be regarded as in agreement with him, and so expressing his will. Amos spoke as God's servant and mouthpiece. He looked at Israel's sin from God's standpoint. In reference to it he was as emphatically associated with God as he was dissociated from them. Underlying this formal association it must be believed there was real agreement. "He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God."
II. WHEN THE THUNDER OF GOD'S THREATENINGS IS HEARD, THE LIGHTNING OF HIS JUDGMENTS IS IMMINENT. That peril is sure and near is tangent in a series of similes of a graphic kind.
1. When God utters his war cry it is evident that he is just about to strike his enemy. (Verse 4.) The lion roars when he has marked his prey, and is about to spring. God sees the sinful nation ripe for judgment. He sees that the time for sending it has come. His roar out of Zion (Amos 1:2) is, therefore, the prelude to striking his prey forthwith. "The thrcatenings of the Word and providence of God are not bugbears to frighten children and fools, but are certain inferences from the sin of man and certain presages of the judgments of God" (M. Henry).
2. When God reaches forth his hand there is something to take, and within his reach. (Verse 5.) It is the lighting of the bird on the trap that snaps it. If there were no trap laid no bird would be caught. If there were no bird in the trap it would not rise from the ground. Israel is the bird, and God is the Fowler, and his judgment is the snare, and the lesson of all is that she is already in God's destroying grasp.
3. When some are already alarmed it shows that danger to all is real and close. (Verse 6, "Is a trumpet blown," etc.?) The prophet, who knew what was coming, was alarmed, and those like minded with him. The note of alarm was already ringing over the land. Signs of evil will not show themselves until the evil is comparatively at hand. So surely as the smoke rises the fire is kindling.
4. When misfortune falls it is a proof that God has been at work. "Does misfortune happen in the city," etc.? (verse 6). "All things are of God," is an axiom that in one sense or other covers all events, whether good or bad. The qualification of it is that the sin of any of them is exclusively of man. God "creates evil" (Isaiah 45:7)—the evil of suffering—whilst the evil of sin he allows us to create, that he may bring out of it greater good.
III. GOD WARNS HIS PROPHETS OF EVIL BEFORE IT COMES. (Verse 7.) The prophet is a negotiator, hearing the truth from God, and handing it on to men. God does not destroy men unwarned, nor warn them but through his accredited messengers. The history of his judgments illustrates this. Through Noah he revealed the coming deluge, through Lot the destruction of Sodom, through Joseph the famine in Egypt, through Moses the Egyptian plagues, through Jonah the sentence on Nineveh, and through Christ and his apostles the destruction of Jerusalem. "Thus God has ever warned the world of coming judgments in order that it may not incur them" (Lange). "He foretelleth the evil to come that he may not be compelled to inflict it" (Pusey).
IV. GOD'S TRUE PROPHETS CANNOT BUT SPEAK HIS MESSAGE. (Verse 8.) It is his will that they should prophesy. He tells them his purposes mainly with a view to this. To prophesy is their function and duty, and is made their business. They are moved at the sight of coming evil. They are in sympathy with the Divine compassion, giving a last chance to the doomed; and so, like the apostles, they "cannot but speak the things they have seen and heard" (1 Corinthians 9:16, 1 Corinthians 9:17; Acts 4:19, Acts 4:20). "Moses was not excused though slow of speech, nor Isaiah though of polluted lips, nor Jeremiah because he was a child. Ezekiel was bidden 'be not rebellious like that rebellious house;' and when Jeremiah would keep silence he saith, 'His Word was in mine heart as a burning fire, shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay'" (Pusey). Taken in connection, verses 7 and 8 reveal a perfect arrangement for making known God's purpose in reference to sin. God anticipates action by a communication to his prophets, and the prophets execute orders, and hand the communication on.
The inevitable punishment of Christian sin.
"You only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." These words are at once an accusation, a condemnation, and a sentence. What God had done for Israel in vain was a ground and the measure of what he now must do against them. Blessing abused is but the faggot feeding the fire of merited curse. They had given themselves up to wickedness, and the fire tongue of a lofty privilege sits above every sin, revealing its demon face.
I. THERE IS A GRACIOUS SENSE IN WHICH GOD KNOWS MEN. "I know my sheep;" "I never knew you." These sentences mean salvation and condemnation respectively. For God to know men is with them a question of life and death. This knowledge may be:
1. National. It was so with Israel. "You only have I known." This meant that God loved them (Deuteronomy 10:15), chose them (Deuteronomy 7:6), formally acknowledged them as his people (Deuteronomy 14:2), and gave them privileges—not necessarily saving in every Case of light (Psalms 147:19; Romans 3:2), and help (Psalms 136:10-24), and fellowship (Exodus 20:24; Numbers 14:14; Deuteronomy 4:7), and promise (Romans 9:4, Romans 9:5), answering to this visible relation. This knowledge may also be:
2. Personal. Then it means, in addition to what has been mentioned, the forth-putting of Divine energy in them, making them new creatures m Christ, and so "partakers of the Divine nature" (Galatians 6:15; 2 Peter 1:4). God brings them into his family (Galatians 3:26) by this spiritual birth (John 1:13), calls them sons (1 John 3:1), makes them coheirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), and gives them all family privileges and graces, chiefest of these the spirit of adoption, by which we cry, "Abba, Father" (Galatians 4:6). Man, in fact, is by nature an alien and a stranger, and for God to know him is to substitute a gracious for his natural relation.
II. THIS KNOWLEDGE IS A SPECIAL, NOT A GENERAL, AFFECTION. "You only." There are gifts of God that are indiscriminate (Job 25:3; Matthew 5:45). Man gets them as man, and irrespective of personal character. But spiritual gifts are necessarily confined to the spiritual circle. It is evident as regards God's gracious knowledge of men.
1. That it rests on a minority of the race. Israel at best was little among the nations of the earth. In comparison with the Chaldeae, Medo-Persian, Greek, or Roman empires, it was scarcely worthy of being named; and a dozen peoples bordered Palestine from time to time, any one of which, in the natural course, would have wiped it off the earth. Yet, passing by the many and the mighty, God says to single, feeble Israel, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth" (Deuteronomy 4:32-38). And this action is of a piece with other Divine action for similar purposes. The saints are now, and have always been, a "little flock." It is the few who go in at the "strait gate" of the kingdom. Even the nominally Christian peoples are less than a third of the population of the earth. If out of the number of these were taken the actual Christians, the true believers in Christ, the saintly company would assume smaller dimensions still. This state of matters will no doubt be reversed before the dispensation ends. Christ "in all things shall have the pre-eminence," and the minority which his followers compose will, during the millennial era, be converted into a vast majority (Isaiah 11:9). Meantime God looks on a small circle of transfigured souls, and says, "You only have I known."
2. It does not follow human probabilities. If any single nation was to be made the repository of revealed truth, and the teacher of the other nations, we should have expected one or other of the four universal empires to be chosen for the purpose, rather than a second or third rate power, located in a circumscribed and excentric spot. Then the typical Jew was, like his ancestor Jacob, a sordid fellow, deficient in the more heroic qualities, and, from the standpoint of the natural, decidedly inferior to his brother the Edomite, or almost any neighbour you would select. The greater readiness with which the Gentiles received the gospel, when it came to them, would seem, moreover, to indicate that they would have responded more worthily to the Divine Old Testament culture than Israel did, if it had pleased God to bring it to bear. It is the same with individuals. Not only does God pass by the rich and great for the humble poor (James 2:5; 1 Corinthians 1:26-28), but he passes by the wise and prudent, and gives the light of his salvation to babes (Matthew 11:25). It is not the great geniuses of society, but the commonplace average men, who form the circle of the saints. The reasons for this are adequate, but God keeps them to himself. Obvious to reason in many cases, they are not revealed, because in many others they would be above it, and God acts without reasons given, that "no flesh may glory in his presence."
III. IT DOES NOT INEVITABLY PREVENT SIN IN THE OBJECT OF IT. The life of the Hebrews was as a whole above the moral level of the heathen life around them. But still it was far from pure. If we subtracted from Jewish history all that arises out of sin, and the punishment of it, comparatively little would remain. So little congenial to human nature is God's service, and so congenial the service of sin, that Israel was perpetually turning aside after the idols of the heathen, whilst in no instance did the heathen ever turn from their idols to God (Jeremiah 2:11). And not only does outward religious privilege fail to put an end to the sinful life, it is to some extent the same with inward religious principle. The saint remains a sinner all his days. Grace, like the house of David, is getting stronger with him, and corruption, like the house of Saul, is getting weaker through life. But it is still with him as with the apostle, striving after perfection, yet burdened with a feeling of the surviving power of sin (Philippians 3:12; Romans 7:24).
IV. IT DOES MAKE THE PUNISHMENT OF SIN ON EARTH CERTAIN. "Therefore will I punish you." Sin inside the kingdom necessitates punishment, and will be visited with it promptly.
1. Because it is guiltiest as against God. More has been done to prevent it than in other cases. It is sin against light (James 4:17; Luke 12:47, Luke 12:48), against love (2 Corinthians 5:14), against favours (Psalms 103:2), against restraining grace (1 John 3:9). In proportion to the strength and number of deterrent influences against which sin is committed must be the strength of our sinful bent, and so the guilt of our wrong doing.
2. Because it is most hurtful as against his cause. The sin of the wicked is natural. It is to be expected from one who consults lust and serves the devil. It is done, moreover, from the standpoint of opposition to God, and responsibility for it is thus kept outside the spiritual circle. God and his cause are not dishonoured in the eyes of men by what is formally done against them. It is sin by the professedly righteous that brings righteousness into disrepute. Religion is charged with all the evil that is done in its name. The more closely identified wrong doing is with the Christian name, the more hurtful is it to the Christian cause. Therefore Christian sin, in addition to the general reasons, involves punishment for reasons peculiar to itself. If God would have his Church a tree for the healing of the nations, he must lop off every unsound and rotten branch.
3. Because it is most incompatible with the destiny of the person sinning. The sin of the wicked need not necessarily be punished here. It will be amply visited on him throughout eternity. It is quite in the line of the man's life course that he should suffer the vengeance of eternal fire. But the sin of the righteous presents a different aspect. Its commission is the contradiction of his gracious nature, and its future punishment would be the contradiction of his exalted destiny. It is vital to his well being that the judgment, inevitable somewhere, should fall here (Psalms 89:30-33). Only thus can his happy immortality be safeguarded. The present destruction of his flesh conditions the saving of his spirit in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 5:5).
Communion and concord inseparable.
"Do two walk together unless they have agreed?" The special reference of this general question is not apparent. But the scope of the context suggests two points on either or both of which it would throw light. The one is the prophet's claim to be speaking the truth, the other is the people's claim to be doing the right. Between his words and their works there was utter incompatibility. Those must he wrong if these were right, and vice versa. And the axiom quoted supplies a decisive test. Amos walked with God—there could be no denying that; took his side and sought his glory amidst prevailing defection and disobedience. Must it not be argued from this that he was at one with God, and so in all his utterances spoke agreeably to his will? Israel, on the other hand, had clearly not agreed with God, for they were red handed in rebellion against him. Was not the inference from this resistless that they could not walk with him, here by faith or hereafter by sight? Consider here—
I. THE WALKING WITH GOD THAT IS THE IDEAL OF HUMAN LIFE. "Enoch walked with God." That is a short biography. But there is more in it, more important in its character and more adequately expressed than in many an octavo volume. "They shall walk with me in white" is a summary of the joy and glory of redeemed spirits on high. And life below is ideal in proportion as it approximates the life above. To walk with God implies:
1. Theft we walk with the same purpose as God. The raison d'etre of things is God's glory first (Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:16), the good of his people next (2 Corinthians 4:15; Romans 8:28), then the happiness of the race (1 Timothy 4:10; Galatians 6:10), and ultimately the well being of the planet as a whole (Psalms 36:6; Romans 8:20, Romans 8:21). The attainment of these objects in this order is God's purpose as revealed in Scripture. With this purpose it is the design and nature of religion to make man at one. By creating him in God's image he is endowed with a spiritual nature which exalts God (1 Corinthians 10:31), loves the brethren (1 John 3:4), consults the interests of others (Philippians 2:4), and regards the life even of the beasts (Proverbs 2:10). In proportion as the godly endorse and homologate the Divine purpose thus are they in the image of Christ (John 12:28; John 13:1, etc.) and do they walk with God.
2. That we walk like God. "The Christian," says Joseph Cook, "is a man who has changed eyes with God." Subtle affinities have arisen involving a marvellous unity of thought and aim. The end of our walking is God's end, and naturally his way becomes our way. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him." In Christ, "the Image of the invisible God," it became an open secret to all who believe. He has left "us an example," and there are no relations in life to which it does not apply. We "follow his steps," and by consequence walk like God, being "imitators of him as dear children."
3. That we walk in company with God. The ungodly are far from God, and of set purpose keep their distance. But faith brings near and keeps near his side. The humble, contrite heart, which is the home of faith, is also the temple of God (Isaiah 57:15). The love by which faith works is his welcome and feast (Revelation 3:20). The believer lives in God's presence. He walks by faith, holding on as it were by the Divine hand. It is the promise and the thought of God's presence with him that makes the journey light (Isaiah 43:2), whilst the reality of it is the guarantee of safety and ease. God with us, we have unfailing provision, unerring guidance, and an invincible escort. No marvel if they who thus travel "go from strength to strength."
II. THE AGREEMENT WITH GOD THAT IS THE CONDITION OF WALKING WITH HIM. Walking with God is not an occasional act, but a habit of life, and must arise out of an established relation.
1. The parties must both be willing. Men are naturally at enmity with God, and so averse to his company. They know not and desire not to know his ways, and the expression of this feeling is the "Depart from us!" in which they decline the establishment of spiritual relations (Job 21:14). The operation of grace, however, is one "to will and to do of God's good pleasure," and the result of it is "a willing people in the day of God's power." They choose God (Joshua 24:15), desire his fellowship, and adopt the course that will best consist with its enjoyment.
2. They must have arranged it. "Unless they have agreed." Spiritual relations are not accidental relations, nor such as men may drift into unconsciously. There are understood objects to be intelligently adopted. There are explicit terms (Matthew 16:24) to be deliberately accepted. There is a distinct transaction in which God and his way are adopted, and made our life King and life programme respectively (Hosea 14:2). If it be a question of faith, we say, "Lord, I believe." If it be a question of penitence, we say, "I abhor myself, and repent." If it be a question of allegiance, we declare, "I will be for the Lord." If it be a question of fellowship, we vow, "I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living." Our walking with God is not only with consent, but by arrangement, duly and solemnly subscribed.
3. They must be congenial spirits. Like draws to like. Companionship with God bases itself in conformity to him. If there be no affinity there will be no association. If this fails, association will be broken off. Duty must be our choice, or it will never be begun; and our joy, or it will never be continued. Walking with God implies a previous coming to him, and both are conditioned by a spiritual change creating us in the Divine image. Hearts have begun to beat in unison when hands are clasped for life.
III. THE BEARING OF THIS MAXIM ON THE CASE IN HAND. The two whose walking together is in question are Jehovah and the prophet, according to some; Jehovah and the nation, according to others. But as it is a general maxim, it may be legitimately applied to both, and every other case on which it can throw light.
1. The words of a teacher who walks with God will be on the whole agreeable to his will. The authenticity of Amos's message was called in question by many. But he was on God's side in this controversy with Israel. He spoke as it were out of the arms of the Divine fellowship. The truth of his deliverance was therefore a foregone conclusion. With every religious teacher the same principle holds. Communion with God gives insight into truth attainable in no other way. It conditions that "unction from the Holy One" by which "we know all things." The best guarantee of orthodoxy is to be spiritually minded. "The anointing" by Christ in the work of grace, among other benefits, "teacheth of all things, and is truth" (1 John 2:27). Let a man read the Bible, so to speak, over God's shoulder, and the thing he will read out of it will be truth.
2. A life of rebellion cannot possibly be a walk with God. The prophet foretold to Israel a final rupture of visible covenant relations. And the prophecy was along the lines of natural fitness. The parties were already alienated in heart and sympathy, and in the nature of things formal separation must follow. To walk with God whilst fighting with him was an unworkable arrangement. The men who try it are men whose religious life is failure. When hearts go apart their owners go after them; and the soul, loveless today, will be godless tomorrow. Sinful man will have it so, and a holy God can have it no otherwise. Alienation leads to apostasy, and the apostate is ipso facto an outlaw. Are our affections given to Christ in self-surrender and love and happy trust? It is the one condition of walking with him to any purpose of spiritual effect. Is the dedication made maintained in unswerving true allegiance? See to that, for the beginning of estrangement is as the letting out of water, and what is deflection now will be defection in the next stage.
Calamity one of the works of God.
It is not sin, but suffering, that is here meant. We are to regard temporal calamities as the warning voice of God, a manifestation of his character, and a corrective expression of his displeasure. God maintains his controversy with Israel. The verses before contain language of unimpeachable equity, ill-requited kindness, and injured honour. On every ground the threatened punishment was merited, and only in mercy had it been suspended so long. There is a natural atheism in the human heart, a constantly prevailing tendency to forgot God. This tendency is most powerful in prosperity, and must often be counterworked by a dispensation of adversity. Not that Divine judgments, acting on human corruption, necessarily lead to repentance. But in God's hand they have often been overruled to this effect, and it is in this reclaiming and reforming capacity that they are alluded to in this text.
I. WE DISTINGUISH THE AGENCY OF JEHOVAH FROM CHANCE. "Chance" is a word much used, and little understood. When we say that an event has happened by chance, we mean either that it had no cause, which is atheism, or that we do not know the cause, which is an abuse of language. Chance, in fact, is nothing but a term of human ignorance. Yet the use of the word implies either atheism, denying the Divine existence, or naturalism, denying his superintending agency; the two coming to the same thing, for we might as well have no God as no providence. The sentiment of our text is the refutation of both, and as such is but the echo of all Scripture. "All things are of God." Not creation only, but providence, which is as wonderful as a continuous creation. Not great events only, but the very least, without any one of which the whole machinery would be incapable of a single revolution. How beautifully yet powerfully is this brought out by Christ in his illustration from the sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31)! If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without our Father, much less can a whole city. When evil is in a city, it is not a visitation of chance, but of the hand of God, under which it has come.
II. THE DIVINE AGENCY IS HERB DISTINGUISHED FROM THAT OF IDOLS. Something to worship is a necessity of human nature. Hence men, when they forsake the true God, set up a false one in his place. The existence and power of this idol they believe without proof, and even against presumption. Unconquerable incredulity in reference to the true God becomes irrational credulity in reference to the false once. Thus atheism is more a question of the heart than of the head. Men do not like to retain God in their knowledge (Romans 1:23, Romans 1:28), and so discard him for gods of their own devising. This fact shows polytheism a term of atheism. And it was demonstrably so with the Jews. The obverse of apostasy with them was always idolatry; and this text affirms that Jehovah, whom they had forsaken, not any senseless idol which they had chosen, dominated history and sent good and evil to men (see Isaiah 41:21-24; Jeremiah 10:3-16). We think we are in no danger of making their mistake. But the world, in its ambition, avarice, or pleasure, may take away our hearts from God, and become their idol, climbing to his throne. And we give it credit often for what God does and alone can do, and to that extent misread the providential events in which God is dealing with us.
III. DIVINE AGENCY IS TO BE DISTINGUISHED FROM THE AGENCY OF SECOND CAUSES. The deification of nature is a common practice. Conventionally, nature is a kind of mystical personification of some unknown existence, and to which the omnipotence denied to God is freely attributed. If "nature" does a thing, it is assumed that God has no hand in it, and that it wants no explanation further. "Nature is that created realm of being or substance which has an acting, a going on or process from within itself, under and by its own laws" (Bushnell). But these laws are just "the actuating power of God." They are not powers in themselves, but only the rules according to which his power operates. We have various kinds of seasons which we trace to various causes in nature. But these are second causes, and under the sovereign control of the First Cause. "Can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O Lord our God?... for thou hast made all these things" (Jeremiah 14:22). Air, earth, and sea, and all that they contain, are subject to him (Psalms 104:4; Psalms 148:8). From the natural cause of this or that we must rise to him who makes it what and puts it where it is, and gives it a commission to work. "All things are of God."
"This truth philosophy, though eagle-eyed
In nature's tendencies, oft o'erlooks;
And having found his instrument, forgets
Or disregards, or, more presumptuous still,
Denies the Power that wields it."
The same principle rules events in which men are agents. "Men are in God's hand" as well as matter. The King of Assyria was simply the rod with which God struck Israel (Isaiah 10:5-16). In attributing temporal evils to God's sovereign control of things, distinguish between sovereignty and caprice. What God does he could assign the best of reasons for. He exercises his sovereignty in declining to do so. But he tells us that the great general cause of suffering is sin. Evil does not come on us as creatures, but as sinners. The infliction of it has not to do with sovereignty, but with equity. All good is from God, all evil from the sinner. All good is gratuitous, all evil is deserved. All evil is righteous retribution, all good is free and sovereign love. Nor is suffering destitute of a large benevolent element. On the contrary, it often serves a merciful purpose, and would always do so were it properly received. When the sun of prosperity fails to soften, God casts men into the furnace of trial, if perchance the stronger method may prevail. If there be evil in your city, then consider who sends it, on what account, and for what purpose; so, it may be, you will "turn to him that smiteth you," as he means you should. (From a sermon by Ralph Wardlaw, D.D; supplemented and condensed.)
The hounds that bay before they bite.
The prophet speaks here as if he were announcing axiomatic truth. And it is nothing less. It might be argued from reason; it is historic fact; and it is a prominent Scripture doctrine.
I. JUDGMENT NEVER COMES WITHOUT WARNING. The Deluge, the destruction of Sodom, the plagues of Egypt, and the fall of Jerusalem, are cases in point. Sometimes judgment has taken people unawares (Matthew 24:39), but this is because the warning has been disregarded (Genesis 19:14; Genesis 6:3). When there has been no warning the judgment has been provoked, not by a course of wickedness, but by a single flagrant transgression in connection with which warning was out of the question (Exodus 32:27, Exodus 32:26; Numbers 26:10; Acts 12:23). The warning of coming judgment is:
1. A disclosure of sin. To allow men to sin unheeded, and to find it satisfactory, would be to amnesty evil doing and practically to encourage it. To erect the gallows of impending judgment, on the other hand, brings into sight the fact of sin, and emphasizes its demerit. Next to execution, the sentence of death is a revelation to the criminal of the enormity of his crime. It is a mental association of guilt with penalty, and so measuring of its moral proportions. It is also:
2. A deterrent from sin. Judgment executed without warning loses half its value. The fear of the rod is a wholesome restraint on the folly of the child; greater often than the actual blow, because it operates through a longer Period. God's moral government in its relation to sin aims at cure rather than mere punishment, at prevention rather than either. His blows fall only after his threats have failed to move (Proverbs 1:24, etc.; Jeremiah 6:10, Jeremiah 6:11). Accordingly:
3. To denounce judgment sometimes makes it unnecessary to inflict it. A notable instance was that of Nineveh. If her repentance were more common, her escape would be more common also (Matthew 12:41). God frights with the thunder of his threats, that he may not be compelled to smite with the lightning, of his judgments. He makes a display of his resistless forces that the rebels may yield without going into action. "Turn ye, turn ye: why will ye die?" that is the message of his open preparations to destroy.
II. THIS WARNING REACHES MEN THROUGH THE PROPHETS. On his way to the establishment of personal relations, God always treats with men through mediators. Covenants are made with representatives, such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Christ. Justifying righteousness is negotiated typically through a priesthood, and antitypically through Jesus Christ. So saving knowledge is negotiated through the Holy Ghost, and by the instrumentality of inspired men.
1. This was the only feasible way. Not every man is fit to receive a revelation direct from God. To do so implies mental and moral conditions that are realized in but a small percentage of men. His revelation must reach many through a third party in any case. If the worse qualified must be spoken to through the better qualified, it is only carrying out the principle to speak to both through the best qualified of all, i.e. the prophet selected by God himself. The Scripture is God's revelation, and adequate to man's need (2 Timothy 3:15-17). The attempt to substitute for it an "inner light" or any other device, is to substitute our own nonentity for God's reality.
2. It tends to call faith into action. God wants his Word believed. And he wants it believed in a certain way and on certain grounds. To believe what we see is not the faith he wants (John 20:29), nor properly faith at all. "Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed." Only such believing is intelligent or voluntary, and therefore possesed of moral qualities. If God revealed his will directly to each individual, bearing it in resistlessly on his consciousness, the moral discipline involved in faith would be lost to men.
3. It secures a record of God's message for universal use. A revelation given to men individually would be only for the individual, and for the time then being, It would neither be common property nor permanent property. And it is worth being made both. God's way is one in all ages. He is in the came mind about sin, and deals with it on the same principles always. The record of what he has done is the prophecy of what in similar circumstances he will do. The prophet wrote so much of his message as had permanent interest, and the aggregate of such inspired deliverances is the Scripture, which is "a light in a dark place until the day dawn." It is not a revelation for an individual merely. Having served its turn with one, it is no less available for others in endless succession.
III. GOD'S PROPHETS ARE FIRST OF ALL HIS SERVANTS. "His servants the prophets." The explanatory words, "his servants," widen greatly the sentiment of the clause.
1. To prophesy under Divine direction is itself an act of service. There is a wide sense in which all are God's servants who carry out any of his purposes. Thus Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar (Isaiah 45:1; Jeremiah 25:9) are styled respectively the "anointed" and the "servant" of God, because they were designated to and did a work for him. This was a purely external relation, but it was real. All the prophets, even the wicked Balaam, were God's servants in this sense. They represented his interest. They went his errand. They carried his message. They laboured to accomplish his purpose. Their exercise of the prophetic office was service.
2. Official relations have their basis in personal relations. Shepherds and sheep alike come into the fold by the Door, Jesus Christ (John 10:1-14). All come in to the effect of their own salvation first, and being in fall into rank as gatherers-in of others. First faith, and then works, is thus the spiritual order; faith establishing personal relations with Christ, and work, among other things, trying to get others to do likewise. Hence Church officers are to be chosen out of the number of Church members. The conditions of spiritual work are spiritual gifts, and the condition of spiritual gifts is to be in the spiritual connection (John 14:6; Ephesians 2:18).
The prophet gets his heavy commission.
It is Jehovah that speaks. He addresses the prophets (Keil), or the heathen (Lange), or the heathen through the prophets. The passage is a summons to the nations to appear as witnesses of Israel's flagrant sin, and her dreadful punishment. There are many articles in her predicted woe. Not least of these is condemnation by the heathen, who for less heinous sins were to be themselves destroyed. When a professed follower of God apostatizes in such a fashion that even God's enemies cry shame, and endures a corresponding punishment in their sight, the cup of his iniquity and of his retribution are both full.
I. THE CRIME CHANCED. There are many counts in this grave indictment.
1. The confusion of sordid money seeking. "See the great confusions in the midst thereof." The restlessness of greed, the fever of speculation, the wrangling of barter, and the tumult of audacious extortion are all included here. The mingling of excitement, disorder, and noise in a struggle for money, suggest a scene in which little is left to fancy with one who has been "on 'Change."
2. The oppression of power without principle. "And the oppressed in the heart thereof." From fraud to oppression is but a single step, and a short one. It is simply a question of power. The swindler would steal if he could. The thief would rob with violence if he dare. When dishonesty, moreover, prevails in private life, a system of public plunder is only a question of opportunity.
3. Wrong doing till the way to do right had been forgotten. "They know not to do right." "In the nature of things every sin against light draws blood on the spiritual retina" (Joseph Cook). Men are both hardened and blinded by a course of sin. Evil actions repeated become habits, and evil habits indulged in work themselves into the very texture of the soul. The wrong of ill-doing soon ceases to be felt, which naturally leads to its ceasing to be seen (Jeremiah 4:22; cf. Romans 16:19). When we can sin without conscience, we are very near to sinning without consciousness, The way to preserve a good conscience, a conscience that knows evil and condemns it, is to respect its least dictate. "Sow an act, and you reap a habit; sow a habit, and you reap a character; sew a character, and you reap a destiny."
4. Putting by plunder in More. "Who store up violence and devastation in their palaces." Plunder has not even the poor excuse of need. It is practised gratuitously, as without limit. The poor were fleeced and impoverished, that the sordid rich might heap up enormous and superfluous stores. And by the terms there was stored up not only the spoil of violence, but violence itself, Pari passu, with the accumulation of ill-gotten gain was the heaping up of the sin of their unrighteous getting, whilst in heaping up sin they were necessarily treasuring up wrath (Romans 2:5).
II. THE WITNESSES SUMMONED. "Assemble upon the mountains," etc. A reference to the topography of Samaria brings out the graphic fitness of the language here. The city was built on a hill, surrounded and overlooked by mountains higher than itself, and from the tops of which the nations could look down into the very streets, and observe the daily doings of the inhabitants. As regards these we notice:
1. Abandonment in sin is a sight for a man's worst enemy to see. The certainty, severity, and nearness of avenging judgment makes sin, from even the low utilitarian standpoint, the greatest possible evil. The enemy, who rejoices in our ill, can find no such occasion of malignant joy as our giving ourselves up to sin. After the fact that it offends God, the strongest argument against sin is the fact, the obverse of the other, that it pleases the devil and wicked men.
2. When men lose the sense of sin, God appeals to their sense of shame. It is strange that the sense of shame should survive the sense of sin, but so it is. We fear men more than God. We are not ashamed to do what we would be very much ashamed to acknowledge. The poet's sarcasm is just, that in the matter of sin our care is "not to leave undone, but keep unknown." The bitterness of punishment is greatly aggravated by its being inflicted in the presence of an exulting enemy. Philistia and Egypt were, moreover, the enemies whose cognizance of their way and end Israel would most feel and fear (2 Samuel 1:20). To this last shred of feeling on which a motive could lay hold Jehovah here appeals. They would be a gazing stock to their bitterest enemies. "Like the woman set in the midst amid one encircling sea of accusing, insulting faces, with none to pity, none to intercede, none to show mercy to them who had showed no mercy. Faint image of the shame of that day when not men's deeds only, but the secrets of all hearts, shall be revealed, and they shall begin 'to say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us'" (Pusey).
3. The pupil in the art of ill-doing often outdoes the master. It is assumed that even Egypt and Philistia would be shocked at the sight of the wrong doing of apostate Israel, and so become witnesses against them. Yet Egypt had taught them "oppression," and Philistia had given them many a lesson in "violence and devastation." The art of wrong doing advances with rapid strides as it is handed on. The son of the "smart" trader is a swindler, the son of the swindler is the burglar, the son of the burglar is the robber assassin. The pupil of the religious liberal is the rationalist, and the pupil of the rationalist is the atheist. Begin by imitating wicked men, and you will end by outstripping them in sin.
III. THE SENTENCE PRONOUNCED. This is at once heavy in its nature and explicit in its details. We see here that:
1. When God's judgments come against a man they surround him. (Amos 3:11, "An enemy, and that round about the land.") The impossibility of escaping when God attacks is axiomatic. Punishment is in such a way interwoven with sin that they cannot be dissociated. When we sin against God we sin against the nature of things. Physical, mental, and social law jump each with moral law, are broken in the breach of it, and so are each of them a channel to guide to us the full flood of retribution. "Though hand join in hand, yet shall not the wicked go unpunished."
2. When God strikes a sinner he strikes him on the seat of his sin. "And he shall bring down," etc. (Amos 3:11); "That dwell in Samaria," etc. (Amos 3:12). The strong had oppressed and pillaged the weak, and God's hand would fall on their strength. In the palaces the spoil of violence had been heaped up, and the palaces should be the special prey of the plunderer. The beds and couches which had ministered to their sinful indulgence would be carried away to the last stick. It is so always. The punishment of drunkenness, uncleanness, pride, theft, lying, comes in many ways, but in every case pre-eminently through the lust or appetite involved. This is according to natural laws, but is none the less the arrangement of God. He lure put latent in every power a mystic spark, which, if the power be abused, becomes a retributive fire to burn the breaker of his Law.
3. When sin is adequately punished the sinner's well being is practically destroyed. "Delivers out of the mouth of the lion two shin bones and an ear lappet," etc. (Amos 3:12). These are paltry leavings, not worth the rescue. And such, and so insignificant, would be the surviving good of Israel, when God's controversy was settled. Where the scythe of God's judgment has passed there is little left for the gleaner. The detected thief, the broken down sensualist, the besotted drunkard, what is each but a human wreck? The kernel of life is wasted, and only a husk remains. No wallflower of good can ever grow to cover these wrecks of time.
The residue of Israel's woe.
Those who had been called to witness the sin of Israel are now summoned to hear and report her sentence. In connection with this we see that—
I. EVEN HEATHENS CAN TESTIFY AGAINST APOSTATE ISRAEL IN THE JUDGMENT. To testify is not merely to convey intelligence; it contains in it the idea of protest, i.e. testifying against.
1. The heathen had a natural sense of right and wrong. Paul says they "show the work of the law written in their hearts," and "are a law unto themselves." A rule of duty is included in the constitution of their nature. They know right from wrong, arid are governed by a sense of obligation. They could, therefore, judge the conduct of Israel. They could see and testify that it did not come up to even their own imperfect standard of right.
2. They had been truer to their standard of right than Israel had. Paul tells us that the heathen had not been true to their light (Romans 1:21-28), and that the punishment of that was diminished light. But they had been truer, on the whole, than Israel had been to hers. Their morality was not so far below Israel's as their inferior light would lead us to expect. Hence the assumption that they would be shocked at Israel's manifold corruptions. Moral deterioration is measured, not so much by the absolute amount and kind of wrong doing as by the extent to which it falls below the known standard of right. Other things being equal, he is relatively the best man who most closely follows his light (John 3:19; Romans 2:14).
2. They would learn something for themselves from this bearing. Discrimination would see that Israel's sin was not a result, but the contradiction, of the national religion; that it was an evil result of heathen influence, and involving the heathen more or less in its guilt; that Israel's God was a God that judgeth righteously, and taketh vengeance on evil doers; and that judgment, beginning at God's chosen people, would not miss his open enemies. The very act of testifying against Israel, moreover, would involve such an exercise of the moral sense, in reference to their sin, as could not fail to be beneficial.
II. SIN IS PUNISHED BY BEING RETURNED ON THE SINNER'S HEAD. "When I visit Israel's transgression upon him." The sin not only leads to the punishment, but as it were re-embodies itself in it.
1. The memory of it haunts him. When sin is done it is not done with. Like the dead bird around the Ancient Mariner's neck, an avenging Providence ties the memory of it to our soul. Like the crime of Eugene Aram, it becomes an evil haunting memory, to dog our steps forever.
"And still no peace for the restless clay
Will wave or mould allow;
The horrid thing pursues my soul—
It stands before me now."
2. The permanent evil consequences of it keep it before the memory. The sins of youth are the sowing of which the sufferings of manhood and age are the harvest—a harvest too constantly and painfully reaped to allow the harvester to forget. The sins of one man are the fruitful source of the sins and sorrows of many, and find in each of these a mentor who makes it impossible to forget. In addition to tile sinner and the sinned against, wrong doing injures those whose well being depends on either. It is thus a poison tree that forks and branches in the bearing of its deadly fruit. While the evil consequences of his wrong doing are around him, and propagating themselves in ever-widening circles, the sinner apart from conscience cannot get his iniquities out of sight.
3. Not seldom the punishment is a resurrection of the sin itself. Laban's trick on Jacob was a repetition of Jacob's trick on Isaac (Genesis 29:25; Genesis 27:15-27). The deaths of Haman and Jezebel were similarly adjusted punishments. So with the cutting off the thumbs and great toes of the arch-mutilator Adoni-bezek (Judges 1:6, Judges 1:7). In such cases the sin is palpably returned in retribution on the sinner's head.
III. IDOL WORSHIP IS A SIMULATION OF THE WORSHIP OF GOD. "The altars of Bethel, and the horns of the altar." Both in the use of an altar and in the form of the altar used the idol worship set up by Jeroboam was a plagiarism from the worship of Jehovah.
1. Man cannot create in religion, but he can adapt. He can form no idea of spiritual things apart from Divine revelation (1 Corinthians 2:9). At the same time, God's revelation of spiritual things is too pure for his taste. The result is that he compromises the matter by adopting ready-made ordinances, and loading them with his own corrupt spirit and meaning.
2. Idolatrous worship seems less of an apostasy in proportion as it retains the forms of true worship. The devil lets man down into idolatry as into other sin by easy stages. First he parts with the spirit of true worship, whilst retaining the form. Then he parts with the object of it, corrupting the form. Then he adopts a new object, and adapts to its worship the already corrupted form. And so with all sin, which is spiritual idolatry. Man does not first abandon the forms of godliness, and then the practice of it. He gives up the substance of it as a matter of taste, and tries to salve his conscience for this by adhering to its forms (2 Timothy 3:5).
3. This also makes it more plausible and insidious. The worship set up in Dan and Bethel by Jeroboam was not idol worship pure and simple. It was the worship of God by means of idols, and in forms which mimicked the worship at Jerusalem. Heresy at the outset always masquerades in the guise of truth. By adopting the sheep's clothing the wolf gets easy access to the fold. It is only after he has entered, and the danger of eviction is over, that his true character is assumed.
IV. ONE IDOL BREEDS MANY. "The altars of Bethel." There was but one sacrificial altar in connection with the worship of Jehovah, but when many gods were invented, many altars were provided to correspond to them. This multiplication of idols is accounted for by the fact that:
1. Evil naturally spreads. One sin leads to more. Covetousness leads to theft, drunkenness to uncleanness, all three often to murder, and almost every sin to deceit and lying. No man can set up one sinful idol and say he will have no more. It will bring others with it whether he will or no. It is the first swallow of the summer of evil doing, and heralds a coming flock.
2. Idolatry must become polytheism in the attempt to meet the spiritual wants of men. God is an infinite Being, and so can meet our human necessity all round. But an idol is the creation of a finite mind, and so a finite thing. It is to meet one need of our nature, the need that was uppermost in the consciousness of the inventor. But a different need will be uppermost in another worshipper, and a different idol will be wanted to meet his case. Accordingly, in the mythology were many gods, who distributed among them the various functions necessary to complete the circle of human good. It was, in fact, an attempt, by multiplying deities indefinitely, to provide a substitute for the infinite God of revelation.
3. A worship that is all error is more logical than one that is half truth. Everything has its own proper form. You do not find an eagle in the form of a dove, nor an apple in the form of a plum, nor an evil principle in the form of a good one. If such a form is artificially put round it, the result is a palpable misfit. Polytheism is the nearest approach to logical idolatry, and in proportion as it is self-consistent is dangerous, and wins its way.
V. THE FIRST THING JUDGMENT DOES AGAINST THE IDOLATER IS TO DEPRIVE HIM OF HIS GODS. "The horns of the altar shall be cut off," etc. This would put an effectual stop to the idol worship. We thus see that:
1. God wants his judgments to be recognized. He never punishes men incognito. When he puts forth his power he wants men to see that it is his (Exodus 7:5; 1 Kings 20:28; Ezekiel 6:7), and striking the very seat of sin inflicts a stroke at once significant and effectual, a revelation at once of the Divine hand and power.
2. He wants them to be effective. The moral effect of a judgment depends very much on our knowing whence it comes. If we recognize it as sent by God, it is tenfold more impressive. Now, to exercise the maximum of beneficial influence with the minimum of afflictive visitation is ever God's way (Lamentations 3:32, Lamentations 3:33). He does not strike an aimless or a needless blow. Each stroke is meant to tell, and the medicine of affliction is stopped the moment the patient is cured.
3. Idolatry is at the root of all other sin. It is the complement of atheism, which is radically the heart departing from God. It is a sublimated self-worship, making an idol of our own mental creation. A god dethroned, and a self enthroned, is a state of things which "contains the promise and potency" of all evil. To strike at Israel's idolatry was to lay the axe to the root of the national evil. The idols abolished, and God restored to the national heart, its life would be again a consecrated one.
VI. MAN'S SELF-INDULGENCE, THE DEAREST IDOL HE HAS, WILL BE TAKEN FROM HIM ALONG WITH THE REST. (Amos 3:15, "And I will smite," etc.) Luxuries long enjoyed become necessities of life, and no judgment would be thorough that left them untouched. Self-indulgence, if it were left, would soon invent a new idolatry for its own accommodation. It is only by making a clean sweep of the idols already in possession that God can get his place in the sinner's heart.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
Amos 3:1, Amos 3:2
Sin against light and love.
This language of reproach and threatening was addressed to Israel and Judah. Yet all who occupy a parallel position of privilege, and who are guilty of similar insensibility, ingratitude, and apostasy, are subject to the condemnation and the penalty pronounced upon the favoured but sinful descendants of Israel.
I. UNPARALLELED FAVOURS ARE RECOUNTED. As a matter of history, Israel had been treated in a singular manner, with unique favour. However we may explain the fact, a fact it is which is here recalled to the memory of the too oblivions Hebrews.
1. Israel had been treated as the family of God. The heavenly Father had cared for, provided for, and protected his peculiar family, the children whom he had adopted.
2. Israel had been brought up from the land of Egypt. To the marvellous deliverance and interposition recorded by Moses, to the equally marvellous guidance and guardianship experienced in the wilderness of wandering, the sacred writers frequently refer. This is not surprising; for never was a more signal instance of Divine compassion than that afforded in the earlier passages of the national life of the chosen people.
3. Israel had been the object of the Divine knowledge, By this we understand (for the language is accommodated to our human weakness) that God had regarded and selected Israel in his inscrutable wisdom for a certain purpose, viz. in order by Israel to make himself known to mankind at large. A peculiar honour was conferred upon the Hebrew nation, not, however, for any excellence or worthiness in them, but for reasons larger and higher than any which were generally apprehended.
II. UNPARALLELED INIQUITIES ARE IMPUTED. Idolatry was charged upon those who had been distinguished as the recipients of the revelation of the Divine unity. Immorality of various kinds was rife amongst those who enjoyed the advantage of the purest moral code known amongst the nations of mankind. The just principle was applied, "To whom much is given of him will be much required." And the application of this principle made manifest the peculiar guilt of Israel. The Word of the Lord by his prophet was therefore righteously severe; other nations were guilty of equal enormities, but the privileges of Israel rendered their iniquities more reprehensible.
III. UNPARALLELED CHASTISEMENT IS THREATENED. All the iniquities of Israel were to be visited by Divine correction. In the remainder of his prophecies Amos enlarges upon this theme. Whether we consider the captivities and humiliations undergone by the favoured nation in the period immediately succeeding, or the history of subsequent centuries, we see the truth of this prediction. Much more apparent is it when we look at the national life of Israel as a whole; and, connecting the earlier apostasies with the rejection of the Messiah, recognize in the present dispersion of. the tribes the fulfilment of a Divine purpose and the inculcation of a Divine lesson.—T.
These words have passed into a proverb, which fact is in itself a proof that they accord with human experience.
I. HARMONY OF SENTIMENT AND PURPOSE ALONE CAN ENSURE AGREEMENT IN LIFE. The spiritual is a key to the outward life. And this holds not only with regard to the individual, but with regard to society. Because people live together in a house, they are not necessarily a true family; because they meet together in an ecclesiastical building, they are not therefore a true congregation; because they occupy the same territory, they are not therefore a true nation. There must be inner accord in order that fellowship may be real.
II. WANT OF HARMONY OF HEART WILL SURELY MANIFEST ITSELF IN LIFE. This is the other side of the same law. The strifes of society are an indication of conflicting principles. Even Christ came to send, not peace, but a sword. Where there is no agreement, one will walk in this road and another in that. External uniformity is of little value. In fact, manifest discord may be of service in revealing the want of spiritual unity, and so leading to repentance.
III. IN THE RELATION BETWEEN GOD AND MAN AGREEMENT IS ONLY TO BE ATTAINED BY THE CONFORMITY OF MAN'S MIND AND WILL TO GOD'S. It is not to be expected, it is not to be desired, that God's purpose should bend to man's. The human ignorance must accept the Divine wisdom, and the human error and sin must embrace the Divine grace and holiness. Such is the teaching of revelation, of the Law, and of the gospel.
IV. WHERE THERE IS WANT OF HARMONY BETWEEN
. Now, it is a fact that some men are far more highly favoured by Heaven than others. Some have more health, some more riches, some more intellect, some more friendships, some more means of spiritual improvement. We offer three remarks about specially favoured people.
I. THEY ARE OFTENTIMES THE GREATEST SINNERS. Who of all the people on the face of the earth were greater sinners than the Israelites? Yet they were specially favoured of Heaven. There was not a crime they did not commit; and they filled up the measure of their iniquity by crucifying the Son of God. England is a specially favoured land, but where is there more moral corruption? The fountain of moral iniquity is as deep, as full, as noxious, as active, here as in the darkest and most corrupt parts of the earth. It is true that civilization has so decorated it that its loathsomeness is to some extent concealed; but here it is. The corpse is painted, but it is still a putrid mass.
II. THEY ARE EXPOSED TO SPECIAL PUNISHMENT. "Therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities." Men are not to be envied simply because they are endowed with special favours. Those very endowments, unless they are faithfully used, only augment responsibility, deepen guilt, and ensure a more terrible retribution. Where much has been given, much will be required. "It will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment," etc. "Therefore will I punish you." I who know all your sins, I who abhor all your sins, I who have power to punish you, will execute vengeance.
III. THEY SHOULD, LIKE ALL PEOPLE, PLACE THEMSELVES IN HARMONY WITH GOD. "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?"
1. Agreement with God is essential to the well being of all intelligent existences. No spirit in the universe can be happy without thorough harmony with the will and mind of God. Heaven is happy because of this harmony; hell is miserable because of antagonism to the Divine mind.
2. The condition of all sinners is that of hostility to the will of God. Indeed, enmity to God is the essence of sin. What, then, is the conclusion? Reconciliation. "We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled unto God" (2 Corinthians 5:20).—D.T.
"Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey?" etc. These verses suggest certain remarks on retribution.
I. RETRIBUTION SPRINGS OUT OF THE NATURE OF THINGS. The lion roars in the forest for prey; the young lion cries in his den from an instinct of nature. They are hungry, and they roar; they crave for food, and they cry; this is natural. The lion is quiet till he sees his prey, but roars at the sight of it, and thereby inspires it with such terror that it is deprived of the power of escape. In like manner the young lion which has been weaned and is just beginning to hunt for prey, will lie silent in the den till it is brought near, when the smell of it will rouse him from his quiet. Poiset, in his travels, states that the lion has two different modes of hunting his prey. When not very hungry, he contents himself with watching behind a bush for the animal which is the object of his attack, till it approaches; when by a sudden leap he springs at it, and seldom misses his aim. But if he is famished he does not proceed so quietly; but, impatient and full of rage, he leaves his den and fills with his terrific roar the echoing forest. His voice inspires all beings with terror; no creature deems itself safe in its retreat; all flee they know not whither, and by this means some fall into his fangs. The naturalness of punishment, perhaps, is the point at which the prophet aims in the similitude. It is so with moral retribution. It arises from the constitution of things. Punishment grows out of vice. Misery follows iniquity. Every sin carries with it its own penalty. It does not require the Almighty to inflict any positive suffering on the sinner. He has only to leave him alone, and his sins will find him out.
II. RETRIBUTION IS NOT ACCIDENTAL, BUT ARRANGED. "Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no gin is for him? shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing at all?" The bird is not taken in a snare by chance. The fowler has been there and made preparation for its entanglement and death. Every sinner is a bird that must be caught; the snare is laid in the constitution of things. Instruments were prepared by the providence of God for the capture of the Israelites, which would certainly do their work.
III. RETRIBUTION ALWAYS SOUNDS A TIMELY ALARM. "Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid?" Heaven does not punish without warnings. Nature warns, providence warns, conscience warns; there is no sinful soul in which the trumpet of alarm does not sound.
IV. RETRIBUTION, HOWEVER IT COMES, IS ALWAYS DIVINE. "Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?" God is in all. He has established the connection between sin and suffering. He has planned and laid the snare. The everlasting destruction with which the sinner is punished comes from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power.—D.T.
Amos 3:7, Amos 3:8
The irrepressibility of moral truth.
"Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets," etc. These words mean that although punishment for the guilty Israelites was natural, arranged, and withal Divine, yet it would come according to a warning made to them through the prophets, and which these would feel compelled to deliver. The words suggest two remarks.
I. GOD HAS MADE A SPECIAL REVELATION TO HIS SERVANTS. "He revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." In all ages God has selected men to whom he has made communications of himself. In times past he spake unto the fathers by the prophets. In truth, he makes special revelations of himself to all true men. "Shall I hide from Abraham the thing that I do?" "The secrets of the Lord are with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant." God has given to all men a general revelation. In nature without and within, in the material domain, and in the spiritual. But he makes a special revelation to some. The Bible is indeed a special revelation.
1. Special in its occasion. It is made on account of the abnormal moral condition into which man has fallen—made in consequence of human sin and its dire consequences. Had there been no sin, in all probability we should have had no written revelation. The great book of nature would have sufficed.
2. Special in its doctrines The grand characteristic truth is this—that God so loved men as sinners that he gave his only begotten Son for their redemption. This is the epitome of the gospel,
II. THAT THE RIGHT RECEPTION OF THIS SPECIAL REVELATION NECESSITATES PREACHING. "The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?" The idea is that the men who have rightly taken the truth into them can no more conceal it than men can avoid terror at the roar of the lion. There are some truths which men may receive and feel no disposition to communicate, such as the truths of abstract science, which have no relation to the social heart. But gospel truths have such a relation to the tenderest and profoundest affections of the spirit, that their genuine recipients find them to be irrepressible. They feel like Jeremiah, that they have fire shut up in their bones; like the apostles before the Sanhedrin, "We cannot but speak the things that we have seen and heard;" like Paul, "Necessity is laid upon me to preach the gospel." "Who can but prophesy?" None but those who have not received the truth.—D.T.
Amos 3:10, Amos 3:11
"For they know not to do right, saith the Lord, who store up violence and robbery in their palaces," etc. We derive from this passage three general remarks.
I. THAT THERE IS AN ETERNAL LAW OF "RIGHT" THAT SHOULD GOVERN MAN IN ALL HIS RELATIONS. Right, as a sentiment, is one of the deepest, most ineradicable, and operative sentiments in humanity. All men feel that there is such a thing as right. What the right is, is a subject on which there has been and is a variety of opinion. Right implies a standard, and men differ about the standard. Some say the law of your country is the standard; some say public sentiment is the standard; some say temporal expediency is the standard. All these are fearfully mistaken. Philosophy and the Bible teach that there is but one standard—that is the will of the Creator. That will he reveals in many ways—in nature, in history, in conscience, in Christ. Conformity to that will is right.
1. The law of right should govern man in his relations with God. That law says—Thank the kindest Being most, love the best Being most, reverence the greatest Being most. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," etc.
2. The law of right should govern man in his relation to his fellow men. "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them." This law of right is immutable. It admits of no modification. It is universal. It is binding alike on all moral beings in the universe. It is benevolent. It seeks the happiness of all. Earth will be Paradise again when the will of God is done here "as it is in heaven."
II. THAT A PRACTICAL DISREGARD OF THIS LAW LEADS TO FRAUD AND VIOLENCE. "For they know not to do right, saith the Lord, who store up violence and robbery in their palaces." The magnates of Samaria had no respect for the practice of right, hence they "stored up violence and robbery in their palaces." Fraud and violence are the two great primary crimes in all social life. By the former men are deceived, befooled, rifled of their rights, and disappointed of their hopes and expectations. Never was fraud stronger in England than today—fraud in literature, commerce, religion, legislation. By the latter, men are disabled, wounded, crushed, murdered. Can the history of the world furnish more terrible manifeststions of violence than we have had in the wars of Christendom in this age? Why this fraud and violence? Why are these devils let loose to fill the world with lamentation and woe? The answer is in the text, "Men know not to do right" That is, they do not practise the right.
III. THAT FRAUD AND VIOLENCE MUST ULTIMATELY MEET WITH CONDIGN PUNISHMENT. "Therefore thus saith the Lord God; An adversary there shall be even round about the land; and he shall bring down thy strength from thee, and thy palaces shall be spoiled." How was this realized? "Against him came up Shalmaneser King of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant, and gave him presents .... In the ninth year of Hoshea the King of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes" (2Ki 3-6; 2 Kings 18:9-11). The cheats and. murderers of mankind will, as sure as there is justice in the world, meet with a terrible doom. Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you" (James 5:1-6). "Punishment is the recoil of crime; and the strength of the back stroke is in proportion to the original blow."—D.T.
"Hear ye, and testify in the house of Jacob, saith the Lord God, the God of hosts," etc. The same persons are here addressed who in the ninth verse were summoned from Philistia and Egypt. They were now to testify to the facts of the case, that it might be seen that the punishment inflicted upon the inhabitants was richly deserved. The subject of the words is national judgment, which we are here led to regard in three aspects.
I. IN RELATION TO THE TRUE PROPHETS. "Hear ye, and testify in the house of Jacob." We may perhaps regard the words also as spoken to the prophets. Hear, ye prophets.
1. The prophets were to make themselves acquainted with the coming judgments. They were to be watchmen who were to descry afar the coming danger. All true ministers of religion should by earnest study acquaint themselves with the terrible punishment that awaits the guilty world.
2. The prophets were to announce the coming, judgment. "Hear ye, and testify." Their work is to sound the alarm, to blow the trumpet. "So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore thou shall hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me" (Ezekiel 33:7). One of the chief duties of a true minister is to "warn every man" (Colossians 1:28).
II. IN RELATION TO ITS MORAL CAUSE. What was the cause of these threatened judgments? Here it is. "I shall visit the transgressions of Israel." Judgments do not come on men as a matter of necessity; they do not roll on man like the billows of ocean on the shore, by blind force; nor do they come because the Governor of the universe is malevolent, and has pleasure in the sufferings of his creatures. No; he is love. He "desireth not the death of a sinner." They come because of sin. The sins of a nation draw judgment after them as the moon draws after it the billows that beat upon the shore. Let no nation hope to escape judgments until it gets rid of sin. Judgments are but sins ripened into a harvest, subterranean fires breaking into volcanoes. Eternal love requires for the order and happiness of the universe that sins and sorrows, transgressions and troubles, should be inseparably linked together.
III. IS RELATION TO ITS TERRIBLE ISSUES.
1. There is the deprivation of religious institutions. "I will also visit the altars of Bethel: and the horns of the altar shall be cut off, and fall to the ground." "Signal vengeance was to be taken on the place whence all the evils which spread through the ten tribes originated. The 'horns' were four projecting points, in the shape of horns, at the corners of ancient altars. They may be seen in the representations of those dug up by Belzoni in Egypt. As they were ornamental, the action here described was designed to express the contempt in which the altar would be held by the Assyrians." Corrupt punishment for a nation's transgressions would involve the ruin of religious institutions.
2. There is a deprivation of all their conveniences and luxuries. "And I will smite the winter house with the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end, saith the Lord." Eastern monarchs and princes, we are told, have summer as well as winter houses. The "ivory houses" do not mean houses composed of that material, but richly ornamented dwellings. These were to be destroyed. "The pomp or pleasantness of men's houses," says Matthew Henry, "will be so far from fortifying them against God's judgments, that it will make them the more grievous and vexatious, as their extravagance about them will be put to the score of their sins and follies."—D.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Amos 3". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30