Chapters 3-6 relate three addresses particularizing the sins of Israel and announces

their imminent judgment.

 

 

Amos 3

 

Chapter 3 gives the first address:  the prophet begins by showing Israels

ingratitude for past mercies (vs. 1-2), and his own commission to announce the

coming judgment (vs. 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 (vs. 9-15).

 

 

1  “Hear this word that the LORD hath spoken against you, O children of

Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt,

saying,”  - The peculiar favor which God has shown the Israelites enhances the

guilt of their ingratitude and increases their punishment. Hear this word. Each address

(ch 4:1; 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 favor (ch. 2:10).

 

2 “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I

will punish you for all your iniquities.”  Have I known; i.e. loved, acknowledged,

chosen. So in Hosea 13:5 God says. “I knew thee in the wilderness;” and Paul

(II Timothy 2:19), “The Lord knoweth them that are His” (compare Nahum 1:7).

The peculiar relation in which God allowed Israel to stand to Him is much dwelt

upon (see Deuteronomy 4:8,20; 14:2; II Samuel 7:23; I Chronicles 17:21).

Therefore I will punish you;  literally, visit upon you. They must not presume

upon their privileges; the retention of God’s favor 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 (compare Ezekiel 9:6; Luke 12:47; I Peter 4:17).

 

 

The Judgment of Apostates a Foregone Conclusion (vs. 1-2)

 

This chapter, like chapters 5 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 offenses. To attend to His communication

is as vitally important as dutiful.

 

  • GOD, WHO HAD ONLY SPOKEN ABOUT THE HEATHEN, NOW

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 back 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 favor on

God’s side (v.7), and a corresponding advantage on her side, whilst, like

all advantage, it involves a proportionate responsibility.

 

  • GOD’S SPECIAL REGARD FOR ISRAEL HAD EXPRESSED

ITSELF IN PECULIAR FAVORS.

 

Ø      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 favors.

 

Ø      He had brought them out of Egypt. This was an act of Divine

power, an instance of Divine championship, an expression of Divine

distinguishing favor, 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.

 

Ø      He had taken them into intimate personal relations. Known.

This is practically equivalent to electing, including both the

motive and result of election. God took special notice of them,

set them in a gracious relation to Himself, acknowledged them

to be His people, and brought to Bear on them the influences that

are ever coming forth on those in covenant with him.

 

  • JUDGMENT IS INEVITABLE WHERE MERCY HAS BEEN

RECEIVED IN VAIN. “Therefore will I visit,” - (v. 2). Mercy

extended is made here the ground of judgment denounced. Each gift

bestowed in the past is a count in the present indictment.

 

Ø      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.

 

Ø      It is inevitable as testimony. God’s honor 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 honor by making

it appear that He hates sin, and hates it most in those that are nearest

Him” (Matthew Henry).

 

Ø      It is inevitable as discipline. Judgments are corrective as well as

punative, 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.

(I 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.

 

3 “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 vs. 7-8.

The Septuagint, reading differently, has, “except they know one another.”

 

Walking with God is THE IDEAL OF HUMAN LIFE!   “Enoch walked

with God” (Genesis 5:24).  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:  for they are worthy”

(Revelation 3:4) 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:

 

  • That we walk with the same purpose as God. The raison detre of

things is GOD’S GLORY FIRST  (Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:16), the

good of His people next (II Corinthians 4:15; Romans 8:28), then

the happiness of the race (I Timothy 4:10; Galatians 6:10), and

ULTIMATELY THE WELL BEING OF THE PLANET AS A

WHOLE ( a much superior existence than THE GREEN EARTH

POLICY and GUN CONTROL or A HYPOCRITICAL

EXCITEMENT OVER GLOBAL WARMING of the POLITICALLY

CORRECT TODAY – MAN’S IMMORALITY will bring about the

destruction of the earth far quicker than abuse of its resources! 

See what Revelation 11:18 has to say about them which “destroy

the earth”  – CY – 2013)  (Psalm 36:6; Romans 8:20-21). 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.

God’s ultimate purpose is to bring everything into one, both celestial and

terrestrial  - Ephesians 1:10 – CY – 2013)  By creating man in God’s image

he is endowed with a spiritual nature which exalts God (I Corinthians

10:31), loves the brethren (I John 3:14), consults the interests of others

(Philippians 2:4), and regards the life even of the beasts (Proverbs

12:10). In proportion as the godly endorse and homologate the Divine

purpose thus are they in the image of Christ (John 12:28; 13:1)

and do they walk with God.

 

  • 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

marvelous 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” (Psalm 25:14).  In Christ, “the Image of

 the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) 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” (I Peter 2:21), and by

consequence walk like God, being “imitators of Him as dear children.”

(Ephesians 5:1)

 

  • 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:

 

Ø      unfailing provision,

Ø       unerring guidance, and

Ø       an invincible escort.

 

No marvel if they who thus travel “go from strength to strength.”

(Psalm 84:7)

 

Being in agreement with God 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 RELATIONSHIP!

 

Men are naturally at enmity with God, and so averse to His company. They know

not and desire not to know His ways.  THE OPERATION OF GRACE,

 however, is one  “to will and to do of God’s good pleasure,” (Philippians

2:13) and the result is “a willing people in the day of God’s power.”

(Psalm 110:3)

 

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.” (I John 2:20).  The best guarantee is TO BE SPIRITUALLY

MINDED!  “The anointing” by Christ in the work of grace, among other

benefits, teacheth of all things, and is truth”  (I 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!

 

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!   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?

 

4  Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? will a young

lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing?”  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.

 

5 “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 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. The

Septuagint  probably read yoqesh, as they translate, a]neu ejxeutou~ -

Aneu exeutou - - “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!

 

6 “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid?

shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?”

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 (compare 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.; I Samuel 18:10; I Kings 22:19-23; Isaiah 45:7).

The verb “do” is often used absolutely, the context defining the result.

 

 

Calamity One of the Works of God (v. 6)

 

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 honor. 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.

 

  • 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” (II Corinthians 5:18).

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.

 

  • THE DIVINE AGENCY IS HERE 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!   (For the United States today, one of the gods is

MATERIALISM – CY – 2013)  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 A QUESTION MORE

OF THE HEART THAN THE HEAD!   Men do not like to

retain God in their knowledge (Romans 1:23, 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, especially God, …..hath stretched out the heavens

by His discretion……and bringeth for the wind out of His treasures.

vs. 12-13 – think of the implication with Hurricanes Katrina and

Sandy – and don’t forget the recent tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan

Luke 21:25 - just don’t take them out of the context of this homily – CY –

2013). 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 (for instance, referring to Mother Nature –

CY – 2013), and to that extent misread the providential events in which

God is dealing with us.

 

  • THE 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 BY 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 (Psalm 104:14; 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 Gods sovereign control of things, distinguish between sovereignty

and caprice. For what God does He could assign the best of reasons.  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.)

 

 

7 “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret

unto His servants the prophets.” 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 (compare

John 13:19; 14:29). His secret (sod); unrevealed till then. Septuagint,

paidei>an paideian - instruction.

 

  • 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; 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 32:27-28; Numbers 26:10; Acts 12:23).

The warning of coming judgment is:

 

Ø      A disclosure of sin. To allow men to sin unheeded, and to find it

satisfactory, would be to give amnesty to 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:

 

Ø      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 (Modern secularism and progressivism has made a great

error and miscalculation in removing fear as a deterrent – i.e. –

removing the paddle from schools, their opposition to the death

penalty; legalizing marijuana and drugs; removing taboos from sex;

facilitating abortions for convenience, ad nauseum – CY – 2013);

 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 PUNISHMENT,  at PREVENTION

RATHER THAN EITHER!   His blows fall only after His threats

have failed to move (Proverbs 1:24; Jeremiah 6:10-11). Accordingly:

 

Ø      To denounce judgment sometimes makes it unnecessary to inflict it.

A notable instance was that of Nineveh. (Book of Jonah) 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?” (Ezekiel 33:11)

That is the message of His open preparations to destroy.

 

  • THIS WARNING REACHES MEN THROUGH THE PROPHETS.

On His way to the establishment of personal relations (It is wonderful that

God is a ONE-ON-ONE GOD!  – CY -2013), 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 anti-typically THROUGH

JESUS CHRIST!   So saving knowledge is negotiated THROUGH

THE HOLY GHOST  and by the instrumentality of inspired men.

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 possessed of moral qualities.

 

8 “The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath

spoken, who can but prophesy?” As the lion’s roar forces every one to

fear, so the Divine call of the prophet forces him to speak (Jeremiah 20:9;

Ezekiel 2:8; I Corinthians 9:16). 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 less; 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.

 

 

No Smoke Without Fire (vs. 3-8)

 

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.

 

  • SIN INVOLVES DISCONNECTION FROM A HOLY GOD. “Can

two walk together,” etc.? This deep principle involves that:

 

Ø      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.

 

Ø      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.”  (John 3:34)

 

  • WHEN THE THUNDER OF GOD’S THREATENINGS IS HEARD,

THE LIGHTNING OF HIS JUDGMENTS IS IMMINENT. That peril

is sure and near is taught in a series of similes of a graphic kind.

 

Ø      When God utters His war cry it is evident that He is just about

to strike His enemy. (v. 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

(ch.1:2) is, therefore, the prelude to striking His prey forthwith. “The

threatenings 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” (Matthew Henry).

 

Ø      When God reaches forth His hand there is something to take, and

within His reach (v. 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.

 

When some are already alarmed it shows that DANGER TO

ALL IS REAL AND CLOSE  (v. 6, “Is a trumpet blown …

and the people not be afraid?”)   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.

 

Ø      When misfortune falls it is a proof that God has been at work.

 “Does misfortune happen in the city,” etc.? (v. 6). “All things are

of God”  (I Corinthians 5:18), 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!

 

  • GOD WARNS HIS PROPHETS OF EVIL BEFORE IT COMES.

(v. 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 involve THEM/YOU/ME! “He foretelleth the evil to come that He may

not be compelled to inflict it.

 

  • GOD’S TRUE PROPHETS CANNOT BUT SPEAK HIS

MESSAGE. (v. 8.)  (“For we cannot but speak the things which we

have seen and heard” Acts 4:20).  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”

(I Corinthians 9:16-17; Acts 4:19-20).  Moses was not excused though

slow of speech (Exodus 4:10), nor Isaiah though of polluted lips (Isaiah

6:5), nor Jeremiah because he was a child (Jeremiah 1:6-9). Ezekiel was

bidden ‘be not rebellious like that rebellious house’ (Ezekiel 2:8);

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’” (Jeremiah 20:9).  Taken in connection,

vs. 7-8 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.

 

Having vindicated his own commission, Amos proclaims in vs. 9-15,

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.

 

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!

 

9 “Publish in the palaces at Ashdod, and in the palaces in the land of

Egypt, and say, Assemble yourselves upon the mountains of

Samaria, and behold the great tumults in the midst thereof, and the

oppressed in the midst thereof.” Ashdod (ch.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 (compare II Samuel

16:22; Matthew 10:27). 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.  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 amphitheater, behold the iniquities transacted there.

Their implacable enemies, the Philistines, and those they were then courting,

the Egyptians (Hosea 7:11; 12:1), are alike called to witness this spectacle.

Tumult; the disorder, where might makes right.- Septuagint, qaumasta<

polla< - thaumasta polla - 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 (compare 2:6; 4:1). It was

 to the eternal disgrace of Israel that there were doings in her cities

which the very heathen would condemn.

 

“Assemble upon the mountains,” - 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.  (What is your concept of God?  Certainly,

if man has the ability, today, to cover as news anything in the world and it

be shared simultaneously, then you and I should be able to conceive of

God judging and explaining the lives and actions of every person and

every generation, AT ONCE, to where every eye and every heart could

see and understand HIS JUDGMENT!  – Perhaps we can understand

in the backdrop of a scene like the Super Bowl, magnified a million

times - CY – 2013)  Notice:

 

  • Abandonment in sin is a sight for a mans 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.

 

  • 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.  (The modern example is the media’s reaction to the fall of the likes of Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart

but in that day there will be no glossing over of the shortcomings

of the Ted Kennedy’s, Hugh Hefner’s, Larry Flint’s and the million

wannabes of the world – IT WILL BE ON AN OPEN STAGE,

A GIGANTIC OPEN CONCERT, ETC! – CY – 2013) Philistia and

Egypt were, moreover, the enemies whose cognizance of their way and

end Israel would most feel and fear (II 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 (Like Israel of old, the United States will be

an interesting but tragic CASE STUDY to not only their bitterest enemies

BUT TO ALL WHO HAVE EVER LIVED AND BREATHED THE

BREATH OF LIFE!  This will be along the lines of Jesus’ statement

in Matthew 12:41-42 – “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment

with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented

at the preaching of Jonah…… The queen of the south shall rise

up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: etc –

CY – 2013)  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, (Luke 12:2-5) and they shall begin ‘to say to the mountains,

 Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us – HIDE US FROM THE FACE

OF HIM THAT SITTETH ON THE THRONE, AND FROM THE

WRATH OF THE LAMB!  FOR THE GREAT DAY OF HIS WRATH

IS COME; AND WHO SHALL BE ABLE TO STAND! (Revelation 6:16-17)

 

The legacy of the effects of Liberalism, Progressivism and the tenets of the ACLU

in practice is becoming ingrained in American culture until, like Israel, there will

be NO REMEDY!  (See II Chronicles 36:16)   The art of wrong doing advances

with rapid pace 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!  Give the devil a ride and he

will end up wanting to drive!

 

10 “For they know not to do right, saith the LORD, who store up

violence and robbery in their palaces.” They know not how to do right.

The Samaritans have lost all sense of justice, the foundation of social life

(Jeremiah 4:22). The Septuagint -  Oujk e]gniv a} e]stai ejnanti>on aujth~v

- Ouk egnis a estai enantion autaes - She knew not what things shall be

before her. Store up violence; i.e. the fruits of violence and robbery

(talaipwri>an talaiporianmisery - Septuagint), what they had wrung

from the poor by oppression and rapine.

 

Israel had done wrong until the way to do right had been forgotten. “They know

not to do right.”  Every sin against light draws blood on the spiritual retina.

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

(the chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too strong to be broken),

which naturally leads to its ceasing to be seen (Jeremiah 4:22; compare 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;

 sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”

                                    (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

 

Nations which, like Israel, are guilty of luxury and of idolatry, which

pillage their neighbors’ goods, and wage unlawful war, involving

widespread calamity, thereby blunt their sensibilities to right and wrong.

They habituate themselves to regard all questions in the light of their own

ambition, or their own aggrandizement and enrichment. As a consequence

they are tempted to call evil good, and good evil. Especially are they liable

to term a false judgment upon their own conduct (Isaiah 5:20-21).  Paul

speaks of a condition where the conscience is “seared with a hot iron” –

(I Timothy 4:2)

 

  • Wrong has a tendency to perpetuate itself.  They who by reason of

abandoning themselves to evil courses have silenced the voice of

conscience and in the process, lose the moral power to do better.

Because they “know not to do right,” THEY CONTINUE TO

DO WRONG!  They reap as they have sown. They advance upon

the road of sin by the MOMENTUM DERIVED FROM PAST

INIQUITY!

 

11 “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.” An adversary. The Hebrew

is forcible, the Lord speaking as though He saw the foe present: an enemy

 and around the land.” 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 (II Kings 17 and

18:9-12. Thy strength. All wherein thou trusted shall be brought down to the ground

(Obadiah 1:3). Palaces, in which were stored the fruits of injustice and

rapine (v. 10).

 

12 “Thus saith the LORD; As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of

the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear; so shall the children of Israel be

taken out that dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus

in a couch.” 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 (compare I Samuel 17:34-37), 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 coziest corner of the divan, an image of indolent

ease and careless security IN THE FACE OF JUDGMENT.   And in

Damascus in a couch; LXX., kai< ejn Damaskw~| - kai en Damasko

Damascus - 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 (II  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, favored 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 Ëçmd; or there may

be some corruption in the text. What the Septuagint meant by their rendering is

problematical, Kate>nanti th~v fulh~v kai< ejn Damaskw~| - Katenanti

tae phulaes kai en Damasko -  The children of Israel who dwell in

Samaria in the presence of the tribe and in Damascus.

 

When sin is adequately punished the sinners well being is practically

destroyed. “Delivers out of the mouth of the lion two shin bones and an ear

lappet,” etc. (ver. 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 through the effects of AIDS (Proverbs 5:11-13; Romans 1:27),

the besotted drunkard, the drug addict,  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.

 

13 “Hear ye, and testify in the house of Jacob, saith the Lord GOD, the

God of hosts,”  Hear ye; Septuagint, JIerei~v ajkou>sate -  Hereis akousate

Hear, O ye priests.  The address is to the heathen, already summoned (v. 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 (v. 1).

God of hosts. God of the powers of heaven and earth, and therefore able to

execute His threats. Septuagint, oJ Pantokra>twr ho Pantokrator

 “the Almighty.”

 

14 “That in the day that I shall visit the transgressions of Israel upon

him I will also visit the altars of Bethel: and the horns of the altar

shall be cut off, and fall to the ground.”  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 Bethel. We read of one altar being set up by Jeroboam I (I Kings

12:29, 33), but doubtless others had been added in the course of time. The

denunciation of Ibid. ch.13:2-3 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; 29:12; Leviticus 16:18). The instruments of

idolatry or impure worship should share the destruction of the idolaters.

 

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.

 

  • The memory of sin 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.”

(Hood.)

 

  • 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 the 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.  (i.e. – Darwinism, Freudism,

Marxism, etc. – CY – 2013)

 

  • Jeroboam did not create a religion, but evilly adapted it.  Man can form

no idea of spiritual things apart from Divine revelation (I 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.

 

  • 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

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.

 

  • 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.

 

Ø      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, Israel’s life would be again a CONCECRATED

ONE!

 

15 “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.”  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 (compare Judges 3:20; Jeremiah 36:22).

Septuagint, to<n oi+kon to<n peri>pteronton oikon ton peripteron -  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 (I Kings 22:39). Solomon’s throne was thus decorated (Ibid. ch.10:18;

compare Psalm 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,

e[teroi oi+koi polloi> - heteroi oikoi polloi -  many other houses. Not only

palaces, but many private houses, shall be destroyed (compare Isaiah 5:9,

where the same words are used).

 

“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 rightful place in the sinner’s heart.

 

 

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