Chapter 5 and 6 are a lamentation
over the fall of
o Amos calls
declined from the right way. (vs.1-3)
o To make this plain, he contrasts God’s power and majesty with the people’s
iniquity, instances of which he gives (vs. 4-12).
o The only condition of safety is amendment (vs. 13-15); and
o As they refuse to reform, they shall have cause to lament (vs. 16-17).
o This threat is enforced by the two emphatic “woes” that
follow, the first of which demonstrates the baselessness of their trust in
their covenant relation to God (vs. 18-27);
1 “Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation,
O house of
his own feeling about it, the prophet utters his prophecy in the form of a dirge (kinah,
II Samuel 1:17; II Chronicles 35:25). Which I take up against you; or, which I raise
over you, as if the
end had come. O house of
making the dirge begin at v. 2. The ten tribes are addressed as in v. 6.
upon her land; there is none to raise her
up.” The virgin of
treated and guarded from enemies (compare Isaiah 23:12; 47:1; Jeremiah 14:17).
Is fallen (compae II Samuel 1:19); she shall no more rise. This is apparently a
contradiction to the promise of restoration elsewhere expressed, but is to
be explained either as referring exclusively to the ten tribes, very few of
whom returned from exile, and to the
reestablished. Forsaken upon her land; better, she shall be dashed upon
her own land; her own soil shall witness her ruin — that soil which was “virgin,”
her own possession. (The same could say
virgin – never been conquered on her own land, but 9/11 showed vulnerability
to be messed with! – 9/11 never would have happened had
true to God instead of departing from Him over the last half century! - CY – 2013)
(Case in point: “Oh
that my people had hearkened unto me, and
in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand
against their adversaries.” Psalm 81:13-14 - CY - 2022)
3 “For thus saith the Lord GOD; The city that went out by a thousand
shall leave an hundred, and that which went forth by an hundred
shall leave ten, to the house of
The city that went out by a thousand. Septuagint and Vulgate, “from which went
the fight, in such a city only a tenth of the inhabitants shall remain; and this shall
happen to small cities as well as great.
It is poor work singing the things that might have been. It means sweet
dreams dispelled, fair hopes blighted, and human lives in ruins. Yet such is
the prophet’s task in this passage — writing
graves of her dead millions. He had been denouncing nameless woes
against the rebellious people, Here he changes his tone to that of a
mournful spectator of accomplished ills. In imagination he throws himself
forward out of the sinful present into the calamitous future, and in
accommodation to the change of scene his denunciation becomes a dirge. It
is a natural transition, and at the same time a new form of appeal. When
ears become inattentive, the skilled musician will vary his tune. We have here:
far enough from existing facts. The Israel of God’s ideal was:
Ø A holy people. (Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 28:9.) Theoretically
they were, as the word “holy” means (Deuteronomy 7:6), a people
separated from men, and sin and set apart to God. But the fair ideal
of their national life remained an ideal and nothing more. The
reality never reached it, never approached it. They connected
themselves freely with heathen men and heathenish sin. They at times
outdid the nations (ch.2:6-9) in avarice, injustice, spoiling the poor,
abominable rites, and every nameless infamy.
Ø An unconquered people. This is the force of the expression “virgin
as His loyal people (Deuteronomy 1:30). If, and so long as he did so,
they would be invincible. But they never claimed His help on the
appointed terms. His promise was doubted (Ibid. v.32) and its
conditions disregarded, with the inevitable result that it failed of
MANY A CRITICAL TIME!
“the unconquered,” was practically the often vanquished, the twice
carried captive, the soon-to-be-destroyed. God’s help comes
surely, but comes only where there is attention to the conditions on
which it is offered and given.
A prosperous people.
the very garden of the earth; unique in the combination of the highest
agricultural capacities, with the finest commercial situation. The
prosperity of an industrious, peaceful nation in it was, so far as
favorable circumstances went, a foregone conclusion. But:
o war had devastated, and
o mildew blighted, and
o drought laid bare its fertile fields (ch.4:6-13).
God saw His gifts abused and made the ministers of sin, and He was
driven to destroy these in their hands. When temporal good begins to
be made the occasion of moral evil, our tenure of it will soon end.
(This is happening in
citizenry seem to be oblivious – CY – 2013)
Ø A happy people. A people prosperous, strong, and pure, could not but
be happy as well (Psalm
144:15). And such was
ideal (Deuteronomy 33:29). But the actual misery experienced was as
complete as the theoretical happiness revealed. HAPPINESS is
nowhere so IMPOSSIBLE, MISERY nowhere so INTENSE,
as with A PEOPLE WHO HAVE FALLEN BENEATH
THEMSELVES! In proportion as the former might have been,
will the latter be.
lamentation becomes a funeral song.
Ø A nation made shipwreck is a sight for tears. It is the destruction of
magnificent possibilities of good. It is the failing of a tremendous reality
of evil. It is the ruin of most precious interests on a gigantic scale. If one
soul lost is the occasion of grief to pure spirits and A TRAVAILING
SAVIOUR, what must the calamity be when MULTIPLIED
Ø When the wicked fall the truest mourners are the righteous. Not
the heathen who had seduced
them, not the remnant of apostate
that might escape, but the prophet of God, who had kept himself
unspotted in the midst of national corruption, was the tearful mourner
by the ruined nation’s grave. The wicked are TOO SELFISH to
care for any sorrows but their own. They are as the wolves,
which would make a prey of the dead one’s remains, rather than
any mourning for his fall. God and the God-like alone truly mourn
when the wicked perish.
Ø A prophetic sight of his own epitaph ought to stay the hand of
the suicide. Men supposed to be dead have lived to read their own
obituary notice. It has enabled them to see themselves for once as
others see them. And it ought to have a practical influence for good.
Israel, reading beforehand the inscription on their own tomb,
might have been warned away, if anything could have warned
them, from the course in which they were rushing on. It showed
them what was coming, and how it was being brought on, and how
it looked, whether as a morality or a policy, in enlightened eyes. An
adequate idea of sin MUST INCLUDE ITS END and issues
and place in history, and
this IT WAS IN
TO LEARN (AND OURS ALSO – CY – 2013) from Amos’s
His way. The way of God is a revelation of His purpose. All three are along
the lines of the just and fitting. Now:
Ø Adequate punishment means practical extermination. Sin is an
infinite crime, merits an infinite punishment, and failing this will receive a
punishment exhaustive of the criminal’s good. The proverbial question,
“Wherefore doth a living man complain?” (Lamentations 3:39), is
An understatement of the case. While a field, or a blessing, or a living
body and soul have been both destroyed, there will still be no more
than JUSTICE DONE! If our sin have not its punishment
IN CHRIST then that punishment must be UTTER
Ø When wrath smites many, mercy spares a remnant. Ninety
percent were to be destroyed. The thousand should become a
hundred, and the hundred ten. Neither the strength of the great
nor the insignificance of the small should avail them for escape.
With perfect impartiality, all should be made to suffer proportionally.
Yet decimation was to stop short of utter extinction. A tenth part
(see Isaiah 1:9; 6:13) should be spared. This less guilty remnant,
taught and chastened by the judgments which swept away the
bulk of the nation, might form the nucleus of a new and better
mercy often steps in and saves a “seed to the sower.” (Isaiah
55:10). There is seldom a deluge without its ark and its
Noah family, the conditions and materials of a fresh start for
national name, and with it the covenant relation and privileges to
which the name referred
(Genesis 32:28). Toward the
Church, for its sin “cast down but not destroyed,” the same
gracious policy was announced (Isaiah 54:7-10). While a
Mephibosheth remains the royal line of God’s anointed is not
extinct. Chastisement makes a chaos only to bring out of it
the young world of a new life and a new hope (Psalm 89:30-33).
thus saith the LORD unto the house of
ye shall live:” The more formal proof that
here begins. In calling her to repentance the prophet contrasts God’s
requirements with her actual conduct. Seek ye me, and ye shall live. Two
imperatives: “Seek me, and (so) live;” duty and its reward. “Seek me in the
appointed way, and ye shall be saved from destruction” (compare Genesis 42:18).
Seek the Lord (v. 4)
Man is by nature a seeker. He desires good, of one kind or another, and
what he desires he makes the object of his quest, more or less diligent and
persevering. Hence the restlessness, the energy, the effort, so distinctive of
human life. Religion does not destroy or repress natural characteristics; it
hallows and dignifies them. Religion gives to human search a just direction
and noble aim.
· THE REASONS IN MAN’S NATURE AND CIRCUMSTANCES
WHICH SHOULD LEAD HIM TO SEEK THE LORD.
1. Man is so constituted that he cannot find a full satisfaction in any earthly
and created good. He returns from every such endeavor with the
complaint, “All is vanity.” “Our heart,”
restless till it rests in thee.”
2. Especially do all human religions prove their
learning this by bitter experience. “Seek not Bethel,” etc., was the
admonition of the prophet to those who had been in the habit of resorting
to idol shrines. The gods of the heathen were known to the Jews as
· THE REASONS TO BE FOUND IN GOD WHY HE SHOULD
ENGAGE THE SEEKING POWERS OF MAN.
1. His own proper excellence is such that the soul that gains even a glimpse
of it may well devote to the pursuit of Divine knowledge and favor all
powers and all opportunities.
2. GOD ALONE IS ABLE TO SUCCOR AND SAVE those who set their
affection and desire upon Him.
3. God condescends to invite the children of men to seek Him. By the
mouth of the prophet He gives an express command and invitation. We may
be assured that this language is sincere and trustworthy.
4. There is an express promise of incomparable preciousness addressed to
such as are ready to respond to the heavenly call. “Ye shall live,” is the
authoritative assurance. By this we may understand that seekers after God
shall be delivered from destruction, that they shall be made partakers of the
Divine life, in all its spiritual energy and happiness.
· THE METHODS IN WHICH GOD MAY BE SOUGHT AND FOUND.
1. Observe where He is to be found: i.e.
a. in His holy Word;
b. in his blessed Son,
by whom in this Christian dispensation He has revealed Himself unto
us, and who has said, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
2. Consider how He is to be found: i.e.
a. by penitence,
b. in humility,
c. through faith, with prayer;
in a word, by the exercises special to the spiritual nature.
3. Notice when He is to be found: i.e. NOW: “Seek ye the Lord while He may
be found, call ye upon Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6)
Seeking the Lord (v. 4)
“For thus saith the Lord unto the
live.” It is impossible to read this chapter without noticing the tenderness
of the prophet, his compassion and pitifulness, his yearning wish to help
and save. This feeling is the more remarkable because Amos belonged to
the tribe of
Isaiah (Isaiah 22:4) says, “Look away from me; I will weep bitterly,
labour not to comfort me, because of the spoiling of the daughter of my
people,” etc. Samuel, too, after Saul the king had proved himself so
headstrong and willful that nothing could save him, although he went down
to his own house and, in accordance with Divine command, saw him no
more, nevertheless mourned for Saul to the day of his death. And, loftiest
of all, Christ Jesus stood on the
which had rejected Him, He wept over it, saying, etc.! It was
in this spirit that Amos wrote the passage before us, and thrice repeated the
message in our text. Meditation on this subject gives us some thoughts:
1. On the loss of God.
2. On the search for God.
3. On life in God.
· THE LOSS OF GOD. The exhortation to “seek” Him implies that He has
been lost sight of by His creatures. This is brought about by various
1. By intellectual temptations. These vary in different ages. In the time of
Amos the study of God’s works led to superstition, while in these days it
leads many to skepticism. Then the stars were believed to affect human
destiny (v. 8); each season had its own deity; every element obeyed some
unseen being. The polytheist would have joined heartily with the Jew in
saying, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” In our day, on
the contrary, folly is supposed to lie in the other direction, namely, in the
heart of him who believes in that which is beyond sensuous perception and
purely intellectual research. Science, which has driven fairies from the
woods, elves from the mountains, and nymphs from the sea, is now
supposed to be almost prepared to drive God from his universe. Articles
in our magazines, addresses in our halls, speak with such ill-disguised
contempt of religious men that their language is, “The fool hath said in his
heart, There is a God.” BUT THE WORLD HAS NEVER WANTED GOD
MORE! Men are not satisfied with knowing, and some who see no evidence
for a future heaven are bitterly asking — Is life worth living? Amidst the
miseries of civilized society, and the wrangling of sects, many a one secretly
says, “My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God!” (Psalm 84:2)
In an age when men believed in gods who had no personal love or
righteousness, they wanted to know the heavenly Father; and in this age,
when skepticism has swept the world bare of some of its old creeds,
we do well to hearken to the message of God, “Seek ye me, and ye shall live.”
2. By prevailing idolatries. Show how places of sacred memory had
become sources of idolatry and pollution (v. 5).
and his would be the Lord’s;
where the people reconsecrated themselves on
were all transformed into idolatrous resorts. From this, point out how easily
creeds, forms of worship, holy places and relics, nominal profession of
Christianity, etc., may hide God, instead of bearing witness to him. Suggest
also certain modern idolatries.
3. By practical unrighteousness. Amos addressed his hearers as “Ye who
turn judgement to wormwood [that is, who, instead of rendering justice,
commit bitter wrong], and leav e off righteousness in the earth [or, rather,
‘dethrone it from rule’].” Trace these sins in some trades and professions,
and in some social customs and ecclesiastical movements, of our own day.
Yet, in spite of such sins, which will incur the penalties here foretold, the
message comes to every sinner from Him who is not willing that any should
perish, “Seek ye me, and ye shall live.”
· THE SEARCH FOR GOD. Let us rightly estimate the privilege offered
to us. God is great beyond our conceptions. “He maketh the seven stars
and Orion,” etc., yet says, “To that man will I look… who is of a humble
and contrite heart.” (Isaiah 66:2)
1. There is necessity for seeking Him. He will not force Himself on our
notice, nor blazen His name in the sky. Any man, if he chooses, is free to
live as if God were not. It is “he who seeketh findeth.”
2. There are advantages in seeking him. These are additional to the
advantages of FINDING HIM!. The most precious things (jewels, corn,
knowledge, etc.) are not the most easily obtained. The self-discipline, the
steadfast effort, the trials of faith and hope, etc., cultivate character. So, in
seeking God, we find that the pains and difficulties resulting from doubts,
indolence, sins, etc., are part of our Heaven-appointed discipline. If God
were visible as the sun is visible, there would be no moral advantage in
“seeking” Him; but as He is visible only through faith and prayer, we rise
heavenward in our very seeking after Him.
3. There is a right way of seeking Him. Hence v. 5, “Seek
etc. Some hoped to get help in other directions rather than in the path of
penitential prayer. Multitudes now, instead of turning to Him who is the
Light of the world, pursue false lights, which, like the will-o’-the-wisp, will
lead to destruction. Hear the words of Jesus Christ: “He that hath seen me
hath seen the Father;” “I and the Father are one.”
· THE LIFE IN GOD. “And ye shall live.” This does not allude to
national life. That was irrevocably doomed. But in the doomed nation any
sinner turning to God would live. Nor is the allusion to natural life, but to
that spiritual life which is referred to in the verse, “This is life eternal, that
they might know thee, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” John 17;3)
This life in its nature and source is more fully revealed to us than to Amos
1. The source of this life is found in God, revealed to us in Jesus Christ our
Lord. No man can create life where it is not, nor restore it where it once
was. Christ, by the raising of the dead, showed in a visible sphere what He
alone can do in the invisible. “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God
is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
2. The nature of this life. It is Divine, and constitutes us “partakers of the
a. Its germ is faith,
b. its inspiration is love,
c. its breath is prayer,
d. its manifestation the likeness of Christ.
3. The vigor of this life. It will live amid the influences of an evil
atmosphere, as a healthy man walks unhurt through a tainted hospital It will
assert itself in streams of benediction to the world around, and it will finally
prove itself victorious over death; for the Lord has said, “He that liveth and
believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25)
Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and
no true seeking of God (see note on ch.4:4).
about fifty miles south-southwest of
been lost, and is marked to this day by seven much-frequented wells. As
being one of the holy places celebrated in the history of the patriarchs
(Genesis 21:31, 33; 26:23-25; 46:1), it had become a shrine of
idolatrous worship, to which the Israelites resorted, though it lay far out of
their territory (compare ch.8:14). Gilgal shall surely go into captivity.
There is in the Hebrew a play on the words here and in the
following clause (Hag-gilgal galoh yigleh), which commentators have
paralleled with such expressions as,
name, we may say, “Roll-town shall be rolled away.”
vanity” (see Hosea 4:15), as being the temple of an idol (compare
I Corinthians 8:4), so the prophet, with allusion to this,
says that “
shall become aven” — vanity, nothingness, itself. No mention is made of
the fate of
the destiny of places beyond their territory is not here the object of his
prediction; and indeed, when
6 “Seek the LORD, and ye shall live; lest He break out like fire in the
house of Joseph, and devour it, and there
be none to quench it in
Break out like fire. God is called “a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24;
Hebrews 12:29; compare Jeremiah 4:4). And devour it; Septuagint, Ὅπως μὴ
ἀναλάμψη ὡς πῦρ ὁ οϊκος Ἰωσὴφ καὶ καταφάγῃ αὐτόν, – Hopos mae
analampsiae hos pur ho oikos Iosaeph kai kataphagae auton - “Lest the
house of Joseph blaze as fire, and He devour him;” Vulgate, Ne forte
comburatur ut ignis domus Joseph, et devorabit. But it is best to take the
last member of the sentence thus: “and it (the fire) devour.” The house
Joseph. Ephraim, i.e.
distinguishing tribe. In
has, τῷ οἴκῳ Ἰσραήλ,
– to oiko
The Seeking that is Life (vs. 4-6)
This passage contains at once a
vindication of the coming destruction on
a last offer of escape. All past evil had been justly incurred by DEPARTURE
FROM GOD. All coming evil might yet be avoided by RETURN TO HIM.
“Seek ye me” was the direction on their treatment of which the whole issue turned.
The antediluvians were PREACHED TO FOR A CENTURY after
destruction was denounced. So
ordinances of a Christian Church for forty years after Christ had pronounced
her doom (Matthew 23:37-39).
Ø God’s threatenings are in a certain sense conditional on men’s
conduct. They are addressed to men in their character or circumstances
at the time they are uttered. If and when the character or circumstances
cease to exist, the threatenings cease to apply. It was so in the case of
Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:1,
5), and also of
such cases does not change, but the circumstances do, and his modes
of treatment change accordingly.
Ø They are designed to turn men, not to plunge them in despair.
All life is disciplinary. Each event and experience is fitted, and meant to
exercise a moral influence. Being, moreover, controlled by a holy
God, the moral influence of each must be in the direction of right, It is
so with blessings and the promise of them (Romans 2:4; Isaiah 1:19).
It is so also with judgments and the threat of them (Isaiah 26:9;
Luke 13:3,5). God takes pleasure in the soul’s turning (Ezekiel 18:23,32),
and all His dealings with it aim at and tend to this result. Therefore, until
judgment actually falls, the threat of it is kept as a deterrent before the
Ø INDIVIDUALS MAY TURN after national repentance has
become hopeless. Language addressed to a nation is really meant
for the individuals composing it; and as individuals they would be
by it. No general forsaking of sin was probable in
SOME MIGHT TURN, AS MANY DID IN
and were saved after the destruction of the city as a whole
was foretold; and, so long as this was possible, the means fitted to turn
would not be withdrawn. God’s expostulations will go forth to glean in
comers even when the prospects of a harvest are blighted.
LIFE TO FIND. To
of search is God, not mere good (Psalm 42:2); and GOD FOR HIMSELF,
NOT FOR HIS GIFTS!
Ø This seeking implies previous non-possession. God is neither the
property of the wicked nor his possession. Sin made separation
between them, and a severing of all previously existing ties. Man
abandoned God, and God drove out man. Now he is “without
God, (having no hope…in the world”), Ephesians 2:12, is
“enmity against God,” bids God depart from him, says in his
heart, “No God.” It is only by the saint, and after seeking, that it
can be said, “I have found him whom my soul loveth”
(Song of Solomon 3:4). “This God is our God forever and ever.”
(Psalm 48:14). Grace it is that knits again the ties broken by sin,
and restores man and God to a condition of mutual love and
possession and indwelling.
Ø It is a quest with the whole heart and strength. The essence of
seeking God is to desire Him. And to desire Him really is TO
DESIRE HIM HEARTILY! Not to desire Him with other things.
Not to desire Him more than other things. Not to desire Him weakly.
Not even to desire Him strongly. BUT TO DESIRE HIM
WHOLELY, SUPREMELY AND INTENSELY! Seeking God
is heart seeking, or it is nothing. Heart seeking is truly such when it is
seeking with the whole heart. Therefore only to such seeking is there
a promise of finding “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye
shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13; 24:7).
God cannot be had till He is adequately wanted, and to be
wanted adequately is to be wanted supremely.
Ø It is synonymous with finding. In God’s world everywhere supply
meets and measures demand. Plant, animal, and man, each FINDS on
earth, in climate, habitat, covering, and food, EXACTLY THE
THING IT NEEDS! There is no want for which there is not
FULL AND FITTING PROVISION! So in the spiritual
sphere. “Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after
righteousness, for they shall be filled,” (Matthew 5:6). Over
against every need of the soul is a Divine supply. That need becoming
conscious, means help waiting; that need expressed, means help
already on the way. Spiritual good is obtained on the simple condition
of its being truly desired.
Ø To find God is to find all good which inheres in Him. God is
Himself the greatest Good; He is, moreover, the Sum, and
therefore the Source, of all good. There is certain good which
He unconditionally bestows on all, even the ungodly. But it is
good of the lower kinds, and which ministers to the lower needs. All
spiritual good, and all temporal good that has any spiritual aspect,
God gives only WITH AND IN JESUS CHRIST (Romans 8:32;
Matthew 6:33). The planets attend the sun and follow where he leads.
So on CHRIST, as GOD’S UNSPEAKABLE GIFT, the other
lesser gifts wait. We have them when we grasp Him.
Ø This good, summed up in one word, IS LIFE! Life is a general
term for the highest good (Psalm 30:5; 133:3). It is physical life, the
prevention or withdrawal of destroying judgments. It is judicial life,
or the reversal of the death sentence on the soul, and the privilege
for it of living. It is spiritual life, being quickened once for all out
of the death in sin, being made alive and kept alive. It is
EVERLASTING LIFE, the out blooming in eternity of the
flower of soul life planted on earth. (“it doeth not yet appear
what we shall be: but we know that, WHEN HE SHALL
APPEAR, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as
HE IS.” (I John 3:2)
TURN. It was under pretence of greater convenience that Jeroboam’s
calves were set
up in Dan and
that they preferred idolatrous rites to the worship of God.
Ø Idols are man’s own invention, and therefore the EGOIST
CHOICE. There is self-sufficiency verging on self-worship in all sin.
Man puts his own opinion and will and work above God’s (Thus
in their AFTERMATHS! THOUGH BOMBS, if you please –
CY – 2013). An idol is his own creation, and for that reason, if for
no other, is preferred to God. It is a subtle form of SELF-
WORSHIP (such is secular humanism – CY – 2013), and so
inevitably preferred to any other.
Ø They are credited with qualities congenial to his nature. A man
impresses himself on his work, virtually puts himself into it. It reflects his
genius and his moral character. The idol a man makes is thus substantially
a repetition of himself, and therefore congenial to him all round. (“They
have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see
not; They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any
breath in their mouths. They that make them are like unto
them: so is every one that trusteth in them.” – Psalm 135:15-18)
Made by his hand, it is after his heart, which the God of heaven is very
far from being.
Ø The fall into idol worship is broken by the retention in it of a
flavoring of the worship of God.
were spots where the Divine presence had of old been richly manifested,
its rites mimicked, to some extent, the national worship of God. It was
added on at first to Divine worship, not substituted for it. Satan lets men
down into idolatry by easy stages. It begins in the sanctuary. It appears
at first in the likeness of a better thing. (I wonder how contemporary
worship fits into this? - CY – 2013). Then, when men have become
sufficiently familiar with it and degraded by it to bear the sight, it
puts on its natural shape, and is IDOL WORSHIP PURE AND
MEAN DISASTER. By a play upon words, Gilgal, “the Great Rolling,” is
to be rolled
“aven,” or vanity.
Ø An idol is a figment, and the worship of it can only result in
deception and loss. It is not a thing, but only the image of a thing,
It is the image, moreover, not of a real, but of an imaginary thing.
It is, therefore, “nothing,” and “a thing of nought” (I Corinthians
8:4), and out of nothing, nothing can come. To worship it is delusion,
to trust it inevitable disappointment.
Ø God’s infinite power and His wrath are against them that forsake
Him. The idolater pits idol impotence against Divine omnipotence,
with the inevitable result of discomfiture and destruction. There are
idols of the heart the service of which is no less ruinous. They group
themselves under the heading “world,” and the love of them is
incompatible with the love of God, and so “Anathema” (I John 2:15;
I Corinthians 16:22).
7 “Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness
earth,” The prophet brings out the contrast between
corruption and GOD’S OMIPOTENCE! Ye who turn judgment to
wormwood. As Jerome puts it,” Converterunt dulcedinem judicii in
absinthii amaritudinem,” “They turned the sweetness of judgment into the
bitterness of absinth” (compare ch. 6:12). Who make judgment the
occasion of the bitterest injustice. There is no syntactical connection
between this verse and the last, but virtually we may append it to “seek the
Lord.” It would sound in people’s ears as a reminiscence of
Deuteronomy 29:18, 20. The Septuagint reads, ὁ ποιῶν εἰς ὕψος κρίμα -
Ho poion eis hupsios krima - “that executeth judgment in the height,”
referring the sentence to the Lord, or else taking laanah, “wormwood,” in a
metaphorical sense, as elsewhere they translate it by ἀνάγκη πικρία, ὀδύνη -
- anagkae pikria odunae - (Deuteronomy 29:18; Proverbs 5:4; Jeremiah 9:15;
23:15). The name “wormwood” is applied to all the plants of the genus that
righteousness in the earth; rather, cast down righteousness to the earth
(as Isaiah 28:2), despise it and trample it underfoot (compare Daniel 8:12).
and has power to punish! Righteousness includes all transactions between
man and man. The Septuagint (still referring the subject to the Lord),
καὶ δικαιοσύνην εἰς γῆν ἔθηκεν, – dikaiosunaen eis gaen ethaeken - “and
He established righteousness on earth.”
8 “Seek Him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the
shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with
night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out
upon the face of the earth: The LORD is His name:” Striking instances are
given of God’s creative power and omnipotence. Seek Him that maketh
the seven stars. “Seek him” is not in the Hebrew. “He that maketh,” etc.,
is in direct antithesis to “ye who turn,” etc. (v. 7). The seven stars; Hebrew,
kimah, “the heap,” the constellation of the Pleiades (Job 9:9; 38:31). The
Septuagint here has, ὁ ποιῶν πάντα – ho poion panta - the One making everything
but in Job has Πλειάδα – Pleiada - Pleiades. The Vulgate gives, facientem Arcturum.
Symmachus and Theodotion give Πλειάδα (Pleiades) in the present passage. The
observation of this most remarkable cluster among the heavenly bodies would be
natural to the pastoral life of Amos. And Orion; Hebrew, kesil, “foolish,” a rebel, the
name being applied to Nimrod, whose representation was found by the Easterns in
this constellation. Some render kesil,
“gate;” others connect it with the
sohail, equivalent to
– kai metaskeuazon - “and changing,” which looks as if the translator was not
familiar with the Hebrew word, and substituted something in its place. It reads
Ὠρίωνος - Orionos – Orion – in Job 38:31. Turneth the shadow of
death into the morning. “The shadow of death,” the depth of darkness. This
and the following clause do not simply state that the regular interchange of day
and night is in God’s hands, but rather notify that GOD IS THE MORAL
GOVERNOR OF THE WORLD! He saves men from the utmost dangers,
from the darkness of sin and from the night of ignorance; and, on the other hand,
He sends calamity on those that offend His Law (compare ch.4:13). Maketh
the day dark with night; literally, as the Septuagint - ἡμέραν εἰς νύκτα
συσκοτάζων – haemeran eis nukta suskotazon - “darkeneth day into night.”
That calleth for the waters of the sea, etc. As judgments are the prophet’s
theme, this expression cannot be an intimation of the working of the natural law
by which the moisture taken up from the sea as cloud returns upon the earth as
rain (compare ch. 9:6). Rather it is an allusion to the Flood and similar
catastrophes, which are proofs of God’s judicial government of the universe,
when “The Lord will take His zeal as His whole armor and will arm all creation
to repel His enemies” (Wisdom of Solomon ch. 5:17). The Lord is His name.
Jehovah, the self-existent God, doeth all these marvelous things, and men presume
to skirt His law and think to be unpunished. (ch. 4:13; Deuteronomy 29:19)
The Message of the Stars (v. 8)
“Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow
of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth
for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth:
The Lord is his Name,” This recognition of God amidst the phenomena of
nature is characteristic of Amos. He looked on the Pleiades and Orion, as
they shone radiantly in the heavens, changeless in their relations, calm
amidst human vicissitudes, and constant in diffusing their light upon a
troubled world, and bade men seek Him who created them. He speaks of
night, that “shadow of death,” and reminds his hearers that, though it be
long and fearsome, the light of dawn comes at last, and God turns it into
morning; and again, after the work of the day is done, and tired men want
rest, God draws the curtains, and “makes the day dark with night.” The last
clause is more obscure. Sometimes the waters have been “poured out upon
the earth” in destructive deluge, and this has occurred at the command of
God; but we prefer the application of the prophet’s words to that familiar
and constant display of the Divine power by means of which the waters are
secretly gathered up into the sky, that they may be poured out in showers
of blessing upon the earth. Our text is true of nature; but it is also true of
that of which nature is the symbol and shadow, as we shall endeavor to
show. It reminds us:
· THAT GOD OVERRULES THE OUTWARD CONDITIONS OF
HUMAN LIFE. “Seek Him that maketh the seven stars and Orion.” The
words are literally true. Philosophy teaches us to find an adequate cause for
all effects, and science acknowledges that the First Cause eludes its search,
and is beyond its sphere. Revelation declares, “God made the sun to rule by
day, and the moon to rule by night: He made the stars also.” (Genesis 1:16)
More than this primal fact is, however, asserted here. Amos was speaking to
those who saw in the stars more than material lights. His hearers believed in
astrology, which has been prevalent in all ages, from the very dawn of history.
This superstition, which has left its mark on the earliest records of our race, in
the literature of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, Hindus, and Chinese, was not
without effect on the people of
Indeed, it only received its deathblow when the Copernican system was
finally established; for even Kepler would not deny that there was a
connection between the movements of the stars and the fortunes of men.
Now, two constellations so peculiar and brilliant as Pleiades and Orion
naturally had special powers ascribed to them. Thus Rabbi Isaac Israel, in
his remarks on Job 38:31, says, “Some of the stars have operations in
the ripening of fruits, and such is the opening of the Pleiades; and some of
the stars retard and delay the fruits from ripening, and this is the opening of
Orion.” In other words, the Pleiades were associated with the spring, when
Nature was bursting into new life, when she was emitting the sweetest
influences from every blade and flower, when ships which had been shut up
through stress of weather could put out once more to sea. Hence the
question, “Canst thou bind the sweet influence of Pleiades?” — Canst thou
prevent the outpouring of vernal life? Whether you will or not, the change
comes; for it is of God. Similarly, Orion was associated with autumn, when
the earth was throwing off her beauty, and the voyages of the ancient times
came to an end, and frost bound the streams as in fetters of iron. “Canst
thou loose the bands of Orion?” — Canst thou check the storms, and break
up the reign of frost? Now, says Amos, look beyond these constellations to
Him who made them; and when you rejoice in the spring, or dread the
approaching winter, when you are glad over the pleasantness of life, or
faint under its adversity; — THINK OF HIM who is above and beyond all
material forces and all visible influences. There is a spring and autumn
known in human experience which have their sources beyond ourselves and
beyond all visible agency; and our hearts rest in the assurance of this.
Compare the lot of two children in dissimilar circumstances — the one
with every comfort and care, as if “born under a lucky star,” and sharing
“the sweet influences of Pleiades;” the other in the drunken home, with
curses temporal and moral on every side. These children do not choose
their lot, they do not appear to deserve treatment so different; yet their
circumstances are not the result of chance nor the decree of blind fate, but
are to be ascribed to Him “who made the seven stars and Orion,” and, as
the Judge of all the earth, He will do right. (Suggest other examples of
seeming unfairness in men’s circumstances.) This Divine revelation in
Scripture affirms of God that He appoints the lot of each, and this with a
view to the training of character, which far outweighs the pleasantness or
the painfulness found in mere circumstances. Adversity will by and by
appear to be but a small thing to him who amidst it proved himself faithful,
and prosperity will seem in the retrospect of little worth to him who,
through his thanklessness and prayerlessness, has failed to “lay hold on
eternal life.” Whatever influences surround us, we are, for our own sakes,
called on to recognize God as overruling them. If we are prosperous, it is
“the Lord who gives power to get wealth;” if we are in adversity, we are
not to blame our luck or our friends, but to seek the comfort and help of
Him “who maketh the seven stars and Orion.”
· THAT GOD OVERRULES THE INWARD EXPERIENCE OF MEN.
“He turneth the shadow of death into the morning,” etc. The Hebrew word
translated “shadow of death” almost always means more than natural night,
however black that may be (see references in Job and Psalms). Admitting
this figurative use of the word here, the reference of the prophet would
seem to be to the changes from sorrowfulness to joyfulness, and from
joyfulness to sorrowfulness, which we frequently experience. These are not
dependent on circumstances. The wealthiest men have often said of their
surroundings, “I have no pleasure in them;” while the poor and persecuted
have sometimes made their miserable abodes resound with praise. We may
illustrate this from the life of our Lord. At one time “He rejoiced in spirit”
(Luke 10:21) at another time he was “exceeding sorrowful, even unto death;”
(Matthew 26:38) yet the Father’s hand was recognized in both experiences.
God inspires the children’s songs (Cedarmont Kids - You Tube), and He
gives the cup of agony. What abundant reason we have to praise God for
certain inward changes — the carelessness turned into serious and sad
penitence, and this again into the joyfulness of pardon! To many a weeping
penitent, sitting in darkness, He has come and “turned the shadow of death
into morning.” Others have been in the darkness of doubt. They have cried,
“Why hast thou forsaken me?” They have felt around them for some hand
to help in their dire extremity; At last the sense of Christ’s love has come
home to them, and though their questions are not all answered, they believe
in Him, and enter into rest, and soon they find that “he that believeth does
not walk in darkness, but has the light of life.” (v. 15) God turns for them
the shadow of death into morning. Soon “the shadow feared of man” will come.
Yet even the darkness of death shall be transformed into the brightness of
heaven; and in the place where “there is no need of the sun or moon to shine”
(Revelation 21:23) because God Himself is the Light thereof, we shall see
how God has forevermore turned the shadow of death into morning.
· THAT GOD TRANSFORMS CURSES INTO BLESSINGS. God
“calls for the waters of the sea.” They secretly ascend to heaven, and then
descend in refreshing showers. The transformation effected in that
phenomenon is noteworthy. If we pour sea water on flowers, they will die;
but when it is called up into the heavens the pernicious salt is left behind,
the water is purged from its destructiveness, and the curse is made a
blessing. A transforming influence passes over all that comes to us, if it is
caught up to heaven. Suppose prosperity comes to you. It may enervate
and destroy your spiritual life, but if praise to God is associated with it, and
habitual prayer that you may use this for God, you may become by your
very prosperity a more generous, tender-hearted, and Christ-like man. If
adversity is yours, and you take all your troubles before the Lord, they will
be transfigured before you in the light of God’s love and Christ’s
sufferings, and through your
and nobler hope. If doubts or temptations try you, they will not curse, but
bless you, if they arouse the earnest prayer, “Lord, help me!” Christ was
never more precious to Thomas than when, after his doubts, he exclaimed,
“My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) But his doubts would have ruined
him had they kept him from the presence of the Lord. Let all your troubles
and joys be wafted, by prayer and praise, into the heaven of God’s presence,
and they shall be poured down upon you in showers of spiritual blessings.
· CONCLUSION. If you would know the comfort of the text, you will only
find it in obedience to its first clause, “Seek Him!” “Seek ye the Lord while
he may be found,” (Isaiah 55:6) “Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be
at peace, thereby good shall come unto thee.” (Job 22:21) Then, under
the quiet light of the stars, or in the splendors of sunset and dawn, or watching
the fall of the heaven-sent showers, you will have thoughts of Him who rules
over all, as of one who through Jesus Christ is your Father and your Friend.
9 “That strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong, so that the
spoiled shall come against the fortress.” That strengtheneth….
Translate, That causeth destruction to flash forth upon the strong,
So that destruction cometh upon the fortress. The idea is that God,
as with a lightening flash smites the strongest man, and no fortress is
a refuge from Him. Septuagint Ὁ διαιρῶν συντριμμὸν ἐπὶ ἰσχύν –
Ho diairon suntrimmon epi ischun “Who divideth destruction unto strength.”
The Vulgate, taking the Hebrew verb balag in the sense of lighting up the
countenance, renders, Qui subridet vastitatem super robustum, which
means that the Lord smiles while He brings desolation on the mighty —
a figurative expression denoting His anger at man’s pride, and THE EASE
WITH WHICH HE PUNISHES! We may add that Rosenmuller agrees with
the Authorized Version in the first clause: "Who strengtheneth the weak against
the strong, and giveth the plunderers power over the fortresses of the strong."
The Lord of the Universe (vs. 7-9)
The herdsman of Tekoah was a true poet. His eyes were open to the
beauty and to the splendor of nature; and his heart felt the presence of the
Unseen and Eternal in all the works of His hands, in all His providential
arrangements. More than this, the moral character and rule of the
Omnipotent were very present and very real to him; he felt the force of the
appeal made to the spiritual nature of man, and calling for a life of religious
faith, of practical obedience. There is nothing strained or unnatural in the
striking conjunction in this passage of poetic sensibility with ethical and
· A REPRESENTATION OF DIVINE GREATNESS AND GLORY.
1. Seen in the creation of the starry host. The Pleiades and Orion are
mentioned as two of the most noticeable and most splendid of the
constellations of the midnight sky.
2. In the alternations of day and night, in sunrise and sunset, in storm and
3. In the grandeur of the sea, in the torrents of rain, in the floods which
pour their waters over the earth; in a word, in all the processes of nature.
4. In the providential interpositions and the righteous rule of the Most
High, who does according to His will among the inhabitants of the earth.
· AN INFERENCE AS TO HUMAN CONDUCT. The poet-prophet is
more than a mirror to reflect the visible splendor, the awful forces of the
universe. To him nature has a voice of authority, appealing to the
understanding and to the conscience of the sons of men. There is a
summons to the unrighteous and the irreligious to forsake their ways and
to choose a better path. This summons will take a different form according
to the character, the moral development, of those addressed.
1. There is what may be called the lower view — a God so great will not
suffer iniquity to triumph, or injustice and disobedience to go unpunished.
All are in the hands of the Almighty; and He whose power is so evidently
revealed in the heavens above and on the earth beneath will not fail to
assert His authority over all the creatures of His power. Although
wickedness may prosper for a season, the law of righteousness shall be
maintained and vindicated.
2. There is a higher view — not inconsistent with the other, but presenting
itself to natures more morally cultivated and advanced. Great as God
appears in nature, our conceptions of His excellence are enhanced when we
reflect upon his glorious attributes and his righteous reign. The eternal law
of righteousness administered by Omnipotence demands our lowly
reverence, deserves our grateful obedience.
The Glory of Religion (vs. 8-9)
“Seek Him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow
of death into the morning,” etc. The word reveals two things.
· THE CONNECTION WHICH GOD HAS WITH HIS UNIVERSE. His
connection is that:
1. Of a Creator. “He maketh the seven stars and Orion.” These
constellations are only given as specimens of all the things He has created in
different parts of the universe. “In the beginning God created the heavens
and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)
2. Of a Governor. “He turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and
maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and
poureth them out upon the face of the earth.” The truth taught is this —
that God presides over the revolution of day and night, and the changes of
the seasons, and the fortunes of men. All nature is under His control. “He
maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the
just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)
3. Of a Redeemer. “That strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong, so
that the spoiled shall come against the fortress.” The reference is here
undoubtedly to His redemptive work in human history.
· THE CONNECTION WHICH MAN SHOULD HAVE WITH GOD.
“Seek Him.” A phrase of frequent use in the Bible, denoting the duty of
man to attain to the knowledge, the friendship, and the fellowship of the
Eternal. And in this all true religion consists. The pursuit implies:
1. Faith in God’s personal existence. A belief that He is.
2. A consciousness of moral distance from God. We do not seek what we
3. A felt necessity of friendly connection with God.
4. An assurance that such a connection can be obtained.
· CONCLUSION. What a grand thing is religion I It is not a thing of mere
doctrine, or ritual, or sect, or party. It is a moral pursuit of “Him that
maketh the seven stars and Orion,” etc.
In vs. 10-12, the prophet gives further instances of the people’s corruption.
10 “They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that
speaketh uprightly.” Him that rebuketh in the gate (Isaiah 29:21). The
gate of Eastern cities was the place of public resort (Proverbs 1:21), (for an
idea of what they resent see Ibid. vs. 22-33 – CY – 2013) - either for
business (Deuteronomy 25:7), or the administration of justice (II Samuel 15:2),
or for gossip. So “he that rebuketh in the gate” may be a judge, or a chief,
or a prophet (Jeremiah 17:19; 19:2). It seems better to take the words thus
than to join “in the gate” to “they hate,” with the meaning that those who resort
to the gate — kings, chiefs, judges — hate the prophet’s reproof, for the
following verses show that Amos is referring chiefly to judicial proceedings,
and not to his own mission. Uprightly; literally, perfectly; Vulgate, perfecte;
i.e. without reserve, keeping nothing back.
11 “Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take
from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye
shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall
not drink wine of them.” Therefore. Because ye refuse reproof, and oppress
the poor. Your treading is upon the poor; ye trample upon. The Hebrew
word boshes is found nowhere else, and is variously explained. Septuagint,
κατεκονδύλιζον – katekondulizon - “smote with the fists;” so the Syriac;
Vulgate, diripiebatis, with which the Chaldee agrees. Keil, Schegg, and most
modern commentators explain the word, by a slight dialectical variation, as
equivalent to conculcare. Burdens of wheat; rather, tribute, exactions of
wheat, or presents like enforced “benevolences.” They exacted such gifts
before they would do justice to the poor. Or it may refer to interest for
money or victuals lent, which took the form of presents in order to evade
the Law (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:37; Deuteronomy 23:19).
Septuagint, , δῶρα ἐκλεκτά - dora eklekta – chosen gifts - Vulgate,
praedam electam, the Hebrew word bar meaning either “wheat” or “elect.”
Hewn stone. Houses thus built were a mark of luxury and wealth, sun-dried
brick being the usual material employed (compare Isaiah 9:10; Ezekiel 12:5, 7).
Ye shall not dwell in them. This is the punishment of their evil doings, according
to the threat in Deuteronomy 28:30, 39. The people shall be banished and the land
desolated (Micah 6:15; Zephaniah 1:13).
12 “For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict
the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their
right.” Your punishment is richly deserved, for “I know how many are
your transgressions and how mighty are your sins,” especially, as it follows,
your sins of oppression and injustice. They afflict the just. The
construction is continuous: “afflicters of the just.” Hostes justi (Vulgate);
καταπατοῦντες δίκαιον – katapatountes dikaion - “trampling down the just”
(Septuagint). They take a bribe. The translation of kopher as “bribe” is
justified, perhaps, by I Samuel 12:3; but the word is elsewhere used for
“ransom,” redemption money paid to escape the consequences of crime
(Proverbs 6:35), in direct opposition to the Law in Numbers 35:31,
which forbade any ransom to be taken for the life of a murderer. The
Septuagint has, λαμβάνοντες ἀλλάγματα - lambanontes allagmata –
taking wares - the Vulgate (with which the Syriac agrees), accipientes munus.
Turn aside the poor in the gate from their right; or, bow down the needy
in the gate, i.e. in the place of judgment (see note on v. 10). Vulgate, paupers
deprimentes in porta; Septuagint, , πένητας ἐν πύλαις ἐκκλίνοντες –
penaeta en pulais ekklinontes - “turning aside the poor in the gates.”
The crime specified is that of wresting judgment in the case of the poor, or
not giving the poor man justice unless he could pay for it (compare Exodus 23:6;
13 “Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.”
Even while he speaks, the prophet feels that his reproof is useless (compare
Jeremiah 7:27-28; Hosea 4:1, 17). In that time; at such a time as this, the man
who acts wisely holds his peace, because it is a time of moral corruption and of
personal danger. But the prophet cannot restrain his call (compare Ezekiel 33:3).
In Micah 2:3 the “evil time” is one of calamity.
The Contrast Presaging the Conflict (vs. 7-13)
Judgment is coming. Warning has been given. Duty, and the prevailing
derelictions of it, have been pointed out. Here God’s perfections and
Such incompatibility must lead to collision. It is by God’s character and
ours that our mutual relations and attitudes are shaped. We see here:
important revelation of Himself. He has written all over it the glorious
lineaments of His character. Each part of it reflects some feature, and
in the whole we see His face. Here He shows Himself:
Ø In the sphere of creation. “He maketh the seven stars and Orion.”
This is a pregnant thought. Alcyone, one of the seven stars, or
Pleiades, is the central orb of the heavens, round which the
others move. It is as it were the heart of the material universe;
and the Creator of it is by implication the CREATOR OF ALL!
In this fact speak the power and wisdom of the Great Uncaused,
who is the Cause not only of all effects, but of all causes as well.
Ø In the sphere of providence. “And turneth the shadow,” etc.
(vs. 8-9). We have here three classes of operations. The first was
illustrated in the miraculous light that shone around Paul at his
conversion (Acts 9:3), is seen daily in the rise of the morning sun,
and appears in the turning of the night of adversity into the day
of prosperity. The second was seen in the three hours’ miraculous
darkness at the Crucifixion (Luke 23:44), is seen in the gathering
shades of every night, and in the darkening down into adverse
circumstances of many a life day. The third was seen in the Deluge,
is seen in every shower of rain, and will be seen in future widespread
judgments on the wicked (v. 9, “Who causeth desolations to flash
on the strong,” God’s judgments are bold, as singling out the strong
and the fortress; swift, as coming on them like the lightning’s flash;
sweeping, as involving them in utter destruction.
Ø In the sphere of redemption. God scatters spiritual night. He
illuminates the darkness of the soul. He makes men light in
the Lord. He gives them the inheritance of the saints in light.
He also judicially blinds, by leaving impenitent souls to the
natural effects of wrongdoing; and HE CASTS INTO OUTER
DARKNESS AT LAST. In all these things we behold power —
power here as goodness, power there as severity; but power
everywhere as resistless and Divine.
In many transgressions and great
corruption comes out. Particulars are:
Ø As unjust. Injustice is a natural form for the sin, which is at
bottom SELFISHNESS, to take. It was an especially prevalent
form, moreover, among the Hebrew people. From Jacob down
the sordid race has cheated the strong and imposed on the weak.
Action is in a sense the fruit of character, and answers to the tree.
God’s grace is to convert the thorn into the fir tree, and the briar
into the myrtle tree; but man’s sin works the converse process,
and changes the sweet “tree of righteousness” into bitter
wormwood. Casting “righteousness down to earth” is another
aspect of the same charge. Righteousness ought to rule. Its proper
place is the
throne of human life. But
cast it down to the earth, and set injustice, a usurper, in its place.
As oppressive. (vs. 11-12.) The oppression suffered by
done nothing to produce detestation of the thing. What other
nations had inflicted on them in this way, they were only too
ready to inflict, with interest, on each other as they had opportunity.
Humiliation does not always prepare for exaltation, nor poverty
for wealth, nor the endurance of injustice for power. The freed
slave will often make the very worst master, and the erewhile
victim of wrong the most outrageous inflictor of it (Proverbs
Ø As venal. “Who take a bribe.” They did injustice, not only in their
private, but in their public, capacity. They not only plundered the
public themselves, but made a profit by helping others to do the
same. A dishonest man will make a corrupt magistrate. He will
use for his own aggrandizement whatever power he gains.
Ø As impious. (vs.10,12.) As cowardice appeared in oppressing the
poor, so did impiety in oppressing the righteous. Much of what
the righteous suffer is due to the hatred of righteousness by the
wicked. They hate the thing itself, they hate it as a standing
rebuke to their own ways (I John 3:12), and their antipathy
invariably exhibits itself as it has occasion.
Given what God is and what
may easily be anticipated.
Ø God will disappoint their schemes of self-aggrandizement. (v.11.)
Their labor and pains and sin would prove in the end to have been
thrown away. Their ill-gotten gains would never be enjoyed. The
vineyards and houses, in which they had invested them, would,
after having been acquired at great pains, be lost again before
they had even begun to be used. Gain gotten by injustice is seldom
abiding, and never remunerative. The one condition of getting
satisfaction out of earthly good is to ACQUIRE IT
ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD!
Ø He will leave them unrebuked (v.13). The prophets and the wise
WOULD BE SILENT! This would be a great calamity. It would
be followed by an INCREASE OF SIN, involving in turn an
aggravation of punishment. It would mean abandonment to fate;
for when God ceases to strive, A MAN ‘S DOOM IS SEALED.
(Genesis 6:3; John 6:44). It is the Physician discontinuing his
treatment because the hand of death is on the patient. The SINNER
SINS CONVICTION AWAY and THEN CONGRATULATES
HIMSELF ON THE DISCOVERY OF PEACE. But it is only
God saying, “Ephraim is joined to his idols: let him alone.”
It is the one spiritual case that is utterly desperate.
A Time to be Silent (v. 13)
“Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.”
These words describe an evil time, and specify one of its most evil features.
It is a time of culminating wickedness, of imminent destruction, and, as
related to both, of DIVINE NON-INTERVENTION. “There is a time to keep
silence” (Ecclesiastes 3:7) as well as “a time to speak.” And that time,
as pointed out by characteristic features, was at hand in
which in vain had been pled with and plagued, would then be SEVERELY
LEFT ALONE. . Her victims would suffer in silence. Her prophets would cease
to expostulate. God, in judgment, would cease to strive for her restraint or
turning. In AN AWFUL AND UNNATURAL CALM she would pass the
moments before there broke on her THE STORM OF DOOM. And the
dawning of this “dies irae”- DAY OF WRATH - was almost come. As to the
particular characteristic of this day, note that God’s servants are silent:
· WHEN THERE IS NOTHING THAT CAN BE SAID TO THE
PURPOSE. This will often happen. Seasonable speech is a valuable thing.
But men are not infallible, and occasions are often puzzling, and the right
thing to say is hard to find.
1. Silence is sometimes the resource of feeling too deep for words. There
are unspeakable things. “Speech is but broken light on the depth of the
unspoken.” The finest thoughts, the deepest feelings, are unuttered often
because they cannot be expressed in words. As a noted Shakespearian
character says —
“Silence is the perfectest herald of joy:
I were but little happy if I could say how much.”
And the sentiment is not uncommon. “Does the wind write what it sings in
those sounding leaves above our heads? Does the sea write the moaning of
its surge? Nothing is fine that is written; the divinest in man’s heart never
issues forth. The instrument is flesh, the note is fire. What would you have?
Between what one feels and what one expresses, there is the same space as
between the soul and the twenty-six letters of the alphabet; that is to say,
the Infinite. Can you on a rosewood flute give forth the harmony of the
2. Silence is often more impressive than any speech.
“The silence of pure innocence
Persuades, when speaking fails.”
So also do the silence of deep feeling and of strong passion, uttering
“speech in their dumbness, language in their very gesture.” Christ but
looked on the recreant Peter after his miserable desertion and denial. Yet
that silent look, as the denied One passed him in the hall, was eloquent of
wounded love, and cut the denier more keenly than any words. No word
was uttered on the cross where the dying thief was brought to faith. The
God-like fortitude, the ineffable meekness of the Saviour, suffering silently
the devilish malice of sin, — it was that broke His heart and won His free
allegiance. In this dumbness was speech to the power of which articulate
speech admits of no comparison. The gift of being “eloquently silent” is
one that is not unworthy of more
general cultivation. To
silence of the prophets, after centuries of expostulation, would tell its own
startling tale. It would indicate discouragement and disgust, and duplicate
to their minds the “let him alone” (Hosea 4:17) of Divine desertion at a
similar crisis. And this unequivocal proof that they are given up might bring
the tardy repentance which all else had failed to stir. When communications
are broken off, the dream of a lasting peace is over. (Consider this in
reference to God and modern man who is in a state of denial! CY - 2022)
The patient will believe that death is at hand when the physician turns away
and refuses to prescribe. JESUS CHRIST is the GREAT PHYSICIAN.
3. Silence is always better than haphazard speech. When a man knows not
what to say he should guard against saying he knows not what. “Silence,
when nothing need be said, is the eloquence of discretion.” Peter would
have escaped some blunders and rebukes if he had followed this rule. But it
was when “he wist not what to say” (Mark 9:6) that he was given to
saying most. Such speech is more likely to be inappropriate than silence,
and being inappropriate there are many more ways in which it can work
evil. Hence the numerous Scripture references to the tongue, the power of
it, the difficulty of governing it, and the danger of it if unruly. Indeed, so
liable are men to err and so specially liable to err in speech as compared
with overt act, that the proper government of the tongue is made the
highest religious act (James 3:2).
1. Sometimes men will refuse to listen. The Jews did in the beginning of the
gospel. Faithfully and firmly Stephen pressed the truth home; but they
“stopped their ears, and ran upon him” (Acts 7:57). Here was a case for
silence. Speech, had it been possible, would have been unheeded. Those
men, with murder in their hearts, and their fingers in their ears, would listen
to no words. With
were stopped, and their hearts within them were set to do iniquity.
PREACH TO ME”. For such a state of matters the appropriate measure
is the silence which the prophet predicts. When men will not hear, bawling
into an ear that is deaf or stopped is effort thrown away, and unworthy
of common sense (Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11There are many such cases.
2. Sometimes evil has gone so far that words can be of no avail. God’s
Spirit will not always strive. (Genesis 6) With the antediluvians by Noah’s
preaching he strove above a century, but when iniquity reached a certain stage
he ceased, and his ultima ratio (the final argument) was the Deluge. He strove
with Saul for years, but when insensibility and hardness became confirmed,
communications were broken off; and whether by dreams, or by Urim,
or by prophets, God spoke no more (1 Samuel 28:6). He strove with
during the ministry of our Lord, but they would not listen to His word,
and at last He was silent, sad the doomed people were left to die
(Luke 19:42). God ceases to speak when He is ready to strike. Expostulation
would be an anachronism (out of place) when execution is imminent. The point
at which He will give up the persistent wrong doer and withdraw all
deterrent measures NONE CAN FIX! But there is such a point, and, to each
of the ungodly, the danger of passing it (Proverbs 1:26; 29:1). Every hour we
continue in rebellion is cutting down our chance of being longer striven
with. Those who speak for God to men are sometimes conscious that the time
to be silent has come. The sinner seems to have reached A FINAL FIXITY.
In the nature of things he cannot be expected now to change. Paul at a certain
stage concluded the Jew to be incorrigible, and turned deliberately to the
Gentile (Acts 13:46; 28:28). And like Paul, when it becomes clear that further
dealing with men must be barren of result, the servant of Christ will transfer
his strength from the hopeless to some hopeful form of effort.
· WHEN IT IS JUST AS LIKELY TO DO HARM AS GOOD. This is
no remote contingency. Such times are cropping up continually. Under
certain circumstances speech:
1. May do harm to men. The truth of God and the sinful heart are
uncongenial. Men love the darkness and hate the light. The truth forbidding
all lust is actually through the corruption of our nature the occasion of
stirring it up (Romans 7:7-9). This, of course, is no reason for
withholding it or suppressing our testimony to it. But there are
circumstances and moods in which this tendency attains its maximum of
strength, and it will then be prudent to keep silence “even from good.” It is
as “fishers of men” that we speak the truth, and we must justify our claim
to the title by presenting the truth in the time and way in which it is most
likely to tell. If we “testify” at random, and uniformly, in all companies and
on all occasions, we shall oftener harm than help the people whom we wish
2. It may do harm to the truth. There is such a thing as “casting pearls
before swine” (Matthew 7:6) to no better purpose than the prostitution
of sacred things The difference between truth profaned and necessarily
inoperative, and the same truth listened to and the power of God, is often
the difference between the untimely presentation of it and the timely. To
force it on men when they are out of humor and will not give it a fair
hearing is only to bring it into contempt — to lessen its dignity in the eyes
of others, and diminish its chance of winning their acceptance. The truth is
meant to sanctify and save, and we must be careful to do nothing that
would place it at a disadvantage in the work.
3. It may do harm to ourselves without any compensating advantage. “He
that reproveth a scorner getteth himself shame” (Proverbs 9:7) - the shame of
aggravating the case and bringing needless evil on himself. No Scottish
Covenanter was called on to enter the camp and preach the gospel of good
will and peace to the bloodthirsty troopers of Claverhouse or Dalziel. The
thing would have been good in itself, and was deeply needed, but to
attempt it meant not merely failure, but death. If there was no one else to
do it, this work must be left undone. There is room for judgment and
discretion in timing and planning the work of winning souls. The most
acceptable service and the most useful we can give to God is our
“reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1) We are not to “count our lives dear
to us” in comparison with His work; but it must appear that the work demands
the sacrifice, and will benefit by it, before we are at liberty to give up the life
which we hold in trust for God. Pearls are to be withheld from swine for
this among other reasons, “lest they turn again and rend you.” The
characters of the “time to keep silence” deserve attention no less than those
of the “time to speak,” (Ecclesiastes 3:7) and he has mastered both who
rightly divides the Word of life.
a. Silence is sometimes a Divine form of appeal.
b. In that case it is probably the last appeal.
c. Disregarded, it is the lull before the storm.
14 “Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the
God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.”He repeats his loving
summons to repentance, as in vs. 4, 6, showing that their only hope of safety
lay in AMENDMENT OF LIFE (compare Zephaniah 2:3). Seek good, and
not evil. Use that diligence and zeal in pursuing what is good which you have
hitherto shown in the pursuit of evil. The Lord, the God of hosts, shall be
with you, as ye have spoken; or, as ye say. The Israelites fancied that, owing
to their covenant relation to God, He would be always with them and ready
to help them under any circumstances. Their prosperity under Jeroboam II,
as Calmet remarks seemed an argument in their favor, proving that God
blessed them, and that they had no cause for fear (compare Jeremiah 7:4-7;
Micah 3:11; Matthew 3:9; John 8:39). But really God’s help and favor
were conditioned by their obedience.
Religion (v. 14)
“Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the Lord, the God of
hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.” From these words two things
may be inferred concerning religion.
· IT IMPLIES A SPECIFIC PURSUIT. “Seek good, and not evil.” Good
and evil are both in the world; they work in all human souls; they explain
1. They imply a standard of right. By what do we determine the good and
evil in human life? The revealed will of God. What accords with that will is
good, what disagrees with it is evil.
2. Their object is a human pursuit. There are those who pursue evil; they
follow it for:
a. worldly wealth,
b. animal pleasure,
c. secular aggrandizement.
There are those who pursue good; and their grand question is, “Lord, what
wilt thou have me to do?”
3. The pursuit of good is the specific effort of religion. Good in thought,
spirit, aim, habit, as embodied in the life of Christ. To get good requires
strenuous, persistent, devout, prayerful effort. (Diligence: exercise thyself -
CY - 2022)
· IT INVOLVES THE HIGHEST BENEDICTION.
1. The enjoyment of true life. “That ye may live.” Without goodness you
cannot really live: goodness is life. Everlasting goodness is everlasting life.
“This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ
whom thou has sent.” (John 17:3).
2. The enjoyment of the Divine friendship. “So the Lord, the God of hosts,
shall be with you.” What a benediction is this! “The Lord God of hosts,”
the Almighty Creator, Proprietor, and Governor of the universe to be with
us, to guide, guard, beautify existence! “I will walk among you,” says He;
“I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.” (Leviticus 26:12)
15 “Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the
gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto
the remnant of Joseph.” Reverse your former conduct, undo what ye have
done (v. 10). This verse emphasizes the preceding; hating and loving are more real
and hearty than mere seeking. The Septuagint makes this clause to be what the
people said, Ον τρόπον εἴπατε, μεμισήκαμεν τὰ πονρὰ καὶ ἠγαπήσαμεν τὰ καλά -
On propon eipate, memisaekamen ta ponaera, kai aegapaesamen ta kala -
As ye said, We have hated evil, and loved good.” Establish judgment. Maintain
justice in your tribunals (in contrast to v. 7); then it may be that the Lord will
have mercy on you or some of you. The remnant of Joseph; implying that
only a few of them will be saved after this heavy chastisement, which points
to the final ruin of their city and nation. The prophet speaks of the “remnant
of Joseph” instead of Ephraim, to remind them of their forefather, who
received the patriarchal blessing of Jacob, for whose sake this remnant
should be spared (compare Isaiah 6:13; 10:21-23; Joel 2:32; Romans 11:4-5).
The Nation with which God will Dwell (vs. 14-15)
The opening words of this presage imply a history.
but they sought it out and the occasions of it” (Pusey). They gave evil their
special attention, never failing to do it when they had opportunity, and
seeking opportunities when none presented themselves. (Contrast this
with the days before the Flood when God said that “....the wickedness of man
was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his
heart was only evil continually.” - Genesis 6:5) In fact, they did it
with an amount of method and pains which they are now called upon to
direct into a new channel, and apply to the doing of good.
EXPRESSION OF HIS FAVOR. It was the original, and remains the
normal condition of human life. Accordingly, Adam left God’s
presence and hid even before he was driven out of the garden. In losing
the DIVINE LIKENESS he had lost all relish or fitness for the
DIVINE PRESENCE. The one could be recovered only with the other.
Born from above, and made partakers of the Divine nature, we are in
affinity with God, and COME WITH RELISH INTO HIS PRESENCE!
1. It is the restoration of acceptance. Separation from God is penal. God
“drove out the man” and we remain “afar off” because of sin committed.
He will dwell with us again only when our sin is put away. The king will
not consort with rebels as such. He will meet them only as subjects and
friends. The condition of access to His presence is the equitable recovery of
His forfeited favor. In the
promise to dwell with
promise to restore them to His favor.
2. In reunion with God these two occasions of unhappiness are removed.
By regeneration the old nature is crucified, and the new one is set by faith in
UNION WITH GOD, where it has SPIRITUAL COMPLETENESS
and so its ideal of a happy state. Hence the Christian’s aspiration is summed
up in one idea to “be with Christ, which is far better.” (Philippians 1:23)
3. It is the restoration of happiness. “Thou will shew me
the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand
there are PLEASURES FOR EVERMORE.” (Psalm 16:11) Sin
means loss on the one side and infliction on the other. Its guilt
separates from God, with the result that OUR BEING IS
INCOMPLETE! Sins corruption introduces:
Ø disorder among our own powers, and
Ø disease in each, and so
Ø unrest and misery become INEVITABLE (Isaiah 48:22; 57:20).
THEM WHICH WAS NOT NOW IN FACT ENJOYED. (Exodus
29:45-46.) It is implied in God’s offer to be with them under certain
circumstances, that He was not with them then.
1. He was not with them in worship. God’s presence at the Jewish national
worship was pledged (Exodus 20:24). But the worship must be His
worship, conducted according to His appointment. This it now was not.
Where not positively idolatrous
or profane, the worship of
utterly formal and hollow. In such worship the Divine presence is not
desired and is not enjoyed (Isaiah 1:13-15). The worship must be real,
the heart contrite, in which God
promises to be present.
God’s promised presence by failing to claim it on the appointed terms.
2. He was not with them in war. For centuries He had been (Judges
6:16), and victory attended their armies (Joshua 24:12, 18; 1 Chronicles
17:21). Nothing could withstand
them. The nations of
in whose sight they had felt as grasshoppers, were subdued before them.
And God had explicitly connected their victories with His presence and help
(Exodus 17:11, 14; Psalm 44:1-3). But there came a time of which
the psalmist had to say, “Thou hast cast off and put us to shame, and goest
not forth with our armies” (ibid. ch. 44:9). The conditions on which the
Divine promise of help in the field was suspended were violated or ignored,
and God left them to fight with the arm they preferred to His.
3. He was not with them in their daily walk. They did not seek Him nor
want Him, nor were they fit to be near Him. The graces to which His
presence is congruous, the means by which His presence is secured, were all
absent, and so they were a nation given up of God and forsaken (Isaiah
2:6; Jeremiah 7:29). He no longer dwelt with them, nor met them, nor
directed them, nor spoke to them. He became, as He does to all under like
conditions, “a God afar off, and not a God near at hand;” and the journey
of their national existence, begun in such goodly company, was left to be
· TO MAKE THE THEORY OF GOD’S PRESENCE FACT, THE
withdrawal was the natural reply
relations would synchronize with their return to righteousness.
1. Evil must be rejected. This duty is laid down in three degrees. It is not to
be sought, nor done, nor loved. It had been all three. It could cease to be
the one only by ceasing to be the others also. The seeking implies that the
love and the doing have gone before. The love guarantees that the doing
and seeking shall follow in due course. The way to break off’ from evil is
to be utterly separate. The least link of connection will develop into a
2. Good must be chosen. This is dutiful. Duty has a positive side still more
important than its negative one. Mere avoidance of what is wrong would
be a colorless thing. God’s Law is not merely a system of restrictions, but
a system of commands. There must be actual doing of what is right, with a
knowledge that it is right, and because it is right. And this is no more
dutiful than natural The qualities that turn away from evil turn instinctively
to good. Indeed, the two things are so antagonistic that the love of the one
and the hatred of the other are only different aspects of the same feeling.
And in this choosing of God, again, there are three phases or degrees
answering to those in the avoidance of sin.
a. It is to be loved, as the fairest and most amiable thing on earth.
b. It is to be done, as the only thing that is fitting and right.
c. It is to be sought, as a thing important and desirable in the
highest possible degree.
3. Justice must be done. “Established in the gate.” Unjust judgment was a
prevalent and crying evil. The Jewish character was prone to it, and the
experience of it at the hands of strangers only strengthened the tendency.
Perversion of justice is one of the most constant elements in natural
corruption everywhere. A corrupt man makes a dishonest trader, an unjust
judge, and an oppressive master. Fair and upright dealing between man and
man has no natural basis, unless in the fear of God. The fear of God, on the
other hand, will naturally coordinate itself with regard for man. The man
who “does justly and loves mercy” is one who “walks humbly with God.”
WHAT GOD DOES FOR
BEING “THE REMNANT OF JOSEPH.” This form of expression is
1. The remnant.
This implies weeding out by previous judgment.
sinned long, and in punishment had been almost decimated. This was
necessary as a matter of justice. Until it had been done they could not be
saved. Sinners, individually and collectively, must receive for the wrong
they have done. God’s original promises were made to
and not to individuals, and the nation in His eye was the remnant left after
His judgments had run their course. To this remnant hope of deliverance is
here held out as a Brand plucked from the fire; a thing on which, justice
having been vindicated, mercy may now, and not till now, be shown.
2. The remnant of
Joseph. This means
brethren,” and the recipient of the promise (Genesis 48:4) given to
Abraham (ibid. 17:8) and repeated to Isaac and Jacob. Accordingly,
the “remnant of Joseph” is equivalent to the “remnant according to the
election of grace” (Romans 11:5). God never forgets His covenant,
never fails to give its promised blessings, never gives them to the covenant
people, but as covenanted mercies. On the broad ground of creature-hood
his general mercies are distributed, but special mercies are on the narrower
basis of a spiritual relation. All wherein we are made to differ from others is
the gift of a God in covenant, and the story of providence is at bottom the
story of grace (Romans 8:32, 28).
The Great Alternative (vs. 14-15)
The coincidence between religion and morality is brought very strikingly
before us in such passages as these. How different are such appeals as
these, made by the prophet in the name of the Lord, from the requirements
of merely formal religion! The highest conception of good is revealed, the
noblest standard of right is exhibited; and all the sanctions furnished by the
authority and the loving kindness of the Eternal are brought to bear upon
human nature to induce to consecration and obedience.
· MAN’S NATURE AND POSITION RENDER NECESSARY A
1. Man’s emotional nature impels him to adopt an object of supreme love.
Human affection may be diffused or it may be concentrated, it may be
feeble or it may be intense. But in any case it exists and acts as a principle
of the moral life.
2. Man’s voluntary and practical nature requires an object of supreme
quest and endeavor. We seek what we love, we avoid what we hate.
· THE GREAT ALTERNATIVE WHICH PRESENTS ITSELF TO
MAN IS THE CHOICE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL. This is a real
and not a fictitious or conventional distinction. It would be as reasonable to
deny the distinction between straight and crooked, between light and
darkness, as that between moral good and moral evil. The distinction is
vital and eternal, connected with the “nature of things,” with the attributes
and character of God, with the constitution of man. The choice between
pleasure and pain, between worldly prosperity and adversity, is as nothing
compared with this choice. The appeals of revelation, from the beginning
to the end of the Bible, urge men to choose the good in preference to the
evil. There are doubtless inducements to another choice; but this remains
the choice enforced by reason, by conscience, by God.
· HOWEVER IT MAY BE REPRESENTED OTHERWISE, THE
FACT IS THAT THE PRACTICAL PREFERENCE OF GOOD
CONDUCES TO MAN’S WELFARE. The inducements offered to adopt
a life of selfishness and of pleasure are many and powerful; there are
“pleasures of sin for a season.” The way of virtue and religion is a steep
and rugged path. Yet it yields a deep and pure satisfaction not to be found
in the ways, the broad and primrose paths, of sin. We are not called upon
to balance pleasures. The voice of right, of God, is authoritative, and
demands obedience without hesitation or calculation. Yet God promises
such as listen to and obey His voice that He will “be with” them, that He will
be “gracious unto” them, and that they shall “live.”
In verses 16-17, the retribution for their incorrigible iniquity is
announced. For “they that would not be reformed by that correction,
wherein he dallied with them, shall feel a judgment worthy of God” (Wisdom
of Solomon - 12:26).
16 “Therefore the LORD, the God of hosts, the LORD, saith thus;
Wailing shall be in all streets; and they shall say in all the
highways, Alas! alas! and they shall call the husbandman to
mourning, and such as are skilful of lamentation to wailing.”
Therefore. The prophet returns to what was said in v.13
about the uselessness of reproof; vs.14 and 15 being a kind of
parenthetical exhortation which his love for his nation forced from him.
“Jehovah, the God of hosts, the Lord,” Adonai, saith what follows, these
solemn titles being used to add solemnity, certainty, and weight to the
announcement. Wailing; misped, “the death wail.” Streets; broad places;
πλατείαις – plateiais - (Septuagint); plateis - (Vulgate). Highways; the
narrower streets; ὁδοῖς – hodois - (Septuagint); in cunctis quae foris sunt
(Vulgate). Everywhere in town and country shall the wail be heard. Alas! alas!
ho! ho! This is THE DEATH WAIL - (compare Jeremiah 22:18), which
should sound abroad when
the husbandman to mourning. The husbandman shall be called from his
labor in the fields to mourn for a calamity in his house. Pusey thinks the
mourning is for his occupation gone, his tillage now only furnishing food
for the enemy; but the context involves the notion of death. And such as
are skilful of lamentation to wailing; literally, proclaim wailing to such,
etc. These are the hired mourners, both male and female, who sang
mournful songs at deaths (compare II Chronicles 35:25; Jeremiah 9:17;
17 “And in all vineyards shall be wailing: for I will pass through thee,
saith the LORD.” Vineyards. The place of mirth and gladness (Isaiah 16:10).
I will pass through thee. A terrible echo of the last plague of Egypt
(Exodus 12:12), when God will not
“pass over” thee but treat thee as
and “pass through” to smite and punish (Nahum 1:12; compare Ezekiel
The Track of the Destroyer (vs. 16-17)
Each name of God is a guarantor of His action. It expresses a character, or
relation, or operation, in which He thereby reveals Himself. The
multiplication of His names and titles here is a cumulative argument for the
sureness of the matter revealed. He who is GOD OF HOSTS or the
OMNIPOTENT ONE, or LORD or the ABSOLUTE ONE, and
JEHOVAH or the SELF-EXISTENT ONE, is the BEING with
whom to decide is to act, and to will is to accomplish. Of
the deliverance so emphasized observe:
APOSTATE WILL BE VAIN. The possibility of a happy end, by the
grace of God, to
verse. Yet here the falling of the judgments denounced is assumed to
be INEVITABLE. Paul declares that it is impossible to restore to repentance
those who might fall away from a high degree of spiritual attainment (Hebrews
6:4-6). The apostate is a hopeless case:
Ø Because he loves sin more than other men. They love it knowing
nothing better, but he does so with experimental knowledge of the way of
peace. He loves it under a less impulse than they, and in the face of
stronger deterrents than they, and must therefore love it more than they.
The fuel that kindles with the least fire, and burns in spite of most water,
is clearly the most inflammable.
Ø Because he is harder than other men. The strain is proportioned to
the wrench. All sin hardens, and hardens in proportion as we are active
and resolute in it. Sinning against more light, and more deterrent influence
than others, the apostate’s sin involves a more decided act of will, and
so a more violently hardening effect. The more firmly the branding-iron is
applied, the more deeply it scars. The more violently the moral sense is
sinned against, the more the organ is indurated and injured.
Ø Because his day of grace will be shorter than that of other men.
The only chance of men’s turning at all is GOD’S STRIVING
WITH THEM! This He does with all men during a longer or shorter
period. In the case of the ante-diluvians the striving was for a hundred
and twenty years (Genesis
6:3). In the case of
years (Matthew 23:39). In the case of Saul, King of Israel, it was till
within about seven years of his death (I Samuel 18:12). In the case of
many it is during the entire life (Matthew 20:6-9). Thus each man has
his day of grace, during which God strives with him to bring him to
repentance. In the nature of the case the day of grace for the apostate
must be far advanced. He has been more and longer striven with than
other men, and so is presumably nearer the limit beyond which the
process does not go.
I will pass through the midst of thee;” i.e. as elsewhere (Exodus 12:12)
in judgment. The language is a threat. God, so far from dwelling with them,
as under other circumstances He was ready to do (v. 14), would pass
through them in wrath and destroying power. Underlying the announcement
of this alternative is the fact:
Ø That compromise is impossible with God. HE WILL SAVE or
HE WILL DESTROY. There is no half-way house between the
good of His promise and the evil of His threat. He can yield nothing
and abate nothing of either. He will come as a Friend to abide and bless
unspeakably, or He will pass through as an invading Foe, making
desolation in His track.
Ø That the incentive to repentance must be double-edged. There are
people who must be led, and others who must be driven. “The mercies
of God” (Lamentations 3:22-23; Romans 1:12) are the strongest motive
power with some minds, whilst “the terrors of the Lord” (II Corinthians
5:11) are most potent with others. The Divine machinery of impulsion, to
be perfect in itself and for its purpose, must include both. Hence men are
plied with each in turn and often with both together (John 3:36) in
connection with the
salvation which they ultimately embrace.
case would not be abandoned as hopeless until both MENACE
and PROMISE had made their contribution to the work of its
The connection between man and the creation is very close. The judgment
Ø In the fields. They would not be fertile as heretofore. Their crops
would fail to grow, or be blighted before they could be gathered
(ch.4:7). Enemies would devastate the country and destroy the fruit
of the ground. Rapacious officials would confiscate the earnings of
honest industry. In each calamity, much more in all together, was
enough to quench the joy of harvest, and cause the
husbandman to mourn.
Ø In the vineyards. The whole food of the people, the corn, the wine
together, would be swept away. The grape gathering was a proverbial
occasion of joy (Isaiah 16:10). But with no vintage to gather, or no
chance to gather it for the lawful owner, the “vintage shouting”
would cease, and for the usual singing in the vineyards would be
substituted A UNIVERSAL WAIL!
Ø In the streets. “God made the country, and man made the town.”
And the human depends ON THE DIVINE! Trade and commerce
draw from agriculture their chief materials, and so when it fails they fail
with it. When the husbandman has cause to weep there can be no dry
eye in the community. The wail that begins in the fields, and spreads
through the vineyards, will rise to A MIGHTY ROAR WHEN
IT REACHES THE STREETS, where THE SUFFERERS
HERD AND LAMENT TOGETHER. (There will be no
Demonstrations in hell along the lines of: OCCUPY HELL –
CY – 2013)
Ø This is universal. In all “streets and vineyards”; etc. The judgment
affecting all classes in the community, all should MOURN!
Ø It is in concert. Men would call their fellows to lamentation. Not as
individuals merely, but as a community, they sinned and suffer, and so
as a community they should wail. (Transpose this into any
American community – CY – 2013)
Ø It is worked up. “And lamentation to those skilled in lamenting.”
The mourning would not be left to take any form that happened. It
would be appointed and organized, and then observed according to
program. ALL this implies an intelligent and vivid idea of
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE OCCASION! God’s judgments,
however long despised, will make themselves to be understood and
respected at last. In hell there is no UNAPPRECIATION or
MISAPPLICATION of the nature and strength of DIVINE
RETRIBUTION; and on earth appreciation and application
comes INFALLABLY with EXPERIENCE!
In the last ten verses, vs. 18-27, the prophet enforces the threat by denouncing
woe on those that trust to their covenant relation to God, expecting the day
when He would punish the heathen for their sakes, and thinking that their
external, heartless worship was acceptable to Him.
18 “Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it
for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light.” The day of the
Lord. Any crisis in the nation’s history is so called WHEN GOD INTERPOSES
TO PUNISH and CORRECT. To our minds it looks forward to THE FINAL
JUDGMENT! It is often mentioned by the prophets (e.g. Isaiah 2:12; “and He
shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it” 13:6, 9; Joel 2:1, “The Lord…..
executeth His word” – v.11; 3:16; Zephaniah 1:7,14) as a time when
the heathen should be judged, all the enemies of
and dominion. Without any regard to the moral condition affixed to the
realization of these expectations (see Joel 2:32), the people “desired”
the appearance of this day, thus foolishly confirming themselves
in their sinful life and false security. Some think scoffers are intended,
but the context shows that the persons signified are sincere but
mistaken believers in the safety of
is it for you? the day of the Lord is darkness; Why would ye have the day
of the Lord? IT IS DARKNESS! Why do ye, such as ye are, want this day
to come? Ye know not what ye ask. It will be the very contrary to your
expectations; it will be darkness, and not light, tribulation and misery, not
joy and triumph for you (compare Micah 7:8).
19 “As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into
the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.”
Amos explains the dangers of this judgment day by illustrations
drawn from pastoral life, equivalent to the rushing from Charybdis into
Scylla. Every place is full of danger — the open country, the shelter of the
Selfishness in Terror (v. 19)
“As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the
house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.” The
Israelites rested their hope of deliverance from every kind of foreign
danger upon their outward connection with the covenant made with their
forefathers; hence many put their trust in the days spoken of in the context,
when Jehovah would judge all the heathen, expecting that He would then in
all probability raise
delusion, the delusion of selfishness; for when Jehovah would appear to
punish the nations, Amos says they would be so panic-struck as to be
confounded in their efforts to escape. Running from the lion, they would
fall into the jaws of the bear; or fleeing into a house, they would be met by
a serpent that would bite them. The passage illustrates selfishness in terror.
Its characteristic is that in seeking protection from one danger it rushes
into another. This is often seen:
· IN COMMERCIAL LIFE. A selfish man in trade often finds himself
running down the hill of insolvency, and ruthless bankruptcy appears
before him as a lion ready to destroy him. What does he do? Where does
he seek protection? Perhaps in escape. But he is apprehended, and he
finds he has fled from “a lion” to “a hear,” enters the house where the
“serpent” of enraged justice fastens on him. Or perhaps he resorts to
forgery. Here he is detected, and the same result is experienced. He has
fled from the lion only to rush into the jaws of the bear.
· IN SOCIAL LIFE. In few social circles are men not to be found who in
some way or other commit a wrong against their members. Indeed, in
family life it is so. Children do some injury to their parents, and parents to
their children, husbands to their wives, and wives to their husbands. After
the commission of the deed, selfish terror is awakened, and they fabricate
falsehoods in order to escape the danger. The falsehood is detected, and
then it is felt that the man has only fled from the lion to the bear. He has
run for protection where he has found the “serpent.”
· IN RELIGIOUS LIFE. Men get convinced of sin, their consciences
are roused, and hell appears before them as a ravenous lion, which they
endeavor to escape; and they fly for protection to what? To selfish
prayers, selfish sacrifices, selfish performances; but to attempt to escape
from hell by selfish efforts is only running from the lion to the bear. “He
that saveth his life shall lose it.” (Matthew 16:25)
· CONCLUSION. This subject is capable of endless illustrations. It is an
eternal truth that he who seeks protection from selfish fear only rushes
from one danger into another. There is no protection for a soul but in self-
renunciation, in the entire consecration of self to the worship and service of
the great God.
20 “Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even
very dark, and no brightness in it?” The character of the day of the Lord
is enforced with reiterated earnestness (v. 18) by an appeal to the conscience
of the hearers. Do you not feel in your inmost hearts that in the case of such
guilt as yours the Lord can visit but to punish?
The Day of the Lord (v. 18)
This is a common expression in the prophets, and its meaning is well defined. It is
Jeremiah 46:10; Obadiah 1:15.) There are periods which God signalizes
by special doings. Long quiescent, He becomes conspicuously active.
He intervenes in human affairs with unusual emphasis:
Ø Judgments often menaced are sent.
Ø Sinners long borne with are punished.
Ø The godly, for a time imposed on, are delivered.
Ø Abuses, the growth of centuries, are dealt with on their merits,
and swept away.
Such a period is called “the day of the Lord” because it is THE
TIME OF OBVIOUS AND SPECIAL DIVINE ACTIVITY.
God not only strikes, but shows His hand. (See Ezekiel – Study
of God’s Use of The Word Know – this web site – CY – 2013)
culminate and lose themselves in this. The day of the Lord had already
become the name for every day of judgment, leading on to the last day.
This is the day of the Lord in a unique sense. It is unique as
regards universality. It will see dealt with, not individuals merely, or
nations even, but THE ENTIRE RACE (Matthew 25:31). It is unique
in the matter of thoroughness. There will be inquisition as to each
person, and as to EVERY ACT OF EACH. (II Corinthians 5:10).
It is unique also in THE MATTER OF FINALITY. Questions
already dealt with by temporal judgments will be REOPENED
to be SETTLED ONCE FOR ALL. Its sentence will be FINAL
and its adjudication of rewards and punishments FOR ALL
ETERNITY! (Matthew 25:46)
To many, who put far off the day, and ridicule the prophets who foretold
the coming of God’s day, Jeremiah 17:15; II Peter 3:3-4, their unbelief says
through much bravado, “You are trying to frighten us with a bugbear. Let your
talked of judgment fall, and then we will believe it.” The delay of God’s judgment,
which means that when it comes it shall be the more terrible, is often erroneously
taken as meaning that it is not coming at all (Ezekiel 12:22-28).
The Day of the Lord the Night of the Impenitent (vs. 18-20)
Divine judgments will be as sharp as they are sure. Sent in wrath,
proportioned to guilt, falling on the vulnerable points, they are the least
desirable of all imaginable things. The very thought of them should be
sobering, and the sure prospect of them overwhelming. Now, the scoffer is
the worst type of sinner, and will, in the nature of the case, be the greatest
sufferer when judgment comes. He is at the same time the most utterly
blinded character, and therefore likely to be taken most violently by
surprise. How he shall be so, and to what extent, is made in these verses to
· “THE DAY OF THE LORD.” This is a common expression in the
prophets, and its meaning is well defined. It is applied:
1. To the day of active Divine intervention on earth. (Job 1:15; 2:1;
Isaiah 2:12; Jeremiah 46:10; Obadiah 1:15.) There are periods
which God signalizes by special doings. Long quiescent,(a period of
inactivity) He becomes conspicuously active. He intervenes in human affairs
with unusual emphasis. Judgments often menaced are sent. Sinners long borne
with are punished. The godly, for a time imposed on, are delivered. Abuses, the
growth of centuries, are dealt with on their merits, and swept away. Such a
period is called “the day of the Lord” because it is the time of obvious and
special Divine activity. God not only strikes, but shows His hand.
2. To the day of final judgment. All others foreshadow, lead up to,
culminate and lose themselves in this. “The day of the Lord had already
become the name for every day of judgment, leading on to the last day”
(Pusey). This is the day of the Lord in a unique sense. It is unique as
regards UNIVERSALITY. It will see dealt with, not individuals merely, or
nations even, BUTTHE ENTIRE HUMAN RACE! (Matthew 25:31). It is
unique in the matter of thoroughness. There will be inquisition as to each
person, and as to every act of each (II Corinthians 5:10). It is unique also
in the matter of finality. Questions already dealt with by temporal judgments
will be reopened to be settled once for all. Its sentence will be final, and its
adjudication of rewards and punishments FOR ALL ETERNITY (Matthew
· ITS SIGNIFICANCE TO THE WICKED. This is explicitly and
minutely defined as:
1. Evil. “Darkness, and not light.” It could not be otherwise. Sin means
wrath, and wrath means infliction. Between a righteous God and all
unrighteousness there must exist an infinite antagonism. Between His Law
and such there is an essential incompatibility. Therefore His action towards
them must be adverse, His judgment on them that of condemnation. It is a
result of God’s purity, of the majesty of law, of the needs of moral
government, that “with the froward (a person difficult to deal with)
He shall show Himself froward.” (Psalm 18:26)
2. Only evil. “And no brightness in it.” The dispensation of forbearance, the
time for any measure or kind of good, is over. While any hope of
reformation remained, judgment was mingled with mercy. But when this is
hopeless, and the question is only one of punishing the reprobate, the
exercise of goodness would be an anachronism (out of place) and only
severity can be meted out.
3. Evil playing into the hands of evil. “As if a man fleeth before the lion,
and the bear meets him.” Divine punitive measures are various and
complete. They surround us. They hem us in on every side. They form as it
were a circle of fire round us. They are not to be evaded or escaped
(Jeremiah 11:11; Romans 2:3; Hebrews 2:3). In running away
from one, we only run into the jaws of another. If it is not the lion’s tooth,
then in any case it will be the bear’s claws. If health escape, property will
suffer. If both escape, the good name will be tarnished. If all three escape,
conscience will be wounded and happiness destroyed. If earthly evil
consequences do not reach us, there are eternal fires kindled against which
there will be no appeal.
4. Evil in the arms of good. “And rests his hand upon the wall, and the
snake bite him.” The wall, a ready support for the feeble or weary to lean
on, may furnish in its chinks a hiding place for the venomous snake. So
with all human refuges in God’s day of visitation. They will fail us. Their
help will not be available, or it will not be sufficient, or it will involve some
other evil as great as the one it will relieve. “The staff of bruised reed”
(Isaiah 36:6) is the fitting emblem of all fancied helps in the day of
God’s wrath. Even the likeliest will be found wanting in the very matter in
which it promises most.
· THEIR FOOLISH DESIRE FOR IT. “Woe to those who desire the
day of Jehovah!” The sinner’s desiring the day of vengeance on his sins
did not see that the threatened judgments were for themselves and on
account of it. They trusted to
their position as “
secure them the immunity that
only belonged to
so their idea of the day of God was a time when their enemies would be
destroyed, and they themselves delivered and exalted. With all the wicked,
the eye for the sins of others is so much keener than the eye for their own,
that coming good is unconsciously allocated to themselves and coming evil
to others, and so Divine judgments desired which can only destroy them
when they come.
2. Bravado. The prophets who foretold the coming of God’s day rebuked
the people’s sin on account of which it was to come. Put on their mettle by
the rebuke, many would affect to ridicule the prophecy. Like others
(Jeremiah 17:15; II Peter 3:3-4), they would say, with an affectation
of unbelief, “You are trying to frighten us with a bugbear. Let your talked
of judgment fall, and then we will believe it.” The delay of God’s judgment,
which means that when it comes it shall be the more terrible, is often taken
as meaning that it is not coming at all Ezekiel 12:22, 27).
3. Vindictiveness. Some would deem themselves less criminal than others
— their enemies, it may be, and oppressors. On these they would expect
the heaviest strokes to fall, and to bring this about they would suffer more
or less themselves. There are Samsons among sinners who would run the
risk of perishing themselves in order to secure the destruction of others. To
all three classes “the day of the Lord is darkness, and no brightness in it.”
Evil will come none the less surely because it is good that is expected, and
it will come all the more sharply on those who to their other sin have added
malice against men and mockery of God.
21 “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn
assemblies.” Outward, formal worship will not avert the threatened danger
or secure the favor of God in the day of visitation. Your feast days
(chaggim); your feasts; YOUR COUNTERFEIT WORSHIP, the worship
of the true God under an idol symbol (compare God’s repudiation of merely
formal worship in Isaiah 1:11-15). I will not smell; οὐ μὴ ἀσφρανθῶ θυσίας –
ou mae osphrantho - (Septuagint). No sweet savor ascends to
God from such sacrifices; so the phrase is equivalent to “I will not accept,”
“I will take no delight in” (compare Genesis 8:21; Exodus 29:18; Leviticus
26:31). Solemn assemblies; πανηγύρεσιν – panaeguresin - (Septuagint);
atsaroth; the convocations for the keeping of the great festivals.
God under an idol symbol (compare God's repudiation of merely formal worship
in Isaiah 1:11-15). I will not smell; οὐ μὴ ἀσφρανθῶ θυσίας (Septuagint).
No sweet savour ascends to God from such sacrifices; so the phrase is
equivalent to "I will not accept," "I will take no delight in" (compare Genesis 8:21;
atsaroth; the convocations for the keeping of the great festivals.
22 “Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will
not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your
fat beasts.” They maintained the formal ritual of the Mosaic worship in
their idolatry. The various offerings are here enumerated. Burnt offerings;
ὁλοκαυτώματα – olokautomata – (Septuagint) - (Exodus 29:38,42;
Numbers 28:9-11). Meat offerings; θυσίας – thusias - (Septuagint);
munera (Vulgate); Exodus 29:40-41; Leviticus 2:1. Peace offerings
of your fat beasts; σωτηρίους ἐπιφανείας – sotaerious epiphaneias –
“your grand peace offerings” (Septuagint); vota pinguium
vestrorum (Vulgate); Leviticus 3:1)
23 “Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear
the melody of thy viols.” The noise of thy songs. Their psalms and hymns of
praise were mere noise in God’s ear, and wearied Him (Isaiah 1:14; 24:8;
Ezekiel 26:13). Viols (ch. 6:5); ὀργάνων – organon - (Septuagint). The
nebel, usually translated
“psaltery,” was a kind of harp. Josephus (‘
7:12. 3) describes it as having twelve strings, played by the fingers. Music,
both instrumental and vocal, was used in the temple worship (see I Chronicles
16:42; 23:5; and ch.25).
The Autograph of the Unreal (vs. 21-23)
sanctimonious sinning. It was done more or less in a religious connection.
It was accompanied, and attempted to be covered, by an unstinted dressing
of pietistic cant. But it only smelled the more rank to Heaven. Unreal
worship is no mitigation, but only an aggravation, of the guilt of unholy
· INSINCERITY IS OFTEN SCRUPULOUS ABOUT ALL THE
CIRCUMSTANTIALS OF WORSHIP. This is natural. It builds on the
form as a substitute for the spirit, and on the observance of the ordinance
thus as a substitute for a godly life. Going through religious forms costs
nothing in the way of crucifying the flesh. Accordingly, the scrupulosity of
1. They kept the feasts. “Feasts” (v. 21) means the annual feasts. There is
no hint that these, or any of them, were neglected or overlooked. The
routine of celebration went mechanically on. They were observed without
purpose and without heart, but they were observed.
2. They performed the acts of worship. “The assemblies” (v. 21) were
probably the meetings for worship (Leviticus 23:36) appointed to be
held at the feasts. These as a class, no exception to which is indicated, are
spoken of as having been held.
“Then ‘songs,’ no doubt of
inspired by God, were duly sung, and the accompaniment played on harps
— instruments almost exclusively consecrated to the service of God”
3. They offered the usual gifts. The “burnt offering,” the “meat offering,”
and the “peace offering,” which are all voluntary offerings, were regularly
made, so far as appears. They were made, moreover, with fatlings —
beasts the best of their kind, and such as the Law prescribed. So far,
therefore, as form went, their worship was scrupulously correct. And the
same is generally true of hollow and unspiritual worship. Being purely
formal, it will seem excellent in proportion as it is elaborate. The absence
of the spirit is attempted to be compensated for by the exaltation of the
letter. Worship can no more be appraised by its fullness, and fairness of
outward form, than the dietary value of a fruit by its size and color.
· INSINCERITY IS CHARACTERISTIC NO LESS IN WHAT IT
OMITS THAN IN WHAT IT OBSERVES. No mention is made of the
“sin offering” or the “trespass offering.” Yet these were both compulsory,
whereas the three observed were optional. Hence it appears that:
1. To the formalist that is least acceptable which is most Divine. He has no
true respect for God’s authority. He is a self-pleaser first of all and most of
all, and will find the ordinance most acceptable into the observance of
which there enters most of his own will and least of God’s. On this
principle the optional in worship will be preferred to the prescribed
(Isaiah 1:12), and the unauthorized to either (<410709>Mark 7:9). The
illustration of this in the countless vagaries of the Romanist and Ritualist is
easy to trace. Practical attention to the various details of worship by the
unspiritual almost seems to be inversely as their Divine authority.
2. To the formalist that is most distasteful which most closely connects
him with his sin. The sin offering was an acknowledgment, and involved a
remembrance, of guilt. This is distasteful to the natural heart. Give a sinful
man his way, and the last matter he will face will be his own sinfulness.
Allow a formalist discretion in worship, and the ordinance that most
articulately speaks of sin will be the one least observed. Singing will be
preferred to praying, a form of prayer will be preferred to the directness of
spontaneous utterance, and preaching, which most distinctly brings face to
face with personal responsibility and duty, will be almost crowded out.
Worship, in fact, in proportion as it becomes formal, becomes impersonal
· SUCH HOLLOW WORSHIP IS UTTERLY OFFENSIVE TO GOD.
The degrees of Divine disapprobation run up a graduated scale. “I will not
accept;” “I will not take pleasure in;” “I will not regard;” “I hate;” “I
despise.” (vs. 21-22) In all such worship the moral element, the first element of
acceptability, is altogether wanting. The thing is not meant for worship, and
cannot be treated as such. It is not observed according to God’s will, nor
as God’s appointment at all, but as our own invention or choice. It is not
aimed at the God-glorifying, soul saving objects prescribed in Scripture.
Gone through without interest or heart, done for fashion, or freak, or gain,
it honors neither God nor His command, whilst it calls into play no grace
of the religious life whatever. It is a mere performance, not only destitute
of moral value, but distasteful to God, and in gratuitous violation of His
Law. Hence the vocabulary of condemnation is exhausted on it (Isaiah
1:11-15) as the meanest and most hateful thing in the whole spiritual
Ceremonialism Disdained (vs. 21-23)
Although the Jewish religion prescribed, as is evident especially from the
Book of Leviticus, innumerable observances, elaborate ritual, frequent and
costly sacrifices, still nowhere are there to be found more disclaimers, more
denunciations, of a merely ritual and ceremonial piety than in the Scriptures
of the Old Testament. This is but one of many declarations that the true
and living God will not accept any tribute of the hands which may be
offered in lieu of the homage of the heart.
· THE OUTWARD MANIFESTATIONS OF RELIGION WHICH GOD
1. Sacred assemblies are displeasing to Him. He does, indeed, love the gates
declare that God hates and despises the gatherings of His own people.
2. Solemn festivals are equally distasteful. These, indeed, have been
prescribed in the Law; they are commemorative of great mercies, great
deliverances; their neglect or omission is viewed with displeasure. Yet here
God is indignant that these feasts should be celebrated.
3. The same detestation is extended to the burnt offerings, meat offerings,
and peace offerings, which the Hebrews were instructed on proper
occasions to present to their Divine King.
4. More remarkable still, sacred songs and strains of music are as discord
in the ear of God. The very psalms in which the Divine attributes are
celebrated and the Divine gifts acknowledged are no longer acceptable to
him who inhabiteth
the praises of
· THE GROUNDS UPON WHICH GOD REJECTS THE OUTWARD
MANIFESTATIONS OF RELIGION.
1. Not because they are themselves an inappropriate tribute of religious
emotion and religious consecration.
2. But because they are not expressive of sincere worship, gratitude,
confidence, and love. “This people,” saith the Searcher of hearts, “draweth
nigh unto me with their lips, but their hearth far from me.” And our Lord
Christ has taught us that “God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must
worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
3. And because ceremonial observances may be, and in the cases in
question are, consistent with an idolatrous and wicked life. The very men
who were punctilious in these ceremonies and sacrifices were tampering
with the idolatry of surrounding peoples, and were acting with injustice and
selfishness in the ordinary relationships of life.
4. Because, further, these manifestations are as a matter of fact substituted
for those feelings and purposes which they are intended to promote. In
fact, seeming religiousness hides the absence of real religion, so that this
absence is sometimes unnoticed by the apparent but heartless and formal
24 “But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a
mighty stream.” But let judgment run down as waters; let judgment roll on;
Septuagint, καὶ κυλισθήσεται ὡς ὕδωρ κρίμα, – kai kulisthaesetai os
hudor krima - “and judgment shall roll along as water.” Et revelabitur
quasi aqua judicium (Vulgate). This verse has been explained in different
ways. Hitzig, Keil, with many ancient commentators, find in it a threat of
chastisement, “the flooding of the land with judgment and the punitive
righteousness of God.” Pusey, Professor Gandell, and others consider it
to be a call to amendment. “He bids them let judgment, which had hitherto
been perverted in its course, roll on like a mighty tide of waters (being
the people of
much effort into fulfilling this verse as God commands – then the United
States of America would be forever changed, because it could not help
but bubbling over into surroundings states – CY – 2013), sweeping
before it all hindrances, filling the whole land with righteousness. Schegg
makes it to be a promise of the coming of the day of the Lord, that is, the
revelation of Messiah. But such a promise in this position is very forced
and unnatural. The second interpretation seems most suitable. In the midst
of the denunciation of men’s formal worship, the prophet announces their
duty in the present crisis - attention to which could alone win God’s favor.
Judgment and righteousness, long neglected and forgotten, should permeate
the land like refreshing streams of water (
streams of water than any state except
rains have increased the volume in many waterways and sinkholes along
the highways and byways – this is what we are commanded to do – CY –
2013) — a simile of special signification to an inhabitant of an Eastern
country, where the neighborhood of a perennial stream was as delightful
as it was unusual. Mighty (ethan); ἄβατος – abatos - “impassable” (Septuagint);
fortis (Vulgate). The word may mean “strong,” or “perennial.” “Whence
the seventh month, just before the early rain, was called the month
Ethanim, i.e. the month of the perennial streams, when they alone flowed”
The Divinely Abhorrer and the Divinely Demanded (vs. 21-24)
“I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies,”
· THE DIVINELY ABHORRENT. What is that? Mere ceremonial
religion; empty ritual. “I hate, I despise your feast days, and 1 will not
smell in your solemn assemblies,” etc. “The same aversion from the
ceremonial observances of the insincere and rebellious Israelites which
Jehovah here expresses He afterwards employed Isaiah to declare to the
Jews (Isaiah 1:10-20). The two passages are strikingly parallel, only
the latter prophet amplifies what is set forth in a more condensed form by
Amos. It is also to be observed that where Amos introduces the musical
accompaniments of the sacrifices, Isaiah substitutes the prayers; both
concluding with the Divine words, ‘I will not hear.’ ‘Take thou away from
me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.’ The
singing of their psalms was nothing more to God than a wearisome round
which was to be brought to an end. Singing and playing on harps was a
part of the worship of the temple (1 Chronicles 16:41; 23:5; 25.).
Nothing seems more abhorrent to the holy eye and heart of Omniscience
than empty ceremony in religion. No sacrifices are acceptable to Him,
however costly, unless the offerer has presented himself. No psalmody is
acceptable to His ear but the psalmody of self-oblivious devotion.” “God is
a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
· THE DIVINELY DEMANDED. “Let judgment run down as waters,
and righteousness as a mighty stream.” While no direction is given
respecting the regulation of the sacrifices in order that they may be
rendered acceptable, here is a special demand for morality in life, moral
rectitude in conduct. Thus God once more expresses the idea that “to obey
is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” (I Samuel
15:22) The way to worship God acceptably is not by ceremonial
observances, not by religious contributions, not in singing psalms,
but in doing the right and loving thing towards our fellow men. (Micah
6:8) The true practical expression of our love to God
is that of a virtuous and generous conduct towards mankind. Stud your
country with fine churches if you like, fill them with aesthetic worshippers
and enthusiastic devotees. But all that is abhorrent to God unless you feel
and act rightly towards your fellow men in your daily life. We had rather
see justice rolling on like mighty waters, and righteousness as a swelling
and ever-flowing stream, than crowded churches. “Show me your faith...
by your works.” Show me your worship by your morality; show me your
love to God by your devotion to your fellow men. “If we love one another,
God dwelleth in us.” (I John 4:12) “If a man say, I love God, and hateth
his brother, he is a liar: for if he loveth not his brother whom he hath seen,
how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (ibid. v. 20)
Whilst the holy King and Judge rejects the mere service of the lip and of
the hand, when unaccompanied by genuine piety, he desires above all
things the prevalence of those practical principles of rectitude which are the
secret, hidden power of an upright and acceptable life. In a very bold and
beautiful metaphor the Divine wish and pleasure are declared. Let the
hypocritical festivals, the unmeaning sacrifices, the hollow songs, be swept
away, and let the river of righteousness roll through the land, and God shall
be pleased, and His people shall be blessed.
· ITS DIVINE SOURCE. The fountain of rectitude is not to be found in
the arrangements of human society, in the laws of human device, in the
expediency which aims at human pleasures. We are to look up to the hills,
to the heavens, for its source. It wells from the eternal constitution of the
moral universe, from the very nature, from the glorious government, of the
· ITS VAST VOLUME. There is no community of men, there is no
social relationship, in which righteousness may not be exemplified. Even
the heathen philosophers could say great things of justice.
“Nor morning star, nor evening star, so fair!”
Ardent religionists sometimes lose sight of this principle and its necessity,
thinking justice too sublunary and commonplace to be deserving of their
attention. Such a practice is not sanctioned by Scripture, which from
beginning to end lays stress upon the faithful and honorable discharge of
human duty, as between man and man, in all the varied relationships of life.
· ITS MIGHTY CURRENT. There is a POWER IN RIGHTEOUSNESS
which only the morally blind can overlook, which commands the homage of
the observant and the thoughtful. For whilst it is not the kind of power that the
worldly cannot but see, and the vulgar cannot but admire, it is nevertheless
power — enduring, effective, undoubted power. The state is strong in
which justice is administered, in which a high standard of uprightness is
maintained in social and public life; whilst injustice, insincerity, oppression,
corruption, and deceit are detrimental to the true interests of any
· ITS PERENNIAL FLOW. A river differs from a cistern, a reservoir,
in this — that it does not run dry, that it is not exhausted, that it flows on
from age to age. And the righteousness that the eternal King desires to see
prevail in human society is an ever-flowing stream. Not like the mountain
torrent, which is dried up in summer heat; but like the vast river, which is
fed from the everlasting hills, and is replenished by many a tributary stream,
is the course of Divine righteousness upon earth. Not in one nation, in one
age, in one dispensation only, but in every time and place does this river of
righteousness flow for the welfare of mankind.
· ITS BENEFICENT RESULTS. From insincere religious observances
no good can come; but from justice, from a proper discharge of duty, from
right principles, we may look for every good. God is pleased that His
attribute becomes His creature’s law. And righteousness exalts nations
and establishes thrones.
Real Calamity Waiting upon Unreal Service (v. 24)
“The meaning of this verse is not, ‘Let justice and righteousness take the
place of your sacrifices.’… The verse threatens the flooding of the land
with judgment and the punitive righteousness of God” (Keil). Adopting this
interpretation, we observe:
· THAT WHICH IS REJECTED “IS NIGH UNTO CURSING.” Hollow
service has been sitting for its portrait, and the picture is striking. Now we
have the Divine appraisemal revealed in the action to be taken forthwith.
Instead of approval there is condemnation. Instead of reward there is
punishment. Instead of profit resulting there is loss on every issue.
1. It deserves this. Want of conformity to law is a sufficient ground of
condemnation. Positive transgression of law is ground more decided still
Wilful mockery of the Lawgiver is most deeply criminal of all. All these
elements pertained to
constitute an indictment on which the criminal’s conviction is inevitable.
2. It requires it. God’s moral government must show itself strong and just,
and in order to this, sin, and all sin, must be visited with His avenging
stroke. Especially must this be done in the sphere of “things whereby God
maketh himself known.” The thing whose function it is to make Him known
must do so in the glorious character he bears.
· THE JUDGMENTS THAT ENGULF ARE RIGHTEOUSNESS. This
could be argued, and is here affirmed.
1. They express righteousness. They are deserved. They are all deserved.
They are deserved in the proportions in which they come. If they did not
come, the moral balance of things would be disturbed. If they came in less
decided form, this balance would be only half adjusted. They are “righteous
judgments” in the fullest and highest sense.
2. They accomplish righteousness. They are sent in the interests of it. They
fall on the unrighteous. They are designed and fitted to lead to their
reformation (Isaiah 26:9). Sometimes the righteous suffer from them
also. In that case their tendency is:
a. on the one hand to promote the righteousness of the sufferer, and
b. on the other to emphasize the evil of unrighteousness in any
section of a community, AND SO PREVENT IT.
As a matter of fact, Divine judgments have often wrought righteousness both
in individuals (II Chronicles 33:11-16) and communities (Isaiah 43:21).
Even in eternity they bulk largely, in the thought of the redeemed,
among the helpful experiences of earth (Revelation 7:14).
LIKE A FLOOD. There are two ideas here. The first is:
Ø Let judgment roll on like water. In this:
o It will be deep (Psalm 36:6), swallowing up all its victims.
o It will be sudden, taking the evil doers by surprise
o It will be irresistible, sweeping before it every opposing
object (Psalm 90:5).
o It will be destroying, leaving no living thing in its track.
o It will be ultimately fertilizing, leaving behind it the rich ooze
of an abiding lesson. (Unfortunately, that lesson is
Ø And righteousness like on inexhaustible stream. Judgment is
the act of which righteousness is the principle. God’s righteousness,
whether in Himself or in His judgments, is like an inexhaustible
o It is perennial. The righteousness of God’s judgments is a
constant quantity. It never intermits. Each is righteous and
all are righteousness.
o It is pure. Righteousness in God is necessarily so. There is no
Foreign ingredient, no cloud of mixture in it whatever. It is
righteous through and through. “There is,” there can be,
“no unrighteousness in Him.” (Psalm 92:15)
o It is cleansing. It purifies all it touches; the person it is
laved on, the city it passes through.
o It is irrigating. It waters the fields of human life. It makes
the graces, like the grass, to grow in the desert, and withering
things revive. THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD, like
water streams, is rich in every element of blessing for time and is
a benefactor for eternity as well.
25 “Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness
forty years, O house of
of pure worship. Your service in the wilderness, when you were little exposed
to external influence, was no more true and faithful than that which you offer
now; that was as unacceptable as this. Have ye offered unto me? Did ye offer
unto me? The answer expected is “No;” i.e. you did not so really, because
your worship was mixed with falsehood, and was not offered simply and
genuinely to me. It is certain, too, that during the sojourn in the wilderness
sacrificial worship fell greatly into desuetude, as we know that the rite of
circumcision was suspended (Joshua 5:5-7), the Passover was not duly
celebrated, and Joshua urged the people to put away the strange gods from
among them (Joshua 24:23). Moses, too, doubtless with a view to
existing practices, warns them against worshipping the heavenly bodies
(Deuteronomy 4:19), and offering sacrifice unto devils (seirim), “after
whom they had gone a-whoring” (Leviticus 17:7). The prophets, too,
allude to the idolatry practiced in the desert (see Ezekiel 20:7-26;
Hosea 9:10). But to argue (as some neologians do) from this passage
of Amos that the Israelites during those forty years knew nothing of
Jehovah, or that Amos himself denies that they offered him any worship, is
absurd, seeing that the prophet presupposes the fact, and blames them for
corrupting the Divine service and mingling the prescribed and enacted
ritual with idolatrous accretions. Sacrifices; slain, bloody sacrifices.
Offerings; bloodless sacrifices, meal offerings.
26 “But ye have born the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your
images, the star of your God, which ye made to yourselves.” This verse
has occasioned great perplexity to commentators. The connection with the
context, the meaning of some of the terms, and whether the reference is to past,
present, or future, are questions which have roused much controversy. We need
not here recapitulate the various opinions which have been held. It will be
sufficient to state what seems to be the simplest and most probable explanation
of the passage. But we must not omit to mention first the explanation adopted
by Ewald, Schrader, Farrar, Konig, and others, viz. that this verse refers to the
punitive deportation which was to be the people’s lot, when they should take
their shrines and images with them into captivity. “So shall ye take (into exile)
Sakkuth your king,” etc. But the punishment is foretold in v. 27; and this
verse contrasts their idol worship with the neglected worship of Jehovah
(v. 25). But ye have borne; and ye bare; καὶ ἀνελάβετε - kai anelabete –
(Septuagint); et portastis (Vulgate). Ye offered me no pure worship in the
wilderness, seeing that ye took false gods with you, and joined their worship
with, or substuted it for, mine. The tabernacle of your Moloch; τὴν σκηνὴν τοῦ
Μολόχ – taen skaenaen tou Moloch - (Septuagint); tabernaculum Moloch
vestro (Vulgate). The Hebrew word rendered “tabernacle” (sikkuth). which is
found nowhere else, has been variously explained.
suskiasmous - Theodotion, “vision,” reading the whole sentence thus: Καὶ ἤρατε
τὴν ὅρασιν τοῦ Θεοῦ ὑμῶν ὑμῶν ἄστρον τοῦ Θεοῦ ὑμῶν.
Kai aerate taen horasin tou Theou humon humon astron tou Theou
humon - Many moderns render, “stake,” “column,” or “shrine.” Others suppose
it to be equivalent to Sakkuth, an Assyrian name for Molech (or Adar); but this
is very uncertain, sad the parallelism requires the word to be an appellative and
not a proper name. It most probably means “shrine,” a portable shrine, like those
spoken of in Acts 19:24 in connection with the worship of Diana. The Syriac and
Arabic versions call it “tent,” and thus the reproach stands forth emphatically that,
instead of, or in conjunction with, the true tabernacle, they bore aloft, as if proud
of their apostasy, the tabernacle of a false god. Such shrines were used by the
Egyptians, according to Herodotus (2:63). Many such may be seen in the Egyptian
room of the
211, “These were small chapels, generally gilded and ornamented with
flowers and in other ways, intended to hold a small idol when processions
were made, and to be carried or driven about with it.” Hence we must look
Septuagint and Stephen (Acts 7:43), is a mistranslation. De Rossi,
indeed, mentions that one Hebrew manuscript gives Moloch, but the
received reading is Melkekem, which is confirmed by Symmachus and
Theodotion, who have τοῦ βασιλέως ὑμῶν – tou basileos humon –
and by the Syriac. The translation, therefore, should run, “Ye took up the
shrine of your king,” i.e. of him whom ye made your king in the place of
Jehovah, meaning some stellar divinity. And Chiun your images; καὶ τὸ
ἄστρον τοῦ θεοῦ ὑμῶν Ῥαμφάν, – kai to astron tou Theou humon
Ramphan - “and the star of your god Raiphan “(Septuagint); et
imaginem idolorum vestrorum; literally, the kiyyun of your images. The
parallelism again requires us to take this unknown word as an appellative;
and according to its probable derivation, its meaning is “pedestal,” or
“framework,” that on which the image stood. The Greek rendering is, as
Keil thinks, owing to a false reading of the unpointed text, in old Hebrew
kaph and resh being easily confounded, and vau and pe. Theodotion
considered the word a common noun, translating it by ἀμαύρωσιν –
amaurosin - It is probably a mere coincidence that in some Assyrian
inscriptions the name Kairan occurs as that of a deity, who is identified
with Saturn; that the Egyptians (from whom the Israelites must have derived
the notion) ever acknowledged such a deity is quite unproved. Stephen merely
quotes the Textus Receptus of his day, which was close enough to the original for
his argument. The star of your god. These words are in loose apposition
with the preceding, and are equivalent to “your star god,” or the star whom
ye worship as god. Whether some particular star is meant, or whether the
sun is the deity signified, cannot be determined, although the universal
prevalence of the worship of sun gods in
supposition very probable. Stephen puts the sin in a general form: “God
gave them up to serve the host of heaven” (Acts 7:42; compare
Deuteronomy 4:19; 17:3). Which ye made to yourselves. This was
the crime, SELF-WILL, desertion of the appointed way for devices
of their own invention.
A Divided Homage Rejected (vs. 25-26)
The continuity of
same people that was brought by Moses out of
in fact, until after the Captivity, the chosen nation was ever liable to relapse
into partial and temporary idolatry. This was especially the case with the
northern kingdom, which had not the benefit of the temple services,
sacrifices, and priesthood. The peculiarity of the case was the attempt to
combine two systems of religion so inconsistent as the worship of Jehovah
and the worship of the false deities of the neighboring nations. Yet this
attempt is substantially one which is renewed by some in every generation,
even under this spiritual and Christian dispensation. Displeasing as was the
is every endeavor to serve two masters, to divide the allegiance and
devotion of the heart.
· THE FACT THAT MEN DO ATTEMPT TO DIVIDE THEIR
HOMAGE AND WORSHIP. This is no doubt an evidence of human
inconsistency and instability; but it is not to be denied that our nature
frequently exhibits these qualities. On the one hand, education, the voice of
conscience, the aspirations of better moments, the influence of pious
friends, tend to retain the heart beneath the sway of true religion. On the
other hand, the example of the pleasure seeking and the worldly, the baser
impulses of our nature, the suggestions of our spiritual adversary, all draw
our hearts towards an inferior good, towards an ignoble choice. Hence
many are found neither renouncing God nor rejecting the allurements of a
· THE GROUNDS UPON WHICH THE SUPREME REJECTS THE
DIVIDED HOMAGE AND WORSHIP WHICH ARE SOMETIMES
1. God’s just claim is to the whole nature and the whole life of His
intelligent creatures. The Father of the spirits of all flesh cannot consent to
share His rightful possession with any rival, any pretender, be he who he
2. The nature of man is such that he can only give religious reverence and
service that shall be worthy of the name to one Lord. Christ has
emphatically pronounced upon the case in his words, “Ye cannot serve
God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)
3. The moral degradation and disaster involved in the endeavor are
palpable. There is inconsistency, nay, there is opposition, between the two
services. A riven heart is a wretched heart. Hypocrisy is a sandy foundation
upon which to build the character and life; upon this no secure and stable
edifice can possibly be reared.
· THE URGENCY OF THE ALTERNATIVE CONSEQUENTLY
PRESENTED TO EVERY MORAL NATURE. It is the alternative which
Joshua urged upon the Israelites: “Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.”
(Joshua 24:15) It is the alternative which Elijah urged upon a later generation:
“How long halt ye between two opinions [between the two sides]? If Jehovah
be God, serve Him; but if Baal, then serve him.” (I Kings 18:21)
will I cause you to go into captivity beyond
saith the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts.” Therefore. The
consequence of their continued alienation from God should be deportation
to a foreign land, beyond
country once their own possession
(II Samuel 8:6), thus dimly denoting
at that time not hostile, but
known in the time of
accomplishment, II Kings 15:29; 17:6).
Stephen says (Acts 7:43), “beyond
“Magis enim,”observes Jerome, “intelligentiam quam verbum posuit;” and he is
probably blending other prophecies with that of Amos, e.g. Jeremiah 20:4.
Trusting in Idols that Cannot Save (vs. 25-27)
In these words, God’s case against
Their services now were hollow and insincere; their sacrifices formal acts
in which the heart had no part. This, in itself, was ground of punishment
even to destruction. But it is only a portion of the iniquity chargeable
against them. In the wilderness the course had been already entered on.
Appointed ordinances had been neglected. Idolatrous ordinances had been
introduced. As now they were going on, so they had long ago begun.
There was a diuturnity (long duration)in their wrong doing which made the fall
of destroying judgments a foregone conclusion. We see here:
had been and done in the desert of sin. This is according to principles
1. Every nation is
held responsible for its own entire past. The
today not only owns responsibility for, but is striving nobly to make
compensation for, errors of the
martyr blood shed from that of Abel down (Matthew 23:35). The logic
of this is unassailable. The national identity remains unbroken. The national
policy remains unchanged. The national life maintains its continuity. And so
among its heirlooms is the inherited responsibility for the sins of other
2. A nation is further responsible for its past, in that the present takes its
tone from it. A certain proportion of almost every evil is hereditary. From
the past generations we inherit evil qualities and learn evil ways. The
father’s vices reappear in the child. The present is the child of the past,
begotten in its likeness, and liable as such for the evil it has taken up and
3. The life of a nation, like that of an individual, can be judged of only as
a whole. If a nation from its birth to its death be one thing, so is a nation’s
life. Now, the glory of God’s dealing is its perfect equity, arising out of its
exhaustive induction of facts. He leaves nothing out of account, no smallest
word, no slightest desire, no most trifling act. His verdict in each case is
based on the entire life of the party in court. The method is fair. No other
method would be fair. Each part is modified by its relation to all the others,
and cannot be fairly judged unless in connection with them.
· THAT PAST WAS PERSISTENTLY UNFAITHFUL. The interrogative
form of v. 25 is equivalent to a strong negation.
1. They had neglected sacrifice in the wilderness. “Have ye offered me
sacrifices and gifts in the desert forty years?” Typifying the atonement of
Christ, through which men draw near to God, sacrifice was the
fundamental exercise of Old Testament worship. This was not abandoned
by the priests (Numbers 16:46), but it was, like circumcision
(Joshua 5:5), neglected by the people, and superseded by sacrifices to
idols (Deuteronomy 32:17; Ezekiel 20:16). In this neglect or
perversion were included the voluntary gifts (offerings) as well as the
prescribed sacrifices. Thus early adopted, and long persisted in, was
whole run of Jewish national history, “Ye either offered no sacrifice at all,
or none to me.”
2. They were at palm to make, and carry, idolatrous appliances with them.
“But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch.” Divinely appointed
sacrifice they found too burdensome to be followed. Of Divine worship in
each of its ordinances they said, “What a weariness is it!” But they thought
it no trouble to make and carry about portable shrines and pedestals for use
in the worship of heathen idols. A man will do for his idol what he will not
do for God. Be it idol lust, or habit, or opinion, he loves it more, and is
more like it, and so finds its service more congenial. The God of the
legalist is not the God of Scripture, but a God of his own devising, and so
he serves Him laboriously in works of self-righteousness, whilst stubbornly
declining the far easier call of the true God to simple faith in Jesus Christ.
It was in following his
affinities thus that
his idols, and alien to the God of heaven.
3. This idolatry they had derived
Egyptian sun gods that the star god which the Israelites carried about with
them belonged” (Keil). They were not seduced into idolatry merely by the
nations among whom they passed. They did not wait for that. They tired of
Jehovah’s service, and sought out false gods for themselves. They were
bent on having idols, come whence they would. Failing others, they
adopted, in their blind and
besotted perverseness, those of
Their return to Jehovah for deliverance was desertion, and the lesson
learned under idolatrous
worship that produced it. This is eloquent of the godlessness of the corrupt
heart. Nothing can disgust it with idols, nothing can attach it to God. It
hates Him always, and embraces, or seeks, or makes occasions of
abandoning His worship.
your king.” Every man’s god is his king. Worship is the highest act of
service. When it is rendered, the other and lower acts necessarily follow;
when it is abandoned, they logically and actually cease. A new idol in the
heart means a new sovereign over the life.
· THE DIVINE PUNISHMENT TO BE ADJUSTED TO THE SIN.
This it always is, but in the present case the correspondence is specially
1. They should go into captivity. God often punishes sins against Himself by
human instrumentality, generally that of the wicked (II Samuel 24:13;
Psalm 109:6). The severity of such punishment is guaranteed by the
native cruelty of the human heart. As the conqueror and owner of the
vanquished and enslaved, the wicked puts on his worst character, and his
treatment becomes punishment corresponding to the worst sin of idolatry.
2. Their captivity should be among idolaters. The rod of God’s anger in
this case was to be the Assyrian (Isaiah 10:5). In captivity with him,
This would disenchant them, if anything could. The test of the god we
worship is the practical one of the character of his service. When our idol
lusts become our masters, we know them as they really are. The drunkard
has attained to a knowledge of the drink appetite that would be a
wholesome revelation to those who are just beginning to indulge.
3. They should die as slaves in the land out of which their progenitor had
at first been called. “I will carry you
(Acts 7:42-43) quotes this “beyond
had been the cradle of the nation, would be its grave. There, where their
godly ancestor had been a prince, the idolatrous nation would be slaves
(Joshua 24:14, 3); his faith, and the promises to it, having been lost
· GOD’S THREATS EMPHASIZED BY HIS NAME. This says what
he is, and so indicates how he will act.
1. He is Jehovah, the Self-existent One. “He cannot but be, and He is, the
Source of all being; the unchangeable, infinite, eternal Essence.” As
a. originates all things (v. 8; ch. 9:6; Jeremiah 33:2),
b. controls all things (Psalm 10:16; 99:1),
c. fills and possesses all things,
and “nothing is too hard for him “ (Jeremiah 32:27).
2. He is Lord of hosts. “The Lord of the heavenly hosts, for whose worship
they forsook God; the Lord of the hosts on earth, whose ministry He
employs to punish those who rebel against Him. All creatures in heaven and
earth are, as He says of the holy angels, ‘ministers of His that do His
pleasure’” (Pusey). “Jehovah,” the great First Cause, “God of hosts,” the
Controller of all second causes whatever, there is that in the Name of God
which guarantees the execution, literal and exhaustive, of all His threats.
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