Amos 8

 

 

Vs. 1-14 - In the fourth vision, the basket of summer fruit, the

Lord shows that the people is ripe for judgment. Explaining this revelation,

Amos denounces the oppression and greed of the chieftains (vs. 4-10),

and warns them that those who despise the Word of God shall some day

suffer from a famine of the Word (vs. 11-14).

 

 

1 “Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me: and behold a basket of

summer fruit.” A basket of summer fruit; Septuagint, ἄγγος ἰξευτοῦ - aggos

ixeutou - a fowler’s vessel; Vulgate, uncinus pomorum, which Jerome explains,”

Sicut uncino rami arborum detrahuntur ad poma carpenda, ita ego

proximum captivitatis tempus attraxi.” The word chelub is taken to mean

a basket of wickerwork;” it is used for “a cage” in Jeremiah 5:27, but

is found nowhere else. The gathering of fruit was the last harvest of the

year, and thus fitly typified the final punishment of Israel. This is set forth

by the play on the word in the next verse.

 

 

                                    Ripeness in Iniquity.(v. 1)

 

The figure here employed by Amos comes very naturally from him who

had been a gatherer of the fruit of the sycamore tree. But at the same time,

it is somewhat of a shock to the reader of this prophecy to find such a

similitude employed for such a purpose. Our associations with “a basket of

summer fruit” are all agreeable; but here the ripeness is in iniquity, and is

unto condemnation and destruction.

 

·         A PAST PROCESS OF MATURITY IN SIN IS IMPLIED. As the fruit

has been ripened during months of growth unto maturity, so the nation of

Israel has gradually and progressively come to such a condition as that

lamented and censured by the prophet of the Lord.

 

1. Past privileges have been misused. No nation had been so favored as

the descendants of Jacob; the greater the privileges, the greater the guilt of

neglect and abuse.

 

2. Past warnings have been despised. If the people could not, in the

exercise of their own faculties, foresee the end of all their misdeeds, they

had no excuse, for prophet after prophet had arisen to rebuke them for

unfaithfulness, and to warn them of impending judgment.

 

3. Past invitations have been unheeded. Often had the messengers of God

mingled promises with threats, invitations with censure. BUT IN VAIN!

The voice of the charmer had been disregarded; the tenderness of Divine

compassion had been despised. Hence THE PROCESS OF

DETERIORATION HAD GONE ON. And circumstances which should

have ripened the national character into heroic virtue, into saintly piety,

had only served to mature irreligiousness and rebellion. Thus the sun and

the showers which ripen the corn and the wholesome fruit bring also every

poisonous growth to perfection.

 

·         A SPEEDY PROSPECT OF CONSEQUENT DESTRUCTION IS

REVEALED. The ripe fruit speaks not only of the sunshine of the bygone

days, but of the consumption which awaits it. In this passage the figurative

language of the prophet is to be interpreted as foreboding approaching

ruin. “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be

destroyed, and that without remedy.”  (Proverbs 29:1)

 

1. Perseverance in irreligiousness issues in deterioration of character. The

very years, the very privileges, which make the good man better, make the

bad man worse. It was so with Israel as a nation. The operation of the

same law may be traced in human society today.

 

2. Perseverance in irreligiousness will, under the Divine government,

involve chastisement and punishment. The captivity foretold was to be

accompanied by the desolation of the capital and the cessation, or at least

the interruption, of national life. “The end is come,” saith God, “to my

people Israel (v. 2); The prosperity and superficial peace of the wicked

must be brought to a disgraceful close.

 

2 “And He said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A basket of

summer fruit. Then said the LORD unto me, The end is come upon

my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more.”

The end (kets). This is very like the word for “fruit” (kaits).

Pass by (see note on ch. 7:8).

 

 

 

                                      “My People” (v. 2)

 

The occurrence of this expression in such a connection as this is very

amazing and very encouraging. Even when, by the mouth of His prophet,

the Lord is uttering language of regretful denunciation, the prediction of

sore chastisement, He still calls Israel His own! God’s ways are indeed

higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts.  (Isaiah 55:8)

 

·         THIS LANGUAGE IN A REMINISCENCE OF PAST ELECTION.

God called Israel His people, because He had chosen them from among the

nations of the earth, to be the depositary of His truth, the recipients of His

Law, the instrument of His purposes among men. As early associations are

strong amongst men, as we always retain a tender interest in those whom

we have watched over, befriended, and benefited from their childhood, so

the Lord represents Himself as cherishing kindness for the people whom

He had called as it were in their childhood, and nursed into maturity.

(Isaiah 66:12-13; Jeremiah 2:2-3)

He did not forget the days “when Israel was a child, then I loved him....”

(Hosea 11:1)

 

·         THIS LANGUAGE IS PROOF OF PRESENT KINDNESS. tie does

not say, “Ye were my people;” for they are His people still.

 

Mine is an unchanging love,

Higher than the heights above;

Deeper than the depths beneath;

Free and faithful, strong as death.”

 

Even in carrying out His threats of punishment, Jehovah does not act in

anger and vindictiveness. He is the Father chastening the child whom He

loveth. He does not abandon the disobedient; He subjects them to discipline

which may restore them to submission and to filial love.

 

·         THIS LANGUAGE IS PREDICTIVE OF FUTURE RECONCILIATION.

As long as God says, “My people,” there is hope for the future. He has not

abandoned; he will not abandon. The city may be razed, but it shall be built

again. There shall be captivity; but He deviseth means whereby his banished

ones shall return.   (II Samuel 14:14)  Wounds shall be healed. The

grave shall give up her dead. The wanderer shall return, and shall be

clasped to the Father’s patient, yearning, rejoicing heart. “My people” are

mine forever.

 

·         APPLICATION. God in the midst of wrath remembers mercy.

      (Habakkuk 3:2)  When sin is recognized and realized as such, when

chastening has answered its purpose, when the disobedient are penitent

and the rebellious are submissive, THEN THERE IS HOPE!   Not in any

excellence connected with man’s repentance, but in the grace of the Father’s

heart, in the faithfulness of the Father’s promises. Not Israel alone BUT

MANKIND AT LARGE are designated by the Eternal “my people.”

Therefore He who sent His Son to seek and to save that which is lost is

described as “the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe.”

            (I Timothy 4:10)

 

3 “And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the

Lord GOD: there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they

shall cast them forth with silence.” The songs of the temple - Septuagint,

τὰ φατνώματα τοῦ ναοῦ - ta phatnomata tou naou - the panels of the temple;

Vulgate, cardines templi. These versions point to a different reading. It is better

rendered, “the songs of the palace,” referring to the songs of the revelers mentioned

already (ch. 6:5). These shall be changed into howlings of lamentation for

the dead which lie around (compare v. 10) - “there shall be many dead

bodies.” The Hebrew is more forcible: “Many the corpses: in every place he

hath cast them forth. Hush!” The Lord is represented as casting dead

bodies to the ground, so that death is everywhere; and the interjection

“hush!” (compare ch. 6:10) is an admonition to bend beneath the hand

of an avenging God (compare Zephaniah 1:7). Orelli takes it as an

expression of the apathy that accompanies severe and irremediable

suffering — suffering too deep for words. The Greek and Latin versions

take this onomatopoetic word (a word whose sound suggests the sense) has!

“hush!” as a substantive. Thus the Septuagint,  ἐπιῥῤίψω σιωπήν - epirripso

siopaen -  I will cast upon them silence; Vulgate, projicietur silentium

an expressive rendering, but one not supported by grammatical considerations.

 

 

 

                        A Nation Ripe for Ruin (vs. 1-3)

 

While immunity lasts iniquity will go on. Men only love it less than they

fear suffering. In the actual presence of the penalty the hand of the

transgressor is stayed. The murderer will not strike the death blow under a

policeman’s eye. The blasphemer will not move a lip when the thunderbolt

is crashing through his roof. But by so little does the one feeling master the

other that if punishment be not both certain and at hand, the fear of it will

fail to deter from sin. “My lord delayeth his coming.” Let escape be out of

the question, yet even the chance of respite will turn the scale in favor of

doing the forbidden thing.

 

*  Israel, sentenced and to be destroyed some time, sinned with a high hand.

*  Israel, sentenced to be destroyed soon, yet sinned still.

 

Perhaps Israel, sentenced to be destroyed at once, may be brought to

bay. Here God tries the experiment.

 

·         THERE IS A TIME WHEN THE VINE OF SODOM RIPENS ITS

FRUIT. Sin has its day. It disturbs the harmony of things, and when

derangement reaches a climax a catastrophe comes, and arrests the process

with a “thus far and no further.” Israel’s wicked course had reached this

critical point.

 

1. Idolatry, the archetypal sin against the first table, had practically

superseded the worship of God. It was the religion of the king, and court

and people. It was established and endowed, by the state. Its rites were

observed at Bethel and elsewhere, in profane mimicry of the Levitical

worship at Jerusalem. The substitution of it for the worship of Jehovah was

part of the royal policy. Short of this the national apostasy could go no

further. Interference, if it would be in time to save anything, must take

place at once.

 

2. Oppression, the archetypal sin against the second table, had reduced

society to dissolution. The safeguards of property, liberty, and life were

alike removed (ch. 3:9-10; 5:7, 12; 6:3). The order of society had

been converted into chaos. Incapable of using liberty without perverting it

into license, it was high time to deprive Israel of the grossly abused trust.

As slaves they would be under a regime of the strong arm, which was the

only one that suited them in present circumstances. There are chains

forging somewhere for the man who can neither consider others nor rule

himself.

 

·         SUCH RIPENING FOREBODES AN EARLY GATHERING. (v. 2.

The end is come upon my people of Israel.”) The sickle is put in as

soon as the harvest is ripe. No practical husbandry could delay the

operation longer.

 

1. The crop has then reached the limits of its growth. Like the corn ripe

unto harvest, or the grape purple and mellow, the natural life of Israel had

fully developed itself. Tastes were matured, habits acquired, and characters

settled into crystalline form. Things generally had put on an aspect of

finality, and the sickle of judgment that follows the ripening of character

need no longer wait. Let the ripe sinner beware the scythe. The fruits of

unrighteousness full grown are suggestive of the harvesters on their way.

 

2. It is then ready to serve its natural purpose. Green grapes are useless in

the vat, and green faggots would only put out the fire. It is in the harvest,

when both are mature, that the wheat and the tares alike are sent to their

ultimate destination. One purpose, a high and noble one, Israel had at last

proved their unfitness to serve; their exclusive fitness for another purpose

had only now by the same events become apparent. Reward and

punishment alike take typical form only when they have reference to lives

and characters which have assumed an aspect of finality. The hard grain

and the dry faggot are waiting respectively for the mill and for the fire.

 

3. After this it will be in the way of the next crop. When the reaper goes

the ploughman comes. If the harvesting were neglected the ploughing must

be postponed. Israel had failed utterly to accomplish its Divine mission,

and, left longer alone, would only prevent its accomplishment by other

agency. “Take the talent from him, and give it to him that hath ten talents.”

(Matthew 25:40)  The unfruitful become in a little while cumberers of the

ground, and a necessary measure of practical husbandry is then to cut them off.

 

4. At this stage it will begin naturally to decay. Overripe fruit will “go bad

“at once. If not used or preserved when ripe, it will be lost altogether.

National decline waits on the development of national corruption. Israel

become utterly dissolute would go to pieces according to a natural law,

even if the Assyrian never came. Indeed, it was in the degeneracy already

apparent that the invader saw his opportunity and found the occasion of his

coming. The disease that stops the career of the sensualist means God’s

judgment on one side, and the natural breakdown of his constitution on the

other.

 

·         THE DUNGHILL IS THE DESTINATION OF ALL TAINTED

PRODUCE. (v. 3.) The incorrigible wrong doer is involved at last in

overwhelming calamity. God’s judgments must fall, His mercy

notwithstanding. Indeed, they are an aspect of it. “A God all mercy is a

God unjust.” He is leaving the lion to prey on the lamb. The most merciful

course is that which offers most effective opposition to the wicked doings

of wicked men. Israel’s manners are past reforming, and past enduring. By

their intolerable abuse of freedom they showed their fitness only to be

slaves. And according to character and capacity they must be treated. What

is bad for the table may be good for the dunghill. The life of many had

become a curse, and it only remained to stop that, and make their death a

warning. That is one crop which even the sluggard’s garden cannot refuse

to bear (Proverbs 24:30-32).

 

·         THE OCCASION OF SUCH A HARVEST HOME IS TOO

DEPLORABLE FOR WORDS. (. 3, “Hush!”) When judgment is

overwhelming, silence is fitting.

 

1. As opposed to songs. These had resounded from the palace. They spoke

of mirth and revelry. But they would be turned into yells ere long. In

awestruck anticipation of the utterance of pain and horror, the prophet bids

the revelers be silent.

 

2. As opposed to lamentations. You cannot always “give sorrow words.”

There is a grief that “speaks not” — the grief of the overwrought heart. “I

was dumb, opening not the mouth, because this stroke was thine.” Such

grief would befit a time like this. Words, however strong, must be beneath

the occasion. Let them then remain unspoken, and let the eloquence of

silence meet the overwhelming severity of the visitation.

 

3. As opposed to reproaches. Israel had outlived the period of probation,

and therefore of expostulation. Its “great transgression” was committed, its

course unchangeably chosen, its doom sealed. The condemned and

sentenced murderer is removed to his cell in silence. In sterner measures

than abuse of words must his crime be expiated. His very life is to be

exacted, and windy denunciation may well be spared. “Let him alone” is of

all measures the most sternly significant. It is the preternatural hush of the

elemental world, presaging the thunder crash that shall make the very earth

to reel.

 

 

 

                                    Ripeness for Judgment (vs. 1-3)

 

“Thus hath the Lord God showed unto me: and behold a basket of summer

fruit. And he said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A basket of summer

fruit,” etc. The text suggests three general truths.

 

·         WICKED NATIONS GROW RIPE FOR JUDGMENT. The “basket of

summer fruit,” now presented in vision to Amos, was intended to

symbolize that his country was ripe for ruin. This symbol suggests:

 

1. That Israels preset moral corruption was no hasty production. The ripe

fruit in that basket did not spring forth at once; it took many months to

produce. It came about by a slow and gradual process. Men do not become

great sinners at once. The character of a people does not reach its last

degree of vileness in a few years; it takes time. The first seed of evil is to be

quickened, then it grows, ripens, and multiplies until there is a crop ready

for the sickle.

 

2. That Israels season for improvement was past and gone. The ripened

fruit in that basket had reached a stage in which improvement was

impossible. The bloom was passing away, and rottenness was setting in.

Nations become incorrigible. The time comes when it may be said — The

harvest is past, all cultivation is impossible.   (One of the saddest bit of

Scripture to me is “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are

not saved.”  Jeremiah 8:20 - CY - 2022) What good is your sowing seed

under the burning sun of July or August? The fructifying forces of nature

will not cooperate with you.

 

3. That Israels utter ruin was inevitable. Nothing awaited that “basket of

summer fruit” but rottenness. Its decomposition was working, and would

soon reduce it to putrescent filth. So it was with Israel.

 

·         TRUE PROPHETS ARE MADE SENSIBLE OF THIS RIPENESS.

God gives Amos a vision for the purpose. “Thus hath the Lord God

showed unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit. And He said, Amos,

what seest thou? And I said, A basket of summer frail Then said the Lord

unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel.” God always gives His

true ministers a clear vision of the subjects of their discourse. This

clearness of vision is in truth their call and qualification for their Divine

mission. Men, alas! often assume the work of the ministry whose mental

vision is so dim that they are unable to see anything with vivid clearness;

hence they always move in a haze, and their language is circumlocutory

(wordiness) and ambiguous. Amongst the vulgar, those who should be

condemned for their dullness get credit for their depth To every true teacher

God says at the outset, “What seest thou?” Hast thou a clear vision of this

basket of summer fruit? Hast thou a clear idea of this subject on which

thou art about to discourse? Thus he dealt with Moses, Elijah, Daniel,

Paul, John.

 

·         ALMIGHTY GOD MAKES HIS PROPHETS SENSIBLE OF THE

RIPENESS OF A PEOPLE’S CORRUPTION IN ORDER THAT THEY

MAY SOUND THE ALARM. Why was Amos thus divinely impressed

with the wretched moral condition of the people of Israel? Simply that he

might be more earnest and emphatical in sounding the alarm. “The end is

come upon my people of Jsrael; I will not again pass by them any more.”

And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord

God: there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cut them

forth with silence.” What was the calamity he was to proclaim?

 

1. Universal mourning. “The songs of the temple shall be howlings.”

Where the shouts of mirth and the songs of joy had been heard, there

should be nothing but the howlings of distress. The inevitable tendency of

sin is to turn songs of gladness into howlings of distress.

 

2. Universal death. “And there shall be many dead bodies in every place;

and they shall cast them forth with silence.”  (v. 3)The reference is to sword,

pestilence, and famine multiplying the dead so rapidly as to render

impossible the ordinary decencies and ceremonies at funerals. “Cast them

forth with silence.”

 

·         CONCLUSION. How stands our country? Is not its moral depravity

ripening in every direction? Is it not filling up its measure of iniquities,

TREASURING UP WRATH AGAINST THE LAST DAY? Does it not

become all true teachers to sound the alarm? The time seems past for crying,

“Peace and safety.” Destruction is at hand; the fields are white for harvest.

(I Thessalonians 5:3; John 4:35)

 

4 “Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor

of the land to fail,” The prophet, by admonishing the grandees of their iniquities,

which they will not cast away, shows how ripe they are for judgment. That

swallow up; better, that pant after (ch. 2:6-7), like a beast after its

prey, eager to devour. Even to make the poor of the land to fail; and

cause the meek of the land to fail. They grasp at the property of the

unresisting poor, adding field to field, and impoverishing them in various

ways, to root them out of the land.

 

 

5 “Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn?

and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah

small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?”

When? expresses impatience and desire, as in the hymn —

 

                                    “Thy joys when shall I see?”

 

The new moon. The first day of the month was a holiday, on which all

trade was suspended. It is not mentioned in Exodus, Leviticus, or

Deuteronomy; but its observance is enjoined in Numbers 28:11, and

various notices of this occur in later Scriptures; e.g. 1 Samuel 20:5;

II Kings 4:23; Hosea 2:11; Colossians 2:16. These greedy

sinners kept the festivals, indeed, but they grudged the time given to them,

and considered it as wasted. The sabbath. Compare the difficulties with

which Nehemiah had to contend in upholding the sanctity of the sabbath

(Nehemiah 10:31; 13:15-22). May set forth; literally, open; so

Septuagint, καὶ ἀνοίξομεν θησαυρόν - kai anoixomen thasauron - open

up the treasures. The word expresses the opening of the granaries and storehouses.

The ephah, by which corn was measured (see note on Micah 6:10). This they made

small, and so gave lees than was paid for. The shekel. The weight by which money

was weighed. This they made great, and thus gained too high a price for the

quantity of corn. Coined money of determined value seems not to have been

used before the return from Captivity, all payments of fixed amount previous

to that period being made by weighing (compare Genesis 23:16; 33:19; 43:21;

Exodus 30:13; Isaiah 46:6). Falsifying the balances by deceit;

better, as in the Revised Version, dealing falsely with balances of deceit.

To increase their gains they falsified their scales or used fraudulent weights

(see Leviticus 19:36). Thus they cheated the poor probably in three ways:

 

Ř      by small measure,

Ř      exorbitant price, and

Ř      light weight.

 

6  “That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of

shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?” Buy the poor for silver

(compare ch. 2:6). The probable meaning is that they so reduced the poor man

by their exactions and injustice, that he was compelled to pay his debt by

selling himself into slavery (Leviticus 25:39; Deuteronomy 15:12). For a pair

of shoes. For the smallest debt they would deal in this harsh manner. The

refuse; literally, that which fell through the sieve; Septuagint, Ἀπὸ παντὸς

γεννήματος ἐμπορευσόμεθα - Apo pantos gennaematos emporeusometha -

 “We will trade in every kind of produce;” Vulgate, Quisquilias frumenti

vendamus, “Let us sell the refuse of corn.”

 

 

 

                                    The Covetous Man’s Way (vs. 4-6)

 

Punishment, however stern, is proportioned rigidly to sin. They answer to

each other as face to face. From the contemplation of Israel’s deplorable

fate we turn to the horrors of her crime. And they are dark beyond

exaggerating. To idolatry, dethroning God and robbing Him of His glory, is

added covetousness defrauding and destroying men. Indeed, the one is but

a department of the other. The worst type of mammon worshipper, the

covetous, is an idolater in a very real sense.  (Colossians 3:5)  And Israel’s

covetousness, detached as it was from all religious restraints, and operating in a

purely heathen connection, was of the most aggravated and repulsive kind. Acting

in character, observe that:

 

·         IT SELECTS AN EASY PREY. (v. 4, “the poor; the meek.”)

 

1. The poor cannot defend themselves. Their poverty makes them helpless,

and the weakness which ought to commend them to protection commends

them to plunder. Covetousness, the meanest of the vices in any

circumstances, goes down to the nadir of paltriness when it wrings its gold

“from the hard hands” of the poor.

 

2. The meek will not resist. Their position and disposition are both against

it. They would “rather suffer wrong.” And they get enough of it to suffer.

Weak on one hand, and unresisting on the other, they are a doubly

tempting prey to the pitiless vulture’s beak.

 

·         IT HAS MURDER IS ITS HEART. “Gape to destroy,” as the beast of

prey its victim at hand. There is a covetousness that puts its own paltriest

gain above another’s life. It will have men’s money although their life

should pay the forfeit. This is the very spirit of murder. To make money, at

the necessary cost of human life, is to break the sixth commandment as

well as the eighth.

 

·         IT HANKERS AFTER SUNDAY TRADING. (v. 5, “When is the

new moon over,” etc.?) These people retained the form of sabbath

observance, but the reality had been altogether abandoned. They occupied

its sacred hours with wishes that they were over. “Sabbath days and

sabbath work are a burden to carnal hearts” (Henry). The hours drag

heavily. Time-killing devices are exhausted. “Behold, what a weariness it

is!”  (Malachi 1:13) is the verdict on God’s day, given weekly through all

their years. “When shall I come add appear before God?” a question that

the spiritually minded ask, is one which the carnally minded cannot even

understand. They are making markets mentally in the very house of God, and,

with the words of worship on their lips, “their heart goes after covetousness.”

From Sunday devising to Sunday transacting of business the step is but a

small one — too small not to be taken when opportunity and temptation meet.

 

·         IT PRACTICES UNFAIR DEALING. (vs. 5-6.) As they fear not

God, neither do they regard man. When religion is abandoned, morality is

undermined. Given greed present, and religious restraint absent, and

dishonest dealing is inevitable.

 

1. One device is the use of a false balance. Make the ephah small, and the

shekel great,” i.e. give thirteen pounds to the stone, and charge twenty-one

shillings to the pound. They perpetrate thus a double swindle, robbing

“with both hands earnestly.” Such fraud is too unscientific and direct for

any but the coarser cheats. There are more delicate ways of fraudulent

dealing, which the more refined rogues affect. Such a method is:

 

2. Selling an adulterated or inferior article. “The refuse of the corn we

will sell” (v. 6). This is probably the commonest form of commercial

fraud. There are few who possess the strength of moral fiber to avoid it

entirely. We might arrange it on a graduated scale. At one end is the man

who bluntly sells one thing under the name of another. At the other end is

the man who, in selling, insinuates the impression that the thing is of better

quality than it really is. Between these two are dishonest artifices of all

varieties and shades. All, however, originate in covetousness, eventuate in

injustice, and deserve the generic name of fraud.

 

·         IT TRAFFICS IN HUMAN LIFE, AND THAT FOR A

CONTEMPTIBLE PRICE. (v. 6.) The law, compelling the poor to sell

themselves to their creditors to work for what they owed, was enforced in

the case of the paltriest debts, and the needy might be brought into

bondage for want of the price of even a pair of shoes. To work such

hardship on such trifling occasion argues inhumanity too gross to be long

endured. The worker has inverted the natural order, has lost out the sense

of reverence, is blind to the dignity of human nature, and has conclusively

shown that he is an eyesore, and his life a curse, to the society in which he

lives. His selfishness puts the least interest of his own above the most

essential interest of others. His greed of gain has so intensified that he is

blind at last to all other considerations. He has fallen altogether beneath the

human level, and when a man has done this, the chances are that he has

lived his day. Well may we pray, “Incline my heart to thy testimonies, and

not to covetousness.”

 

 

 

                                    Covetousness  (vs. 4-6)

 

 It was not for heterodoxy in theology, it was not for remissness in ritual,

that Amos chiefly reproached the Israelites. It was for injustice, violence,

and robbery; it was for seeking their own wealth and luxury at the expense

of the sufferings of the poor. Avarice, or undue love of worldly

possessions, is a serious vice; covetousness, or the desiring to enrich self at

the cost of neighbors, is something very near a crime, for to crime it too

often leads.

 

·         THE MORAL DISEASE OF COVETOUSNESS. The symptoms may

differ in different states of society; and there are details in the text which

apply rather to the state of society in Samaria of old than to the America of

today. But the malady is the same, deep-rooted in the moral constitution of

sinful men. This sin is:

 

1. Injurious to the person who commits it. He who sets his affection upon

this world’s good, who carries his selfishness so far as to deprive, or even

to wish to deprive, his neighbor of what is his — far more he who uses

fraud or violence to gratify this desire — is working his own ruin. He is

subverting the standard of value, by setting the material above the spiritual.

He is dragging his aspirations down from the stars above his head to the

dust beneath his feet.

 

2. Mischievous to society. If all men follow the example of the covetous,

and long for the possessions of others, then human society becomes a den

of wild beasts bent upon devouring one another, and earth becomes a very

hell. Instead of being members one of another, in the case supposed, every

man sees an enemy in his neighbor, and seeks his harm. The bonds of

society are strained, or even broken.

 

3. Displeasing to God. In the ten commandments a place was found for the

prohibition of this spiritual offence: “Thou shalt not covet.” This fact is

sufficient to show how hateful is this sin in the eyes of the great Lord and

Ruler of all.

 

·         THE DIVINE REMEDY FOR COVETOUSNESS.

 

1. The recognition of the benevolence and bounty of God. From Him

cometh down “every good gift and every perfect boon.”  (James 1:17)

He is the Giver of all, who openeth His hands, and supplieth the need of

every living thing.  (Psalm 145:16)  He who would share the Divine nature

must cherish an ungrudging and liberal spirit.

 

2. The remembrance of the “unspeakable Gift,” and of the incomparable

sacrifice of the Redeemer. Our Saviour’s whole aim was to impart to men

the highest blessings, and in the quest of this aim He gave His life for us. His

constraining love alone is able to extirpate that selfishness which in human

nature is the very root of covetousness.

 

3. The adoption of the counsels and the submission to the spirit of Christ.

It was His saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  (Acts 20:35)

 

7  The LORD hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will

never forget any of their works.” Such crimes as these, which sap the very

foundations of social life, shall meet with vengeance. The Excellency of Jacob.

This is a title of God Himself, as in Hosea 5:5; 7:10, where it is rendered “pride.”

Thus the Lord is said to swear by His holiness (ch. 4:2), by His soul

(ch. 6:8; compare 1 Samuel 15:29). So here He swears by Himself,

who is the Glory and Pride of Israel; as truly as He is this, He will punish.

The Vulgate treats the sentence differently, Juravit in superbium Jacob,

i.e. “The Lord hath sworn against the pride of Jacob,” against the

arrogancy with which they treat the poor, and trust in their riches, and

deem themselves secure. So the Septuagint, Ὀμνύει Κύριος κατὰ τῆς ὑπερηφανίας 

Ἰακώβ - Omnuei Kurios kata taes huperaephaniasIakob - Yahweh hath sworn

by the pride of Jacob -   I will never forget, so as to leave unpunished.

Literally, if I forget, equivalent to a most decided denial, as Hebrews

4:3, 5, etc. “Nec mirum est, si Deus jurare dicatur; quum dormientibus

dormiat et vigilantibus vigilet; hisque qui sibi thesaurizaverunt iram in die

irae dicatur irasci “ (St. Jerome).

 

 

 

                       

                                    Confirming by an Oath (v. 7)

 

God’s judgments sometimes take, and will continue to take, the wicked by

surprise (Matthew 24:36-39). But this need not be, and should not be,

and can be only where blindness, or heedlessness, or incredulity make

warning useless. God always warns before He strikes. Sometimes He warns

by divers methods at once. Often He warns again and again. Invariably He

warns with a solemnity that makes disbelief A CRIME and STUPID.  

Here is a case in point.

 

·         THE OATH THAT CANNOT BE BROKEN. “God is not a man, that

He should lie.”  (Numbers 23:19)  To do so would be a natural impossibility,

a contradiction of Himself. For the same reason His truthfulness can have no

degrees; His slightest word is absolutely inviolable. Yet to human

apprehension an oath is peculiarly convincing, and, accommodating Himself

to men’s weakness, God condescends, on peculiarly, solemn occasions, not

merely to say, but swear. Here He swears:

 

1. By Himself. “The Pride of Jacob” is Jehovah Himself. Elsewhere

explicitly God swears:

 

a.      by “Himself” (Jeremiah 51:14),

b.      by His “great Name” (ibid. ch. 44:26),

c.       by His “holiness” (here ch. 4:2),

d.      by His life (Ezekiel 33:11).

 

This is of necessity. Men “swear by the greater.” God,

“because He can swear by no greater, swears by Himself” (Hebrews

6:17-18). In this form of oath the greatest Being is invoked, and so the

maximum of solemnity is reached, whether it is God who swears or man.

 

2. By Himself in His ideal relation to Israel. “By the Pride of Jacob” Israel,

alas! did not “glory in the Lord.” They gloried in their idols. “These be thy

gods, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt (Exodus 32:4), they had

said, in their blind fatuity, of the molten calf. God had been forgotten and His

wonders ignored before they were many days accomplished, and in this

forgetfulness they had persistently gone on. Yet was He none the less their

Glory still,

 

a.      the Strength of Israel,

b.      their Light and Life,

c.       the Founder, Builder,  Sustainer, of their kingdom,

d.      the one Source and Spring of all that made them great,

 

This fundamental relation He emphasizes here in vowing vengeance on their

sin.  By this character, as their Life and Strength and Excellence, He swears

He will now degrade and destroy them utterly. The nearer God’s tie to the

rebels, the greater outrage is their rebellion, and the more embittered the

after relations. It is on the ruins of violated friendship that the most

irreconcilable enmity arises. Not even the heathen is as hateful, or doomed

to a fate as direful, as the apostate.

 

·         THE RECORD THAT CANNOT BE ERASED. “I will not forget and

forever.” To forget is to forgive, put out of sight, treat as non-existent. “I

will remember their iniquities no more.” Sin unatoned for cannot be

forgiven. God must be just in His justifying, and justice demands

satisfaction. From the provided satisfaction the unbelieving sinner has

turned away, and so from the grace of his own salvation. Neither can sin

unforsaken. The sinner is in actual conflict with God, and the rebel may not

be forgiven with arms in his hands. Neither can sin unrepented of. Still

loving sin, the impenitent is not in a moral condition to appreciate pardon,

and the gift of God is not to be thrown away. By such a threefold cord was

Israel bound to inevitable destruction.

 

·         THE WORKS THAT CANNOT BE FORGOTTEN. There are sins

more heinous, and for the authors of which it will be less tolerable in the

judgment than for others (Matthew 11:22).

 

1. Such are the sins committed against the poor and needy. “God hath

chosen the poor of this world”  (James 2:5)  Their poverty presents the

minimum of resistance to His grace. Their hardships excite His special pity.

Their helplessness commends them to His special protection. He gives them

the most prominent place in His religion. He champions them against their

enemies. He requires His people to do the same. He identifies Himself with

them in the judgment, and He deals with men then in terms of their relation

to the duties they owe the needy (Matthew 25:35-45). While God is

“the Avenger of all such”  (I Thessalonians 4:6), oppression of the poor

shall not go unpunished.

 

2. Such especially are the sins committed against the poor by those who

bear His Name. The clement of beneficence bulked large in Judaism.

Besides the general injunctions to regard the poor (Deuteronomy 15:7-11),

there were special enactments allocating to them a poor tithe

(ibid. ch. 14:28-29), the spontaneous produce of the soil

(Leviticus 25:5), the droppings from the sheaves, and the produce of

the corners of the fields (ibid. ch. 19:9-10; 23:22), also sheaves

accidentally dropped (Deuteronomy 24:19), as much from vineyard or

field as the hungry wayfarer required to eat on the spot (Deuteronomy

23:24-25), and periodical entertainments at the tables of the rich

(ibid. ch. 16:10-11). Thus nothing could be more utterly

antagonistic to the genius of the Jewish religion than to rob or oppress the

poor. The Israelite guilty of it sinned against Scripture, against custom,

against education, against every deterrent powerful with men and

increasing guilt before God. Christianity, too, is essentially benevolent. To

“love one another,” and “do good unto all,” is the very spirit and essence

of the religion of Christ. Injustice or oppression under Christian auspices is

            sin in its most abominable and heinous form.

 

 

 

                                    The Mercy of God (v. 7)

 

This language is actual truth, although it is based upon and accords with

the experience of created intelligences. Memory is one of the primitive

endowments of intellect, admitted to be such even by philosophers, who

are very loath to admit that the mind of man can possess any such

endowments. A man who should never forget would indeed be a marvel, a

miracle. But it would be inconsistent with our highest conceptions of God

to suppose it possible for anything to escape His memory. In His mind there

is, of course, neither past nor future, for time is a limitation and condition

of finite intelligence. To the Eternal all is present; all events to Him are

ONE ETERNAL NOW! 

 

·         A GENERAL TRUTH CONCERNING THE DIVINE NATURE AND

GOVERNMENT. Nothing is unobserved by God, and nothing is forgotten

by Him. All men’s actions as they are performed photograph themselves

indelibly upon the very nature of the Omniscient and Eternal. Nothing

needs to be revived, for nothing ever becomes dim.

 

·         A SOLEMN TRUTH CONCERNING THE CONDUCT AND

PROSPECTS OF THE SINFUL. Parents forget the wrong doing of their

children, and rulers those of their subjects. Hence many evil deeds escape

the recompense which is their due. But Jehovah, who “remembered” (to

use the expression necessarily accommodated to our infirmity) all the acts

of rebellion of which the chosen people had been guilty, does not lose the

record of any of the offences committed by men. On the contrary, they are

written “in a Book of remembrance” — a book one day to be unrolled

before the eyes of the righteous Judge.  (Malachi 3:16)

 

·         A PRECIOUS ASSURANCE CONCERNING THE GOOD

PURPOSES AND ACTIONS WHICH GOD DISCERNS AND

REMARKS IN HIS PEOPLE. Thus we find saintly men of old in their

prayers beseeching the Lord to remember them: “Remember me, O Lord,

for good”  “Remember me with the favor thou showest unto thy people.”

 (Psalm 106:4) He who said, “I know thy works  (Revelation 2:9); who said,

“I will never forget any of their works  (v.8); is a Being to whom we may

safely commend ourselves and all that is ours which He Himself creates and

which He approves.

 

·         APPLICATION.

 

1. In our confessions let us be frank and open with God, who searcheth the

heart, and who forgetteth nothing. It would be folly to suppose that He

forgets our sins; it would be wickedness to strive to forget them ourselves.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive.”  (I John 1:9)

 

2. In our prayers for pardon let us bear in mind that there is a sense in

which He will “remember no more” the offences of His penitent and

believing people. He will treat us as if He had forgotten all our rebellion,

            and as if He remembered only our purposes and vows of loyalty.

 

8  Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that

dwelleth therein? and it shall rise up wholly as a flood; and it shall

be cast out and drowned, as by the flood of Egypt.”

Shall not the land tremble for this? “This” is the coming

judgment, or the oath with which God announced it in the previous verse

and the prophet asks, “Shall not the land tremble as with an earthquake

when the Lord comes to judgement?” The Septuagint, rendering ἐπὶ τούτοις -

epi touotois - in other words - takes the reference to be to the “works” or sins of

the people (v. 7); but the thought in these two verses is the punishment of the

transgressions, not the transgressors themselves. And it shall rise up wholly as a flood

(ch. 9:5). The Septuagint, pointing differently, renders, Καὶ ἀναβήσεται ὡς ποταμὸς 

συντέλεια - Kai anabaesetai hos potamos sunteleia - And destruction shall come

up as a river;” the Vulgate, Et ascendet quasi fluvius universus; it is best, however,

to refer both clauses to the Nile: “Yea, it shall rise up wholly like the river” — the

land shall heave and swell like the waters of the Nile at its annual rising.

And it shall be cast out and drowned, as by the flood of Egypt; better,

it shall be tossed up and sink again, like the river of Egypt — a

picturesque comparison, which would allude to a phenomenon well known

to the Israelites. It is as though the whole earth were turned into a sea,

tossing and labouring under a tempestuous wind (compare Isaiah 24:4).

 

9  “And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I

will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth

in the clear day:” I will cause the sun to go down at noon. This is probably to

be taken metaphorically of a sudden calamity occurring in the very height

of seeming prosperity, such as the fate of Israel in Pekah’s time, and

Pekah’s own murder (II Kings 15:29-30; see also ibid. ch.17:1-6).

A like metaphor is common enough; e.g. Joel 2:2: 3:15;

Job 5:14; Isaiah 13:10; Jeremiah 15:9. Hind calculates that there

were two solar eclipses visible in Palestine in Amos’s time, viz. June 15,

B.C. 763, and February 9, B.C. 784. Some have suggested that the prophet

here predicts the latter in the year of Jeroboam’s death; but this, it is

discovered, would have been so partial as hardly to be noticeable at

Samaria. And it is improbable that such natural phenomena, unconnected

with God’s moral government, should be the subject of the prophet’s

prediction (Pusey). Doubtless a sudden reverse is signified (compare

Matthew 24:29, etc.), expressed in terms rendered particularly

appropriate by some late and well remembered eclipse. The Fathers note

here how the earth was darkened at the Passion of our Lord.

 

 

 

 

                                    A Sunset at Noon (v. 9)

 

This language is at once prophetic and figurative. It predicts an event in the

moral world under the figure of an analogous event in the physical world.

The symbolical event is not an eclipse of the sun, which the language does

not suit, but his going down at midday; and the event symbolized is clearly

death in the midst of young life. Israel was rich and prosperous and young.

To all outward seeming she was just in the meridian of her life. But her sun

would never reach the west. Her end would be premature, sudden, and

tragic. As if the sun dropped in an instant beneath the horizon from midday

and the radiance of noon gave place in that instant to the darkness of

night; SO ISRAEL’S DAY WOULD DARKEN SUDDENLY and the night

of death fall in a sky all lit with the golden glow of noon.

 

·         THERE IS TO MEN A NATURAL TERM OF EXISTENCE, WHICH

IS THEIR DAY. There is a natural life term to all earthly creatures. This

varies endlessly for each, between limits so far apart as a millennium and a

day. There are cheloniae (turtles) that lengthen out their slow existence to

centuries, and there are insects that sport out their little life in an afternoon.

Intermediate between these widely distant limits is man with his three score

years and ten (Psalm 90:10). This period is his day. Beyond it few may

hope, and none expect, to live. To reach it even there must be normal

conditions of life within and around. This is not a long time at best, Let the

utmost diligence be used, and the work that can be done in it is not much.

Take from it the two childhoods, infancy and infirm age, and it becomes

greatly shorter still. Not more than fifty active years enter into the longest

life. On the most sanguine assumption these are the working hours of our

day of life. What we do for God and men is done while they pass. They

may not be so many, but they can scarcely be more, and if they are all given

us we may thankfully reckon that we have lived our time.

 

·         THERE ARE EXCEPTIONAL OASES IN WHICH THIS PERIOD

IS CUT SHORT. The normal life term is not the actual one. The

overwhelming majority never see it. When the septuagenarian has his

birthday feast, the friends of his youth are not one in ten among the guests.

From childhood till that hour they have been dropping off, and now

nine-tenths and more are gone.

 

1. A moiety of the race die in childhood. Infant mortality is an obscure

subject. (Especially when Abortion on Demand is considered) Whether

from the standpoint of equity or economy, there is much in it we cannot

explain. Their death before they have transgressed brings up

the solemn mystery of original sin, and the suffering of one for the sin of

another (Romans 5:14). Then their death before activity begins or

consciousness dawns, and so apparently before they have been used, raises

the almost equally perplexing question — Is there, so far as this life goes, a

single human being made in vain?

 

2. Many more die before or at maturity. They are healthy till growth is

almost complete. The body has acquired the strength and hardness needed

for the burden of life’s work. The mind has received the training which fits

it to solve the problems of existence, and govern and use the body in

accomplishing the highest purposes of both. Yet just now, when the tool

has been formed and tempered and finished, it is broken before it has once

been used at its best in the more serious work of life. Here we are face to

face not only with an apparently purposeless creation, but also with what

seems an unproductive training.

 

3. Many also die with their work to all appearance unfinished, or only

well begun. Their capacity is growing; their field is widening; their

influence is increasing. They are in the full swing of activity and usefulness.

Yet at the very moment when the richest fruit of their life work is

beginning to form, they are cut down — cut down, too, where their death

leaves a permanent blank, and no one is available to take up their work.

Their mysterious character and solemn interest prepare a field for faith in

the fact that —

 

·         THESE SUNSETS AT NOON ARE DIVINELY ORDERED. “I will

cause,” etc. To kill and to make alive are Divine prerogatives. Let the sun

set where he will, the event is God’s doing. And, in the light of Scripture

and observation, a philosophy of such events is not altogether impossible

to conceive.

 

1. Take noon sunsets in sin. These are often untimely and far from

unaccountable.

 

a.      Sin is war against God; and while He is omnipotent and righteous and

the Disposer of life, it cannot conduce to length of days. The wickedness

of men is a continual provocation of His just judgment, and therefore

an inevitable shortener of life.

 

b.      Sin is also war against the species. The wicked are hateful and hating

one another. The essential selfishness of the corrupt heart is misanthropy

(a dislike of humankind) in another aspect. Misanthropy, again, is murder

in its earlier stage (1 John 3:15), leading on to the other stages of it

(James 4:1-2); and a dispensation of universal murder must mean many

a life cut short and many a sun untimely set.  (Gangs - warnings of

Proverbs 1:10-31)

 

c.  Sin does violence to our own  nature.  The normal life of the body is a

pure one; the direction of appetites only to their legitimate objects,

and to these in the strictest moderation. This is obviously the royal road

to health and length of days. Perversion of appetite on the one hand,

and excessive indulgence of it on the other, do violence to the natural

order. If the life is impure, in fact, and as it is impure, it is unnatural,

and therefore likely to be short. There is no “fleshly lust” which does

not “war against the life” (1 Peter 2:11) of soul and body both. Of course,

the operation of second causes, such as the laws of reciprocity and health,

is not something distinct from the Divine agency, but the instrumentality

it employs. The laws of nature are simply God’s executive, the hands

and fingers which weave the threads of His purpose into the web of

His work.

 

2. Take noon sunsets in grace. These also are not unknown. The good die

young. Sometimes they die through the sin of others, sometimes in

consequence of sin of their own. These, however, are the occasions only of

their removal. The reason of it lies deep in the purposes of God.

 

a.      Some are taken away from the evil to come. (Isaiah 57:1.) The

young Ahijah, “because in him was found some good thing toward the

Lord God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam” was carried peacefully

to his rest before the failing of the provoked disaster (1 Kings 14:10-14).

The good King Josiah also, because he the previous removal of some

gentle spirit from their circle becomes intelligible as a merciful folding

of the tender lamb before the crash of the nearing storm.

 

b.      Some are taken away because their work, although apparently only

beginning, is really done. Not every man’s life work can be identified,

during its progress, by either his cotemporaries or himself. Sometimes

it is incidental, aside from his line of effort, and altogether unconscious.

A child lives to awake by its endearing ways a parent’s sleeping heart.

A youth lives by the tokens of early grace to bring brothers and sisters

to look at the unseen, and the life for God. A man lives to carry some

movement over its crisis, which, in its after stages, will require a

different hand. If we only knew “the end of the Lord” (James 5:11),

we should see that it is always attained before the means are discontinued;

that He never breaks a tool till its work is done.

 

c.       Some can only do their work by dying. The errand of Bathsheba’s first

child into the world was by its death to bring David to his knees and a

right mind (II Samuel 12:18-23). And how many an early death in a

careless family has been that family’s salvation! Even the minister

cut down in his early prime, with a life of usefulness opening out,

as it seems, before him, may preach a sermon by his death more

potent for good than all he could have said alive. Untimely death

may even in certain cases anticipate the loss of influence for good.

We know men of influence in the Church who in their erratic age are

undoing the good they were honored to do in their earlier years.

Such men have only lived too long. If their sun had set at

noon their life work would have been far greater, humanly speaking,

than it will now be. Looking as we do at the surface of things, and

blind to their deeper relations and far-reaching issues, we are not

in a position to criticize THE PROVIDENTAL ARRANGEMENTS

OF GOD!  To believe that there is order in the seeming tangle, and

ultimate and wider good behind the present partial evil, is the attitude

of that enlightened faith which argues that INFINITE WISDOM

omnipotent on the one hand and benevolent on the other, being at

the helm of things, will steer in character.

 

10 “And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into

lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and

baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an

only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day.” I will turn your feasts into

mourning, etc. (compare v. 3: ch. 5:16-17; Lamentations 5:15; Hosea 2:11;

Tobit 2:6). Sackcloth. A token of mourning (1 Kings 20:31; Isaiah 15:3;

Joel 1:8, 13). Baldness. On shaving the head as a sign of mourning, see

note on Micah 1:16; and compare Job 1:20; Isaiah 3:24; Jeremiah 16:6; 47:5;

Ezekiel 7:18). I will make it; Ponam eam (Vulgate); sc. terram. But it is better

to take it to refer to the whole state of things mentioned before. The mourning

for an only son was proverbially severe, like that of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:12,

compare Jeremiah 6:26; Zechariah 12:10). And the end thereof as a bitter

day. The calamity should not wear itself out; it should be bitter unto the

end. Septuagint, Θήσομαι... τοὺς μέτ αὐτοῦ ὡς ἡμέραν ὀδύνης - Thaesomai..tous

met autou hos haemeran odunaes - “I will make… those with him as a day of anguish.”

 

 

 

 

                                                Avarice (vs. 4-10)

 

“Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the

land. to fail,” etc. The prophet here resumes his denunciatory discourse to

the avaricious oppressors of the people. The verses may be taken as God’s

homily to greedy men. “Hear this.” Hush! pay attention to what I am going

to say. Listen, “ye that swallow up the needy.” The words suggest three

remarks concerning avarice.

 

·         IT IS APPALLING IN ITS SPIRIT.

 

1. It is sacrilegious. “When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell

corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat?” Bad as Israel was, it

still kept up the outward observances of religion (something that secularism

in America does not do.  CY - 2022)  ), yet these observances they regarded

as commercial inconveniences. In their hearts they wished

them away, when they seemed to obstruct their greedy plans. With

sacrilegious spirit, they treated religious institutions as worthless in

comparison with sordid gain. Avarice in heart has no reverence for

religion.

 

2. It is dishonest. “Making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and

falsifying the balances by deceit.” It is always overreaching, always

cheating; it generally victimizes the poor; it makes its fortunes out of the

brain and muscles, the sweat and life, of the needy.

 

3. It is cruel. “Ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the

land to fail That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of

shoes.” Avarice deadens all social affections, steels the heart, and makes its

subject utterly indifferent to all interests but its own; it will swallow up, or

as some render it, gape after, the needy just as the wild beast pants after its

prey. “Greedy men are a generation whose teeth are as swords, and their

jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy

from amongst men” (Proverbs 30:14).

 

·         IT IS ABHORRENT TO JEHOVAH. “The Lord hath sworn by the

Excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works.” Some

render the “Excellency of Jacob” the “Pride of Jacob,” and suppose the

expression to mean that Israel professed to regard Him as its Glory; and

therefore it is by Himself that God swears, for He can swear by no one

greater. God observes all the cruelties which avarice inflicts upon the poor.

Nothing is more abhorrent to His benevolent nature than covetousness. One

of the leading principles in his moral code is, “Thou shalt not covet thy

neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his

manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything

that is thy neighbor’s.”   (Exodus 20:17)  Against no sin did His blessed

Son preach more earnestly. “Take heed, beware of covetousness,” said He,

for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he

possesses.”’ (Luke 12:15). He closes the gates of heaven against covetousness.

“The covetous shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven” (1 Corinthians 6:10).

 

1. It is repugnant to His nature. His love is disinterested, unbounded love,

working ever for the good of the universe. Greed is a hideous antagonist to

this.

 

2. It is hostile to universal happiness. He created the universe in order to

diffuse happiness; but greed is against it.

 

   a.  It is against the happiness of its possessor. The soul under the influence

        of covetousness can neither grow in power nor be gratified in desire.

        Avarice is an element of hell. It is in truth one of the fiery furies of

        the soul.

 

   b.  It is against the happiness of society. It prompts men to appropriate

        more of the common good than belongs to them, and thus to diminish the

        required supplies of the multitude. It is the creator of monopoly, and

        monopoly is the devil of social life.

 

·         IT IS A CURSE TO SOCIETY. See what punishment comes on the

land through this! “Shall not the land tremble for this,” etc.? Observe:

 

1. How God makes nature an avenging angel He makes “the land tremble.”

He toucheth the hills, and they smoke” (Psalm 104:32), pours out waters as

a flood. He can make the world of waters deluge the earth as the overflowing

Nile at times inundates the land of Egypt. He can (to use human language) roll

back the sun. “I will cause the sun to go down at noon.”

 

2. How God makes a multitude to suffer on account of the iniquities of the

few. “And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into

lamentations; and I will bring up sackcloth,” etc.

 

·         CONCLUSION. Avoid covetousness. It is the chief of the principalities

and powers of darkness. It may be considered the great fountain whence all

the streams of crime and misery flow forth. It is eternally opposed to the

virtue and happiness of the universe. The fable of Midas in Grecian

mythology is strikingly illustrative of this tremendous evil. Bacchus once

offered Midas his choice of gifts. He asked that whatever he might touch

should be changed into gold. Bacchus consented, though sorry that he had

not made a better choice. Midas went his way rejoicing in his newly

acquired power which he hastened to put to the test. He could scarcely

believe his eyes when he found a twig of an oak, which he had plucked,

become gold in his hand. He took up a stone, and it changed to gold. He

touched a sod; it did the same. He took an apple from a tree; you would

have thought he had robbed the garden of the Hesperides. His joy knew no

bounds; and when he got home he ordered the servants to set a splendid

repast on the table. Then he found to his dismay that whether he touched

bread, it hardened in his hand, or put a morsel to his lips, it defied his teeth.

He took a glass of wine, but it flowed down his throat like melted gold. In

utter terror, fearing starvation, be held up his arms shining with gold to

Bacchus, and besought him to take back his gift. Bacchus said, “Go to the

river Pactolus: trace the stream to its fountainhead; there plunge your head

and body in, and wash away your fault and its punishment.” Hence Midas

learned to hate wealth and splendor.

 

 

 

                                    Carried Away as with a Flood (vs. 8-10)

 

A man in earnest is always graphic. If he be also inspired he can afford to

be explicit. In this passage Amos is both. The words were spoken before

the convulsions they foretell, and written after some of them had occurred.

But the descriptions of events, transpired between the speaking and the

writing, have no flavor of an ex post facto deliverance. There is a bare

record of the original verbal utterance without the attempt to write into any

part of it details of what meantime had become history. Such an apologetic

device, suicidal in any case, is a thing to which a man who is God’s

mouthpiece could not and needs not stoop.

 

·         THE EARTH TREMBLING WHEN GOD SWEARS. “For this” (v. 8),

i.e. the oath of God, and its purport. That oath means a catastrophe on

the way in the shock of which the earth would tremble. The very utterance

of it was a cause of trembling. “He uttered His voice, the earth melted.”

(Psalm 46:6)  His word is a word of power. It operates in the physical forces,

and shakes the whole frame of nature. In the poetic language of the psalmist,

“the voice of the Lord breaketh the cedars;” “shaketh the

wilderness;” (divideth the flames of fire.” (Psalm 29:5, 7-8);  In the

world of matter, as in the world of spirit, the great ultimate force is the

Word of God.

 

·         THE CREATION SUFFERING IN THE SUFFERINGS OF MEN.

Man sins, and the earth is smitten. It was so at first with the ground. It was

so at the Deluge with the lower animals and plants. It is so here. The

universe is one throughout, and all its parts are in closest connection and

interdependence. “Not a leaf rotting on the highway but is an indissoluble

part of solar and stellar worlds” (Carlyle). Our life, our animal spirits, our

reason itself, have fundamental and probably undiscovered relations with

the sun and moon and stars. Relations so intimate may be assumed to be

mutual, and we need not be surprised if we find casualties meant primarily

for either extending to both.

 

·         GOD’S JUDGMENTS, LONG THREATENED, TAKE THE

INCREDULOUS BY SURPRISE AT LAST. (v. 9.) The antediluvians

were no better prepared for the Flood by their hundred and twenty years’

warning. They absorbed themselves in their work and pleasure, and knew

not till the Flood came (Matthew 24:38-39). So with the Sodomites,

warned by Lot (Genesis 19:14); and the inhabitants of Jerusalem at its

capture, warned by Christ (Matthew 24:33). Warning is thrown away

on UNBELIEF and its end is always A SURPRISE!  In this case the sun

would set at noon. The end would come untimely. In the midst of days and

prosperity Israel would be cut off.  (Think of how people are absorbed in

the Stock Market and materialism in our day!  CY - 2022) There would be

no anticipation, no fear, no suspicion even, of such an event. So with the

ungodly at last. The judgment will surprise them and look UNTIMELY but

only because their incredulity they make irremediable. 

 

·         RETRIBUTION CLOSELY ADJUSTED TO THE

CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CRIMINAL. (v. 10.)

 

Ř      Sinners are smitten in their joys.

Ř      The covetous in their possessions,

Ř      the luxurious in their luxuries,

Ř      the revelers in their revelries.

 

When sackcloth and ashes are substituted for “ivory couches,” and baldness

for hair fragrant with the chief ointments, when howls rend the throats till

lately melodious in song, the stroke is identified as that of One who never

“beats the air.” The fly of judgment, selecting infallibly the sore spot of

the sufferer, reveals its mission as from God himself. The joys in which

the sinner is smitten are, moreover, those most closely connected with

his sins. God’s stroke is as obviously righteous as appropriate. Falling on

the sins that provoke them, God’s judgments are self-interpreting. Israel’s

luxurious appliances were simply plunder, the wages of iniquity, sometimes

even the price of blood.  Hence God singles them out for special attack, and

will plague Israel rigorously in every pleasure that has its root in sin.

 

·         THE FINALITY OF GOD’S RETRIBUTIVE ACT. The rule is that

judgment is more severe in proportion as it is long delayed.

 

1. It makes an end. The sun goes down, and ends the day of life. After that

nothing can come but night — the night of death. Destruction for sinners

of Israel, destruction for all such sinners while the world stands, is the

Divine provision. When the last measure of retribution is executed, the last

shred of the sinner’s good has been torn away.

 

2. That end unspeakably bitter. The wine cup of God’s fury is necessarily a

bitter draught. There is wounded dignity in it, and wasted mercy, and

outraged love, and all ingredients which are gall and wormwood in the

mouth. They are digging for themselves Marah pools no branch can

sweeten, who “heap up wrath against the day of wrath,” etc.

 

3. That bitterness the bitterness of utter desolation. “And make it like

mourning for an only one.” That is bitter mourning indeed. The loss of an

only one is total loss, including our all. It is irreparable loss, for the dead

cannot come back. It is loss not physical merely, nor sentimental merely,

but loss wringing the heart strings, and leaving us with the very jewel of

life torn from its setting. Such is the mourning in which unforgiven sin is

expiated at last. It is heart agony, unrelieved, unmitigated, and never to

end:

 

Ř      “Son, remember;”  (Luke 16:25)

Ř      “There shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth;” (Matthew 13:42)

Ř      “Their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched.”  (Isaiah

66:24; Mark 9:44,46)

 

 

 

 

                                                 A Bitter Day  (v. 10)

 

There is something incongruous in this language. Day is the bright and

beauteous gift of God, and its sunlight and all the glory it reveals may justly

be taken as the emblem of happiness and prosperity. The light is sweet; the

day is joyous. Yet here there is depicted a bitter day! The context makes it

evident that this is attributable to sin, which makes all sweet things bitter,

and all bright things dim.

 

·         THE BITTER DAY OF ISRAEL CONTRASTS WITH BYGONE

DAYS OF SWEETNESS. Festivals and songs are mentioned in the

context as distinctive of the religious life of the chosen people. And in

times of national plenty and prosperity there had never been wanting

abundance and even luxury, mirth and music, festivity and joy. These

things have vanished into the past now that the “bitter day” has dawned.

 

·         THE BITTER DAY OF ISRAEL IS MARKED BY

CIRCUMSTANCES OF TERRIBLE DISTRESS. The sun goes down, the

land is darkened, mourning and lamentation are heard, sackcloth is worn,

the hair is shaved off the heads lately anointed for the banquet and

wreathed with flowers; the signs are those of “mourning for an only son.”

The fallen and wretched condition of the nation could not be depicted more

graphically. The prophet artist is skilful to heighten the dark colors which

are expressive of Israel’s woe.

 

·         THE BITTER DAY OF ISRAEL IS THE RESULT OF ISRAEL’S

SINS. What is called misfortune and calamity is often really punishment.

There was nothing accidental in what befell this nation. On the contrary,

Israel brought disaster upon itself by unfaithfulness, disobedience,

rebellion. As the people had sown, so they were to reap. Under the

government of a just God it cannot be otherwise. The fruit of sin cannot be

otherwise than bitter.

 

·         THE BITTER DAY OF ISRAEL IS SUGGESTIVE OF LESSONS

OF WISDOM TO EVERY NATION. The rule of a righteous God is a fact

not to be disputed. The retributive consequences of that rule are not to be

evaded. Let not the people imagine a vain thing, or the rulers take counsel

together against the Lord.  

 

11 “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a

famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but

of hearing the words of the LORD:” This shall be the bitterness at the end;

they had rejected the warnings of the prophets (ch.7:12, etc.); now the Word of God

and the light of His teaching should fail them. Famine. When the light of God’s

revelation is withdrawn, their longing for the Word, however sore and

great, shall remain unsatisfied, like that of Saul (1 Samuel 28:6-8 ). They

may grieve like the psalmist, “We see not our signs; there is no more any

prophet; neither is there among us any that knoweth how long” (Psalm

74:9); but it will be in vain (see a similar punishment threatened,

Lamentations 2:9; Ezekiel 7:26; Micah 3:7).       

 

 

 

                                 Famine of the Word of God (v. 11)

 

There are many blessings which are not suitably valued until they are

withdrawn and missed. It is so with bodily health, with political liberty,

with domestic happiness. And the prophet assumes that it will be found the

same with the Word of God. When it is possessed — when the Scriptures

are read and the Gospel is heard — it is too often the case that the

privilege is unappreciated. But what must it be to be shut off from all

communication with Heaven! And such, it was foretold, was to be the lot

of Israel in the days of retribution and calamity which were about to

overtake Israel

 

·         THE WORDS OF GOD ARE TO THE SOUL AS BREAD AND

WATER TO THE BODY. Man’s bodily constitution is such that food and

drink are a necessity to health and even to life; to be even partially starved

is to be disabled and to be rendered wretched. Even so, the truth, the

righteousness, the love of God, are the necessary aliment of the spiritual

nature. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that

proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)  Fellowship with God

by His Word is indispensably necessary in order that a high, holy, and

acceptable service may be rendered.

 

·         A FAMINE OF THE WORD OF GOD IS TO BE DREADED AS

DETRIMENTAL TO SPIRITUAL LIFE AND WELL BEING.

 

1. If the knowledge of God Himself be withheld, there is for man no

solution of all the mysteries of the universe, or the mysteries of His being.

 

2. If the Law of God be concealed, there is no sufficient guide through

human life.

 

3. If the gospel of Christ be withheld, there is no peace for the conscience,

no sufficient inspiration for duty, no assurance of immortality.

 

4. If revelation be denied, there is no power, no principle sufficient to guide

and to govern human society. (Vide ‘The Eclipse of Faith,’ by the late

Henry Rogers, where a chapter “The Blank Bible,” sets forth the

consequences which may be supposed to follow upon the disappearance of

the Holy Scriptures.)  (See it in its entirety below)

 

·         THOSE WHO POSSES THE WORD OF GOD SHOULD BY

THESE CONSIDERATIONS BE INDUCED TO STUDY IT AND TO

USE IT ARIGHT. Neglect of the Divine Word may not in our case entail

the actual deprivation foretold in the text. But it certainly will entail an

indifference and insensibility to the truth, which will be equally injurious

and disastrous. Now the Word is ours; let us listen to it with reverence and

faith; let us obey it with alacrity and diligence. “Walk in the light while ye

            have the light, lest darkness come upon you.”   (John 12:35)                                                                                                                                                                                    

 

12  “And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to

the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD,

and shall not find it.” They shall wander; literally, they shall reel. The verse

implies the eagerness of their unsatisfied desire, which seeks everywhere for the

revelation which for their sin is denied them. From sea to sea. This

expression is taken, by Keil and others, to mean here “all the world over,”

as Psalm 72:8; Micah 7:12; Zechariah 9:10; but it is probably

used by the prophet in a more restricted sense, as it would not be natural

for him to refer in the first place to the seeking of the words of God

beyond the limits of the Holy Land. Therefore “from sea to sea” means

from the Sea of Galilee or the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean; and from

the north even to the east — from the north round again to the east, the

south not being mentioned, because there alone was the true worship of

God to be found, and they refused to seek it there (Pusey). Of course,

according to the wide scope taken by prophecy, which is not exhausted by

one fulfillment, we may see here the fate of the Jews to the present time

hopelessly seeking Messiah and the Word of God, never finding THAT WHICH

THEY ONCE RECKLESSLY REJECTED!  By some error the Septuagint render,

Σαλευθήσονται ὕδατα ἀπὸ τῆς θαλάσσης κ.τ.λ. - Saleuthaesontai hudata apo taes

thlassaes k. t. l. - they shall be shaked as water from sea north to east - etc. - unless

they mean,“They shall be tossed as waters,” etc.

 

13  “In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst.”

This verse is parallel to the preceding. The thirst, spiritual and

physical, shall affect the fair virgins and young men — those in all the

freshness, beauty, and vigor of youth. Shall faint; literally, shall be

veiled, covered, expressive of the feeling of faintness, when the sight grows

dim and a mantle of darkness drops over one (Jonah 4:8). If the

strongest thus fail, much more will the rest succumb to the threatened

calamity.

 

 

                                    Soul Famine (vs. 11-13)

 

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in

the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the

words of the Lord,” The Israelites now despised the message of the

prophets, and by a just retribution, in addition to all their other calamities,

they should experience a total withdrawal of all prophetic communications.

In whatever direction they might proceed, and whatever efforts they might

make to obtain information relative to the issue of their trouble, they

should meet with nothing but disappointment. The subject of these words

is soul famine, and they suggest three general remarks.

 

·         THAT THE PROFOUNDEST WANT OF HUMAN NATURE IS A

COMMUNICATION FROM THE ETERNAL MIND. This is implied in

the Divine menace of sending a worse famine than the mere want of bread

and water. They were special communications from Himself, not the

ordinary communications of nature, that Jehovah here refers to. And man

has no greater necessity than this; it is the one urgent and imperial need.

Two great questions are everlastingly rising from the depths of the human

soul

 

1. How does the Eternal feel in relation to me as a sinner? Nature tells me

how He feels in relation to me as a creature; but nature was written before I

fell.

 

2. How am I to get my moral nature restored? I have a sense of guilt that is

sometimes intolerable; the elements of my nature are in eternal conflict; I

have sadly terrible forebodings of the future. Now, the special Word of

God can alone answer these questions. These are the problems of men the

world over. God’s Word is to the human soul what food is to the body, that

which alone can strengthen, sustain, and satisfy. But as THE SOUL IS OF

INFINITELY MORE IMPORTANCE THAN THE BODY!  THE

DIVINE WORD IS MORE NEEDED THAN MATERIAL FOOD!

 

·         THAT THE GREATEST DISEASE OF HUMAN NATURE IS A

LACK OF APPETITE FOR THIS COMMUNICATION. Which is the

greater want of the body — the want of food, or the want of appetite for

food? The latter, I think, for the latter implies disease. It is so with the soul.

The vast majority of souls have lost the appetite for the Divine Word. They

are perishing, shrivelling up, for the lack of it. The desire is gone!  They die,

not for the want of the food, but for the want of appetite. As a rule, the

starvation of souls is not for the lack of food, but for the lack of appetite.

The worst of this disease is:

 

(1) men are not conscious of it;

(2) it works the worst ruin.

 

·         THAT THE GREATEST MISERY OF HUMAN NATURE IS A

RAVENOUS APPETITE AND NO SUPPLIES. “They shall wander from

sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to

seek the Word of the Lord, and shall not find it.”

 

1. The appetite will be quickened sooner or later. Sometimes — would it

were ever so! — it is quickened here, where supplies abound. Hear Job’s

cry, “Oh that I knew where I might find Him!” (Job 23:3)  And hear Saul’s

cry at Endor, “Bring me up Samuel.” (I Samuel 28:11) Oh for one word from

His lips, one  loving sentence from the mouth of the great Father! “Bring me

up Samuel” (The reason being:  “And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the

Lord  answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.”

ibid. v. 6 - CY - 2022)

 

2. When the appetite is quickened and there is no supply, it is an

inexpressible calamity. SUCH A PERIOD WILL COME!  “The days

 shall come,” says Christ, “when ye shall desire to see one of the days

of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it” (Luke 17:22). And again,

“Ye shall seek me, and not find me: for where I am, thither ye cannot come”

(John 7:34).  (Contrast this with the opportunities that we have in life to

seek Him.  Consider Jeremiah 29:10-23, especially v. 14, “And ye shall

seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

And I will be found of you, saith the Lord....” CY - 2022)

Oh miserable state of immortal souls, to be crying to the heavens, and

those heavens to be as hard as brass!

 

14  They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy God, O Dan,

liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall,

and never rise up again. They who trusted in idols shall find no help in them.

They who swear by. Those who reverence and worship, as Deuteronomy 6:13;

10:20. The sin of Samaria. The golden calf at Bethel (compare Deuteronomy 9:21;

Hosea 8:5-6). Septuagint, κατὰ τοῦ ἱλασμοῦ Σαμαρείας - kata tou ilasmou Samareias -

 by the propitiation of Samaria. Thy god, O Dan, liveth; i.e. as thy god liveth, by the

life of thy god. This was the other calf erected at Dan, near the source of the Jordan,

in the extreme north (1 Kings 12:29). The manner of Beersheba liveth; Septuagint,

Ζῆθεός σου βηρσαβεέ - Zae ho theos sou Baersabee -  “Thy god, O Beersheba,

lives.” Some commentators, ancient and modem, think that the actual road which

led to Beersheba is here meant, and would translate, “As the way to Beersheba

liveth,” “By the life of the way to Beersheba,” as Mohammedans swear by the

pilgrimage to Mecca. But it is best to take the word rendered “manner” in the

sense of “way,” as ὁδὸς - hodus is used in Acts (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23) for mode of

worship, or form of religion, the ritual, or use of the service there. (For

Beersheba, see note on ch. 5:5.) From Dan to Beersheba is just a

hundred and forty-four miles. They shall fall, etc. This was partially

fulfilled by the destruction of the kingdom of Israel and the deportation of

its inhabitants; and its truth to this day is demonstrated by the fate of the

Jews who will not receive Jesus as the promised Messiah.

 

 

 

 

The Scarcity that Swallows the Residue of Good

                                    (vs. 11-14)

 

To waste is to want, in things temporal and spiritual alike. Abuse is

inevitably followed by deprivation, and the prodigal is one who is

purveying for himself a suit of rags. God caps our “will not” with His “shall

not,” and the rude hand of change soon spills the cup of good we have

refused to taste. Under the operation of this law the nation of Israel would

now come. They had wasted the Word of God, neglecting it, despising it,

and at last forbidding it to be spoken. Now they should “want” it as a penal

result. It would, be taken from them in anger, and that at a time when even

their inappreciation would long for it as for life itself. Observe here:

 

·         THE WORST OF ALL FAMINES. “Not a hungering for bread, nor a

thirst for water, but to hear the words of Jehovah.” This is a new form of

disaster, and one that is specially severe. This follows from the fact that:

 

1. It is in the spiritual sphere. “Fear not them which kill the body.”

(Matthew 10:28)  IT IS THE LEAST PART OF US!  Whether it live or die,

enjoy or suffer, is a question involving trivial interests, and these during a

limited period. THE SOUL IS THE MAN and its well being, next to

God’s glory, the great interest. For its injury there is no compensation,

for its loss no parallel. When it suffers, the worst has happened.

 

2. It is due to the loss of a necessary of spiritual life. The deepest need of

humanity is a communication from God. “This is life eternal, to know thee

the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”  (John 17:3)

Hence the Word which God speaks is the Word of life. Apart from it

spiritual life is impossible.

 

(To illustrate this I recommend the introduction to the following sermon

by Charles H. Spurgeon - If you are interested, you can Google it to read,

but if you prefer, you can listen to it in audio form at 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=de-cHGkD8Ts  CY - 2022)

 

 

 

            LIVING ON THE WORD.

 

                                                DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,

 

               AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON,

 

          ON THURSDAY EVENING, MARCH 15, 1883.

 

“Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the

mouth of the LORD doth man live.” — Deuteronomy 8:3.

 

THE main thing for every one of us is life. What would it profit a man, if

he should gain the whole world, and lose his own life? Of what avail would

riches be if life were gone? What is the value of broad acres to a dead man,

or the applause of nations to one who lies in his sepulcher? The first thing,

therefore, that a man is to look to, is life. There are some persons who take

this truth in a wrong sense, and so make mischief of it. They say, “We must

live;” whereas, in the sense in which they mean it, there is no such necessity

at all. That we must continue to live here, is not at all clear; it were better

far for us to die than to live by sinning. Martyrs have preferred to suffer

most fearful deaths rather than, even by a word, to bring disgrace upon the

name of Christ; and every true Christian would prefer immediate death

rather than dishonor his great Lord. and Master.

 

Now, brethren, according to our common notion, if we must live, we must

eat; we must eat bread, which is the staff of life; and, sometimes, when

bread is scarce, and hunger sets up its sharp pangs, men have been driven

to put forth their hand unto iniquity to provide themselves with necessary

food. You remember how our Divine Lord, who is our perfect Exemplar in

all things, acted when he was in this case. When he had fasted in the

wilderness forty days and forty nights, he hungered, and then the evil one

came to him, and said, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these

stones be made bread.” This was, in effect, saying, “Leave off trusting in

your Heavenly Father. He has evidently deserted you; he has left you in the

wilderness among the wild beasts; and though he feeds them, he has not

fed you. He has left you to starve; therefore, help yourself; exercise your

own power. Though you have put it under God’s keeping, and, being here

on earth, you have become your Father’s servant, yet steal a little of your

service from your Father, and use it on your own behalf. Take some of that

power which you have devoted to his great work, and employ it for your

own comfort. Leave off trusting in your Father; command those stones to

be made bread.” At once this text flashed forth, as the Master drew it out,

like a sword from its scabbard: “It is written, khan shall not live by broad

alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” It was

only by the use of this “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,”

that the arch-enemy was driven off from Christ; and I want to use that

weapon now. I may say of it what DAVID said of the sword of Goliath,

“There is none like, that; give it me.” That sword, with which Christ won

the victory, is the best one for his servants to employ.

 

This answer of our Lord. to the tempter teaches us that the sustenance of

our life, although naturally, and according to the ordinary appearance of

things, it depends upon bread, yet really depends upon God. It is God who

gives the bread the power to nourish the man. To me, it seems a great

mystery that bread, or any other kind of food, should do this. I can

understand how, being matter in a certain form, it tends to build up the

material structure of the body, albeit that the process is a very wonderful

one by which bread turns into flesh, and blood, and bone, and muscle, and

hair, and all sorts of things, by a perpetual working of the power of God.

But it is more remarkable still that this material should seem, at any rate, to

some extent, to nourish man’s heart, so that the very soul and the living

principle within him should be dependent upon its being sustained by the

food of the body. Can any of us to tell how it is that the inner spirit sots in

motion the muscles of the hand, and the nerves that communicate with the

brain? How is it that the impalpable spirit thing which you cannot see or

hear, which is not itself at all material, — yet possesses powers by which it

controls the materialism of this outward body? And how is it that the

material substance in bread somehow works to the keeping of our spirit in

connection with this flesh and blood? I cannot explain this mystery, but I

believe it to be a continual miracle wrought by God. I am frequently told

that miracles have ceased. It seems to me that miracles are the rule of

God’s working, and that, everywhere, things of marvel and of wonder are

to be perceived if we will look below the outward appearance. Dig for a

while beneath the mere surface, and we shall see —

 

                        “A world of wonders: I can say no less.”

 

According to our text, we are called upon to observe that the power which

keeps us alive is not in the bread itself, but in God, who chooses to make

use of the bread as his agent in nourishing our frame. I do not infer from

this truth that therefore I ought never to eat, but to live by faith, because

God can make me live without bread. Some people seem to me to be very

unwise widen they infer that, because Goal can heal me, therefore I am

never to take fit and proper medicine for a disease, because I am to trust in

Got, I do trust in God, but I trust in God in God’s own way; and his way

of procedure is this, if I wish to satisfy hunger, I must ordinarily eat bread;

if I wish to be cured of any malady, I must take the remedy he has

provided. That is his general rule of working; but, still, it would be an

equally grievous error, and would show another form of folly, if we were

to say that it is the bread or the medicine that does the work. It is the bread

that feeds, it is the medicine that heals; but it is God who works by these

means; or, if he pleases, who works without them. If it were necessary that

his child should live, and he did not choose to put ravens into commission

to bring him bread and meat, or if he did not command a widow woman to

sustain his servant, yet he could support him without any means, for “man

shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the

mouth of God.” When the Lord speaks, and bids him live, he lives. God

spoke the world into existence; his Word still keeps the whole fabric of the

universe upon its pillars; and, surely, that Word is able to sustain our soul

in life even without the use of outward means, or by means as long as God

pleases.

 

That, I think, is the meaning of the text. God took his people into the

wilderness, where there was no sowing, no reaping, no making bread, and

they seemed as if they must be famished there; but, then, God made the

manna drop from heaven, to show that, if not by one means, yet by another

he could sustain them. He took them where there were no rippling brooks

or gentle purling streams of water, but his servant struck the flinty rock,

and the water came forth to show that God could give men drink, not only

from the fountains of the deep below, or by rain from the clouds above, but

from the solid rocks if so he pleased. God can give you bread to eat, my

friend. Though not perhaps in the way you hope, it may come in a fashion

of which you have never even dreamed. I have read of one who was

condemned to be starved to death; and, as the judge pronounced the

sentence, he said to him, “And what can your God do for you now?” The

man replied, “My God can do this for me, — if he pleases, he can feed me

from your table.” And so it happened, though the judge never knew it, for

his own wife sent food to the poor man, and kept him in life till at last he

regained his liberty. God has a way of using most unlikely instruments to

effect his purpose. He can, if he pleases, make the waters stand upright as a

heap, until the chosen nation has passed through the midst of the sea; or he

can permit the fire to blaze around his people, and yet keep them from

being burned, as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego came forth unharmed

from Nebuchadnezzar’s burning fiery furnace, and not even the smell of

fire had passed upon them.

 

I now come to the more spiritual meaning of the text; and I pray God to

make it to be rich food for your souls. I ask you to notice, first, the Word:

“every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord.” Secondly,

consider the use we are to make of the Word; we are to live upon it; and

then, thirdly, note the adaptation of that Word to our use, — every word

of it, for, according to the text, we do not live upon some words that come

out of God’s mouth: “but by every word that proeeedeth out of the mouth

of the Lord doth man live.”   (I recommend the whole sermon which can be

found at the above address:  CY - 2022)

 

 

(I reiterate the point above here to pick up where we left off:  CY - 2022)

 

2. It is due to the loss of a necessary of spiritual life. The deepest need of

humanity is a communication from God. “This is life eternal, to know thee

the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”  (John 17:3)

Hence the Word which God speaks is the Word of life. Apart from it

            spiritual life is impossible

 

(1) It is the revelation of spiritual things. God and His will and way; the

soul, its duty and destiny, — are subjects on which it alone throws

adequate light. The light of nature makes known the existence of God, and

some features of His character. But its twilight, whilst touching here and

there a mountain top, leaves all the valleys in darkness. After trying four

thousand years, “the world by wisdom knew not God”  (I Corinthains 1:21),

and did not because it could not. In all saving relations Christ is the

Revelation of the Father (Hebrews 1:1; John 1:18), and Scripture

alone reveals Christ (ibid. ch. 5:39), and the way of life through Him.

 

(2) It is the vehicle of spiritual power. “The power of God unto salvation”

(Romans 1:16) is Paul’s synonym for the gospel. Spiritual energy, no doubt,

inheres  (exists essentially or permanently) in the Holy Spirit, but He operates

only through or with the truth It carries the power:

 

a.   by which life is given (1 Peter 1:23),

b.   by which life functions are discharged (Romans 10:17),

c.   by which the life principle is sustained (Jeremiah 15:16),

d.   by which growth is promoted (1 Peter 2:2).

 

In fine, the “engrafted Word,” received with meekness, “is able to save our

souls  James 1:21).  The power:

 

a.  that begins,

b.  that sustains,

c.  that develops,

d.  that matures religious life

 

is a power linked inseparably to the Word. That any saving

grace is attainable in the absence of it is a thing impossible of proof,

and which all Scripture testimony bears against.

 

(3) It is the assurance of spiritual good. We are saved by hope,” and it is

through patience and comfort of the Scriptures that this heavenly candle is

lighted in the soul (Romans 8:24; 15:4). The Scriptures reveal the

heavenly blessings in store, and thus supply the warp and woof (essential

foundation) out of which the web of comfort is woven. What we shall have,

and that we shall have it, is the burden of the Word of promise, which,

making the rich future sure, makes thus the present glad and strong.

 Poor indeed would man be if there were no such word to twine the heart’s

ease when his brow is wrung in anguish and distress. To Israel, sinful but

penitent, God elsewhere, allotting the bread of adversity, promises, Thine

eyes shall see thy teachers,” etc. (Isaiah 30:20-21). This is calamity, but with

compensation. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that

cometh out of the mouth of God;” and with God, their Guide and

Counselor, no scarcity of bread could make them altogether wretched.

But, vice versa, the proposition will not hold. For the loss of the Word

there is no offset possible. The impoverishment is central and radical, and

all hedging is out of the question.

 

3. This loss at a time when it would be most keenly felt. “The Word of the

Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.”   (I Samuel 3:1)

The mere fact of the sudden withdrawal of the Word would create an

immediate demand for it. In this case the demand would rest on a practical

 necessity. “Crushed by oppressors, hearing only of gods more cruel than

those who make them, HOQ WILL THEY HUNGER AND THIRST FOR

ANY TIDINGS of One who cares for the weary and heavy laden?” (Maurice).

(See Matthew 11:28-30)  (CY)

 

(To illustrate this I am attaching below

 

 

        THE BLANK BIBLE.

 

          By

 

          Henry Rogers

 

curious and entertaining paper here reprinted is taken from a

little book called The Eclipse of Faith which, first published in 1852,

by the year I86o had reached a ninth edition, but has now been long

out of print. The author of the book was Henry Rogers, a theologian

and scholar of great repute and influence in his day. Rogers (I8o6-

I877) who was a Congregational minister and a voluminous author and

editor, held in succession various academic offices, among them the

Professorship of English language and literature at University College,

London. He was a man of wide culture and reading, and deep personal

pietyAs a Christian apologist he followed the tradition of Bishop

Butler. The Eclipse of Faith is an acute criticism of the many forms

of scepticism prevalent in his day. It called forth a reply from Francis

W. Newman, brother of the Cardinal, which was followed by a rejoinder,

The Defense of the Eclipse of Faith, in 1860. There is a good account of

Rogers and of his work in the Dictionary of National Biography.

W.G.J.

 

I thought I was at home, and that on taking up my Greek Testament

one morning to read (as is my wont) a chapter, I found, to my

surprise, that what seemed to be the old familiar book, was a total blank ;

not a character was inscribed in it or upon it. I supposed that some

book like it had, by some accident, got into its place ; and without

stopping to hunt for it, took down a large quarto volume which contained

both the Old and New Testaments. To my surprise, however,

this also was a blank from beginning to end. With that facility of

accommodation to any absurdities which is proper to dreams, I did

not think very much of the coincidence of two blank volumes having

been substituted for two copies of the Scriptures in two different

places, and therefore quietly reached down a copy of the Hebrew

Bible, in which I could just manage to make out a chapter. To my

increased surprise, and even something like terror, I found that this

also was a perfect blank. While I was musing on this unaccountable

phenomenon, my servant entered the room, and said that thieves had

been in the house during the night, for that her large Bible, which she

had left on the kitchen table, had been removed, and another volume

left by mistake in its place, of just the same size, but made of nothing

but white paper. She added, with a laugh, that it must have been a

very queer kind of thief to steal a Bible at all ; and that he should have

left another book instead, made it the more odd. I asked her if anything

else had been missed, and if there were any signs of people having

entered the house. She answered in the negative to both these questions;

and I began to be strangely perplexed.

 

On going out into the street, I met a friend, who, almost before

we had exchanged greetings, told me that a most unaccountable robbery

had been committed at his house during the night, for that every copy

of the Bible had been removed, and a volume of exactly the same size,

but of pure white paper, left in its stead. Upon telling him that the

same accident had happened to myself, we began to think that there

was more in it than we had at first surmised.

 

On proceeding further we found every one complaining, in similar

perplexity, of the same loss ; and before night it became evident that

a great and terrible " miracle " had been wrought in the world ; that

in one night silently, but effectually, that hand which had written its

terrible menace on the walls of Belshazzar's palace, had reversed the

miracle ; had sponged out of our Bibles every syllable they contained,

and thus reclaimed the most precious gift which heaven had bestowed,

and ungrateful man had abused.

 

I was curious to watch the effects of this calamity on the varied

characters of mankind. There was universally, however, an interest

in the Bible now it was lost, such as had never attached to it while it was

possessed ; and he who had been but happy enough to possess fifty

copies might have made his fortune. One keen speculator, as soon as

the first whispers of the miracle began to spread, hastened to the

depositories of the Bible Society and the great book-stocks in Paternoster

Row, and offered to buy up at a high premium any copies of the

Bible that might be on hand ; but the worthy merchant was informed

that there was not a single copy remaining. Some, to whom their

Bible had been a " blank " book for twenty years and who would never

have known whether it was full or empty, had not the lamentations of

their neighbours impelled them to look into it, were not the least loud

in their expressions of sorrow at this calamity. One old gentleman, who

had never troubled the book in his life, said it was " confounded hard

to be deprived of his religion in his old age " ; and then another, who

seemed to have lived as though he had always been of Mandeville's

opinion, that " private vices were public benefits," was all at once

alarmed for the morals of mankind. He feared, he said, that the loss of

the Bible would have " a cursed bad effect on the public virtue of the

country."

 

As the fact was universal and palpable, it was impossible that,

like other miracles, it should leave the usual loopholes for scepticism.

Miracles in general, in order to be miracles at all, have been singular or

very rare violations of a general law, witnessed, by a few, on whose

testimony they are received, and in the reception of whose testimony

consists the exercise of that faith to which they appeal. It was evident

that, whatever the reason of this miracle, it was not an exercise of docile

and humble faith founded on evidence no more than just sufficient

to operate as a moral test. This was a miracle which it could not be

denied, looked marvellously like a" judgment." However, there were,

in some cases, indications enough to show how difficult it is to give

such evidence as will satisfy the obstinacy of mankind. One old skeptical

fellow, who had been for years bed-ridden, was long in being convinced

(if, indeed he ever was) that anything extraordinary had occurred in

the world ; he at first attributed the reports of what he heard to the

" impudence " of his servants and dependents, and wondered that they

should dare to venture upon such a joke. On finding these assertions

backed by those of his acquaintance, he pished and pshawed, and looked

very wise, and ironically congratulated them on this creditable conspiracy

with the insolent rascals, his servants. On being shown the

old Bible, of which he recognised the binding, though he had never

seen the inside, and finding it a very fair book of blank paper, he quietly

observed that it was very easy to substitute the one book for the other,

though he did not pretend to divine the motives which induced people

to attempt such a clumsy piece of imposition ; and on their persisting

that they were not deceiving him, swore at them as a set of knaves,

who would fain persuade him out of his senses. On their bringing him

a pile of blank Bibles, backed by the asseverations of other neighbours,

he was ready to burst with indignation. " As to the volumes," he said,

cc it was not difficult to procure a score or two ' of commonplace books,'

and they had doubtless done so to carry on the cheat ; for himself, he

would sooner believe that the whole world was leagued against him,

than credit any such nonsense." They were angry, in their turn, at

his incredulity, and told him that he was very much mistaken if he

thought himself of so much importance that they would all perjure

themselves to delude him, since they saw plainly enough that he could

do that very easily for himself, without any help of theirs. They

really did not care one farthing whether he believed them or not : if

he did not choose to believe the story he might leave it alone. "Well,

well," said he, " it is all very fine ; but unless you show me, not one

of these blank books, which could not impose upon an owl, but one of

the very blank Bibles themselves, I will not believe." At this curious

demand, one of his nephews who stood by (a lively young fellow) was

so excessively tickled, that though he had some expectations from the

skeptic, he could not help bursting out into laughter ; but he became

grave enough when his angry uncle told him that he would leave him

in his will nothing but the family Bible, which he might make a ledger

of, if he pleased. Whether this resolute old skeptic ever vanquished

his incredulity, I do not remember.

 

Very different from the case of this skeptic was that of a most

excellent female relative, who had been equally long a prisoner to her

chamber, and to whom the Bible had been, as to so many thousands

more, her faithful companion in solitude, and the all-sufficient solace

of her sorrows. I found her gazing intently on the blank Bible, which

had been so recently bright to her with the lustre of immortal hopes.

She burst into tears as she saw me. " And has your faith left you too,

my gentle friend ? " said I. " No,'' she answered, " and I trust it never

willHe who has taken away the Bible has not taken away my memory,

and I now recall all that is most precious in that book which has so

long been my meditation. It is a heavy judgment upon the land ; and

surely," added this true Christian, never thinking of the faults of others,

I, at least, cannot complain, for I have not prized as I ought that

book which yet, of late years, I think I can say, I loved more than any

other possession on earth. But I know," she continued, smiling through

her tears,  that the sun shines, though clouds may veil him for a

moment ; and I am unshaken in my faith in those truths which have

been transcribed on my memory though they are blotted from my

book. In these hopes I have lived, and in these hopes I will die." I

have no consolation to offer to you," said I, for you need none."

She quoted many of the passages which have been, through all ages,

the chief stay of sorrowing humanity ; and I thought the words of

Scripture had never sounded so solemn or so sweet before.  I shall

often come to see you," I said,  to hear a chapter in the Bible, for you

know it far better than I."

 

No sooner had I taken my leave than I was informed that an old

lady of my acquaintance had summoned me in haste. She said she

was much impressed by this extraordinary calamity. As, to my certain

knowledge, she had never troubled the contents of the book, I was

surprised that she had so taken to heart the loss of that which had,

practically, been lost to her all her days. Sir," said she, the moment

I entered, "the Bible, the Bible." "Yes, madam," said I,  this is

a very grievous and terrible visitation. I hope we may learn the lessons

which it is calculated to teach us."  I am sure," answered she,  I

am not likely to forget it for a while for it has been a grievous loss to

me." I told her I was very glad. "Glad!" she rejoined.  Yes,''

I said,  I am glad to find that you think it so great a loss, for that loss

may then be a gain indeed. There is, thanks be to God, enough left

in our memories to carry us to heaven/' " Ah ! but," said she,  the

hundred pounds, and the villainy of my maid-servant. Have you not

heard ? " This gave me some glimpse as to the secret of her sorrow.

She told me that she had deposited several bank-notes in the leaves of the

family Bible, thinking that, to be sure, nobody was likely to look there

for them.  No sooner," said she,  were the Bibles made useless by

this strange event, than my servant peeped into every copy in the house,

and she now denies that she found anything in my old family Bible,

except two or three blank leaves of thin paper, which she says she

destroyed ; that if any characters were ever on them they must have

been erased, when those of the Bible were obliterated. But I am sure

she lies ; for who would believe that heaven took the trouble to blot out

my precious bank-notes? They were not God's word, I trow.'' It was

clear that she considered the  promise to pay " better by far than any

 promises " which the book contained.  I should not have cared so

much about the Bible," she whined, hypocritically,  because, as you

truly observe, our memories may retain enough to carry us to heaven "

-a little in that case would certainly go a great way, I thought to myself

 and if not, there are those who can supply the loss. But who is

to get my bank-notes back again ? Other people have only lost their

Bibles." It was, indeed, a case beyond my power of consolation.

The calamity not only strongly stirred the feelings of men, and

upon the whole, I think, beneficially, but it immediately stimulated

their ingenuity. It was wonderful to see the energy with which men

discussed the subject, and the zeal, too, with which they ultimately

exerted themselves to repair the loss. I could even hardly regret it,

when I considered what a spectacle of intense activity, intellectual and

moral, the visitation had occasioned. It was very early suggested that

the whole Bible had again and again been quoted piecemeal in one

book or other ; that it had impressed its own image on the surface of

human literature, and had been reflected on its course as the stars on

a stream. But alas ! on investigation it was found as vain to expect that

the gleam of star-light would still remain mirrored in the water, when

the clouds had veiled the stars themselves, as that the bright characters

of the Bible would remain reflected in the books of men when they

had been erased from the book of God. On inspection, it was found that

every text, every phrase which had been quoted, not only in books of

devotion and theology, but in those of poetry and fiction, had been

remorselessly expunged. Never before had I had any adequate idea

of the extent to which the Bible had moulded the intellectual and moral

life of the last eighteen centuries, nor how intimately it had interfused

itself with habits of thought and modes of expression ; nor how naturally

and extensively its comprehensive imagery and language had been

introduced into human writings, and most of all where there had been

most of genius. A vast portion of literature became instantly worthless,

and was transformed into so much waste paper. It was almost impossible

to look into any book of merit, and read ten pages together,

without coming to some provoking erasures and mutilations, some

hiatus 'Valde deflendiwhich made whole passages perfectly unintelligible.-

Many of the sweetest passages of Shakespeare were converted

to unmeaning nonsense, from the absence of those words which his

own all but divine genius had appropriated from a still diviner source.

As to Milton, he was nearly ruined, as might naturally be supposed.

Waiter Scott's novels were filled with perpetual lacunae. I hoped it

might be otherwise with the philosophers, and so it was ; but even here

it was curious to see what strange ravages the visitation had wrought.

Some of the most beautiful and comprehensive of Bacon's Aphorisms

were reduced to enigmatical nonsense.

 

Those who held large stocks of books knew not what to do. Ruin

stared them in the face ; their value fell seventy or eighty per cent.

All branches of theology, in particular, were a drug. One fellow said

that he should not so much have minded if the miracle had spunged

out what was human as well as what was divine, for in that case he

would at least have had so many thousand volumes of fair blank paper,

which was as much as many of them were worth before. A wag

answered, that it was not usual, in despoiling a house, to carry away

anything except the valuables. Meantime, millions of blank Bibles

filled the shelves of stationers, to be sold for day-books and ledgers so

that there seemed to be no more employment for the paper makers in

that direction for many years to come. A friend, who used to mourn

over the thought of palimpsest manuscripts-of portions of Livy and

Cicero erased to make way for the nonsense of some old monkish

chronicler-exclaimed, as he saw a tradesman trudging off with a

handsome morocco-bound quarto for a day-book, " only think of the

pages once filled with the poetry of Isaiah, and the parables of Christ,

sponged clean to make way for orders for silks and satins, muslins,

cheese, and bacon I " The old authors, of course, were left to their

mutilation ; there was no way in which the confusion could be remedied.

But the living began to prepare new editions of their works, in which

they endeavoured to give a new turn to the thoughts which had been

mutilated by erasure, and I was not a little amused to see that many,

having stolen from writers whose compositions were as much mutilated

as their own, could not tell the meaning of their own pages.

It seemed at first to be a not unnatural impression that even those

who could recall the erased texts as they perused the injured books who

could mentally fill up the imperfect clauses-were not at liberty

to inscribe them ; they seemed to fear that if they did so the characters

would be as if written in invisible ink, or would surely fade away. It

was with trembling that some at length made the attempt, and to their

unspeakable joy found the impression durable. Day after day passed ;

still the characters remained ; and the people at length came to the

conclusion that God left them at liberty, if they could, to reconstruct

the Bible for themselves out of their collective remembrances of its

divine contents. This led again to some curious results, all of them

singularly indicative of the good and ill that is in human nature. It

was with incredible joy that men came to the conclusion that the book

might be thus recovered nearly entire, and nearly in the very words of

the original, by the combined effort of human memories. Some of

the obscurest of the species, who had studied nothing else but the Bible,

but who had well studied that, came to be objects of reverence among

Christians and booksellers ; and the various texts they quoted were

taken down with the utmost care. He who could fill up a chasm by the

restoration of words which were only partially remembered, or could

contribute the least text that had been forgotten, was regarded as a

sort of public benefactor. At length, a great public movement amongst

the divines of all denominations was projected to collate the results of

these partial recoveries of the sacred text. It was curious again, to see

in how various ways human passions and prejudices came into play.

It was found that the several parties who had furnished from memory

the same portions of the sacred text, had fallen into a great variety of

different readings ; and though most of them were of as little importance

in themselves as the bulk of those which are paraded in the critical

recensions of Mill, Griesbach, or Tischendorf, they became, from the

obstinacy and folly of the men who contended about them, important

differences, merely because they were differences. Two reverend men

of the synod, I remember, had a rather tough dispute as to whether it

was twelve baskets full of fragments of the five loaves which the five

thousand left, and seven baskets full of the seven loaves which four

thousand had left, or vice versa: as also whether the words in John

vi. 19, were " about twenty or five and twenty," or " about thirty or

five and thirty furlongs."

 

To do the assembly justice, however, there was found an intense

general earnestness and sincerity befitting the occasion, and an equally

intense desire to obtain, as nearly as possible, the very words of the lost

volume; only (as was also, alas natural) vanity in some; in others,

confidence in their strong impressions and in the accuracy of their

memory; obstinacy, and pertinacity in many more (all aggravated as

usual by controversy), caused many odd embarrassments before the

final adjustment was effected.

 

I was particularly struck with the varieties of reading which mere

prejudices in favour of certain systems of theology occasioned in the

several partisans of each. No doubt the worthy men were generally

unconscious of the influence of these prejudices ; yet, somehow, the

memory was seldom so clear in relation to those texts which told against

them as in relation to those which told for them. A certain Quaker had

an impression that the words instituting the Eucharist were preceded

by a qualifying expression "and Jesus said to the twelve, Do this in

remembrance of me," while he could not exactly recollect whether or

not the formula of baptism was expressed in the general terms, some

maintained it was. Several Unitarians had a clear recollection that in

several places the authority of manuscripts, as estimated in Griesbach's

recension, was decidedly against the common reading ; while the

Trinitarians maintained that Griesbach's recension in those instances

had left that reading undisturbed. An Episcopalian began to have

his doubts whether the usage in favour of the interchange of the words

" bishop " and '' presbyter " was so uniform as the Presbyterian and

Independent maintained, and whether there was not a passage in which

Timothy and Titus were expressly called "bishops." The Presbyterian

and Independent had similar biases ; and one gentleman who was

a strenuous advocate of the system of the latter, enforced one equivocal

remembrance by saying, he could, as it were, distinctly see the very

spot on the page before his mind's eye. Such tridts will imagination

play with the memory, when preconception plays tricks with the

imagination! In like manner, it was seen that while the Calvinist

was very distinct in his recollection of the ninth chapter of Romans,

his memory was very faint as respects the exact wording of some of

the verses in the Epistle of James; and though the Arminian had a

most vivacious impression of all those passages which spoke of the

claims of the law, he was in some doubt whether the apostle Paul's

sentiments respecting human depravity, and justification by faith alone

had not been a little exaggerated. In short, it very clearly appeared

that tradition was no safe guide ; that if, even when she was hardly a

month old, she could play such freaks with the memories of honest

people, there was but a sorry prospect of the secure transmission of

truth for eighteen hundred years. From each man's memory seemed

to glide something or other which he was not inclined to retain there,

and each seemed to substitute in its stead something that he liked

better.

 

Though the assembly was in the main most anxious to come to a

right decision, and really advanced an immense way towards completing

a true and faithful copy of the lost original, the disputes which arose,

on almost every point of theology, promised the world an abundant crop

of new sects and schisms. Already there had sprung up several whose

names had never been heard of in the world, but for this calamity.

Amongst them were two who were called the " Long Memories "

and the " Short Memories." Their general tendencies coincided

pretty much with those of the orthodox and Rationalists.

 

It was curious to see by what odd associations, sometimes of

contrast sometimes of resemblance, obscure texts were recovered,

though they were verified, when once mentioned, by the consciousness

of hundreds. One old gentleman, a miser, contributed (and it was all

he did contribute) a maxim of prudence, which he recollected, principally

from having systematically abused it. All the ethical maxims,

indeed, were soon collected ; for though, as usual, no one recollected

his own peculiar duties or infirmities, every one, as usual, kindly

remembered those of his neighbours. Husbands remembered what was

due from their wives, and wives what was due from their husbands.

The unpleasant sayings about" better to dwell on the housetop," and

the perpetual dropping on a very rainy day," were called to mind by

thousands. Almost the whole of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes were contributed,

in the merest fragments, in this way. As for Solomon's

" times for every thing," few could remember them all, but everybody

remembered some. Undertakers said there was a " time to mourn,"

and comedians that there was a " time to laugh " ; young ladies innumerable

remembered there was a " time to love " ; and people of

all kinds that there was " a time to hate " ; everybody knew there was

a " time to speak " ; but a worthy Quaker reminded them that there

was also a " time to keep silence."

Some dry parts of the laws of Moses were recovered by the memory

of jurists, who seemed to have no knowledge whatever of any other

parts of the sacred volume ; while in like manner one or two antiquarians

supplied some very difficult genealogical and chronological

matters, in equal ignorance of the moral and spiritual contents of the

Scriptures.

 

As people became accustomed to the phenomenon, the perverse

humours of mankind displayed themselves in a variety of ways. The

efforts of the pious assembly were abundantly laughed at ; but I must,

in justice, add, without driving them from their purpose. Some

profane wags suggested there was now a good opportunity of realizing

the scheme of taking  not " out of the Commandments, and inserting

it in the Creed. But they were sarcastically told that the old objection

to the plan would still apply ; that they would not sin with equal relish

if they were expressly commanded to do so, nor take such pleasure in

infidelityif infidelity became a duty. Others said that if the world

must wait till the synod had concluded its labours, the prophecies of

the New Testament would not be written till some time after their

fulfillment ; and that if all the conjectures of the learned divines were

inserted in the new edition of the Bible, the declaration in John would

be literally verified, and that  the world itself would not contain all

the books which would be written."

 

But the most amusing thing of all, was to see, as time made man

more familiar with this strange event, the variety of speculations which

were entertained respecting its object and design. Many began gravely

to question whether it was the duty of the synod to attempt the reconstruction

of a book of which God himself had so manifestly deprived

the world, and whether it was not a profane, nay, an atheistical, attempt

to frustrate His will. Some, who were secretly glad to be released from

so troublesome a book, were particularly pious on this head, and exclaimed

bitterly against this rash attempt to counteract and cancel the

decrees of heaven. The Papists, on their part, were confident that the

design was to correct the exorbitancies of a rabid Protestantism, and

show the world, by direct miracle, the necessity of submitting to the

decision of their church and the infallibility of the supreme Pontiff;

who, as they truly alleged, could decide all knotty points quite as well

without the Word of God as with it. On being reminded that the

writings of the Fathers, on which they laid so much stress as the vouchers

of their traditions, were mutilated by the same stroke which had demolished

the Bible (all their quotations from the sacred volume being

erased), some of the Jesuits affirmed that many of the Fathers were

rather improved than otherwise by the omission, and that they found

these writings quite as intelligible and not less edifying than before.

In this, many Protestants very cordially agreed. On the other hand,

many of our modern infidels gave an entirely new turn to the whole

affair, by saying that the visitation was evidently not in judgment, but

in mercy ; that God in compassion, and not in indignation, had taken

away a book which men had regarded with an extravagant admiration

and idolatry, and which they had exalted to the place of that clear

internal oracle which he had planted in the human breast ; in a word,

that if it was a rebuke at all, it was a rebuke to a rampant " Bibliolatry ."

As I heard all these different versions of so simple a matter, and found

that not a few were inclined to each, I could not help exclaiming, " In

truth the devil is a very clever fellow, and man even a greater blockhead

than I had taken him for." But in spite of the surprise with which I

had listened to these various explanations of an event which seemed to

me dear as if written with a sunbeam, this last reason, which assigned

as the cause of God's resumption of his own gift, an extravagant admiration

and veneration of it on the part of mankind-it being so notorious

that those who professed belief in its divine origin and authority had

(even the best of them) so grievously neglected both the study and the

practice of it-struck me as so exquisitely ludicrous that I broke into a

fit of laughter which awoke me. I found that it was broad daylight,

and the morning sun was streaming in at the window and shining in

quiet radiance upon the open Bible which lay on my table. So strongly

had my dream impressed me, that I almost felt as though, on inspection,

I should find the sacred leaves a blank, and it was therefore with joy

that my eyes rested on those words, which I read through grateful tears :

" The gifts of God are without repentance."

 

Now back to the homily above:

 

·         THE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT PROVOKE IT. The unique rigor of

the penalty suggests some special circumstances in the provoking crime.

One of these would be:

 

1. Extreme heinousness. “There is a sin unto death.” (I John 5:16-18)

It will never be forsaken. It precludes the idea of penitence. It involves the

perversion, or rather inversion, of character, which “calls evil good,

and good evil.”  (Isaiah 5:20)   There is nothing for it but the extreme

penalty of being let alone. And even that will be inflicted. Saul had

provoked it when “God answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by

Urim, nor by prophets.” (I Samuel 28:6)   Israel had provoked it

when God said to His servant, “Thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to

them a reprover (Ezekiel 3:26; 7:26). When a man sins on principle,

he is not far off from “a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.”

 

2. Failure of other judgments to turn. “Why should ye be stricken any more?

ye will revolt more and more.”   (Isaiah 1:5)  Other judgments had been for

reformation and had failed; this would be for destruction — the only

alternative left. When “cure” is out of the question, what else is to be done

but “kill”?

 

3. Chafing under and rejecting the Word itself. Israel had heard more of

the words of the Lord than they wished. They had made an effort to get rid

of them, or some of them, by forbidding His prophets to speak His message.

More of the Word to men in that mind would have been thrown away, and

God never wastes His gifts. If we shut our eyes, He will take away the light.

If we close our ears, “the voice of the charmer” will soon be silent. The

men who will not have the words of the Lord shall be treated to A

DISPENSATION OF SILENCE!

 

·         THE PERSONS IT ASSAILS. When judgment falls upon a nation,

the righteous often suffer with the wicked. Yet here there are persons

against whom the shock is specially directed. They are:

 

1. Those who put their trust in idols. The idolater would naturally feel the

extreme of dislike to the Word of God, and adopt the strongest measures

against His prophets. He was therefore in that moral condition which

needed, and that opposing attitude which provoked, the heaviest stroke.

God will not give His “praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8) and He will

give the man who trusts in them an early opportunity of discovering whether

they will suffice for his needs. The more unreservedly he has chosen them,

the more entirely will he be left to them.

 

2. The young and buoyant among these. (v. 13.) Youth and hope are

hardest to overcome. There is a buoyancy in them, and a recuperative

energy, that rises above calamity to which the old and broken would

succumb. Yet even these would not avail. Physical suffering, breaking

down even youth and vigor, mental suffering, overwhelming the most

buoyant hopefulness, were among the enginery of THE WRATH OF GOD!.

 

·         THE EFFECTS IT PRODUCES. These are distressing as the calamity

producing them is stern (v. 12).

 

1. They seek the Word in vain. It is sought as a last resource. In the

extremity of trouble, and the failure of other help, men turn inevitably to

God. And then the quest is vain. It is made TOO LATE, and from a motive

to which there is no promise given (Proverbs 1:24-28). It is sought in an

extremity, as the lesser evil of two; and in abject fear, in which there is no

element of loyalty or love; and, thus sought, cannot in the nature of things

be found. The time for God to give it has passed, because the time has

passed in which men might have received it to any effect of spiritual good.

 

2. They faint in the search. “They shall reel from sea to sea.” The word

[reel] is used of the reeling of drunkards, of the swaying to and fro of trees

in the wind, of the quivering of the lips of one agitated, and then of the

unsteady seeking of persons bewildered, looking for what they know not

where to find” (Pusey) It is characteristic that search is made everywhere

but in the South, where alone the true worship of God was, and where, if

anywhere, His Word might have been found. Wrong seeking is wrong all

round, and so is of necessity in vain. It is a less of effort, which is “a

grievous labor won.” It wearies itself out in aimless blind exertion, made

out of season, and vitiated by the very ills that drive men to make it.

 

3. They fall and never rise. God will “make an end.” The time for it had

come. Sin had reached a climax. Evil character had reached a final fixity.

Calamity had ceased to improve. The tardy anxiety for a Divine

communication meant simply that every other resource was exhausted.

“Cut it down.  Why cumbereth it the ground?”  (Luke 13:7) is the one process

of husbandry for which the tree is fitted.

 

(1) THERE IS A FAMINE ON ISRAEL STILL!  “Blindness in part has

happened” to them, in that, “when Moses is read, the veil is on their heart.”

(II Corinthians 3:15)  This practically amounts to the removal of the Word.

It is a sealed book to them — sealed by their blindness to its spiritual sense.

 Not heathen ignorance is more effectually cut off from the knowledge of the

truth than Jewish prejudice and hate.

 

(2) It rests on them for the same reason for which it came. Persistently,

blindly, bitterly, they rejected the truth of the gospel. They made it evident

that they would not have it (Acts 13:46). And so sadly, reluctantly, but

sternly, it was taken from them. “Lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” When that

Word was spoken, Israel was left to THE DARKNESS it loved. IN THAT

CHOSEN DARKNESS THEY STILL GROPE and will till the latter-day

glory dawns.  (Isaiah 66:8)

 

(3) It will give place one day to a period of plenty. “God hath not cast off

His people which He foreknew.” (Romans 11:2) There is a remnant to

which the promise belongs, and with which it will be kept (ibid. 9:27; 11:5).

“When it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.”   (II Corinthians

3:16)  The period, extent, and occasion of this turning are not revealed, but

it will  be the crowning triumph of the “glorious grace” of God.

 

 

 

                                    Religious Sincerity (v. 14)

 

“They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy god, O Dan, liveth;

and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall, and never rise up

again.” “The sin of Samaria means the idolatry of Samaria. In Samaria

they worshipped the golden calf as the chief object; but it would seem there

were other inferior idols. The god of Dan was the golden calf set up by

Jeroboam in Dan (1 Kings 12.). “The fulfillment,” says Delitzsch, “of these

threats commenced with the destruction of the kingdom of Israel and the

carrying away of the ten tribes into exile in Assyria, and continues to this

day in the case of that portion of the Israelitish nation which is still looking

for the Messiah, the Prophet promised by Moses, and looking in vain

BECAUSE THEY WILL NOT HEARKEN TO THE PREACHING OF

THE GOSPEL CONCERNING THE MESSIAH WHO APPEARED

AS JESUS!”  The words suggest a thought or two in relation to religious sincerity.

 

·         THAT RELIGIOUS SINCERITY IS NO PROOF OF THE

ACCURACY OF RELIGIOUS CREED. These Israelites seem to have

been sincere in their worship of the golden calf; “they swore by it.” That

dumb idol to them was everything. To it they pledged the homage of their

being. (And so are you lost soul!  Are you not gambling your soul on it? - CY -

2022)  Yet how blasphemously erroneous, how contrary to the expresss

mandate of Jehovah, “Thou shalt have none other gods but me”!  (Exodus

20:3)  How contrary to the dictates of common sense and all sound

reasoning!  Idolatry, in every form and everywhere, is a huge falsehood.

Hence sincerity is no proof that a man has the truth. There are millions of

men in all theologies and religions, who are so sincere in believing lies,

that they will fight for their lies, make any sacrifice for their lies, die

for their lies. Error, perhaps, can number more martyrs than truth. Saul

of Tarsus was sincere when he was persecuting the Church and endeavoring

to blot the name of Christ from the memory of his age. “I verily thought

with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus

of Nazareth,” (Acts 26:9). Hence sincerity is not necessarily virtuous. A man

is sincere when he is faithful to his convictions; but if his convictions are

unsound, immoral, ungodly, his sincerity is a crime. The fact that thousands

have died for dogmas is no proof of the truth of their dogmas.

 

·         THAT RELIGIOUS SINCERITY IS NO PROTECTION AGAINST

THE PUNISHMENT THAT FOLLOWS ERROR. “They shall fall, and

never rise up again.” The sincerity of the Israelites in their worship in

Bethel and at Dan prevented not their ruin. There are those who hold that

man is not responsible for his beliefs — that so long as he is sincere he is a

truthful man, and all things will go well with him. In every department of

life God holds a man responsible for his beliefs. If a man takes poison into

his system, sincerely believing that it is nutriment, will his belief save him?

Error leads evermore to disappointment, confusion, and OFTENTIMES

TO UTTER DESTRUCTION!  To follow error is to go away from reality;

(and JEHOVAH GOD IS THE ONLY SOURCE OF REALITY - Philip

De Coursey - September, 2022 - CY - 2022) and to leave reality

is to leave safety and peace.

 

·         CONCLUSION. Whilst there is no true man without sincerity, sincerity of

itself does not make a man true. When a man’s convictions correspond and

square with everlasting realities, then his sincerity is of incomparable

worth.

 

                                   

 

 

 

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