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
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
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
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
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
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
higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8)
· THIS LANGUAGE IN A REMINISCENCE OF PAST ELECTION.
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
· 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
· 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
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.
bay. Here God tries the experiment.
THERE IS A TIME WHEN THE VINE OF
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.”
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
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
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
· SUCH RIPENING FOREBODES AN EARLY GATHERING. (v. 2.
“The end is come upon my people of
soon as the harvest is ripe. No practical husbandry could delay the
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
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,
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
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
· 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.
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.
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
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:
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.
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.
summer fruit” but rottenness. Its decomposition was working, and would
soon reduce it to putrescent filth. So it was with
· 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
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,
· 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
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
“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
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
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
· 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
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
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 huperaephanias ‘Iakob - 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
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
alas! did not “glory in the Lord.” They gloried in their idols. “These be thy
brought thee out of the
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
the Strength of
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
· 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.
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
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
land shall heave and swell like the waters of the
And it shall be
cast out and drowned, as by the flood of
it shall be tossed up and sink again, like the
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
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
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
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.
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
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
1. Take noon sunsets in sin. These are often untimely and far from
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
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
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
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
still kept up the outward observances of religion (something that secularism
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
luxurious appliances were simply plunder, the wages of iniquity, sometimes
even the price of blood. Hence God singles them out for special attack, and
· 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
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
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
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
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
BITTER DAY OF
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
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
· 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
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
from the Sea of Galilee or the Dead Sea to the
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
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
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
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!
“They that swear by the sin of
liveth; and, The manner of
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
Hosea 8:5-6). Septuagint, κατὰ τοῦ ἱλασμοῦ Σαμαρείας - kata tou ilasmou Samareias -
life of thy god. This was the other calf erected at
Dan, near the source of the
in the extreme north (1 Kings 12:29). The manner of
Ζῆ ὁ θεός σου βηρσαβεέ - Zae ho theos sou Baersabee - “Thy god, O Beersheba,
lives.” Some commentators, ancient and modem, think that the actual road which
liveth,” “By the life of the way to
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
A 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
English language and literature at
piety. As a Christian apologist he followed the tradition of Bishop
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
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
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
will. He 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 deflendi, which 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.
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
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 I 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
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
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
infidelity, if 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)
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
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
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,
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
again.” “The sin of
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
carrying away of the ten tribes into exile in
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
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
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
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
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