Because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime.
( John Calvin.)
Thus saith the Lord: For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof.
I. DESPISING THE LAW OF THE LORD. The law of the Lord includes the whole revelation of His will. No truth is more plainly enforced in the Bible than this, — that national chastisenients are the consequence of national sins. But is this generally believed? Has it any practical influence upon the character and conduct of a tithe of those who profess to believe it? It is too true that, as a nation, we despise the law of the Lord.
II. NOT KEEPING HIS COMMANDMENTS. This follows naturally the contempt of His law. Contempt of the law and disobedience are not the same thing. One may sincerely acknowledge the justice, and respect the value, of a law which his bad passions often tempt him to break. On the other hand, one may have an inward contempt for a law which he may still consider it expedient or proper to obey. But he who despises the law of God, or wilfully continues to disobey it, has no part or lot in "the righteousness which is of God by faith." In every case in which the law is despised, the obedience of the heart is impossible, and any other obedience than that which proceeds from love and reverence is utterly worthless in the sight of God.
III. WANDERING AFTER LIES, IN IMITATION OF THEIR FATHERS. Instead of "lies," some read "idols"; for the same Hebrew term stands for both. An idol is a lie. Wealth, pomp, luxury, literature, fame, power, — these are our idols, and they were the idols of our forefathers, taken collectively. In each succeeding age, the great majority have been heart idolaters — giving to various objects the place in their affections which of right belonged only to God. If there be admonition without effect, we may look for punishment without mercy.
(James Mackay, B. D.)
I. INTEMPERANCE. This weighs like a millstone round the neck of the Church in this country. We are not, as a rule, sensible of the awful magnitude of this evil — of the gigantic proportions to which it has attained.
II. INFIDELITY. That this evil exists and is active amongst us, requires no proof. It exists in our midst in every shape, form, and degree, from the avowed Atheism, which openly blasphemes the name of God, to the refined Rationalism, which, while professing belief in Divine revelation, explains away, and empties of all their real significance, its most vital and momentous truths.
III. SUPERSTITION. While many nations of Europe — such as Austria and Italy — are casting off the yoke of superstition, this country, which was wont to be regarded as the very centre of Gospel light, and the home of spiritual freedom, would seem as if about to relinquish the position she took up after a struggle which cost tears, agonies, and the blood of some of her best and noblest sons.
IV. INDIFFERENTISM. Beyond question the most prevalent evil of our time. For one who is tainted with Infidelity, or enslaved by Superstition, there are tens of thousands utterly indifferent to their highest interests. They may give a formal and periodical attention to religious duties, but practically they are " living without God in the world." To moot these special evils, special agencies must be used.
(R. W. Forrest, M. A.)
They have despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept His commandments
( John Calvin.)
Their lies caused them to err
( John Calvin.)
(James Mackay, B. D.)
I. WEALTH IS THE CHIEF GOOD. This is a main article in the creed of society as a whole, in every country in the world. The advantages of wealth are, in a temporal point of view, very great. Wealth is power. It secures for its possessor every gratification that can minister to the appetites, the senses, and the taste.
II. IT IS POSSIBLE TO SERVE GOD AND MAMMON. Religion, instead of being the chief business of life, is used simply as a means of quieting the conscience and establishing a good name. The heart is set on the world exclusively; yet hopes are entertained of inheriting the kingdom of heaven.
III. A MAN'S POSSESSIONS ARE HIS OWN; HE MAY DO WITH THEM WHAT HE LIKES. They are not his own. They are only lent him as a steward for God. But the idea of acting as a steward for God would be denounced by people in general as fanatical.
IV. HUMAN NATURE IS NOT SO DEPRAVED AS THEOLOGIANS WOULD HAVE US BELIEVE. Instincts are taken for virtues, and are referred to as proofs that the language of Scripture has been overstrained.
V. ZEAL IN THE CAUSE OF CHRIST IS FANATICISM. Few would use these words, but multitudes entertain the idea which they express. Lukewarmness is commended as prudence, and while zeal is not tolerated, indifference is overlooked or excused.
VI. IF A MAN LIVES A GOOD LIFE, IT MATTERS NOT WHAT HIS OPINIONS MAY BE. But no human being lives a good life, unless the love of God is his governing motive.
VII. FORGIVENESS OF INJURIES IS WEAK AND UNMANLY. This is directly opposed to the teaching and example of Christ.
VII. THE FORBEARANCE OF GOD CAN NEVER BE EXHAUSTED. Men talk of God's mercy who forget that they are taught to believe in His holiness. By presuming upon God's mercy men may lose their souls.
IX. RELIGION IS NOT A PROPER SUBJECT FOR ORDINARY CONVERSATION. Satan closes our lips on the greatest of all topics, and thus isolates us from one another, lest social intercourse should promote the success of the Gospel.
X. WE OUGHT TO PRAY, BUT WE NEED NOT WAIT ON GOD FOR AN ANSWER. This betokens the absence of a real belief in the efficacy of prayer. He encourages us to expect an answer, as often as we offer our petitions. These are ten of the most prevalent errors about religion which are countenanced and cherished by society. Let us take care that it is not true of us — "Their lies cause them to err, after the which their fathers have walked."
(James Mackay, B. D.)
For three transgressions of Israel, yea, for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof.I. GOD IS THE SOLE AND RIGHTEOUS GOVERNOR OF THE WORLD. Not simply of Israel, but of Israel's enemies, Syria, Gaza, Edom, etc. Here we get a glimpse of the great truth of God's common Fatherhood. Amos somewhat anticipated Peter, "God is no respecter of persons," and taught that God regarded the sin of Israel as He did that of Syria and Edom. That God would bring them to judgment in common with other nations, came as a thunderclap to the people of Jeroboam
II. With Amos there came to Israel a new conception of God. Note his words (Amos 3:2). Their privileges and blessings would not exempt them from sin's consequences. They regarded God as benevolent to them. The prophet proclaims Him as righteous (Amos 5:21-24).
II. JUDGMENT TURNS, NOT ON QUESTIONS OF PRIVILEGE, CEREMONY, OR PROFESSION, BUT ON CHARACTER — Upon the character manifested in our treatment of those in our power. Personal character is tested by our treatment of "the least of these My brethren." Priest and Levite proclaimed their unmercifulness in leaving the robber-smitten man to his fate. We see in the infinite regard and tender compassion of Christ to the poor, the suffering, the outcast, a revelation of God's character. National character similarly tested. Damascus, Edom, Tyre, Israel cursed for what they did to people "defenceless and in their power." Doing is the gauge of being. Their greed was expressed in their utter disregard of the rights of others. Damascus rioted in the blood of defenceless Gilead (Amos 1:3). Gaza traded in men (Amos 1:6). Tyre was rich, clever, strong, enterprising, artistic, resourceful, conquering. Lust of wealth and power led them, notwithstanding their close alliance with Solomon, to trade in Hebrew captives (Amos 1:9, 10). Edom became the incarnation of the demon revenge (Amos 1:11). Ammon, prompted by lust of gain, invaded with devilish ferocity the sanctity of motherhood (Amos 1:13). Israel, ceremonious, self-righteous, prosperous, idolatrous, vain, privileged, denied justice to her poor, oppressed her children, sacrificed her young life to pleasure (Amos 2:6-8). These nations were marked, as modern nations, alas! are too often, by selfishness, and wide wasting and insatiable pride." "For these things," etc. Samson could not destroy Gaza, but greed did. Tyre was strong to defy Assyria, to found Cathage, and set at nought Nebuchadnezzar, but was consumed by fire enkindled of her own lust. The stone houses and rocky palaces of Edom afforded no refuge from the consequences of her sins. Israel destroyed herself. He who obliterated Tyre, removed Israel, consumed Edom and Gaza. "He who obliterated Babylon, destroyed Egypt, buried Greece and Rome under the debris of their own greatness." He still judges the nations. In reading the judgments pronounced by Amos we are reminded that —(1) Whoever sins against man sins against God. All human interests are sacred.(2) The law of equilibrium obtains in matters moral as well as physical. As we give we receive. Justice is of God and meted out to all. Anything that dulls the heart's sensibilities, robs of manhood's sympathy, destroys the faculty for humanity, prepares for hell.(3) Character is destiny. "Salvation is character, character is the result of moral decisions made daily."
III. SIN IS CUMULATIVE. What are the three transgressions? They are not stated. The fourth only is mentioned. Why? The last is the abridgment and consummation of all the foregoing. It does not stand alone. It is but the development in the way of evil. The first sin leads to the second, and the fourth were impossible but for the former three. The growth is shown in the case of Edom (Amos 1:11). Ver. 11 indicates —(1) A time when Edom was so sensitive that the very thought of cruelty caused him to shudder.(2) But he nursed revengeful thoughts; kept the memory of wrongs ever fresh; until the shuddering ceased. "He corrupted his compassions."(3) His anger grew upon him until it thoroughly conquered him. He became gradually the incarnation of brutal revenge. Gradually men ripen for judgment. To-day's deeds are the fruit of former days. Present life is the resultant of the past. No deed, no day, no sin stands alone!
IV. THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN ARE INEVITABLE. Every act of sin is self-destructive. It avenges itself. The forces of judgment are loosed by the act which violates the law.
(John T. Ecob.)
They sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes
( John Calvin.)
(A. J. Gordon, D. D.)
Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks.
I. THE VICTORIES WHICH MADE THEM MASTERS OF THEIR INHERITANCE. "Yet destroyed I the Amorite" (ver. 9). The Amorites, strongest of all Canaanite nations, are taken as the representatives of all. The greatness of the victories is measured here —(1) By the might of the enemies. The two noblest trees of Palestine represent the prowess of the foe: "Whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks." The Anakim were of this race, combining what are not always united, vast stature and gigantic strength. The terror of the spies (Numbers 13.) is the best witness to the power of these mighty foemen. These enemies are a type of all foes whom God subdues before His people. Passion and pride are the Anakim whom He subdues before us. Alone we were powerless, dismayed by thoughts of the encounter; yet God girded Himself as a mighty man of war, and won for us the victory.(2) The victory is measured by the completeness of the deliverance. " Yet destroyed I his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath." The fruit might have been borne by the breeze to some spot where it would grow again, the root, left in the earth, might have put forth new branches. Both were destroyed. Our own experience has its parallel here. God not only subdues our foes, but lays them low at our feet, where they need never rise again to harass and annoy us: rooting out the seeds of bitterness. What a claim on our devotion!
II. DELIVERANCES WHICH OPENED THE WAY FOR THIS CAREER OF CONQUEST. "I brought you up from the land of Egypt" (ver. 10). Nothing seemed more improbable than that they should escape from their captivity. All religious life begins with such proofs of God's power and mercy.
III. GOD'S MERCY ALSO PROVIDED SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS (ver. 11). The Nazarites and prophets were men who withered for truth and purity. The prophet taught by his words, the Nazarite by his life. Representatives of God, they walked among His people to bind all hearts to Himself. They were to preserve the nation from the sins which had brought ruin on the old inhabitants of Canaan, to keep alive that truth and purity which secured to them the possession of their land. How rich the mercy of God! The Amorite subdued, that the people might inherit their land; the yoke of Egypt broken, that they might go up and possess their inheritance; spiritual guides raised up to keep the people from the sin, which would spoil them of their new-found treasure. Such is God's dealing with all His people. Their path is strewn with tokens of His guardian grace. He is preparing them for a great future. Application — God's appeal, "Is it not even thus?" (ver. 11) sets the sin of Israel before us in all its baseness. The mercies were so evident that none could doubt or deny them. All sin in God's people is base ingratitude. Remember the gifts of heaven when tempted to wander.
(J. Telford, B. A.)
And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites.
I. THE AUTHOR OF THE APPOINTMENTS. "I raised up." The Founder of their nation. He whose mercies have been commemorated in the ninth to the eleventh verses, had originated these appointments. What more signal proof of the folly in attempting this reversal! Everything that God willed should have been accepted gratefully as their rule of life; yet they tampered with His appointments thus.(1) An abiding sense of the relations which God bears to His people is a constant safe. guard against the spirit which would east off all restraint. He is the Author of all our blessings.(2) The claim on reverence for Divine appointments is not confined to His people. God's love is boundless as the universe.
II. When we consider the CHARACTER of the appointments. God was striving to preserve the national purity, to train them up in all His ways. Such was His purpose in these remarkable institutions: — the prophetic office, and the order of the Nazarites. God had raised up these workers out of the "young men" of Israel — the class which could bring the greatest energy to this arduous work, devote the longest time to it, and furnish, amid the temptations to which youth was peculiarly exposed, the strongest proof of the restraining grace of God. God still uses means to preserve men in purity. The Spirit of God is His witness; conscience is His voice; truth is His messenger; His servants, by their words, and by the example of godly lives, are our prophets and the Nazarites. How great these agencies! Seek to know them to your own salvation.
III. Were frustrated by those for WHOSE BENEFIT they had been made. No regard for God, no sense of their own interest, deterred them from presuming to interfere with the counsels of God. The motive which prompted such conduct marks their degradation. The Nazarites were a standing reproof of their excess and revelry; the prophets were obnoxious because they tore away the disguises by which sin sought to hide its deformity, and warned the people of danger. If the voice of the prophet was silenced, they fancied that heaven had no means of reproving sin. They forgot that God could speak in the thunder and the earthquake. Application — Man can frustrate the purposes of God. Heaven may appoint; earth may undo the appointment. The effort is proof of degradation. Success in such effort is the worst punishment of any man. Israel reaped disaster and ruin from this attempt to reverse God's appointments. False prophets multiplied, sin increased, the nation went into captivity.
(J. Telford, B. A.)
John Huss before Sigismund, like Luther before Charles V., like John Knox before Mary, so Amos testified undaunted before the idolatry of courts and priests. One crime of that bad period was luxury and intemperance. In this text the prophet confronts Israel with the high appeal of God, whether He had not put the fire of the Spirit into the hearts of some of their sons, and they had quenched that fire by their blandishments and conventionalities; and whether He had not inspired some of their youths to take the vow of abstinence, and they with the deliberate cynicism of worldlings had tempted them to scorn and break that vow? The very essence of the vow of the Nazarite was self-dedication. The young Nazarite consecrated himself to God, he offered himself, his soul and body, a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice. The Nazarite was a marked man, and because his vow was regarded as a tacit condemnation of the popular self-indulgence, he was exposed to the sneers of the worldly, and the temptations of the base. Nevertheless, "wisdom is justified of her children." The best men, and the bravest men, and the least conventional men, in this world have been ever the most loudly and the most scornfully abused. Little recked the true Nazarite of muttered sarcasm and bitter hate, — little as recks the sea of the foolish wild birds that scream above it. Health, strength, physical beauty, wholesomeness of life, tranquillity of soul, serene dominion over evil passions, followed in the path of early and life-long abstinence. There seems to be a special strength, a special blessing, above all, a special power of swaying the souls of others for their good, which is imparted to wise and voluntary abstinence. The hands of invisible consecration overshadow, the fire of a spiritual unction crowns the head of him who in early youth has learnt to say with his whole heart, "In strong warfare, in holy self-denial, I dedicate my youth to God." This age wants, this England wants, the Church of Christ wants those who, self-dedicated, like the ideal Nazarite, to noble ends, have not lost the natural grace and bloom of youthful modesty. We do want natures strong and sweet and simple, to whom life is no poor collection of fragments, its first volume an obscene and noisy jest book, its last a grim tragedy or a despicable farce; but to those of whom, however small the stage, the life is a regal drama, played out before God and man. We want the spirit of willing Nazarites. And total abstinence was the central conception of the vow of the Nazarite. (The rest of the sermon is an impassioned plea against indulgence in alcoholic drinks.)
But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink
(Gordon Calthrop, M. A.)
Great Thoughts.: — We have no means for focalising the ruin wrought by England s greatest trade. The Press cannot mirror the tithe of it, nor the gossip relate its thousandth part. The trade is everywhere, and everywhere its work is one — unceasing slaughter. Could we but see in one fearful perspective the colossal host of men and women and sweet children struck to death by the traffic in drink, a new agony of compassion would break from the Church's heart, and the days of the trade that can only flourish as men decay would be numbered.
Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves.Hosea 8:10; Hosea 11:8): — These three passages give us an intimation, a glimpse of the burden and grief of the Infinite. What is this burden that presses on the heart of the Divine? What are the thorns under the golden crown of universal dominion? Can we know what they are? Yes, the burden of the King of princes is the sin of His creatures, and to clear it from the world is the one great problem of the Divine. If sin were committed by any who were independent of God — were it possible for such to exist — it might cause Him no such sorrow. But all are dependent on Him, closely united by creation. Sin is evidently a matter of greatest cost to God, and something much more awful than we can comprehend. Sin meets God in His world at every turn. Sin now rears its serpent head amid the glories of God's creation, and is now working terrible damage in the fair world of our Father. It may seem a trifling thing to many; but it is a real burden and annoyance to God. It is not necessary that a man should have a sharp stone in his eye in order to feel a smart. A speck of dust, a grain of sand, will be sufficient to blot out to us for a season the glories of the most beautiful landscape. As to the presence of such a slight foreign substance, the eye is most sensitive, so is the nature of God to the presence of sin in His creature. To a Being of such great love it must be a great burden to see such multitudes of His creatures rushing on in the misery of sin. In proportion to the infinite tenderness of the Divine nature, so is the burden increased. God knows the far-reaching effects of man's sin. It is a very common thing to represent God as existing only in unalloyed happiness. It is only like Him to take up our burdens, to know our sorrows. He Is most like God when love leads to an infinite self-sacrifice in bearing man's burdens, and sympathising in human sorrow. We should not believe in God's sympathy and love so much apart from this bearing some burden. We should not go to Him so readily. There was not, let us remember, in Christ, who manifested God, the appearance of submission to suffering. It was real suffering, because there was a real burden and sympathy. If the Divine Being sympathises with man, He also shows us that He wishes to have from us .sympathy and love in return. We are "to sorrow a little for the burden of the King of princes." And the measure of our power to enter into sympathy with the Divine is the measure of the strength of our spiritual character.
1. It is the way of secure sinners to lay over the weight of all their sins on God, and on His mercy, as if He were but a cart to lie under the burden of them all, that so they may sleep the sounder and sin the faster.
2. The Lord, even toward secure sinners, will take on this burden so far, as to suffer their manners long, before He cast it off, albeit He be provoked by every sin, and doth not allow their presumptuous casting off their iniquities upon Him, yet He doth not complain nor strike, till He be pressed, "as a cart that is full of sheaves."
3. God's patience and long-suffering will at last weary to endure the provocations of sinners, as becoming insupportable.
4. When the cup of men's iniquities is full, and God is about to bear them no longer, yet they may be so stupid as to need up-stirring to consider it.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Therefore the flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not strengthen his force, neither shall the mighty deliver himself.
I. A PICTURE OF THE DECAY OF NATIONAL PROWESS. It is a painful remembrance of departed power, like some castle once the seat of a nation's strength, now in ruins. The swift are there, but their swiftness is gone; the strong remain, but only as a wreck of their former selves, unable to gather up their strength. Danger found them, like Samson in the lap of Delilah, shorn of all their boasted power. He who handles the bow dare not stand to pour his shafts on the enemy; the fleet of foot, and even the mounted soldier, should fall into the hands of the enemy, and the mighty man, once full of courage, should be glad to escape, stripped of arms and clothing, in the day of visitation. Every sentence increases the effect of this picture. What they had been and what they were forms a terrible contrast.
II. THE REASON FOR SUCH A DECAY OF PROWESS. Sin had borne this deadly fruit. All their national valour sprang from confidence in God. They knew that "the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them." What foe could stand before men who leaned on the arm of God? Lord Bacon says, that "man, when he resteth and assureth himself upon Divine protection and favour, gathereth a force and faith which human nature in itself could not obtain." All their victories are proof of these words. Confidence in God had brought David off victorious in his conflict with Goliath (Deuteronomy 32:30). All was changed now. Sin had sapped their confidence in heaven, and the whole fabric of their national life was tottering to its foundations. They felt the truth of the old words, "He that offends against heaven has none to whom he can pray." History presents many parallels to this declension. Injustice and sin have shorn great men of their strength, and left them weak in the hour of danger.
III. THE EFFECTS OF THIS DECAY OF VALOUR WERE SOON EVIDENT. For them, as for us, peace depended on prowess; prowess was born of confidence in God. Foes, who were only held in check by fear, soon discovered their declension, — for such decay has many tokens, — and quickly overran their land. The floodgates were opened, and a tide of vengeance poured itself over their land. Three times Amos repeats, — the reiteration marking the certainty of their doom, — "He shall not deliver himself." Application. Sin is ruin. He who would have victory must be loyal to heaven, then God will surely fulfil to him the great promise to Joshua (Joshua 1:5).
(J. Telford, B. A.)
(J. Ossian Davies.)