For behold, I will raise up a nation against you, O house of Israel," declares the LORD, the GOD of Hosts, "and they will oppress you from Lebo-hamath to the Brook of the Arabah."
I. THE FACT THAT A NATION IS CHOSEN BY GOD FOR A SPECIAL PURPOSE DOES NOT EXEMPT THAT NATION FROM THE OPERATION OF THE LAWS OF THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT. It is sometimes represented that the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were treated by the Ruler of all with an especial favouritism. But such a view cannot be justified from the sacred records. Undoubtedly, this nation was selected for high purposes, and appointed to occupy a position of enlightenment and eminence; but this was in order that the Jews might fulfil the purposes of God's wisdom, might in the fulness of the time produce the Messiah, and might become a blessing to all the nations of the earth. But never was a nation subjected to more stringent discipline than the Hebrew theocracy endured. No transgression was unnoticed or unchastised. Such afflictions have indeed seldom been endured as Israel has known, both in ancient and in modern times.
II. GOD, WHO IS NOT CONFINED TO ANY SPECIAL AGENCIES, HAS OFTEN EMPLOYED ONE NATION AS THE SCOURGE BY WHICH ANOTHER NATION HAS BEEN CHASTISED. It may be asked why Assyria, an idolatrous nation, should be employed to punish the transgressions of Israel. To such a question we can give no answer; but we may point out that the moral qualities of the chastising instrument have no bearing upon the purposes of punishment. God raiseth up one and setteth down another. History is full of examples of this principle. Amidst very much that is mysterious, there is not a little that is plain. Only in the most general way is it permitted us to interpret the methods of the Divine government. But the authoritative language of this and other passages of Scripture assure us that he who doeth according to his will among the inhabitants of the earth is impressing his own great lessons and fulfilling his own great designs by the changes which occur among the nations. Even wars, conquests, and captivities are the means by which God's Law is vindicated and God's kingdom is advanced.
III. NATIONAL TRIBULATION MAY BE THE MEANS OF NATIONAL PURIFICATION AND PROGRESS. Punishment is not an end in itself; however deserved and just, it is inflicted with a view to the good of the community or individual punished, or the good of human society at large. We can to some extent trace, in the subsequent history of the Hebrew people, the beneficial results of the conquest and captivity here foretold. Idolatry, at all events, came to an end; more spiritual views of religion became general; the nation, or that portion of it which returned to the land of promise, was prepared for giving birth to the Messiah, and for furnishing the elements which were to constitute the primitive Church. Thus God brought the light of morning out of the darkness, and a spiritual spring from the long winter of affliction. - T.
Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength?
Homilist."Horns" are signs and symbols of power; here they stand for the military resources with which they fancied that they could conquer every foe. "These delusions of God-forgetting pride the prophet cast down, by saying that Jehovah, the God of hosts, will raise up a nation against them, which will crush them down in the whole length and breadth of the kingdom. This nation was Assyria" (Delitzsch).
I. To rejoice in WORLDLY WEALTH, is to "rejoice in a thing of nought."
II. To rejoice in PERSONAL BEAUTY, is to "rejoice in a thing of nought." But is this beauty a thing to rejoice in? Those who possess it do rejoice in it; many pride themselves on their good looks and fine figures. But what is beauty? It is a "thing of nought."
III. To rejoice in ANCESTRAL DISTINCTION, is to "rejoice in a thing of nought." There are those who are constantly exulting in their pedigree. But even had we come from the loins of the intellectual and moral peers of the race, what in this is there for rejoicing? It is truly "a thing of nought." Our ancestry is independent of us, we are not responsible for it. It is not a matter either of blame or praise.
IV. To rejoice in MORAL MERITORIOUSNESS, is to "rejoice in a thing of nought." There are many who rejoice in their morality. Like the Pharisee in the temple, they thank God they are not as "other men." Moral merit in a sinner, is a baseless vision, a phantom of a proud heart. No, our righteousness is "a thing of nought."
(S. B. Meeser.)
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