But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, said the LORD the God of hosts…
Coming when it did, this prophecy was an unmistakable proof of Divine foresight. Samaria was rejoicing and boasting because of a temporary victory obtained by her arms. The kingdom of Israel had taken horns, and by its own strength had pushed back the foe from the borders. This was the moment appointed for Amos to utter the faithful warning contained in this verse. Subsequent events proved the predictive authority from which this language proceeded. The advance of Assyria soon reminded the unbelieving and impenitent of the warning to which they had been indifferent. But we are chiefly concerned to trace the truths and to draw the lessons regarding Divine government upon earth, which this prediction so strikingly unfolds.
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, saith the LORD the God of hosts; and they shall afflict you from the entering in of Hemath unto the river of the wilderness.