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The House built on the Sand
palaces : therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein. (In old time God swore that He would abide with Jacob, bless him,
give him great promises. God's angels, God's messages of mercy, accompanied him on his way. But then Jacob was a sojourner in tents, lived a life of hardship, had all things against him. Now Jacob lives in palaces, rejoices in his wealth, is confident in his strong walls, but he has lost his Divine Friend.) What a sad exchange, to have got all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, but to have lost God's protecting care ; nay, to have made Him into an enemy ! 9. And it shall come to pass, if there remain ten men in one house, that they shall die. 10. And a man's uncle shall take him up, and he that burneth him, to bring out the bones out of the house, and shall say unto him that is by the sides of the house, Is there yet any with thee? and he shall say, No. Then shall he say, Hold thy tongue : for we may not make mention of the name of the Lord. (Here are pestilence and famine reigning, burial rites given hastily
and by stealth. This is a funeral like that of the man who was being buried (2 Kings xiii. 21) and foes appeared in sight, so the burial party cast the corpse into the Prophet's sepulchre and fled. Only here bodies are burned, not buried, for it is a time of pestilence, and the mourners dare not call on God or mention His Name; they have lost hope of any helper in earth or heaven. Shall I say that their dread of mentioning God's Name comes of reverential awe towards Him who has smitten them? It might be. But I take it rather of Thopeless despair that does not have recourse to the thought of religion. 11. For, behold, the Lord commandeth, and he will smite the great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts. (Down went Israel and Judah, the greater nation into utter destruction,
the smaller into great disaster, though its extinction was not to be yet. Reading this verse, I think of my Lord's Parable with which He closed His Sermon on the Mount, the parable of the two houses built upon different foundations. Upon one house the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew,' and could not shake it, ‘for it was founded upon a rock'; but the other fell in the day of storm, and great was the fall of it.' I wonder which of these two images represents the issue under trial of my life, my character, my peace. 12. Shall horses run upon the rock ? will one plow there with oxen? for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the 74
By whom shall Jacob arise
fruit of righteousness into hemlock: 13. Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength ? The rock is unfit for horsemen or toiling steer. Poisonous hemlock
or bitter wormwood profits not for nourishment. Just so injustice and pride harm and help not), Hard stones these, or springs of bitterness. Teach us, Lord, a better way; plough deep the soil of our hearts by letting us see our own nothingness, that the seed of Thy holy Word may take root there and bring forth wholesome fruits of Thy righteousness, not our own. It is sadly true that even sincere and upright hearts, if they rely on their own strength and neglect a Divine Helper, are apt to bring forth good works of a somewhat bitter, somewhat pompous sort. Even our virtue needs a mediator, a perfecter, needs to be sweetened by the Cross, sprinkled with the atoning Blood.
14. 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. (How soon Israel's newly recovered glory (2 Kings xiv. 28) withered
up before a mighty invader ! It was not thirty years (modern chronologists tell us) from the death of King Jeroboam II. to the destruction of Samaria. Those who boasted of their might, their security, Divine choice, Divine protection, found themselves confronted by the stern aspect of destruction) God raises up against us, not perhaps an invading enemy, but the sure hand of Death which sweeps us and ours into another world. O happy if we have a Friend and a Home there!
NHUS hath the Lord God shewed unto me; and, behold, he
formed grasshoppers in the beginning of the shooting up of the latter growth; and, lo, it was the latter growth after the king's mowings. 2. And it came to pass, that when they had made an end of eating the grass of the land, then I said, O Lord God, forgive, I beseech thee : by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small. 3. The Lord repented for this : It shall not be, saith the Lord. (It It was autumn, and the latter growth' was shooting up; and on this
the peasants depended for fodder, for the first mowing had been
The condemned Wall
for the king's horses and cattle. All seemed green and hopeful, when, lo, the cloud of locusts began to form, ready to lay the fields desolate. At the sight of the locusts the Prophet entreats for mercy, and is heard. The threatening judgment passes by.) It is with us, Lord, 'the latter growth,' not the first spring-time of faith and devotion; tyet in our latter days some tender and hopeful plants of love spring up.) Do Thou raise up Saints to pray for us; and accept their prayers, that we may be safe against the devouring hosts of unbelief which threaten all faith's prospects !
4. Thus hath the Lord God shewed unto me: and, behold, the Lord God called to contend by fire, and it devoured the great deep, and did eat up a part. 5. Then said I, O Lord God, cease, I beseech thee : by whom shall Jacob arise ? for he is small. 6. The Lord repented for this. This also shall not be, saith the Lord God. (Upon the cultivated land God sent a fire. It dried up the springs
beneath and advanced upon the fields. It threatened a general conflagration. At the sight of these columns of flame advancing, the Prophet entreats for mercy, and is heard. The threatening judgment passes by. This fire that the Prophet saw is but a spark from the terrible judgment of God which shall one day burn up this earth on which I dwell.) It scorches as yet, but one day it will be resistless. O Lord, send us Prophets to warn us of God's judgments, and to pray for us, and with us, that we may escape them!
7. Thus he shewed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand. 8. And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou ? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel : I will not again pass by them any more: 9. And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword. This Vision looks at first sight far less terrible than the other two,
Here are no devouring clouds of insects, here is no raging flame ; only the Lord Himself in visible form standing above the tottering, bulging wall, and measuring its deflection with a plumbline.
One would have supposed that the Prophet would have interceded here, as on the other two occasions. But he is dumb. After he has recognised the plumbline, he feels that there is no hope for the wall. Down it must come. Its place shall know it no more) The Architect examines the defects of the wall; He finds 76
The pretended High Priest
it altogether a failure. What can endure His strict requirement, His careful measurement ? He Himself comes down to scrutinise, He will not pass by what is amiss. I observe with trembling that God's Prophet does not intercede this time. He feels that the judgment is irrevocable.) Yet, when Saints are out of heart and hope and dare not pray for us, we still can fly to that one Mediator Who always hears, and is heard. He can bring salvation for us even out of temporal ruin. His sentence may cast to the earth our glory and our peace, but He is Himself a sure Rock on which we may find refuge.
10. Then Amaziah the priest of Beth-el sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel : the land is not able to bear all his words. II. For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land. 12. Also Amaziah said unto Amos, 0 thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there: 13. But prophesy not again any more at Beth-el : for it is the king's chapel, and it is the king's court. Amaziah was the High Priest of Bethel, the head of that state
religion of Israel which had lasted for more than two centuries since Jeroboam 1. had established it. He could not endure the menacing words, the woful predictions, the scorn which Amos cast upon Bethel and its worship. To hear that Jeroboam's line should perish, that Israel should become captives and exiles, all this was insupportable to him. He bids this dreamer of terrifying dreams fly into the land of Judah and there get his living out of such as will listen to him, but let him leave King Jeroboam's court and chapel in peace. This High Priest, who nominally worshipped God, had lost the thought of a present God warning or pleading with His people. He did not look on the office of priest or of prophet as anything but the means of getting a decent living.)
14. Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son ; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: 15. And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel. Here we seem to be listening to S. Paul when he says (Gal. i. II),
'I certify you, brethren, that the Gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.' Or it is the VIII. 2.1
The last Fruits of the Year
voice of S. Peter, when he says (Acts v. 29), “We ought to obey God rather than men.' (Here is a ministry not conferred or exercised by man's authority. It is of God, and speaks with Divine authority.) Here is what Mary observed in God's choices, 'He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and exalted them of low degree.' He who was called by God, fitted by God, instructed by God, spoke with accents that pierced and convinced. Very different this from prophecy exercised as a mere trade or respectable form.
16. Now therefore hear thou the word of the Lord: Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac. 17. Therefore thus saith the Lord ; Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land : and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land. (Shame and woe and hopeless exile ; loss of all that makes life dear;
a grave far from the Holy Land : such doom God predicts to this unworthy High Priest. Prophets who speak for God have to declare His judgments, blame His enemies, put aside fear or favour.) May we have such among us, and may we give heed and fear when they speak.
JHUS hath the Lord God shewed unto me: and behold a
basket of summer fruit. 2. And he said, Amos, what seest thou ? And I said, A basket of summer fruit. Then said the Lord unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel ; I will not again pass by them any more. God has finished His gardening. This fruit is the autumn fruit, the
last production of the year. Long time He has been sending sunshine and rain, giving care to His garden, saying, 'If it bear fruit, well.' But He will do so no longer. It will be all laid waste and remain barren. In this ripe fruit, the last that there will be, I see figured ripeness of life, fitness for death. Is my life ripe in good works, good prayers, gratitude of souls that I have helped ? or will it pass away blighted, not ripened? Is there anything in me that God can approve and gather with merciful allowance into His garner? 'If Thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss : O Lord, who may abide it? But there is mercy with Thee.'