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Signs that the Judge is near
have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. "Unto whomsoever much is given, of him will much be required.'
So says our natural sense of justice, as well as the oracle of God. Israel is God's heritage, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation,' chosen out of the whole earth to know the true God, delivered by Him from the house of bondage, enlightened by His holy law. What gratitude, what obedience, do not such benefits require ? Otherwise God's mercies turn into accusing angels. "You only have I known,' says the Divine Voice, as though all other knowledge that He has of mankind were nothing by comparison, Alas! when I think on that intimate indwelling which God vouchsafes to me when I receive sacred food at His Altar, and consider the devout thankfulness, the hearty obedience, that such a sacred intimacy requires, I am exceedingly confounded at the difference between my own life and His requirements.
3. Can two walk together, except they be agreed? 4. Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing? 5. Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no gin is for him ? shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing at all? 6. Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? All these are sure signs. Plainly :(the two walking together is a sign
that they are on a common errand; the lion's roar is a sign that he is after prey; the bird fallen, or the trap springing up, is a sign that there is a bird-catcher at work; the alarm being blown is a sign that the people are gathering together. So, dear friends, plainly, when disaster comes it is a sign that God is exercising judgment.) Amos has his thoughts always on the judgments of God. To him war and plague appear not as chance evils, but as ordered by God's justice for men's sins. Evil comes: “then," he says, 'search and see whence it is; observe God's lesson in sending it.' Giye me, Lord, thy Prophet's insight, to ascribe evil
cause ; let me discern how my own transgressions have brought chastisement upon me. So shall I amend what has been amiss.
7. Surely the Lord God will do notliny, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. 8. The lion hath roared,
Bethel becomes a Ruin
who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but
hear the voice of the lion roaring, and awake the sleeping camp
9. Publish in the palaces at Ashdod, and in the palaces in the land of Egypt, and say, Assemble yourselves upon the mountains of Samaria, and behold the great tumults in the midst thereof, and the oppressed in the midst thereof. 10. For they know not to do right, saith the Lord, who store up violence and robbery in their palaces. (Philistines and Egyptians are invited to consider the condition of
God's people, and to marvel at the injustice and strife that prevail there. In old times God had wrought judgment for Israel's sake upon those very nations. Now it is they who are called to see the depth to which Israel has fallen. Evidently, God abhors sin, even when His own family commit it. Evidently, He would have believers compare regretfully their neglected opportunities with the many tokens of goodness shown in the lives of heathens. Evidently, there are some believers, as this Prophet, who are full of indignation at the general corruption round them.
II. Therefore thus saith the Lord God: An adversary there shall be even round about the land; and he shall bring down thy strength from thee, and thy palaces shall be spoiled. 12. Thus saith the Lord; As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear; so shall the children of Israel be taken out that dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus in a couch. 13. Hear ye, and testify in the house of Jacob, saith the Lord God, the God of hosts, 14. That in the day that I shall visit the transgressions of Israel upon him I will also visit the altars of Beth-el : and the horns of the altar shall be cut off, and fall to the ground. 15. And I will smite the winter house with the summer house ; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end, saith the Lord. Poor remnants would remain to Israel of all its glory, fragments
only, and these very worthless. The glorious worship at Bethel
Great Personages abased
where Israel's monarchs sacrificed to the calves of gold ; Ahab's ivory palace (1 Kings xxii. 39); the luxurious dwellings which kings and princes had built, adapted to the varying seasons,-all these have a speedy end. And God's Word was exactly fulfilled. It came true as His prophet had said, though Israel's state seemed at the time most permanent and secure. I entreat, Lord, that Thou wouldest show to my dear friends and to myself the exceeding vanity of earth's glories, the danger of its luxuries. Knit us to Thy true abiding Altar where the food of immortality is dispensed. Fix us as living stones in Thy eternal palace wall, no more to go out.
mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink. 2. The Lord God hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks. 3. And ye shall go out at the breaches, every cow at that which is before her; and ye shall cast them into the palace, saith the Lord. (Great ladies of Samaria whose voice is not for mercy but for harsh
ness; who are greedy of gain, lovers of revelling; who urge their husbands to evil.) Such was Queen Jezebel who ministered to Ahab's evil passions (1 Kings xxi. 7). God threatens that they shall have to hide, to escape by stealth and become needy exiles; the condition of the poor whom they despise shall soon be theirs, In our modern life' a great gulf' seems to separate rich and poor. The former scarcely know of the sweat and tears with which the latter earn their precarious living. They do not know what fierce temptations beset the condition of the poor. Love alone has power to pass this barrier and knit together severed hearts, to the great benefit of both, 4. Come to Beth-el, and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression ; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes afte
three years: 5. And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings : for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord God. This(fancy worship paid to God under the symbol of the calf, these ostentatious offerings, which yet transgressed sacred rules; thiş parody of the Holy Temple,- -was the religion that Israel loved
and God ironically bids them go on with it by all means.
I am reminded of that text in the Apocalypse (xxii. 11), 'He'that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still.' Alas for us, if our very religion has become a hollow and empty thing, a show to please men, a device to compass mere worldly objects ! When our Lord was teaching about prayer, fasting, giving alms, He warned us not to do these good things 'before men to be seen of them,' or we should lose the heavenly reward.
6. And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places, yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. 7. And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. 8. So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water ; but they were not satisfied : yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. 9. I have smitten you with blasting and mildew : when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured them: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. 10. I have sent among you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken away your horses ; and I have made the stink of your camps to come up unto your nostrils : yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. II. I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning : yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. Here is a list of penal visitations which had failed to recall Israel to
repentance. Famine and drought (as in the days of Elijah and Elisha). Blight and swarms of locusts (such as the prophet Joel mentions). Disasters in war (2 Kings xiii. 7). Sudden catastrophies which injured or ruined many (such as the earthquake referred to in i. 1). In some passages God's merciful and gracious acts are enumerated to stir up men to return to Him. Here again I read that He tries harsher measures. I cannot help fearing lest, as I have been so deaf to His mercies, the time may come for Him to send me chastisements. May He chastise me in love, not wrath, and may I find a sweetness in it! Christ's Cross, like the healing wood shown to Moses (Exodus xv. 25), makes bitter things wholesome for us.
Prepare to meet thy God
12. Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. (Prepare to meet thy God,' for He comes in yet closer and more
searching visitations. Prepare to meet Him, for He comes to show Himself on the earth and converse with men. Prepare to meet Him, for many have no eyes to discern Him when He comes. The unprepared heart altogether fails to find Him. Prepare for that dread day when all secrets will be known Without preparation I cannot even pray aright. Pardon, Lord, the extreme lack of preparation with which I have run too unconcernedly into
Thy Presence, commented too lightly on Thy Scriptures. 13. For lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The Lord, The God of hosts, is his name. The Jews knew God as raising the mountains, breathing the wind,
manifesting His wise plans in the order of the Universe, turning darkness to light and light to darkness, passing by majestically in the storm. But Christians know Him as raising up saints, breathing the converting Spirit, declaring His wisdom in the fabric of the Church, illuminating darkened hearts, overthrowing the proud, raising up the lowly. Christians see more of God's Majesty and Mercy than was known under the old covenant. Would that they profited by this Revelation !
, oro .
EAR ye this word which I take up against you, even a
lamentation, 0 house of Israel. 2. The virgin of Israel is fallen ; she shall no more rise : she is forsaken upon her land ; there is none to raise her up. 3. For thus saith the Lord God; The city that went out by a thousand shall leave an hundred, and that which went forth by an hundred shall leave ten, to the house of Israel. The Prophet looks on beyond present victories. He mourns over
the desolated land to be, over the speedy decay of Israel's strength. He laments over the Virgin of Israel. Once she was espoused to God and lived for His love. Afterwards she 'lost her first love' and went after false gods. Thus she fell inwardly before she fell outwardly. The ruin of wealth and peace followed on the loss of