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The nations shall be called to battle, and God shall judge the earth; kings and empires shall fall and be forgotten, but the covenant of God shall stand, and his gracious redemption shall be accomplished.
This prophetic discourse is couched in forceful words and impressive imagery.
“Proclaim ye this among the nations. Prepare war; stir up the mighty men.
Let them come up.” “Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears ; let the weak say, 'I am strong'.”
“Let the nations bestir themselves, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat, for there will I sit to judge all nations."
"Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come tread ye for the wine press is full and the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great.
“But the Lord will be a refuge unto his people, and a stronghold to the children of Israel."
“Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence done to the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land. But Judah shall abide forever and Jerusalem from generation to generation. And I will cleanse their blood which I have not cleansed; for the Lord dwelleth in Zion."
LL that we know of the prophet Amos is what he tells us in his book. He says of himself, “I was no prophet neither was I one of the sons of the
prophets; but I was a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees; and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said unto me, 'Go prophesy unto my people Israel'."
This means that he was not trained in the school of the prophets, nor was one of the recognized profession, but, as we might say, a layman called of God to this special office.
It is an illustration and example of that remarkable feature of the old dispensation which recognized the prophetic office as independent of the organized church or state-a special and immediate commission of God-a gift and calling of divine grace.
It is also an instructive illustration of the method of God's Spirit. The message he had to deliver was from God, but the style and form of its deliverance are the prophet's own. He is no mere amanuensis writing records, no mere voice uttering sounds, but a seer, a man with a vision, inspired and illuminated, but speaking that which was his own conviction and the impulse of his own spiritual life.
We find his message in the words and figures of speech appropriate to his circumstances and habits of thought.
It is the voice of the herdsman, the vision of a man of the open fields and the simple life. It has that directness and concreteness that comes from habitual contact with the concrete realities of daily life. It is homely, familiar, plain.
The book is entitled, "The Words of Amos which he saw concerning Israel." It consists of a series of brief oracles and visions, without any very obvious order or sequence, dealing with the evils of his time and the punishments impending.
We do not know how, nor to what audience these were delivered, but they seem as though they were the briefs or texts from which he may have preached at much greater length.
They may be conveniently divided into three groups, as follows:
I. Chapters 1-11. A series of short oracles directed against the sins of various nations, and predicting their punishment.
II. Chapters III-VI. A series of oracles directed against Israel, denouncing their offenses against good morals and their religious indifference, and warning the nation of impending doom.
III. Chapters VII-IX Five visions or parables portraying the corruption of church and state, and the certainty of God's judgment.
In the first section the prophet brings severe indictments against the neighboring nations, and still more severe against Judah and Israel. Syria, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon and Moab are all charged with gross cruelty, with repeated and pitiless aggression against their neighbors. Because of these offenses, they are denounced as doomed to destruction—"For three transgressions and for four"—that is, because their cruelty is repeated and habitual-"I will not turn away the punishment thereof."
It is to be remarked that judgment is pronounced against these nations not on account of their religious error or false worship, but because of their gross offenses against the obvious and ordinary laws of morality—sins which the dullest sense of decency and manliness could not but recognize and protest against.
But the indictment brought against Judah and Israel includes
and emphasizes the sin of apostacy from their religious faith. "Because they have rejected the law of the Lord and have not kept my statutes.” “I have brought you up out of the land of Egypt and led you forty years in the wilderness." "I raised up your sons for prophets and your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel ?"
Because of their greater privileges, their sin is greater and their condemnation more severe. This is the doctrine taught somewhat more explicitly by our Lord, when he said, “To whomsoever much is given of him shall much be required; and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more."
The second section of the book continues this strain of accusation and judgment, specifying in detail the sins and iniquities of the people.
"Hear this word, ye cows of Bashan”. coarse and brutish ones—"which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their lords, 'Bring, and let us drink'; ye that put away the evil day"-reckless and indifferent to consequences—"That lie upon beds of ivory, that sing idle songs." "That anoint themselves with chief ointments.” Thus he charges them with sensuous and selfish living, bent on their own pleasures, devoted only to luxury and vice. Not only their morals, but their religion was corrupt. “They despise sound doctrine." "They hate him that reproacheth in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly."
They worship with great zeal so far as form and outward service is concerned, but their whole religious service was insincere, an offense and an insult to Jehovah.
"I hate, I despise your feasts, and I will take no delight in your solemn assemblies.” “Take away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.”
With these and other words the prophet depicts to the people their corrupt and sinful condition. Then he warns them of the terrible judgments that must surely come upon them.
He reminds them that God's displeasure had been manifested many times in their history, that they were not ignorant of his demands for righteousness. He had chastised them for warning and reproof, but they would not lay it to heart.
“Therefore, thus will I do unto thee, O Israel; and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. For, lo, he that formeth the mountains and createth the wind and declareth unto man his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth; the Lord God of hosts is his name.”
The whole of the fifth and sixth chapters is a terrible cry of distress; of anguish and shame for their condition, of horror and pity in view of their approaching doom.
He offers here no thought of escape, he sees no ray of hope; the whole sky is dark, and the storm is ready to break, but the people will not awake to their danger, nor heed his warning cry.
In the third section—chapters VII-IX we have much the same matter, but it is presented in different form, and a possibility of escape by repentance is urged again and again, but each time the hope is discouraged by the callous indifference of the people.
In the first vision the prophet sees the judgment of the Lord in the figure of locusts, which the Lord God formed and sent forth to destroy the land, but when they had destroyed much, the prophet pleads for the people on the ground of their weakness. "I said, 'O Lord God, forgive, I beseech thee; how shall Jacob stand for he is small.' The Lord repented concerning this: 'It shall not be,' said the Lord."
The second vision is of a great fire which devoured the great deep and was about to destroy the land. Again the prophet intercedes on the ground of man's frailty. “O Lord God, cease, I beseech thee, for how shall Jacob stand, for he is small.” And again the Lord spares the people. “'This, also, shall not