This chapter begins with the judgment of Moab – another of the heathen nations that bordered upon the land of Israel. The particular crime that they are here charged with is cruelty; and the instance that is referenced was not done to the people of God, but to a heathen like themselves – for the king of Moab burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime.
Judah was also a next-door neighbor to the kingdom of Israel; and since Divine Justice was now riding the circuit, that nation was not to be passed by – for they had made themselves like the heathen, and mingled with them. The other nations that Amos spoke against were judged for the injuries that they had done to their fellow human beings, but Judah was brought to reckon for the indignities that they had done to their God! They put contempt upon His statutes, and they persisted in disobedience of them. They despised the law of the Lord, as if it were not worth taking notice of, nor had anything valuable in it. And herein they despised the wisdom, justice, and goodness of the Lawmaker – as well as His authority and sovereignty. But that was not all! They put honor upon the Lord’s rivals by worshiping their stupid idols. Alas! One sin draws after it a thousand others. God is an infinite and eternal Spirit; but when people attempt to change the truth of God into a lie by their idolatry, all of His other truths are in danger of being changed likewise. Their idols cause them to err, and so the Lord justly gives them up to strong delusions. Chastisement and correction must be used, even with God’s children, when tenderness and expostulation fail to call home their wandering hearts to the Lord (Ps. 89:30-32).
And now, at length, we come to the words which Amos spoke concerning the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He begins with them as with the rest: “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof!” All the other nations were punished for their iniquities, and so Israel would not go unpunished. Let us take note of what their sins were, for which God would judge them. The first was the perverting of justice. The judges and magistrates had no qualms about selling a righteous man and his righteous cause, when it came to be tried before them, for a piece of silver. The bribe tipped the scales of justice, and judgment was auctioned off and sold to the highest bidder. But another of their crimes was their oppression of the poor and sorrowful, such as poor orphans who were in mourning for their parents. They never rested until they had gotten the heads of these unfortunate persons in the dust, and their estates into their own sinful hands. But as bad as this was, it was not all! Abominable uncleanness and immorality was found among them. The laws of modesty seldom hold sway over those who have broken the bands of justice, and cast away its restraints from them. This wickedness is such a scandal to religion, that those who are guilty of it are looked upon as intending thereby to profane God’s holy name, and to render it odious among the heathen – as if He approved of the villainies that were being committed by those who supposedly worship Him. Moreover, the people of Israel were not only charged with these sins, but also with the abomination of pretending to honor their God with the booty that they had gotten by their oppression and extortion – as if they would make Him a part-ner in their crimes, by making Him a partner of the profits of them. This may be good enough service for false gods, but the true God will not be mocked in that way. He cannot be served acceptably except with that which is gotten honestly.
In verses 9-16, God put His people in mind of the great things He had done for them, and He charged them with abusing the means of grace which they enjoyed. They were so far from walking in the light that they actually rebelled against it and did what they could to extinguish it, so that it might not shine in their faces and convict them of their sins. They endeavored to silence their faithful ministers and stop their mouths. They told them to not prophesy, and threatened them if they did – as if God’s messengers were bound to observe their orders, and could not deliver their message unless they were given permission by their audience. Moreover, these wicked people did what they could to debauch the righteous, and draw them off from their seriousness in devotion and their strictness in their lifestyle. Satan and his minions are very busy to especially corrupt the minds of young people who look heavenward, by drawing them into the love of worldly mirth and pleasure!
Jehovah complains of the wrong that the people did to Him by their sins (verse 13). He told them that He was pressed underneath them and the load of their sins, as a cart is pressed down when it is loaded with sheaves in the harvest-time. The great God Who upholds the world, and never complains that He is pressed under the weight of it – Who “fainteth not, neither is weary” – yet complains of the sins and hypocrisy of His people. If He loads us daily with His blessings; and in spite of that, we load Him with our sins – how can we expect anything other than that He shall load us with His judgments? O that He may preserve us from the ways of rebellion! The Lamb of God, on the cross, became the mighty Burden-bearer of all our sins; He died as the righteous Substitute in the place of the unrighteous, in order to reconcile us to the Father. May He work in us true Godly sorrow for those sins which brought Him to the cross, and may He rescue us from the power and dominion of those sins!
Lord, help us to repent of times when we have been like the Israelites of old, by abusing the blessings and privileges which You have richly bestowed on us. Amen.
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