The opening of this chapter portrays the prophet in that condition of mind which, at some time or another, is the experience of every faithful minister of God’s Word: “Mine eyes gush out with water because men keep not thy law” (Ps. 119). And well might the prophet thus weep, as he beheld the terrible state that his own nation was in. Alas for a ship when it has no pilot, because it will be carried along by the waves and tempest of the sea, and then perish! But alas even more for a poor soul, when it does not have the true Pilot – namely, Christ! For such a soul shall be rocked back and forth in the sea of the bitterness and darkness, and tossed about by the tempest of passions, and furiously impelled by evil spirits – until, at length, it meets with destruction. Alas for a soul, when it has no one to carefully tend it – not even Christ – so that it may be able to bring forth the good fruits of the Spirit! For when it is left destitute by Him – full of thorns and briars – its harvest shall only be a preparation for the fire. And then multiply this dreadful thought by the consideration of the multitudes of lost souls that must be contained within the borders of a wicked nation, such as Israel was at this time – and you can easily see why Amos had reason to take up a lamentation (verse 1).
As the prophet mourned over the effects of God’s anger toward His people, he put his thoughts into a form of words like those used at funerals; and he called upon the people to listen to the mournful strains which he had prepared. Heavy indeed was the burden of Amos’ funeral-dirge; and throughout the first 15 verses of the chapter, he enlarges upon the cause of all these sorrows – namely, the same cause of every one of the countless lamentations which has ascended, in every age and place, from the abodes of the children of men. And that cause is sin. The veil is here taken off of that hideous monster. Sin appears as the direct cause of this overwhelming sorrow. And if we learn to join with God’s servants in every age, and meditate upon and weep over the effects of sin; then we shall be instructed to exercise a holy indignation against it. How we ought – with full purpose of heart – to cling unto Him Who came to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, in order to remove its guilt and destroy its power! How we ought to earnestly expect the time when sin shall be totally removed from us, and sorrow shall be forever unknown in the family of God!
“Thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live!” (verse 4) The Eternal and Righteous Governor of the universe is speaking here, and His words are addressed to His rebellious people. And what is the announcement that He makes to them? Is it, “Ye are utterly abandoned to vengeance”? No! He says, “Seek ye me, and ye shall live!” He speaks as our God, Who is ready to abundantly pardon; for His ways are not like our ways, nor are His thoughts like our thoughts. “Ye shall live!” says He. “Your sins shall be pardoned; your vices cured; your sorrows removed; your condemnation set aside; your happiness secured!” But although the way is wide enough for every sinner, it is too narrow to admit a single sin. We must cling to the Lord Jesus with full purpose of heart; but we must not try to combine our service of Him with the practice or pursuit of those things which He has forbidden.
The latter portion of this chapter begins with the statement (verse 16) that what the prophet had done as a man of God – the same would also be done by the people of the land, in actual experience of misery. As a man of God, he had mourned and used words of lamentation (verses 1-3) over the coming judgments upon the sinful nation. And now – in the name of the Lord – he tells them that wailing and lamentation would be heard in their streets, highways, fields, and vineyards. And why? Because of the impenitence of the people. And Jehovah’s destructive presence among them would be an increase of their sorrows. It is equated to the terror that a man would experience if he was being chased by a lion through the forest, and imagined himself to be beyond its reach – and then suddenly, a bear appeared dead-on ahead of him in his path! Or to use another illustration, it would be like the man actually escaping the lion, and reaching his home in safety – only to have a serpent slither out from behind the wall, and sink his fangs into his hand! (verse 19)
The mention of “the day of the Lord” in verses 18-20 naturally suggests the idea of the people’s solemn religious days, which were intended to be – in a peculiar manner – “the days of the Lord” to His people. But their perversion of the times, places, and ordinances wherein they ought to have met with God in the ordinary course of His dealings with them was a sad evidence of their unfitness for His coming to them by any special manifestation of His presence and power. They provoked the Lord to anger when they drew near to Him in their hypocritical acts of worship, which He counted as an abomination. Even today, there is great danger in substituting formal ceremonies in the place of the true spiritual worship of God, and this has proved to be destructive to immense multitudes. Think of how many means of grace God has given us for our full and peaceable enjoyment: private prayer, family devotions, public worship, hearing of the Word, and partaking of the Sacraments. To us, therefore, an admonition is here conveyed – warning us to be most earnest and careful in the use of our spiritual privileges, lest the abundance of our blessings only proves to be an increase of our condemnation.
Lord, help us repent of our reliance in external ceremonies, and enable us to worship You in sincerity. Amen.
If you prefer to listen, today’s Family Bible guide is available in audio format on both SermonAudio and YouTube.
Join other families all around the globe and receive the full-color, freely downloadable format of these thoughts in your email every day! It’s my prayer that you and your family will be equipped to receive abundant blessings from the hand of the Lord as you study His Word and worship in His presence together.
photo by Prixel Creative | Lightstock.com