This chapter is an important one because of the insight which it gives into the character of the prophet, and also because of its mention of an interesting part of his life’s history. In it, we see him as an earnest, tender-hearted man, interceding for his people; as a true messenger, faithfully repeating the word committed to him; and as a fearless prophet, undaunted by persecution and danger.
In the opening verses, we have mention made of evils – locusts, fire, and plague – that were prepared and threatened against God’s people. But we also read of a means that is employed to turn them away – namely, earnest prayer! After Amos’ intercessory prayer, the plague was turned aside. What great praise this merciful aversion of well-deserved judgment ought to have produced among the people! And what glorious thanksgiving it ought to incite in us also, as we call to mind similar mercies that have been poured out upon ourselves by the hand of our gracious God! We must praise the Lord with a firm faith in His Providential care of the children of mankind, and reflect upon all the provision that He has made for our needs, the peace with which we have so long been blessed, the privileges which we enjoy, the blessings which are continually poured out upon us, and especially the deliverance from misery which His blessing of abundant harvests provides. We ought to praise Him by an earnest striving to join in the grateful prayers of thanks which are offered up – especially now, at this season which is particularly set aside to be a time of Thanksgiving! And as we are busy thanking and praising the Lord, it is truly a time when we also ought to strengthen our resolutions to do good (as we are able) to all our fellow human beings whom the Lord places in our path. If we sincerely bless God the Father for all His benefits to us, then we shall assuredly desire to bless those who are made after His image. Moreover, when we hear sad and revolting accounts of crime and misery in a land which has deeply suffered, how our prayers ought to ascend to God, begging Him to mercifully show His power and avert evil! How we ought to beseech Him to bestow a blessing for Christ’s sake, which may result in the removal of superstition and wickedness and misery; and to pour out the gift of the pure light of the Gospel, and the privileges of Christian peace and holiness.
Although the Lord mercifully turned away the plagues from His people upon the intercessory prayer of His servant Amos, a limit was made to the concession of mercy. We can easily imagine how the prophet would hope that the favor which was thus shown to his countrymen would lead them to repentance. But the repeated mercy failed to produce this effect, and so an emblem of righteous vengeance was shown to the prophet (verses 7-9). “Behold the Lord stood upon a wall, made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in His hand.” A plumbline is a weighted object that is hung from a string, which is used by carpenters to carefully ensure the upright stability and complete soundness of a wall under construction. By the plumbline, then, Amos was taught a lesson concerning the strict equity of Jehovah’s dealings with His people. He was abundant in mercy, as had just been shown in the plagues being averted; but He was also strictly just when such favors were shown in vain, and He would visit the ungrateful recipients of His mercy with righteous judgment.
As we read the latter portion of this chapter, the declaration of our blessed Savior about the reception given to His servants forcibly recurs to the mind. A man named Amaziah was the priest of the golden calf at Bethel. And while the poor prophet was preaching to the common people, Amaziah was accusing him at the king’s court. In his accusation, he endeavors to make Amos appear as though he had conspired against the king. But in reality, the whole bent of Amos’ preaching was to say to the whole house of Israel that their sins had caused the coming destruction upon their land. And did he tell the king how Amos had interceded with the Lord for Israel, and how he had succeeded? Not a word of this! So in the very moment when the humble herdsman of Tekoa was really and truly the best friend of Israel, he is represented as the greatest enemy and traitor to both the king and the country. In a similar manner, the words of our Savior were twisted in order to do Him evil. Thus also was Paul treated, and thus also were the martyrs and Reformers charged with sedition against their governments.
Having spoken evil against the prophet to the king, Amaziah then endeavored to terrify him personally. “O thou seer,” he said; “go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there!” But while Amaziah knew of no greater object of fear or hope than the frown or the favor of an earthly king, Amos saw and served the One Who is invisible. He answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit [figs]. And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel!” In these words, he showed the plain nature of his God-given commission. Amos was a prophet, called by God; and woe would have come upon him if he did not fulfill his office. The sin of Amaziah was great; for he told Amos, “Prophesy not against Israel.” And in saying so, he directly contradicted the command and commission of God. Therefore, an awful sentence of Divine judgment was conveyed to him from the lips of the prophet whom he hated.
Lord, give grace to Your servants, so that – like Amos – they may earnestly contend for the faith which has been delivered to the saints. Fill them with a holy zeal that makes them earnest to win souls, and to consider that faith worth dying for! Amen.
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