All the visions which the prophet had seen before were striking and impressive; but the one in the opening verses of this chapter had more circumstances of awe about it than any of the preceding ones. This was a vision of vengeance upon the seat of mercy. The Lord was standing at that place where He Himself had appointed means to be used for making peace with Him, but He was standing there in anger. It reminds us of Jesus going to the Temple at Jerusalem, and showing severity against those who profaned it. But by God’s grace, we may see the great differences between His fearful anger against sin, and the blessed workings of His pardoning mercy to those who are penitent and believing.
In rebellion, man vainly tries to hide his transgressions from God’s sight. But here the Lord assures them that “though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them!” No depth of delusion, and no mass of human devices heaped over wicked deeds – whether those devices involve subtilty or hypocrisy, superstition or impiety – can secure anyone from the gnawings of their reproaching conscience, when God commands that serpent to bite them. But that which man rebelliously tries to do in vain, God mercifully promises to do effectually: “he will turn again, he will quicken us, he will subdue our iniquities, and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea!” O that all people were wise and understood this! O that they might see the vanity of all human efforts to remove sin, and the prevailing power of God’s grace to take it away, so that they would then renounce all delusive hopes and impious triflings and self-righteous dependences, and seek pardon and peace and safety and happiness where they can only be found – namely, in the covenanted mercy offered to them by Jesus Christ alone!
Verses 5 and 6 show how Amos was accustomed to rise from nature, up to nature’s God. He regards external and visible things as a means of attaining to the knowledge of those things which are spiritual and unseen. The consideration of the effects of an earthquake, and the overflowing of the Nile River, were proofs of the power and wisdom of God; and these thoughts led him on to a comprehensive view of the Almighty’s works in heaven, on earth, and at sea. Everywhere he traces the finger of God, and derives impressions of His majesty; and he makes mention of these wondrous works, so that he might (if possible) make a good impact upon the minds of his people.
The land of Canaan was possessed by the people of Israel; and if they had used this privilege for the purpose for which it was bestowed – namely, their preservation as a separate people, and the keeping up of the knowledge and worship of the true and living God – then an increase of blessings would have been given them. But they had not enjoyed the land in its spiritual intentions; they held ownership of it just as any other nation would have held it. They esteemed the Lord’s special favors to them as if they were common. The marvelous covenant-deliverances which He worked on their behalf became to them like common Providential arrangements. And so in verses 7-10, they are reminded that this distinguishing favor would be removed. If we fail to live up to the obligations of God’s mercies, we forfeit the honor and comfort of them. Destruction was to come upon the people of Israel, just as it would come upon any other sinful kingdom; but the element of the covenant is still brought in again in verse 8: “saving that I will not utterly destroy!” And also in verse 9: “There shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.” The eyes of the Lord were upon the sinful kingdom, and He promised to destroy it from off the face of the earth; but nevertheless, He said that He would not entirely destroy the house of Jacob. “For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth!”
The Book of Amos began with dreadful sounds – like the roaring of a lion – foreboding dismay and desolation among the habitations of the shepherds, who would mourn because of it (chapter 1:2). But now it ends (verses 11-15) with a vision reminding us of those “who hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them nor any heat; for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Rev. 7:16-17). The Book began with threatenings of a common vengeance, which were denounced against the wicked heathen and the rebellious Israelites; but it ends with a description of the uniting together of both Jews and Gentiles in the Kingdom of the Messiah, enjoying a common felicity and happiness. “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen,” said the Lord (verse 11). When the darkness is greatest, light will appear! When the powers of the devil seem to be at their greatest, and when he seems to be just at the verge of being victorious – then Christ will be manifested! Even now, in Him, the God of heaven is setting up a Kingdom of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit – a Kingdom that will not decline or decay, but which has within itself the principle of expansion and increase. And our glorious King Jesus exerts a power beyond that of even the most powerful despot that ever ruled a nation; for to His obedience, every thought must be brought captive!
Thank You, Lord, for the merciful assurance that not the least one of all Your dear children shall fall to the ground, for every believer is precious in Your sight! Amen.
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