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Insufferable Social Injustices
Chapter 1. The words of Amos, a Tekoan herdsman, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah and Jeroboam. First comes the denunciation of Israel’s neighbors. The prophecy warns against using the teaching of the Word to justify wrongdoing (Syria). It puts us on guard against overemphasizing an interpretation of the Word, which becomes a heresy when we condemn everyone who fails to accept it (Philistia). We weaken the power of the Word when we champion opinions in philosophy, psychology, or sociology contrary to the plain teaching of the Scriptures (Tyre). The Word throughout teaches the law of love, which is nullified through any false interpretation of it (Edom). And those who live according to such false interpretations, destroy the truth in the Word (Ammon).
2. Moab also comes under condemnation, representing those who "destroy the good and truth of the Church" by violating the law of charity. Worst of all is Judah’s offense, a contempt of the Lord’s commandments—"sitting in the seat of the scornful." The prophet specifies the offenses of Israel, who "sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes; they pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek." Forsaking the just for a bribe, regarding the poor as of no account, begrudging even the dust on his head as a sign of mourning, and making the meek resentful, surely that is a serious enough charge against a member of any Church, even in this literal sense. Yet, further, that prophet insists that the churchman claims to have all the truth, but keeps none of it, and cannot stand in the judgment.
3. Israel had been chosen to represent the Lord’s church. The function of the church is to define clearly right and wrong in the light of God’s Word. The world is governed by law, and not by chance. If you keep bad company, that is your affair. The lion’s roar is never meaningless! Where there is no snare, the bird can’t be hurt; nor can the trap go off till the bird starts it. Israel has been warned by the prophets. "The lion hath roared, who will not fear?" The responsibility rests with Israel for devastating the church. "They know not to do right, who store up violence and robbery in their palaces." The gods we serve are powerless to avert the punishment inherent in breaking the law. "In the day that I shall visit the transgressions of Israel upon him, I will visit the altars of Bethel—(the golden calf)—and the horns of the altar shall be cut off, and fall to the ground."
4. Doubtless this prophecy might be applied to the oppression of the weak by the strong, with its consequent degradation and chastisement for amendment. But the lesson goes deeper. Kine represent the love of one’s occupation, and "the masters" the intelligence put into it. There is here a false pride, crushing the spirit of humility, that requires judgment. "Bring, and let us drink." If this self-importance is not recognized, and cast out, it will corrupt our worship, and destroy the effectiveness of the teachings of the church. Yea, it will in time falsify the truth, and end in the profanation of it. "Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel"; turn to the Lord, and be freed from it.
5. "Hear ye this word which I take up against you, O house of Israel. The virgin of Israel is fallen; she is forsaken upon her land; there is none to raise her up. For thus saith the Lord God; The city that went out by a thousand shall leave a hundred, and that which went forth by a hundred shall leave ten, to the house of Israel." It is a lamentation over the state of the church torn to pieces by dissension, languishing from the worship of mammon, "leaving off righteousness in the earth." The people "abhor him that speaketh uprightly." Proud, corrupt, they reject the truth about themselves, "because they are in self-intelligence." "The prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time. . . . The day of the Lord is darkness, and not light." Worship in the Church is a mockery. Things must get worse to drive home the lesson. "Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity, saith the Lord."
6. "Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria." The spiritual church which was instituted has "turned out worse than the religions of other nations. It possesses all things of the church in abundance; but thinks nothing of the destruction of the church." Again, "we may not make mention of the name of the Lord. For, behold, the Lord will smite the great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts. . . . for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock." Silence is golden. The beam in our own eyes must first be removed to see clearly the mote in the eye of our neighbor.
7. Amos saw locusts eat part of the grass, but the Lord had mercy on Jacob. He saw fire devour part of the deep, but the Lord had mercy on Jacob. Then he saw a plumb line, and the Lord said, "I will not again pass by them anymore." There is plenty of tattle and mistaken sympathy in the world that do considerable harm, but are readily pardonable. The lack of uprightness, however, breaks down character. It is contrary to God, and the plain teachings of religion. It is adulterous. "Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, . . . and thy land shall be divided by line, and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land."
8. The basket of summer fruit here has the same significance—lovely fruit, unexceptionable deeds, but done for effect, for the praise of men, and not for the praise of God; therefore Israel is impatient of the call to worship on the Sabbath day as an interference of business, to gain more for self at the expense of others. "Surely I will never forget any of their works. . . . I will turn your feasts into mourning. . . . and the end thereof as a bitter day. . . . They that swear by the sin of Samaria (worshipping the golden calf) . . . shall fall, and never rise up again." There can be no compromise with self-praise at any time.
9. The Lord punishes no man. That is only the appearance as man saw it in the past. But no man can escape the consequences of his own evils in intention, or deed. The Lord is all-powerful, and is ever present in the constant process of sifting our thoughts and intentions, so that "not the least grain shall fall upon the earth," or be lost. "In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old . . . . And I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel . . . . And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God." "The land" is heaven, "a kingdom of uses" without limit either progressively, or in species.
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