from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 49

Amos 7, 8: A Famine for the Words of the Lord

The Story


The Lord used a man named Amos to declare His message to the sons of Israel in the days of Jeroboam II, about the year 760 B.C. The personality of this man appears in the book through its language and personal references. These characteristics help toward a better understanding of the message he was called to deliver. The prophet belonged to Tekoa, and was a herdsman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit (Amos 1:1; 7:14). Tekoa is twelve miles south from Jerusalem. Locate Bethlehem first. It is six miles south from Jerusalem. Now pass onwards to Tekoa, and you reach a wild desert in which by night the wild beasts howl. Beyond this, looking eastward, rolls the land of Jeshimon, or Devastation, which stretches over a sea of hills and disappears down the precipitous cliffs overlooking the bleak and barren Dead Sea. In this wild country, Amos herded a peculiar breed of desert sheep still highly valued for the excellence of their wool. He was also a dresser of sycamores. This tree is easily grown in sandy soil with little water. Its "fruit is like a small fig, with a sweet but watery taste, and is eaten only by the poor. Born not of fresh twigs, but of the trunk and older branches, the sluggish lumps are provoked to ripen by pinching or bruising, which seems to be the literal meaning of the term that Amos uses of himself - a pincher of sycamores." His home then was in the desert. He was a herdsman, and dresser of sycamores. He was "no prophet, nor son of a prophet." He was not educated in the schools of the prophets. The Lord simply "took him from behind the flock" to deliver His message to Israel. Hence that message bears many traces of the school in which he was brought up - the lonesome desert. His opening words are, "Jehovah roareth from Zion" (Amos 1:2). He speaks of the lion roaring in the forest over his prey, the snares set for the birds, the alarum sounding in the desert town, and the shepherd saving the remnants of the lion's prey out of its very mouth (Amos 3:4-6, 8, 12). He refers to nature's processes as one well acquainted with them (Amos 4:13; 9:5-6). How often also in the silent watches of the night must he have noticed the Pleiades (the seven stars) and Orion (Amos 5:8)! And now we picture this desert man go up to Bethel and behold there especially the evils of the rich and the false worship of the people. He is possessed by the Spirit of the Lord, and condemns the nation. "The Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy? You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore will I visit your iniquities upon you. Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel" (Amos 3:2, 8; 4:12). This is the burden of his message, its final outcome. As a father sees his child disobey his voice, and foretells the consequence that must surely follow perversity, so the prophet perceives the inevitable result of indifference to the will of God. The sinful nation is doomed; its doom too is imminent. Amos does not say definitely how the punishment is to be effected, but predicts the impending fall with certainty (Amos 5: 27; 6:7; 7:17). The nation was rapidly declining. As already mentioned, Amos spoke in the days of Jeroboam II, about 760 B.C. Very soon afterward, the Assyrians became Israel's most dreaded enemy. And in 722 B.C., Samaria fell before Sargon, and the land was depopulated.

We are now ready to understand better the chapters assigned for the lesson. They contain the visions of judgment. The final vision was that of locusts devouring the spring crop (Amos 7:1-3). The crop is referred to as "the shooting up as the latter growth, the latter growth after the king's mowings." It would be translated better as the spring crop. "In the Syrian year there are practically two tides of verdure: one which starts after the early rains of October and continues through the winter, checked by the cold; and one which comes away with greater force under the influence of the later rains and more genial airs of spring. Of these it was the later and richer which the locusts had attacked. ĎAnd behold, it was after the kingís mowings.í" These seem to have been a tribute which the kings of Israel levied on the spring herbage. (1 Kings 4:7) Everyone might reap his own after the king had received his share. If the remainder was devoured, there was no hope of any fodder till December. This calamity was averted. Then came the vision of fire (Amos 7:4-6), which calamity was also averted. Then followed the vision of the plumb-line (Amos 7:7 9) and of the basket of summer fruit (Amos 8:1-3), both of which were final. To set a plummet or a line with weights or stones over any city or people means judgment (2 Kings 21:13; Isa. 34:11). Originally, Israel was as "a wall made by a plumb-line" (Amos 7:7), but now it was so far off the plumb that it was unable to support the edifice. The structure must fall. "I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword." We can almost hear the prophet boldly utter these words before the people of Bethel in the very midst of their worship of the golden calf (1 Kings 12:28-29), and then turn at the derisive voice of the priest Amaziah challenging the Lord's prophet, and demanding that he betake himself to Judah and play the prophet there! The ring of truth is in Amos' humble reply, and terror in his closing condemnation. In the latter portion of chapter 8 (verses 4-14), he denounces the tyranny of the rich, and dilates upon the judgment. The ninth chapter continues this subject, but finally lets in a stream of kindly light. The Judgment is only for the sake of discipline (Amos 9:9). The nation will be restored to its pristine glory.

The leading characteristic of Amos is to be found in his use of the truth which relentlessly condemns the guilty. He may have felt sympathy in his heart for his unfortunate people: he does not give expression to it. In this respect, he is not unlike that other man of the desert who condemned the people in our Lord's time. (Luke 3:7 and on)

Spiritual Study


There are several strong lessons taught in these two chapters. First, there is one respecting judgment. The consequences of evil-doing are certain. We are inclined sometimes to forget the urgency of doing the Lord's will and the results of disobedience, even as children too, often forget their parents' wishes, and willfully take their own way in preference. When we see reason to reform - external reasons - we endeavor to change. But this is done before the world, and because of the world. The seriousness of breaking the Divine law is proved to be a matter of small moment to us by the careless way in which we consult the Divine law, and the indifference which we often manifest with regard to its application to ourselves. Still, the consequences are inevitable, whether we will or no. The Lord is certainly merciful. The plague of locusts or grasshoppers suggests the presence of evil thoughts that devour heavenly ideas in the mind. The Lord does not utterly condemn such thoughts in the ignorant. The contention by means of fire which does partial damage is the ignorant and unruly outburst of fiery passions, without full intent of evil. The Lord spares the remnant even here. But in the case of the plumb-line and basket of summer fruit, picturing the crooked deed, evil intent in act, there is something that even the Lord cannot pass by. Amaziah the priest accuses Amos of treason. This voices the effort of the heart to overthrow the judgment of the truth, to twist it round and make it appear to be falsity. We do not like to be corrected: we object to being reproved or self condemned. The human resents it, but the truth cannot be silenced. It is irrepressible, and relentless in its judgment. Another lesson can be drawn from Amos 8:4-6. It is a sad lesson. It describes the pitiful condition of those who are under the clutches of the love of money. They hate the Sabbath day. It interferes with business. They are in great haste to become rich. The application, however, is not limited to the wealthy. It is the will of the Lord that we "keep the Sabbath day holy." How many can call that day a delight? (Isa. 58:13-14) How widespread is the spirit which is impatient of the claim that religion (which is taught on the Sabbath day) has relation to life - to business life! Many think, and even declare, that if they were to keep the Lordís commandments it would ruin their business. Better ruination than "trample the needy, and crush out the poor of the land." The consequences of sin are inevitable. They lead to a crisis, a judgment. But we are assured that that crisis for the righteous, for those who hate evil and love good, those who struggle to do the will of God, is only for purification, to sift the character, and finally separate all evil from the good.

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