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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books

Amos 5

Verses 1-27

Chapter 5

A Lamentation For Israel

Sad and solemn are the dirge-like measures of the prophet’s lamentation over the fallen nation that he loved so well. They had utterly broken down as a people in their allegiance and fidelity to God, and on the ground of responsibility could claim no blessing whatever. If God take them up at all, it must be in pure grace; otherwise naught but judgment could be their portion.

Thus has everything failed that God has committed to man, not excepting the testimony entrusted to the Church. But God has infinite resources in Himself, only to be displayed upon the failure of the objects of His grace. This may well cheer and uplift the spirits of all who sigh and cry for the unhappy divisions and utter breakdown of what should have been for testimony to Christ and the glory of God in these last days. Still, despondency and gloom need not overwhelm the soul. God may yet be entreated of His people. If there be brokenness and repentance manifested, He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think.

The virgin of Israel had fallen so low that she could never rise again-that is, so far as her own volition was concerned; nor were there any of her leaders who could raise her up. But God still entreated, crying in the ears of any who might heed, “Seek ye Me, and ye shall live!” None could deliver but He from whom they had grievously departed. To seek to Bethel, Gilgal, or Beersheba, where the high places that told of idolatrous self-will were set up, would be all in vain, as ironically declared in ch. 4:4. The fact that a certain sacredness of association was connected with each of the places named would not prevent their going into captivity. Bethel was no longer the house of God, nor did Gilgal now speak of reproach rolled away. Rather had Bethel become a hold of demons, and Gilgal was itself a reproach (vers. 1-5).

There is nothing in “succession,” whether it be the dream of apostolicity, or the modern notion prevailing in some quarters as to “the original ground of gathering,” and “the continuity of the Lord’s table.” What was once clearly of God becomes readily corrupted where pride and self-will are at work, and may have to be turned from and refused, in faithfulness to the Lord, despite all former associations of blessedness and the manifest acknowledgment of God in the past.

Scripture must ever be the guide-not human rules and assumption of authority. “That which was from the beginning” is the original ground- and only that!

So Israel are exhorted to seek the Lord and live, “lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel” (ver. 6). Alas, the warning was unheeded; so in a very few years the threatened judgment was carried out, and the house of Joseph was dispossessed of their land-never to be re-gathered till the day of the coming glory.

The herdman of Tekoa soars to loftiest flights of inspired poetry in verses 7 to 9. The “stars in their courses” had, no doubt, often been his contemplation as he watched his flocks on the hillside at night. The book of Job too had evidently been studied, for ver. 8 is closely linked with Job 9:9 and 38:31.

“Ye who turn judgment to wormwood,” he cries, “and cast down righteousness to the ground, consider the Maker of Kimah and Kesil (the Pleiades and Orion), even turning the shadow of death into morning, and who maketh the day dark with night; that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: Jehovah His name; that strengthened the spoiled against the strong, so that the spoiled shall come against the fortress” (7-9). Kimah and Kesil cannot be identified with certainty. That they refer to some of the more important constellations is clear. Both in the two places in Job where the words occur, and in this passage, they are generally translated as “the seven stars,” i. e., the Pleiades, and “Orion.” The Hebrews generally understood them to refer to these brilliant star-groups, which display the majesty and glory of their Creator. The prophet calls the workers of iniquity to contemplate Him who guides the heavenly bodies, and who brought them into being; who causes the sun to rise in his glory, dispelling the darkness; and whose hand likewise controls the planetary movements that bring the night again; and who gives rain to the thirsty ground. With Him men have to do, whether they desire it or not. His eyes beheld all the unholy ways of the people who were called by His name.

Wilfully rejecting light, they hated him who rebuked in the gate, and abhorred him who spake uprightly (ver. 10). Many are their successors. It is a most common thing to find those walking carelessly, or sinfully, filled with indignation against any who faithfully rebuke their unholy ways. Easy-going, man-pleasing preachers and teachers are delighted in; but faithful, God-fearing men are abhorred and despised. But he who would stand for God must expect the opposition and evil-speaking of the unspiritual and worldly-minded.

Knowing that he would be hated for rebuking in the gate, Amos nevertheless proclaims his solemn message without excuse or hesitation. He presses home upon their consciences the sins that were about to draw down coming judgment on the guilty nation. They oppressed the poor, thought only of their own comfort, afflicted the just, were bribe-takers, dealt unjustly with the needy in the place of judgment-the gate-and withal were so overbearing and insolent that it seemed the part of prudence to refrain from exposing their wickedness, so evil was the time (vers. 11-13). But God’s faithful servant covers nothing, using no flattering words. He manifests their hypocrisy, and then calls on them to “seek good, and not evil,” that they might live, and that the Lord of hosts might be with them. If the word was heeded, God might yet be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph (vers. 14, 15).

Men like Amos are never popular with the mass. Better far, however, to have the approbation of One than of the many. Like Paul, he spoke “not as pleasing men, but God, who trieth the hearts.” Yet there is no railing, no cutting or abusive language; simply the solemn, earnest recital of their guilt, and a tender, loving call to repentance.

If this call be unheeded, then wailing must supersede their empty songs, as it did very soon, when all joy was darkened, and even in the vineyards of gladness the lamentations of the desolate were heard (vers. 16, 17).

It is remarkable how low people can fall, and yet how religiously and piously they can talk. Wretchedly vile as was Israel’s condition, there were still to be found among them those who professed to desire the day of the Lord, hoping thereby to be delivered from their troubles-the fruit of their own waywardness. A woe is pronounced on such. What profit would there be for them in the day of the Lord? It would be as if a man fled from a lion, and was met by a bear. Seeking to escape this second danger, he flees to his house; but as he leans his hand against the wall, a poisonous serpent, concealed in some corner, or behind some drapery, strikes him with its venomed fangs. There could be no escape from judgment. The day of the Lord is to be the day of manifestation, and therefore, for the wicked, a day of darkness, and not of light; “even very dark, and no brightness in it” (vers. 18-20).

Quite in harmony with this pretended desire for the day of the Lord was the unreality of the feasts and solemn assemblies. Outwardly, there seems to have been some pretence to honor Jehovah in the reign of the second Jeroboam, but actually He was dishonored by the unholy practices indulged in. Therefore He hated the feast-days, and would not accept their offerings. He looked for righteousness to roll on as a mighty stream in the land, not for outward forms and ceremonies (vers. 21-24). But, alas, their present unreal course had been characteristic from their beginning. Even in the days of the wilderness they had set up the tabernacle of their false gods beside the sanctuary of Jehovah, and had offered sacrifices and offerings to them throughout those memorable forty years. “Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the Lord, whose name is The God of hosts” (vers. 25-27). This is intensely important, and worthy our most serious consideration. Here the Lord declares that the Assyrian captivity was the result of their sinful idolatry “in the wilderness!” Over seven hundred years had rolled by since that first apostasy; but as it had never been really judged, they must be judged for it! How this passage rebukes those who refuse to face the fact that unjudged evil is ever at work, like leaven, leavening the whole lump! Again we have the same lesson enforced which we noted at length in our study of Hosea 7:4-7. Oh, for hearts to bow to the truth so frequently pressed in Scripture, and thus to be kept from the defilement of unjudged evil!

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Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Amos 5". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. 1914.