A. Woe to those who are at ease in Zion.
1. (1-2) Comparing Israel to her pagan neighbors.
Woe to you who are at ease in Zion,
And trust in Mount Samaria,
Notable persons in the chief nation,
To whom the house of Israel comes!
Go over to Calneh and see;
And from there go to Hamath the great;
Then go down to Gath of the Philistines.
Are you better than these kingdoms?
Or is their territory greater than your territory?
a. Woe to you who are at ease in Zion: In her pride and indulgence, all Israel sought was ease. This indulgent lust for comfort and luxury is a sin, and God promised to judge Israel for it.
i. Rest can be a good and godly thing. Jesus wants to give us rest (Matthew 11:28-29). There is a rest waiting for the people of God (Hebrews 4:9-11). There is rest for us in heaven (Revelation 14:13). Then there is another kind of rest, a sinful kind of rest – connected to indifference, laziness, and indulgence.
ii. Yet the prophet Amos spoke of “a carnal ease, a fleshly security, it is not the confidence of a man who is pardoned, but the ease of a hardened wretch who has learned to despise the gibbet. It is not the assurance of one who is on the rock, but the ease of a senseless drunkard, whose house is tottering from its sandy foundations, and yet he riots at full speed; it is not the calm of a soul at peace with God, but the ease of a madman, who, because he has hidden his sin from his own eyes, thinks he has concealed it from God. It is the ease and peace of one who has grown callous, hardened, brutalized, stupid, sullen, and careless, who has begun a sleep which God grant may soon be broken, or else it will surely bring him where he shall make his bed in hell.” (Spurgeon)
iii. How did this sinful ease of God’s people show itself?
· Israel’s sinful ease was shown in presumption, because she trusted in the might of Mount Samaria.
· Israel’s sinful ease was shown in procrastination, because she put far off the day of doom (Amos 6:3).
· Israel’s sinful ease was shown in cruelty to men, because she caused the seat of violence to come near (Amos 6:3).
· Israel’s sinful ease was shown in love of self, through all the self-indulgence described in Amos 6:4-6.
· Israel’s sinful ease was shown in carelessness, in the willful, drunken ignorance of Amos 6:6.
iv. “Self-indulgence! Oh, this is the God of many! They live not for Christ – What do they for him? They live not for his Church – What care they for that? They live for self, and for self only. And mark there are such among the poor as well as among the rich, for all classes have this evil leaven.” (Spurgeon)
v. King David had an ungodly ease when he stayed behind when it was the time for kings to go out to war – and he fell into sin with Bathsheba, eventually murdering her husband to cover up his immorality (2 Samuel 11).
b. Are you better than these kingdoms? God wanted to rebuke the pride of Israel by making them compare themselves to some of their pagan neighbors. God wanted them to see that these pagan cities and kingdoms were not so great after all. These cities may have already suffered the judgment of God, and God wanted Israel to know they would be next because they were no better.
2. (3-7) The high-standing people in Israel will be brought low.
Woe to you who put far off the day of doom,
Who cause the seat of violence to come near;
Who lie on beds of ivory,
Stretch out on your couches,
Eat lambs from the flock
And calves from the midst of the stall;
Who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments,
And invent for yourselves musical instruments like David;
Who drink wine from bowls,
And anoint yourselves with the best ointments,
But are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.
Therefore they shall now go captive as the first of the captives,
And those who recline at banquets shall be removed.
a. Woe to you who put far off the day of doom…who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments…who drink wine from bowls…but are not grieved: Amos prophesied during a time of economic prosperity in Israel, and the successful in Israel used that prosperity for pure self-indulgence. When God makes us prosperous, we have an absolute obligation to use what He gives us in a way that glorifies Him, not that pampers ourselves.
b. Therefore they shall now go captive as first of the captives: God warned the leading men of Israel that they would lead in the train of captives when the Assyrians conquered Israel.
B. The coming destruction of Israel.
1. (8-11) The city is delivered to destruction.
The Lord GOD has sworn by Himself,
The LORD God of hosts says:
“I abhor the pride of Jacob,
And hate his palaces;
Therefore I will deliver up the city
And all that is in it.”
Then it shall come to pass, that if ten men remain in one house, they shall die. And when a relative of the dead, with one who will burn the bodies, picks up the bodies to take them out of the house, he will say to one inside the house, “Are there any more with you?” Then someone will say, “None.” And he will say, “Hold your tongue! For we dare not mention the name of the LORD.”
For behold, the LORD gives a command:
He will break the great house into bits,
And the little house into pieces.
a. I abhor the pride of Jacob: As much as their sinful conduct, God hated the pride of Jacob. In their season of prosperity and success they lifted their hearts high in pride, and God will send a destroying army to bring them low.
i. This principle is so important to the LORD that He repeats it three times: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5, James 4:6, Proverbs 3:34).
b. Hold your tongue! For we dare not mention the name of the LORD: The people would be so terrified at the judgment of God that they would fear to hear even the name of the LORD mentioned.
i. “When a relative of one of the dead comes to burn the corpses, should he find one person still alive, that person will not permit his mentioning the name of the Lord for fear that the LORD will turn his wrath on him.” (McComiskey)
2. (12-14) The injustice and pride of Israel make it a target of judgment.
Do horses run on rocks?
Does one plow there with oxen?
Yet you have turned justice into gall,
And the fruit of righteousness into wormwood,
You who rejoice over Lo Debar,
Who say, “Have we not taken Karnaim for ourselves
By our own strength?”
“But, behold, I will raise up a nation against you,
O house of Israel,”
Says the LORD God of hosts;
“And they will afflict you from the entrance of Hamath
To the Valley of the Arabah.”
a. Do horses run on rocks? You can’t expect a good result if you run a horse over rough rocks, because the horse will be injured. In the same way, Israel could not expect a good result when they turned justice into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood.
i. Here, Amos “puts together two proverbs which were commonly used to signify that men do not, as a rule, continue to labour in vain, and spend their strength for nought. Wise men do not send their horses to run upon the rocks; and they do not send their oxen to plough where all their toil would be wasted: ‘Shall horses run upon the rock?’ ‘Will one plough rocks with oxen?’ The answer implied is, ‘Certainly not,’ and it meant that, if a thing cannot be done, or it is not worth doing if it can, it will be well for us not to attempt to do it.” (Spurgeon)
b. I will raise up a nation against you, O house of Israel: Amos came back to this constant theme – because of Israel’s great and deep sin, judgment would come to them through a conquering nation.
i. “The Lord points to other cities which had been destroyed, – to Calneh, and Hamath, and Gath, which he had smitten because of the sin of the people who had lived there; and he says, ‘Ye that dwell at Jerusalem, and ye that live at Samaria, do not imagine that ye will escape the consequences of your sin. I was able to reach the inhabitants of these proud cities, despite their strong fortifications and their powerful armies; and I can reach you also.’ So, when we look back upon the judgments of God upon guilty men, we may conclude that no sinner has any right to think that he shall escape. The proudest and mightiest have been brought down by God and so will men, who dare to resist the Most High, continue to be humble, even to the world’s end.” (Spurgeon)