Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
AN AWFUL CHALLENGE. Amos 4:6-13
It is an awful act when God Almighty challenges a crippled nation to a final combat. "Prepare to meet your God, O Israel." This is a declaration of war. All negotiations had failed, a rupture had come. Now, after the manner of men, God challenges them to battle. It is quite apparent that in their past this would be a hopeless struggle. And to this end doubtless was it made.
I. Why was this Challenge Given? Because Jehovah had been trying to subdue them in other more merciful ways; and when the last of these failed, behold a challenge came. God gives His reasons before He utters this ultimatum.
1. "I have given you cleanness of teeth (starvation) in all your cities, yet you Have Not Returned unto Me" (verse 6).
2. "I caused it to rain in one city and not in another." Thus Making Distinctions that should have awakened anxiety, "yet have you not returned unto Me" (v. 8).
3. "I have Sent Among you the Pestilence. Your young men have I slain with the sword. Yet have you not returned unto Me" (v. 10).
4. "I have Overthrown Some of You, like Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning. Yet you have not returned unto Me" (v. 11). The purpose of all these chastenings was to bring them to Himself, but they would not. "I have called, and you refused." Now then, "Prepare to meet your God!" Are we hearing His voice and seeing His warning hand in His providential dealings with us? It is a miserable thing to be carrying on, it may be silently, a daily controversy with the God whose merciful purpose is that we should return unto Him. "I will arise and go to my Father."
II. This Challenge Must be Accepted. "You must meet God." But how? Is it to be in battle or in peace? As an enemy or as a friend? If it is a question of our own strength against the might of our God, who shall be able to stand? Though one man could be prepared by being endowed with all the best resources inherent in the human race, he could not dare with any hope of success to face and defy the "wrath of God." To meet God in our own moral strength and virtue, all preparation is utterly vain and presumptive. Yet meet Him we must, and meet Him we can, but never with hope as an antagonist. Then how can we meet Him in peace who have deliberately rebelled against His law and insulted His forbearance? Ah, herein lies the mystery and the majesty of grace through Jesus Christ, His own Beloved Son, who on our and on God's behalf gave His life a ransom for our sins, that through faith in His conquering Name we are reconciled to God, so can come with boldness before His throne, and find grace to help in our every time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Christ, for us, has met all the just demands of God's holy law, and all the claims of His holiness. Hence our preparation to meet God in joy and peace lies in our acceptance and trust in the finished work and victorious Name of Jesus. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable Gift.
FAITHFUL WITNESSING. Amos 7:7-17
The Lord has never left Himself without a witness (Hebrews 11). The very "Heavens declare His glory." The personal testimony of Amos, as here recorded, leads us to meditate on some characteristics of true witness-bearing.
I. He Had a Message from God. "Thus He showed me... the Lord with a plumbline in His hand," who said unto him, "What see you? and I said, A plumbline" (vv. 7-9). A "plumbline" is an instrument for testing. Being in the hand of the Lord, it was the symbol of His righteousness and judgment. He had come, through His prophet, to measure the "high places" and the "sanctuaries of Israel," and to expose their delinquency. But the point is, Amos had a message; something definite to say, in the Name of the Lord; something that was not manufactured to please the people, or to show forth his own gifts, but something that burned in his own heart like a tongue of fire (Jeremiah 20:9). The early apostles, after the Resurrection, had such a vision of the power of Christ and of the blessed Gospel, associated with it, that their hearts became inflamed as with a Divine passion to speak out the "Good News." As Peter and John testified: "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20). Truly they had a message. A message that came to them with such commanding authority that their whole "spirit, soul and body" were brought into subjection to it. Have we lost the vision? Are our ears dull of hearing or our hearts become hardened through the familiarity of words that we have so largely lost the spiritual thrill of this holy compulsion? We have the same message, the same promise of power, but, alas, where is our faith?
II. He Suffered Opposition. "Amaziah the priest of Bethel" misrepresented both Amos and his message to the king, and then hypocritically asked him to "Go, flee into the land of Judah" (vv. 10-13). Even modern priests of Bethels often misunderstand and misrepresent the man of God who boldly "declares the whole counsel of God." Opposition may be expected in the ministry of God's Word, when we remember the enmity of the human heart to spiritual things. "If any man will live godly, he must suffer persecution." "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trials which is to try you; but rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ's sufferings. If you be reproached for the Name of Christ, happy are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you" (1 Peter 4:12-14). "I will glory in my affliction that the favor of Christ may rest upon me." If we are speaking God's Word, in God's Name, then leave it to God to care for His own.
III. He Gave his Personal Experience. "Then Amos said, I was no prophet, neither a prophet's son, but I was an herdsman and a gatherer of wild figs" (v. 11, margin), "and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and said unto me, Go" (vv. 14, 15). There is no reference made of his inexperience or "lack of education." One need not depend on the help of "the schools" to receive the call of God. We are not chosen because we are wise and strong, but because we are fit instruments for the exhibition of His wisdom and power. "God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and weak things to confound the mighty; and base and despised things to bring to naught things that are: that no flesh should glory in His Presence" (1 Corinthians 1:25-28). Paul's bodily presence was "weak, and his speech contemptible, but his letters were weighty and powerful" (2 Corinthians 10:10). It is of vital importance for the success of our ministry that we should be able to give a personal testimony as to what God has done for us. Out of the heart are issues of life. Apart from this there may be plenty of "sound and fury," but the significance of it in His sight is "nothing." We are to speak what we do know, and testify what we have seen. It is little honor to Him that we should prophesy beyond the measure of our own faith. Isaiah saw the Lord seated on a Throne, before he heard Him say, "Go" (Isaiah 6:1-9). The apostles were "eyewitnesses of His Majesty" before they were sent to preach.