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The Library 










Edited by HENRY H. MEYER 

Amos, Prophet of a 
New Order 


Professor of Old Testament Literature and Religion 
in the Iliff School of Theology = -_ 


Copyright, 1921, by 

Printed in the United States of America 


LIFE AND SERVICE SERIES.................. « 
To THos—E Wuo UsE THESE LESSONS....... 9 

PE HESOGHAPIY 2/05. Sia. cee tag art de rade ae be cid ate 10 | 
| I. Tue Puace or Prornets iv Human Lire... 11 
Il. Toe Tres anp THE Man.................. 18 
Iil. THe Gop or Nations anD oF MEN........ 25 
i Dy ete CHOSEN , PEOPUB Si. 5 os 5 fee's cay Bs 4 
‘ VY. Tue DecriTruLness or RICHES............ 39 
i VI. Tae ProrpHEet AND THE Business Man...... 46 
Beet CRUE. WORSHIP... eile chien aud Ae es 53 

_ VIII. Ars Nationa, Disasters Divine Puniss- 

‘y MEGNTTS SE «ii, /h lites cht abate y ta Ue eae en 60 
Me 1X: PROPHETIC VISIONS... 2.0 004002005 4euh's 68 
4 X. Tuer JupGMENT—ACCORDING TO.AMOS....... 76 
PereX LFA BisSssEp PW vORB e462 tale cba diios « 84 
“XII. Propwers AND THE CHURCH................ 91 
XII. Notes tHat INTERPRET AMOS............-- 99 



A NUMBER of causes have combined to create a need 
for special elective courses for adults. Perhaps chief 
among these causes is the rapid increase in the adult mem- 
bership of our Sunday schools during the past fifteen years. 
The organized class movement has been influential in bring- 
ing into the Sunday school many thousands of men and 
women, so that now it is not uncommon to find schools in 
which the adults represent decidedly more than one half 
the total attendance. 

With increase of numbers has come a desire for variety 
in the courses of study offered. With one or two small 
classes, meeting usually as part of an assembly including 
the entire membership of the school, there was little de- 
mand for any other than the Uniform Lesson. As the 
adult classes increased in number and size the conviction 
grew that different types of classes required different kinds 
of study courses. 

‘The sentiment in behalf of a variety of study courses has 
been strengthened by the growing recognition of the prin- 
ciple of grading. This principle has won almost universal 
recognition as applied to the elementary and secondary 
groups in the church school. But why should grading 
cease automatically with the close of adolescence? Are we 
to believe that adult life is lived upon a dead level? We all 
know that this is not true, and, accordingly, the general 
acceptance of graded courses for the children’s and young 
people’s departments has tended to strengthen the convic- 
tion that something akin to graded courses should be pro- 
vided for adult classes. 

Again, there has been a growing recognition of the im- 
portance of the elective principle. Why may not adult 
men and women, who may be presumed to know something 
about what they need as well as what they want, be per- 
mitted to choose their study courses instead of having only 
one course urged upon all who look to the Church School to 





meet, in part at least, their needs for the discussion and 
study of the problems of religion and for the stimulation 
and development of their religious lives? It is clear that 
the desire of thoughtful men and women to choose what 
they shall study is steadily growing. 

The Life and Service Series, in common with a number 
of other series of studies, is offered in response to the need 
for special elective study courses. It includes a number of 
textbooks, each consisting of thirteen lessons, that is, studies 
for a period of three months for groups meeting once each 
week. Both in subject-matter and in form of treatment of 
the respective subjects these courses, it is believed, will be 
found to offer a desirable and pleasing variety. 

Some of them will be found especially adapted to the 
needs of voluntary study groups in colleges and prepara- 
tory schools, and others for high-school credit in Sunday 
and in week-day religious instruction. 

In Amos, Prophet of a New Order, the author has pro- 
vided a strong, vital study in-popular form of the personal- 
ity and message of the prophet Amos. In style the book 
will be found to be as vigorous and interest-compelling as 
it is morally significant and vital in content. It should 
prove a most valuable study for a large number of adult 
classes. THE Eprrors. 


THE study of the little tract commonly known as the 
book of Amos is of value chiefly as it leads to some ac- 
quaintance with the prophet himself, in order that through 
him one may get a glimpse of the way God speaks to men. 
Accepting the fact that God spoke through Amos, we are 
concerned with the subjects on which he spoke and with 
the questions (1) How far do the same or similar sub- 
jects concern us to-day? and (2) How far do his words 
_ apply to present-day conditions ? 

In pursuance of this purpose the little book of Amos has 
not been followed mechanically from the first verse to 
the last, but the various sayings that deal with the same 
subject are brought together in the successive lessons. 
This permits a more orderly treatment of the teachings of 
this great prophet—a prophet much greater than the 
small size of his book would lead one to expect. 

The first step in the study of the lessons is to read from 

the Bible the words of Amos himself. Only after the text 
has been read with care can this book be used with profit. 

Linpsay B. LoNGACRE. 


Tue following books are both useful and interesting. The 
first two are small commentaries. The others are more gen- 
eral and more practical in their treatment. A teacher should 
have at hand at least the volume of “The Cambridge Bible.” 

“The Cambridge Bible’: Joel and Amos. 

“The New Century Bible’: The Minor Prophets, Volume I.’ 

“The Expositor’s Bible’: Book of the Twelve Prophets, 
Volume I. 

“Messages of the Bible”: The Harlier Prophets. 

The Message of the Earlier Prophets to Israel, Brooke. 

The Prophets of Israel, Cornill. 

History of the People of Israel, Cornill. 

The Syrian Christ, Rihbany. 


“Wat went ye out to see? a prophet?” Thus Jesus 
challenged the bystanders regarding John the Baptist. 

Long before the days of Jesus and of John, another 
prophet had appeared whose message was as unexpected 
and as vigorous as that of the Baptist, and whose appear- 
ance was almost, if not quite, as uncouth. 

The men of culture and fashion, of wealth and power, 
who lived in that prophet’s days have perished unhonored 
and unsung, while this stern, uncompromising preacher of 
a new righteousness still shines as a light in the world. 
We know this forerunner of Jesus and of John by the 
name of Amos. Let us go out to see him! 

There will be nothing about his appearance particularly 
attractive. When he visits Bethel, where the king lives, 
his dress, manner, and speech will show him to be from 
the country. If he is to make himself heard, he must have 
something to say, and he must say it with power. But 
when his eye catches yours, you have no doubt about his 
ability or his courage. Here is one (you feel) in whom 
the word of God is “like a hammer that shatters the rock.” 

What was such a man doing there?—this “prophet,” 
as he is called. What is a prophet, and what does he do? 

Volumes have been written on this subject, and any 
good Bible dictionary has articles on “Prophet” and on 
“Prophecy” which are well worth consulting. A plausible 
statement to start with, however, would be as follows: 
When a man of unusual devotion to God and his fellow 
men, with special understanding of God’s will and man’s 
duty, is so stirred in his soul that he cannot keep still about 
it but must proclaim the truth that is in him, exhorting 
the people to see it his way and to do as he says; and when 
subsequent history shows this man to have been right, 



_ whether his own people believed him or not, that man is 
. called a prophet. 

The important points in this statement are (1) the 
prophet’s own conviction that he has a true vision of the 
will of God; (2) his concern for his own people; and (3) 
the truth of his message recognized in after times. As a 
matter of fact the prophets do not usually live long enough 
to verify this third point; and as the majority of their 
own people usually misunderstand them or actually oppose 
them, the prophet must get what satisfaction he can from 
his own inner consciousness and from the friendship of 
the few who sympathize and codperate with him. 


The prophets of the type of Amos form a small but 
glorious company. ‘To say that they deserve to be under- 
stood is to put it mildly. No richer task awaits any Bible 
student than a prolonged and profound fellowship with 
any one of them; and though that task is difficult, even a 
partial success is worth the effort. 

It is not easy at first to think of prophets (especially the 
Biblical prophets) as real men. The fact that they are 
“in the Bible” seems to remove them from the common life. 
They seem to stand apart not only from us to-day but even 
from the men of their own time. Yet one of the first neces- 
sities is to recognize them as truly human, cheered by 
human joys and saddened by human sorrows. Indeed, 
they were men before they were prophets; and they must 
be known as men, so far as that is possible, before their 
prophetic work and character can be appreciated. 

Little as we know about Amos, for instance, his rural 
life alone throws a flood of light on the naturalness of the 
way he looked at the luxury of the city. For him “the 
simple life” was the normal and familiar life; and one can 
read between the lines of such a passage as Amos 6. 1-6 
the outraged feelings of a man to whom all this luxury 
was useless and citified as well as heartless and wicked. 

The fact that Amos was thus natural and human does 


not mean that he was any less religious or that he was not 
in every respect exactly like an “ordinary man.” All 
“great” men are different from “ordinary” men, yet are not 
less human on that account. Abraham Lincoln and Henry 
Ward Beecher were extraordinary yet quite natural and 
human. Their kinship with average mortals only made 
their true greatness the more noticeable. 

The same kind of thing is true of the prophets, Amos 
included. In their particular field they stood far above 
their fellows; in matters of the common life they stood at 
their side. “Stand up,” said Peter to Cornelius, “I my- 
self also am a man” (Acts 10.26); and it was the same 
with the prophets. Y 

Great as these men were, one cannot help feeling sorry 

_ for them; for they must have been terribly lonesome. 

There were but few of them all told; and when we re- 
member that these few were distributed over a thousand 
years, it is quite clear that they could not hope to be known 
and heard by “a jury of their peers.” Of course they must 
have had some friends. If it had not been for these, the 
prophets’ words would not have been heeded and _pre- 
served. In addition to the books of the prophets, such books 
as Deuteronomy and Kings show that the great mass of 
_ the people paid little, if any, attention to the great 
prophets. The only reason why the prophetic warnings 
and rebukes were repeated over and over again to the same 
generation and by successive prophets to.successive genera- 
_ tions is that they were scorned or ignored by the people 
to whom they were addressed in the first place. 

It was a comparatively small group that gathered about 
any individual prophet; and it is to some of these friendly 
listeners that we are probably indebted for the reports of 
the prophetic words. The situation was entirely similar to 
that of Jesus himself. Even he gathered only a small 
group of followers in his own day, and it is from these 
that there have come down to us the words of the Master, 
heard and treasured by the friendly few. 

One more point regarding the prophets is of great im- 
portance. Indeed, it is of much more importance to us 
than it could have been to any one of themselves. It is 



_ this: The Bible nowhere indicates that the line of prophets — 
- has been exhausted or completed. . 

While it is true that the Bible prophets are better known — 

than any others, that is chiefly because the Bible itself is 

so familiar. Such passages as Num. 11..29; Joel 2. 28, 29 
(Acts 2. 17, 18); Eph. 4. 11 plainly indicate that the 

possession of the prophetic spirit was regarded as the ideal 

for all men. And when Paul speaks of his converts as — 
“built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” 
(Eph. 2. 20) he is referring not to the past but to the 
present—to the apostles and prophets of his own day. 

This fact opens up a wholly new view of prophets and 
of prophecy. The common idea that true prophets are to 
be found only in the Bible and that these were a curious 
kind of folk, unlike any others then or since, is neither 
stated nor implied anywhere in the Bible. Furthermore, © 
the church has never taken any such position; it has ex- 
alted and reverenced the prophets of the Bible, as was. 
right and proper to do, but the church has never said that 
the voice of prophecy was silenced when the last word of 
the Bible had been written down. The church stands to- 
day upon a foundation of apostles and prophets which, 
reaching far back into the past, includes men and women 
of the living present. 


Consider the place the prophet fills in the life of the 
world. He is a man who, by virtue of gifts and insight 
quite out of the ordinary, has become the very voice of God 
to his generation. Not, indeed, that he is at that time 
recognized as such; but later generations so recognize him. 
He is above all else God’s spokesman. Not prediction but 
proclamation is his main work. He is a forthteller rather 
than a foreteller. He views the life of his day in the light 
of his vision of God. He turns that light upon men’s 
morals and motives, upon the way they think and act to- 
ward each other, and he sees in these relations between 
man and man the special field in which man works out his 
religion and the place, above all others, where God is really 


- He is not so much concerned with individuals as with the. 
social life in which individuals find their common interests 
and their common welfare. He thus becomes, above all 
else, a critic of social conditions. This is, of course, not the — 
prophet’s only interest, but it is his chief one and it colors 
all his thought. 

THry Spoke at THEIR PErRIn 

The prophet, then, is a man so convinced that God is one 
_ who desires a clean, wholesome social order here on earth 
that he stands right up and says so. He always sees a 
higher level than men have yet attained. He sees a nobler 
ideal than they have yet realized. And in pointing out 
the path leading to it he necessarily points out where men 
have gotten off the track. He must show the error and the 
weakness of the present position before anyone can be 
brought to see the need of something better. 

For this reason he is unwelcome to most of his fellow 
countrymen. People do not love a “knocker.” Social 
changes have always been looked upon by most people as 
unnecessary if not downright dangerous. Institutions and 
corporations, built up on the supposition that conditions 
will remain unchanged, are always up in arms against any 
proposed readjustment even if it should be for the better. 
They are sure it would not be better for them and so they 
are against it. 

This means that a prophet is a kind of pioneer—a path- 
. finder through a dense growth of selfish interests and blind 
indifference. If he undertakes to blaze a trail through this 
territory, he must risk all the dangers of such a task. 
Thorns of malice will scratch him, rocky cliffs of ignorance 
will block his path, snakes of slander will bite him, the wild 
beasts of pride and jealousy will attack him. He takes his 
life in his hand. But he has heard the call of the “trumpet 
that shall never sound retreat” and he, with God, marches 

How Are Propuets to Br RucoaNizEp? 

Suppose such a man were among us to-day: how could 
he be recognized? ‘The answer is easy (and true) that he 


may be recognized now in the same way that Amos was 
. recognized in his day. This, unfortunately, does not carry 
us very far, for there is no doubt that only a minority of 
_ Amos’ contemporaries regarded him as a true prophet of 
the living God. Many more regarded him as a questionable 
» and dangerous character, and some never knew him at all. 
There is something pathetic in the thought that many in 
- Israel lived and died without knowing that an Amos had 
been among them. . 
The few who realized that in Amos a great leader had - 
arisen were men who, on their own account, had already } 
become aware that things. were not as they should be; that — 
business, politics, religion, society at large, all came far ~ 
short of the glory of God and the welfare of men. They 
realized that “new occasions teach new duties,” and that 
the time was ripe for just such changes as Amos demanded. 
In this spirit they were ready to recognize and to welcome 
one who stirred their souls and voiced their hopes. 
Prophets have never been recognized by curiosity seek- 
ers but only by those prepared to codperate with them. 
“Deep calleth unto deep.” If there is a prophet at hand to- 
day—and there is no reason why there should not be— 
we can be pretty sure that he will show the marks that 
prophets have shown through all past history: (1) He 
will speak with unfaltering conviction, courage, and can- 
dor. (2) He will show utter disregard for personal advan- 
tage of power, publicity, or success. (3) He will definitely 
challenge the social order. (4) For this challenge he will 
be denounced and opposed by representatives of com- 
mercial, political, and religious institutions. (5) He will 
leave in the minds of some the seed of such novel, vital 
principles that these will take root and grow, and after 
ages will point back to him as a great pioneer in the life 
of the spirit. (6) He will pay the price of spiritual great- 
ness in being misunderstood, opposed, neglected, and ap- 
parently defeated. f 
Only a man of supreme courage and unfaltering faith is 
sufficient for these things. God’s word is a fire (Jer. 20. 9; 
_ 23. 29) and it will be uttered. It is being uttered to-day, 
and those who seek it find it. But let those who seek it 

a gy yey — 

At a I 



remember that the signs by which God’s word may be 
known must be learned from the story of those who have — 
dared to speak it. 

The question for us is not so much, How can a prophet 
be recognized? as it is, Are we ready to follow him when 
he appears? That readiness is the secret of recognition. | 
Happy were those whom Amos could call his friends; and 
who were neither afraid nor ashamed to be known as such! 
__ Do we need prophets to-day? 
If there were prophets to-day what would they talk 
| about ? 

Where might they be expected to appear? 


“Prophets” as described in some Bible dictionary or 

The difficulty of recognizing prophets, even in Bible 
times: Deut. 13. 1-5; 18. 9-22; Jer. 23. 9-40. 

“The Prophet in Early Israel,” in the volume of “The 
Expositor’s Bible” recommended in the Bibliography. 



Tue keynote of national feeling in the time of Amos 
was security. It was a time of social, financial, and po- 
litical prosperity. This does not mean that everybody 
was happy. Our own country, in its highest tides of so- 
called prosperity, has never lacked great masses of people 
who were compelled to live in tragic poverty, submerged 
by a flood of social injustice above which they were utterly 
unable to rise. Prosperity meant, then as now, the security 
and success of those who held political power or financial 
advantage. Amos saw this aspect of life so clearly and de- 
nounced it so unsparingly that one is surprised at the 
completeness of the picture revealed by his sharp flashes of 
prophetic fire. ‘ 

He saw (1) wealth and luxury everywhere: the idle 
rich (3. 12; 6. 1), with their ivory furniture and silk up- 
holstery (3. 12; 6. 4), their town and country houses 
(3. 15), their table delicacies (6. 4), and their cosmetics 
(6. 6). He heard the music that unfailingly accompanied 
private feast and public worship (5. 23; 6. 5; 8. 3, 10). 
He saw the degradation of the liquor traffic (4. 1; 6. 6). 

He saw (2) the wretchedness of the poor: exploited by 
“gentlemen’s agreements’ (3. 10), robbed of justice 
through bribery (5. 12), cheated with light weights (8. 5), 
starved with adulterated foods (8.6), and sacrificed to 
“big business” (2. 6). P 

He saw (3) a religion ceremonially elaborate but en- 
tirely lacking in ethical content (5, 21-24): the Sabbath 
irksome when it interfered with business (8. 5), illegal 
gains insidiously used for religious purposes (2. 8), the 
vanity of published subscription lists (4. 5), and the sub- 
serviency of the clergy tq men in high position (7. 12, 13). 
__ It is easy for the rich and happy to believe that they 
_ have divine approval. What better assurance could they 



have than the pleasure and power in which they stand? 
In these secure ones the nation felt itself not only pros- 
perous but divinely favored. Since they are conscious of 
representing the country, interference with them and their 
pursuits would be interfering with the country’s welfare. 
To disturb their order is to disturb the social order. To 
criticize their religion is to prove oneself a heretic and a 
blasphemer. God is on the side of those in power (they 
think), and so to the security of financial and political 
position the leading people of Amos’ day added the com- 

_ forting conviction that they were Jehovah’s chosen people 





—chosen to be thus superior and secure. 
A New THoveut or Gop 

Amos thought differently. He saw the prosperity, but 
he saw more than that. He saw Jehovah’s choice at work, 
but it was not a choosing that approved such conditions. 
So Amos drew his own picture of this security, denied that 
Jehovah’s favor was a blind partisanship, and criticized 
king, priest, and people (that is, the “representative” peo- 
ple) on moral and ethical grounds—grounds that for 
Amos were religious. We can appreciate the daring of 
such a criticism and the courage of such a critic, but we 
can hardly appreciate the novelty of either. 

It is not without a certain awe that one finds himself 
face to face, for the first time in history, with the concep- 
tion that God’s character is a character of principle rather 

_than of partisanship; and that he is actuated by motives of 

justice rather than of arbitrary indulgence. An idea that 
has become a commonplace of religious thought must have 
had an origin somewhere; and so far as our Scriptures are 
concerned, this is the time and the place where this great 
principle was first definitely announced. Elijah had 
moved in this direction when he rebuked the social injus- 
tice of Ahab (1 Kings 21), but Amos was the first to set 
forth ethical righteousness as central and determinative 
in the divine character. 

RELIGION Reriects SociaL LIFE 
It may at first seem strange that such a vital revelation 


lated to the kind of life that Amos saw about him. Yet this 

 gpigppepamte pate of God should be so closely re- 


connection between history and religion may be illus- 
trated at almost any stage of the nation’s progress. For 

- instance, when the Hebrews entered Canaan, the land was 

ee ae ee 

a ee 

not only populated but had its cultivated fields, its vine- 
yards and olive trees, its villages and towns, and its walled 
cities and great buildings. It thus formed a striking con- 
trast to the wilderness in which for years the Hebrews had 
been living. The whole scheme of life was more elaborate 
and called into play a variety of occupations and interests — 
that in the desert would be quite unknown. 

The contrast is plainly indicated in two familiar phrases 
descriptive of the Promised Land. One phrase starts from | 
the desert life, where flocks and herds supplied the chief 
subsistence, and where honey stored in the rocks by wild 
bees was a delicacy. In terms of this desert welfare the 
Promised Land was referred to as “flowing with milk and 
honey.” ‘The other phrase starts from the life in Canaan 
itself, with its vineyards and harvests; and in the words 
“a land of corn and wine” one sees a picture of the land 
painted, so to speak, by its own hand. } 

The new life exerted a deep influence upon Hebrew 
thought. The simple life of the desert had been asso- 
ciated with a simple form of religion. Jehovah was thought 
of largely as the Defender of tribal interests, as Leader in 
war, as Master of the furious desert storms, and as the 
God of the glowing stars. In Canaan the people of the 
land felt their gods to be active in still wider fields. The 
populated land had many shrines and sacred places where 
the gods were sought. The fields needed sunshine and 
showers (not the fierce storms of the desert but refresh- 

ing rains), and the gods of Canaan were believed to send 

these. Above all, the wonderful process of fertility itself, 

_ in which the seed bears “thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hun- 

dredfold,” was a field in which the power and activity of 
the gods were especially seen. f 
When one considers that in modern times all these fields 

_and forces are recognized without question as falling within 

the proper scope of one divine Providence, it is not sur- 


prising that the Hebrews, in the years following their 
entrance into Canaan, felt more and more that they would 

have to pay some attention to the religion of the land if 
they themselves were to live there with any security. Out 

of this situation sprang some of the most difficult re-— 

ligious problems with which Amos had to deal. Yet it 
was due in part to such influences as these that the He- 

brews began to move out toward larger conceptions of God 
than either the desert or Canaan could satisfy or supply. | 


It was not a rapid progress. They traveled by devious | 

_ ways and they fell into many errors; but from time to 
time great leaders arose who were able “to reprove, rebuke, 

_ exhort,” and who succeeded in turning the thoughts of | 

‘i, earnest souls toward larger and truer conceptions of God. 

by THe Great Kine JERospoAm II 

These leaders were the prophets, among whom Amos 
stands out in bold outlines. He appeared in the reign of 

Jeroboam II, king of Israel. The brief account of this — 

long reign (2 Kings 14. 23-29) includes enough to show 
that Jeroboam must have been a great king—a fact con- 

firmed by the picture of the kingdom given in the book © 
of Amos. This is indicated by such statements as 2 Kings | 
14. 25: “He restored the coast of Israel from the entering ~ 

of Hamath unto the sea of the plain [literally, Arabah]” ; 
and verse 28: “He recovered Damascus, and Hamath.” In 
looking up these places on the map note that they indicate 
the widest expansion of the northern kingdom, comparable 

' even to the successes of David himself. Such triumphs 
are all the more impressive in the case of Jeroboam be- 
cause they are reported by one who evidently ‘could not 
regard this king with entire approval (verse 24). 

Toward the close of Jeroboam’s reign a serious danger 
appeared on the nation’s horizon in the shape of the great 
empire of Assyria. If this great nation should start out 
on a campaign of conquest, Israel would be as helpless 
before her as Belgium was before Germany at the beginning 
of the Great War. The Hebrews knew this. Amos knew 
it. But Amos not only saw it as a possibility, he felt it 
as a practical certainty and looked forward to it with 


horror. He saw no way of escape for his people. They 
would be captured and slaughtered by Assyria, as a help- 
‘* less lamb might be caught and devoured by a wild beast 
(Amos 3. 12). 
- This conviction on the part of Amos undoubtedly had 
its influence upon his message and will account in part 
for its sternness and vigor. This is another illustration 
_ of the way history and revelation work together. It is not 
enough to say that the message of Amos was divinely in- 
_ spired. This is quite true, but it hardly pictures the prac- 
' tical side of the truth. It should also be said that the 
_ message of Amos was inspired by what he saw in the life 
of his people and by what he recognized as a national 
{ danger. Amos went even beyond this: he not only saw 
_ the danger but regarded it as having a divine meaning. He 
_ interpreted it as growing out of God’s purpose of punish- 
ment (Amos 2. 14-16; 3. 13-15; 5. 27; 6. 14). 


i Was Amos A PaActiFist? 

This attitude that Amos takes toward a foreign foe de- 
serves a moment’s attention. The nation of Israel, even in 
its days of greatest expansion, was a comparatively small 
affair. It was only one of a group of little states that lay 

between the Arabian desert and the Mediterranean Sea. 
Each little state had its own ambitions, political policies, 
_ religions, wars. No one of them could ever have any as- 
surance of an enduring peace, for it could never know when 
one of the neighboring states, or a group of them, would 
start out on the warpath. So that Israel, along with her 
neighbors, lived almost constantly on the defensive and 
was engaged in frequent wars. 

In view of this situation any religious leader would 
necessarily have something to say or do about Israel’s foes; 
and it is in this connection that Amos shows what a re- 
markable change had come over the spirit of Israel’s re- 
ligion during the two hundred or more years that Israel 
had been a nation. In the early days, when Samuel, Saul, 
and David were welding the little state into shape, the 
Hebrews were in almost continual conflict with their west- 
ern neighbors, the Philistines. There were prophets in 


those days as well as in the days of Jeroboam Il. And 
those early prophets had very definite ideas about the 
meaning of the Philistine invasion. With no uncertain - 
voice they stirred up their fellow countrymen to repel the 
invader. The historical portions of 1 Samuel show clearly — 
that there was no doubt in that day that the advance of an — 
enemy called for no reaction but resistance. There is no 
evidence of any idea that the religious and social condi- — 
tions among the Hebrews had anything to do with a 
foreign invasion. 

__In the days of Amos the prophets thought differently. 
_ When they saw invasion threatening their little state they 
_ understood it as a call not to resistance but to repentance. © 

_ “This threat of annihilation at the hand of Assyria,” 
_ said Amos in effect, “is Jehovah’s warning to you to reno- 
vate the whole social fabric: reform your religion, your 
politics, your business and your social life.” In the early | 
days the Spirit of Jehovah was understood as calling men 
to arm for battle; but Amos understands the same Spirit 
to call rather for purification of the national life. It was 
a long step from the picture of a Saul in 1 Sam. 11. 6, 7 to 
the picture of an Amos in Amos 3. 9-12. But the contrast 
between the two shows clearly the direction of that path of ~ 
righteousness along which Jehovah was leading his people. 

It has just been said that it was a long step from Saul 
to Amos. It was a long step, but not the last one. It 
would be most inadequate to-day to suppose that warfare 
alone indicated the wickedness of either side. Questions 

_about both parties to the conflict must be asked and an- 

swered if there is to be fair treatment for both. But such 
questions are unsuspected until raised by a growing ap- 
preciation of the will and character of God. Prophets 
and teachers who came after Amos led men to still wider 
views of men and nations. Other principles, building on 
those announced by Amos but reaching even further than 
his, were yet to be proclaimed. 

The book of Amos clearly shows that his point of view 
was not widely accepted by those who heard the prophet 
propose it. But Amos said it, and it took root. The root 
has grown slowly and uninvitingly, “like a root out of a 


dry ground,” and but few men desire it even yet. The days 
{gy may be long and many before its proper fruit blesses the 
“S world. Who has wisdom and courage sufficient to cultivate 
this fruit? 


If Amos had been brought up in the city instead of the 
country, would he have seen the luxury, the poverty, and 
the religious ceremonies as clearly as he did? 

To what extent do ease and comfort, peace and quietness, 

_ indicate God’s favor? 

_ Has the modern recognition of the social side of Chris- 
- tianity been due, to any extent, to the development of 
_ modern social life? Consider here the influence of popular 
- education, of world-wide trade, and the information made 
_ possible by telegraph and the daily press. 

_ Why does Amos seem unimpressed by the real greatness 

of Jeroboam and his reign? 

Under what circumstances does patriotism cease to be 
true religion? 

Is there any difference between a 100 per cent American 
and a 100 per cent Christian? 

To what extent is a preacher’s popularity a proof of the 
truth of his message? 




Amos 1. 3 to 2. 5! 

Dors Gop LovE aN Enemy NAtTIon? 

From the days of George Washington to the present — 

time the question has not been settled “whether the United | 

States should have any part at all in European affairs. 
Relations between nations are a subject that has never yet 

been placed upon an enduring basis. Nations are natu- 

rally suspicious of each other. Our beliefs in God as the 
God of the whole earth and in the idea that normally men 
should live at peace with each other have had only slight 
influence in determining our foreign policies. In view of 
this obvious fact it need cause no surprise that in the days 
of Amos the common relation between nations was one of 

The feeling was supported by the (to us) curious notion 

that there was no one deity who had equal control of all | 

1The contents of this interesting passage are no more remarkable than the 
form in which they are expressed. The references to the successive nations are 
taken up in well-marked paragraphs, or stanzas, each one of which opens and 
closes with a kind of refrain, It is evident that these ‘‘refrains’’ are poetical 
in their character and are not to be taken literally. The opening words ‘‘For 
three . . . for four’ simply indicate that the measure of iniquity is full, 

and that punishment can no longer be delayed. As a matter of fact, only one © 
transgression is specified in each case. (See a similar use of numbers in Prov. \ 
80. 15, 18, 21, 29.) Similarly the words ‘‘I will send a fire . - - and it — 

shall devour’’ are not intended to indicate a destructive catastrophe of any kind. 

This is the kind of passage in which the familiar division of the Bible into 
verses is particularly misleading. Verses were devised originally as a scheme 
by which any part of the Bible could be conveniently referred to; and this is 

their proper use. They were not intended to offer texts complete in themselves, © 

nor to indicate a Biblical outline, nor to destroy the continuity of a passage 
(as in this case). Above all it should be remembered that they did not appear 
in the original Hebrew. manuscripts. 



\s nations. Any particular deity was supposed to be the deity 

of a particular people. This deity was worshiped by his 

own people and by them only. His power was not sup- 
posed to extend beyond the bounds of his own nation. This 
belief was held by the rank and file of the Hebrews, not 
only in the days of Amos but long afterward as well. 
Originally the term “God of Israel” was meant literally, 

locally, and exclusively. Only a few of the more en- 

lightened leaders seem to have had any other idea (see, for 

example, 1 Sam. 26. 19; 1 Kings 11. 33; 2 Kings 17. 

Amos was one of the few, and probably one of the first, 

_ to think of Jehovah as having any real part in the affairs 

of other nations. Such an idea would appear wholly 

_ new and strange to his fellow countrymen ; and the passage 

before us, when Amos uttered it, must have been listened 

_to with great surprise. For here Amos is calling a roll of 

nations with whom (it was commonly believed) Jehovah 

_ had nothing to do; yet Amos is saying that Jehovah would 
call these other nations to account. 

Amos does not stop with the simple assertion of Je- 
hovah’s foreign control; he is convinced that Jehovah is 
concerned with the behavior of these nations toward each 
other. They are not there simply as pawns in a huge game, 
to be swept off the board at the will of the player; they 
have their own aims and accountabilities, and Amos, with 

_ true prophetic daring, asserts that their accountability is 

to Jehovah. Note that the nations referred to make up 
practically the whole of the political world in which Amos 
lived; and that he is really claiming Jehovah as the God 
of his world, and not only of his nation. From this stand- 
point he sees that Jehovah’s interest and concern extend 
to the relations which these nations hold toward each 
Does all this seem foreign and distant—a matter of 
ancient history and a dead past? If so, consider the re- 
ligious and patriotic ideas that found expression among us 
during the great war. As a matter of theory, of “faith,” 
the Christian nations that fought so bitterly believed in 
God as the God of the whole earth. Yet each one of them 


prayed to God as if he were the God of that nation alone. 
God was appealed to as a particular and partisan Deity— 
powerful enough, it is true, to vanquish his foes, but in- 
terested chiefly, if not exclusively, in the particular nation 
Was there not a conspicuous rarity of prayers indicating 
that God was believed to have a concern for the relations | 
of these nations with each other? He was appealed to for 
victory, but not for help to refrain from mistreatment of 
_ the enemy. We all rested stupidly down on the old level 
of winning the victory, blind to the fact that the way na- 

tions behave toward each other is, in the sight of God, of 

more consequence than the supremacy of our own or any 

other nation. 

This line of thought leads still further. The discussion . 
of the League of Nations raised many questions about the 
rights and relations of nations among themselves. At 
times it has seemed that a true internationalism was almost 

within reach. “Internationalism” is, of course, too modern 
a word to apply to the position which Amos takes, but he 
was actually taking the first step along the path that leads. 
to it; for no real internationalism can be built upon a 
basis that omits the larger dictates of human equity or 
attempts to build itself solely on the basis: of power and 
selfish advantage. Faith in the God of Amos means faith 
in a God of the world as a whoie, and not faith in a parti- 
san or selfish God. Such a faith sees all nations as mem- 
bers of a world family. Only in such a faith can a true 
internationalism be established. 

It is even easier for nations than for individuals to be- 
come self-centered, to seek political power and commercial 
advantage under the banner of a patriotism that exalts 
nationality at the expense of humanity. There is a false 
patriotism that has too often been either a cloak or an ex- 
cuse for plans and practices that, in their narrowness and 
selfishness, are even more foreign to the spirit of Christ 
than they would have been to the spirit of Amos. It is 
against this sort of thing that the words of Amos are really 
directed ; as it is toward an ideal internationalism that they 
really open the way. 



— Dors Warrare Excuse Bruranity ? 

Amos teaches that Jehovah is God of the nations not 

only in a political sense but also in a sense that reaches 

deeper than politics because it concerns men as human 

_ beings. The acts here condemned include: brutal torture 
of the vanquished (1. 3); town populations carried captive 
_ wholesale (1. 6, 9) ; disregard of treaty obligations (1. 9) ; 


implacable hatred (1. 11); atrocious treatment of women 
(1. 18); desecration of graves (2. 1). In view of the re- 
ports that are not yet forgotten which came to us from 
the battlefields of Europe, these atrocities have a strangely 
familiar sound. And, despite our horror at them, they 
were done only yesterday, and by “Christian” nations! 
If Amos denounced such things nearly three thousand 
years ago, when brutalities were taken for granted as neces- 
sary evils, what terms would he have found adequate for 
the twentieth century of the Christian era? Our lesson 
is a testimony to a barbarity that has not yet disappeared, 
as well as to a humanity that showed itself as long ago as 
in the days of this ancient prophet. Indeed, from one 
point of view a large part of mankind’s career has been a 
struggle between these two impulses. 

A certain measure of excuse may be found for the people 
to whom Amos was speaking. They recognized in such 
acts the natural accompaniments of warfare. The Orien- 

_ tal is proverbially cruel as a conqueror, and probably no 

one ever supposed that such acts were not to be taken as a 
matter of course. The Old Testament indicates clearly the 

_ readiness of both people and rulers to follow these methods 

(see Judges 1. 6; 8. 16; 1 Sam. 15. 3); and they believed 
that they had divine approval. But here a new note is 
struck and a new ideal proposed in the matter of human 

Before any general sentiment against cruelty can be 
developed, glaring instances must be recognized and de- 
nounced. Before “man’s inhumanity to man” can be 
brought under the control of high principle in this regard, 
men must be shocked into attention by a sudden realiza- 
tion of the enormity of extreme cases. Amos had been thus 



awakened and shocked; and in horror of what he saw he 
felt himself called to be the spokesman of a new order 
wherein interests of politics and power would have to give 

_ way before the interests of men as men. 

This idea was so new that even Amos himself had not 
wholly adjusted himself to it, and he was not strictly logi- 

cal in its application. He seems not to have noticed that — 
the punishments with which he threatens these different | 

offenders would involve the very acts which he condemns. 
He ignores the fact that the captivity with which, for in- 
stance, he threatens Syria (1. 5) or the extermination with 

_ which he threatens the Philistines (1. 8) could not in that 

day have been carried out without the cruelties inseparable 

from ancient warfare. It is a question whether Amos was 
in a position to think of any other way to punish a nation 

than by defeat in war. The essential thing is that he saw 
the inhumanities and knew them to be odious alike to men 
and God; and as such he denounced them. 

If the denunciations uttered by Amos had been directed 
solely against the enemies of Israel, he might be suspected 
of that easy patriotism which satisfies itself in scorn of the 
foreigner. But the first three verses of chapter 2 do not 
involve Israel. As a matter of fact, Moab’s victim, Edom, 
was one of Israel’s bitterest foes; yet Amos applies his 

principles in this case as vigorously as when Israel herself: 

was the sufferer. In denouncing acts that are offenses 
against a common humanity, rather than against nations 

-as such, he takes his stand beyond and above the field of 

racial hatreds and national ambitions. 

It is easier to realize the advance involved in this step 
when we consider our own attitude in the late war. Many 
of us took for granted that a state of war carried with it 

its own justification for any cruelty. Our horror, for in- | 

stance, at the use of poison gas was quickly quieted when we 
found that our own side could make it and use it. Of 
course this was war; and Sherman’s description of war has 
never called seriously for correction. But it was war too that 
Amos was talking about. He would not have said, “These 
brutalities are necessary in war, and we must put up with 
them”; but, “If war means such inhumanities, stop war.” 

ae ye 



While Amos proclaimed a God of nations who was also a 

, God of humanity, it would be misleading to give the im- 

pression that he was interested primarily in politics or 

even primarily in the principles of humanity as such. He 
was interested in these; but above them, explaining them 

and including them, he placed religion. He was concerned 

above all else with the character of God and with the divine 

will. If he referred to the political situations of his own 

nation or of other nations, it was only because he saw in 
these a field in which God himself was active, and in which 
God’s will must rule. If he denounced actions that we 
would regard as offenses against humanity, even when 
these actions were directed against an enemy nation, it was 
only because he had-been thrilled with a new vision of 

_ God’s regard for man as man and had seen the divine im- 

- portance of a right behavior of men toward each other. 
_ The question “Who is my neighbor?” in the great parable 

of Jesus is really anticipated in spirit by Amos with re- 

_ gard to nations. In a word, his message on this point was 
_ “Who is my (national) neighbor?” It is not an easy ques- 
tion for nations to answer. 

For him it was religion that was fundamental, and it is 
abundantly clear that he regarded his whole message as a 

_ message of religion. He was not assuming the role of 
- statesman or teacher of ethical culture, neither was he of- 

_ fering a gospel of humanity, although all these elements 


appear in his message; he was first and foremost a re- 
ligious teacher. As such he demanded a hearing, and only 
as such has he a claim on us to-day. 

It is true that in these ideas he was leading the way to- 
ward a much larger view of religion than the one current 
in his day. Indeed, the expansion of religion to include 
the affairs of everyday life—the everyday life of business 
and of politics—is still a novelty. Yet for Amos these were 

the fields in which religion must operate, and their re- 

ligious character rested back upon the character and will 

of God. 

To know God as Amos knew him—as a God of honor and 


equity—means to realize that men cannot be acceptable in 
the sight of this God unless they themselves possess and 
exercise the same principles of equity and of honor. This 

reflection of the life of God in every aspect of the lives of 
men was for Amos the only true religion, alongside which 

a religion that contented itself with formal worship, ob- — 
servance of sacred days and seasons, stated offerings, and 
attendance at the temple was a worthless substitute. Not 
that these things in themselves were wrong, but that they 
were not of the essence of man’s most vital acknowledg- 

ment of the true God. 


To what extent do national victories indicate national | 
virtue ? } 
What part has religion to play in the development of | 
an enduring League of Nations? 
Is the chief argument against war its cost in money or 
its cost in men? 
Can there be one without the other? 
Would the religion taught by Amos involve any differ- _ 
ence in present-day politics? 
Has it any bearing on the character of candidates or on | 
the acts of office holders? 
‘What advantage or disadvantage would a modern | 
preacher have, as compared with Amos, in the modern | 
separation between church and state? 





Amos 2. 6-16; 3. 1, 2; 6.1, 2; 9. 7 

A Patriot WHo Was Atso A CriTIC (2. 6-16) 

We are familiar with the idea that the Jewish nation 
has been called a chosen people. That is, we accept the 
statement in its reference to the Jews of Bible times, as 
part of the Bible teachings. But at the present time few 

_ Christians regard the modern Jews as a chosen race}: 

while, on the other hand, many a Christian regards his 
own nation as the one really “chosen” for place and in- 
fluence in the world of to-day. The words of Amos which 
make up the present lesson give the interpretation Amos 
placed upon this idea of a divine “choosing.” 

He has adroitly enlisted his hearers’ attention in his 

. rebukes of other nations, and now, in turning to his own, 

he has caught them unawares. They cannot charge him 
with being unpatriotic, for he has denounced the national 
foes. Yet he has shown a strict neutrality in defending 
some of these foes against others. If Amos has reserved 

_ his sharpest and most searching criticism for his own 
_ people, even more will a Christian conscience, without 

compromise or cowardice, apply Christian standards to the 
unchristian aspects of his own nation’s life to-day. 

The list of crimes charged against other nations in the 
earlier part of Amos’ address may profitably be compared 
with the list here charged against the Hebrews themselves. 
They are all too common even yet. Consider them: ex- 
tortion, brutal treatment of the weaker classes, shameless 
immorality on the part of both fathers and sons, suppres- 
sion of all original and vigorous religious character (2. 
6-8). Such conditions inevitably lead a people toward 
ruin. ‘They undermine the firmness and integrity of 
national character and infect the whole social body. They 



are perpetrated by those who have power against those 
who are defenseless. 
There is no doubt that to raise a protest against such 


conditions is to invite the charge that one is a muckraker, © 
a trouble-maker, a bolshevist.. Yet it is a fair question — 

whether the criticism and correction of such iniquitous — 

conditions should be left entirely to the oppressed and dis- 
contented themselves. Is injustice to go unchallenged 
until its victims revolt, or shall champions of justice dare 
_ to demand a purification of national life in the interest of 
national integrity? In such a case is silence or protest 
4 the truest patriotism? What the anarchist or the revolu- 
_ tionist may do in sheer joy of destruction must be under- 
_ taken by loyal patriots in self-sacrificing devotion and in a 
true spirit of corrective construction, as Amos does in this 

The difference will depend on the spirit in which the 
criticism is made and the end it is designed to serve. I 
may throw a man down out of sheer malice or to save him 
from being run over by a locomotive. In both cases the 

act is the ous but the motives are as far apart as the — 

poles. A housé may be blown up by a malicious bomb 

thrower or by a fire department that in this act will save 

half a city from destruction by fire. In both cases the 
acts are the same, but the ends sought and served are ut- 
terly foreign to each other. 
The voice of criticism—criticism of national institu- 
- tions, of economic conditions, of labor, or of capital—may 
come from an anarchist or a patriot; but the hope of the 
nation depends on our ability and our willingness to dis- 
tinguish between the two. Keenest criticism may express 

the loftiest patriotism, and woe to the people who attempt — 
to silence this kind of a critic! They are preparing for 

themselves the fate that Amos saw awaiting his own na- 

tion when he, the true patriot, challenged the heartless — 

prosperity of his own day. 
A PropHETIC Parapox (3. 1, 2) 

There is a paradox here which Amos utters in the most 
drastic fashion. He apparently made no effort to soften 

. ~ 


his message. He made no concessions to the feelings that 
might be hurt by what he said. And there can be no doubt 

‘that he made himself greatly disliked by the way he put 

things. Yet there are times when the only way to bring 
unpleasant and unwelcome facts to notice is by shocking 
the hearers into attention. Of course it is much easier to 
recognize this in connection with people and situations 
that have long ago passed into history. We ourselves 
usually resent such shocks, defending ourselves against 
them and denouncing the man who makes them. It was 

- undoubtedly the same way in the days of Amos. The 

amazing statement that Amos here makes is directed 

_ against the current understanding of the idea expressed in 

the title of the lesson. No nation that regards itself as 

_ the special favorite or representative of the Almighty holds 

this idea in any but a sense favorable to its own self-esteem. 

_ It is “chosen” for happiness, for prosperity, for power. 

Amos here takes the familiar and popular statement 

that had evidently become a national creed in his day—a 

kind of ancient Declaration of Independence: “You only 
have I known of all the families of the earth” (3. 2). 
How comforting! How flattering! What a fine acknowl- 
edgment of that superiority to other nations which many 
a nation has believed true of itself! Amos is orthodox and 
patriotic up to this point, but after this the deluge: 
“Therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities.” 
Could anyone imagine such heresy and such treachery? 
What dismay for those who believed him! What out- 

_ rageous nonsense for. those who refused to understand! 

“Because God has chosen us, he will overlook all our 
faults”—so thought the people. “No,” said Amos; “for 
that very reason he will punish you.” The people took God 
for a patron Saint; Amos thinks of him as the great Critic 
and the great Corrector, whose rebukes and whose punish- 
ments are the evidences of his educative purpose and his 
upright love. 

This word “therefore” is the pivot upon which turns 
the whole question of what God desires and man deserves. 
It is based on the fundamental principle in Amos’ thought 
that for God to choose a nation means that that nation 


must rise to the standards God proposes, and not that God 
must be brought down to the petty standards of a selfish 
people, who look upon God as a dignified but subservient 
promoter of their own little business affairs. And the 

divine standards concern the welfare of the whole people, 

and not the comfort of a favored few. 


Men who hold positions of eminence and ease are often 
very blind to facts seen quite clearly by others. The ease 
and confidence of the people referred to in 6. 1, 2 took the 
familiar form seen in much national pride to-day. They 
are sure of their country’s strength and consequently of 
their own security. They are equally sure of their coun- 

which overtook other nations will never harm their own. 
But they are blind—stupidly, childishly blind. They do 
not try to see, and they do not wish to see. 

“Open thou mine eyes,” wrote the psalmist, “that I may 

behold . . .” (Psa. 119. 18). The answer to such a | 
prayer is as likely to bring dismay as it is delight. When | 

_try’s superiority to others. They are sure that disasters | 

the things beheld are unsuspected, when they contradict | 
one’s dearest hopes, when they reveal error in what was 

supposed to be truth, when they show weakness and decay © 
where there were supposedly strength and vigor, the prayer. 

becomes a real test of courage and of faith. Who dare > 

risk the vision of more truth than he has yet beheld? 

- He can have no assurance that the later vision will con- 

firm the earlier. When his eyes are truly opened, he may 
see that he had been terribly wrong rather than comfort- 
ably right. It is a dangerous prayer. 

Sometimes the new light is forced upon those who “love. 
darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil” 

(John 3. 19), and here Amos ruthlessly tears from the 
eyes of these careless and confident ones the wrappings of 
selfishness and conceit. They did not need to look far to 
realize their own danger. There was the city of Calneh in 
northern Syria, or Hamath the splendid, or even the well- 
known Philistine city of Gath. ‘These places were at least 
as important and as opulent as their own Samaria or Zion ; 



<< yet see how they were overtaken, conquered, and brought 
low. Their wealth did not defend them, nor their emi- 
‘nence deliver them. And Amos here’ holds them up as 
warnings of the true results of iniquitous living. He is 
here doing the kind of thing that every honorable and up- 
right friend of one’s people must do. But to do it with 
any real power one must not only have insight and courage: 
he must also be above the reproach of pettiness and parti- 

_ sanship. 

THE Gop or Att Nations (9. 7) 

Still another word of Amos speaks this critical spirit 
which is nevertheless a spirit of profoundest loyalty—a 
spirit whose apparent harshness is only the utterance of 
deepest desire that the people might be awakened to God’s 

- real desire for them and their own true relation to him. 

If it were spoken by an American in modern times, it 
might run: “Are you not as the Chinese to me, O Ameri- 
cans? Did I not unite your thirteen colonies into one 
great nation, build up the Canadians to an imperial do- 
minion, and make the Germans a world power?” 

One of the experiences of life, often bitter but always il- 
luminating, is the discovery that others have the same 
rights and privileges as oneself. “Through childhood and 
early youth one accepts the easy idea that God is his un- 

conditional support and defender, and that other people 
are under obligations to put into effect this good will of 
God toward oneself. If these other people do this, they 

are good; if they do not, they are bad. Then, suddenly, 
there comes to us the disconcerting realization that the 
others have the same rights as ourselves. They too regard 
themselves as the center of a circle of which we form a 
part, and which they suppose is to minister to them, and 
thus carry out God’s will. This realization is the awaken- 
ing in us of the ethical principle that means a feeling for 
others, for mankind.” 

Difficult as this experience is in the case of individuals, 
it is even harder for nations. One’s love of country has 
in it enough idealism to obscure its true character from any 



but a truly awakened conscience. Much religion, so far 
as it relates to one’s country, often goes no further than a 
belief that one’s own country has preference and Sty 
in the sight of God. But here again Amos is unflinching 
and inexorable. True to that high ethical principle which | 
is even yet beyond us, he asserts that to God it is all one’ 
whichever nation is concerned—Negroes, Philistines, Syri- . 
ans, or Hebrews. He is the God of all nations. 

Amos has here emancipated the thought of God from its 
narrow connection with a particular people. God ceases to 

be a private patron and becomes the God of all the world. 


This conception marked an epoch in man’s long progress 
g prog 

_ toward a knowledge of God. It anticipates that thought 
_ of God as Father which is one of the most precious reve- 
lations of the Christian faith. In its light the history of 

the world will one day be written, not as a history of the 
world as seen by and in the interest of American or British, — 
French or German, but from the point of view of man and 
of God. 
From Amos’ point of view a chosen people must be a 
choosing people. The divine choice is indicated and vin- , 
dicated by those actions on the part of the people which 
show them as choosing the things which God desires. And 
it is further clear that Amos believed God to desire such 
actions because his own character would have led him to: 
act in the way Amos set forth. God was no arbitrary tyrant 
demanding obedience for the sake of exercising his own 

’ authority and glorifying his own power; he was, in his 

own nature, just and kind, and his desire for men was that 
they should be and act like himself. He chose them that 
they might choose him. 

QUESTIONS to Discuss 

How far is criticism of national institutions compatible 
with patriotism? 

Does God punish nations to-day? If so, do such punish- 
ments indicate these nations to be God’s ‘people? 

In what sense were the Hebrews God’s people? Whose 
people were the Assyrians? 

Are there any grounds for supposing that God approves 


Ss the present form of government of the United States? 
What are they? 
If our God is the God of all nations, what must be our 
attitude toward all other nations? If a “chosen people” 
must be a “choosing people,” how can a nation show that 

it chooses God? 


Amos 3. 9-11; 4. 1-3; 6. 3-6 

A Menace To Nationat Vigor (3. 9-11) 

IF one of us had lived in Palestine in the days of Amos 
and had wanted to inquire into the state of the country, 
to whom should one have gone? To some ignorant la- . 
borer? To some slave woman? Of course not. Then, as 
f now, he would have gone to some leading merchant or 
government official. These are the men who are regarded 
as representing the country and as really directing its af- 
fairs; and, of course, this is largely true. But it is fair 
to ask, “What proportion of the population do these con- 
spicuous individuals represent, and on what do they base 
their right to act as representatives ?” 

In our own time it is quite clear that, despite our demo- 
eratic system of election by ballot, the men finally to be 
voted for are but few in number, especially for the higher 
offices, and even these few are only too often put forward 
by powerful influences that are far more concerned about 
serving their own interests than about serving the inter- 
-ests of the public. 

As a consequence the answers such men might give to 
the question proposed above would represent the views of 
only a part of the whole nation. Speaking for that part, 
these contemporaries of the prophet would have told us 
that business was booming, prospects were excellent, and 
the country was never so prosperous. If they spoke for 
themselves, this would have been true, but it would have 
left quite out of account the many whose lives were spent 
in unconsidered and unmeasured toil—men, women, and 
children whose work was not won by love nor inspired by a 
promise of ease, but forced by the fear of poverty. And these 
hosts of toilers had no time, no incentive, no ability, to se- 



lect and to secure representatives of their own. They 

- simply had nothing to say. It is the tragedy of the poor 

that they are unorganized and inarticulate. They are the 
ones who pay the real price of advertised prosperity; and 
back of all national prosperities and securities that the 
world has known down to the present day stand the mute 
hosts of those who toil and endure, but who may not enjoy. 

When tumults break out, because some act of oppression 
has bitten more deeply for a moment, they are vigorously 
and sternly suppressed, with a great glow of righteous in- 
dignation against lawlessness and against disturbers of. 
the public peace. 

These conditions are not instances of primitive depravity 
any more than they are the late development of a money- 
mad race. They have existed wherever and whenever 
money-madness has touched the hearts and minds of men, 
The madness shows itself, even in its milder forms, by a pur- 
suit of the power and the pleasure that wealth affords and 
by a heartlessness that pays no regard to the methods by 
which the wealth was gained or to the sources from which 
it was produced. 

From time to time there arise men who see these con- 
ditions in their relation not to a small group, but to the 
welfare of the people as a whole; and against these con- 
ditions these men raise courageous protest. Their chal- 
lenge does not grow out of a narrow class-consciousness 
that seeks to play off one class against another or to arouse 
those who have not to a revolt against those who have. 
They are true patriots and they desire the true life 
and health of their nation, that it may take a worthy place 
among the nations of the world. They are not class- 
conscious so much as nation-conscious, and they see that 
humanity and justice are essential elements in a noble and 
enduring national life. They regard the ease-loving self- 
indulgence of the few at the expense of the many as a more 
insidious danger and a more threatening foe than the 
armies of a foreign enemy. 

Amos was one of the earliest to raise this protest, and 
this is the sort of thing he was driving at in the first part 
of our lesson (3. 9-11). If Amos had lived to-day and 


had referred to the United States, he might have said: 
“Send word to Mexico and to Canada; call them in to 
investigate the life of our great cities, to see what unrest, — 

_ oppression, and injustice are there. All powers of defense 

are destroyed; the country is ripe for plunder. This is 
plain for anybody to see. Even foreigners would be justi- 
fied in condemning us, and if we got into war we would 
stand no chance!” 

Despite the apparent disloyalty of such words the prin- 

ciple back of them is a true one. Despite the opposition 

inevitably aroused by such a message and by such a mes- 
senger Amos was right. History has been one long series 

of illustrations confirming his position; and no one can’ 

see a people’s growing devotion to extravagance and amuse- 

-ment without realizing that they are entering on the path 

that has led to the downfall of every empire the world has 

known and without realizing that one who tries to arouse 

the people to their danger and to stem the tide of reck- 
lessness is that people’s truest friend. 

It is a lesson that nations have never yet learned, and it 
remains to be seen whether our own country will be suffi- 
ciently self-disciplined to be teachable. But one thing is 
sure—the lesson will not and cannot be learned unless 
everyone who realizes the situation gives himself courage- 
ously and unceasingly to the proclamation of the message . 
that, though uttered so long ago, is still unheeded. 

THE GUILT OF WomEN (4. 1-3) 

The treatment of women has long been regarded as a 
kind of touchstone by which to estimate the degree of 
culture a nation has reached. Our own country stands 
alone in the high respect paid to women. People of other 
nations are sometimes inclined to smile at us for what 
they consider our oversentimental attitude, which seems 
to them a sign of weakness on the part of the men and a 
situation unwholesome for the women. However that may 
be, it is none the less true that in this country.women have 
a freedom and a position granted nowhere else. 

Women, however, cannot escape the responsibilities of 
their privileges, and the way they conduct themselves is 


an even more significant evidence of culture than the way 
_ they are treated by men. If they give themselves up to 
extravagance and gayety, if they debase themselves in wine 
and wickedness, if they use their influence on their hus- 
bands and lovers to supply exorbitant demands, then, says 
Amos, they share equally in the guilt of the men who hu- 
mor them; they are heartless, blind, degraded, they are 
mere (this is Amos’ own harsh word) “cattle.” 

One occasionally sees women, overindulged, overfed, 
overdressed, corpulent, and coarse, who almost justify 
the brutal word which Amos used; but the physical ap- 
pearance does not always supply a true measure of the 
inner spirit. Some of the most famous sinners among 
womankind are reported to have been as beautiful as they 
were depraved. : 

The power of a good woman for good or a wicked woman 
for evil can hardly be overestimated. The beautiful and 
tender associations immediately brought to mind by the 
words “mother,” “sister,” “wife,” are familiar testimonies 
not only to the position woman holds, but even more to 
that ideal position we instinctively feel she ought to hold. 
The lessening modesty exhibited by girls and women in 
dress, in the social dance, in the use of tobacco, in the lib- 
erties they allow their escorts, cannot but arouse appre- 
hension in the mind of anyone who knows that the sanc- 
tity of womanhood is a spiritual barometer of a nation’s 
life and who consequently realizes the wreck that awaits 
a people whose women throw themselves away. 

Religion cannot ignore’ this situation. It has been the 
custom for some to suppose that religion has nothing to do 
with such questions. Religion, they think, should confine 
itself to prayer and praise, to Bible reading and church at- 
tendance. The fact that such questions are raised in the 
Bible, however, shows very clearly the attitude of the Bible 
writers; and it is perfectly clear that Amos regards the 
proper treatment of these and similar subjects as the very 
essence of religion. 

Luxury TriumpHant (6. 3-6) 
In a few words Amos has painted a classic picture of 


those who use their wealth for what many to-day would 
call “a good time.” “This is the life—wine, women, and 
song.” They are all there—the wine, women, and song— 
in that little three-verse pen picture that Amos drew. 
Wealth, extravagance, dissipation consume the time and 
the attention of this high society. What banquets they - 
served! What luxurious furniture! What rare wines! 
What wonderful music! The splendor of these affairs 
filled the town. Everybody heard about them and had 
something to say about them. Amos too heard about them 
and he too had something to say—something as rough and 
as rude as he himself would have seemed had he suddenly 
entered the hall where a feast was in progress. 
_ He did more than describe the feast: he saw the empty, 
aimless hearts and minds of the feasters. For the country 
at large the feasters had no concern—the country on whose 
security their own security depended, the country whose 
welfare was the essential condition of their own, the coun- 
try whose poverty and distress they themselves helped to 
create. “They are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.” 
By “Joseph” Amos meant the whole northern kingdom, 
usually called “Israel.” But what was this “affliction” of 
which he speaks? Were there not ease and wealth on all 
sides? Affliction? The happy and comfortable find it 
hard to believe in the distress of others. What they do 
not see never bothers them. “They are not grieved.” They 
care nothing for the distress, the poverty, the toil, the 
‘starvation, which paid for their luxury. 
“For them the Ceylon diver held his breath 
And went all naked to the hungry shark; 
For them his ears gushed blood; for them in death 
The seal on the cold ice with piteous bark 
Lay full of darts; for them alone did seethe 
A thousand men in troubles wide and dark; 
Half-ignorant, they turned an easy wheel 
That set sharp wracks at work to pinch and peel.”* 

In our modern democracy, depending as it does on the 
earnest, intelligent codperation of all citizens, there are 
many who ignore not only the poor but the country itself. 

_ 1Keats: “Isabella, or the Pot of Basil.” 



Why should they care if political or economic problems 
threaten to undo the land? They take no interest in the 
annual elections, do not care about issues or candidates, 
and do not even take the trouble to register or to vote. 
“They are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.” It 
is no wonder that the poverty-stricken do not care. They 
cannot. Why should they? But what of those whose 
wealth and position permit untold helpfulness and noble 
service? That these are not “grieved” for their country’s 
welfare is quite as serious a situation as that they should 
waste their substance in riotous living. 

There was One, long after Amos, whom the world some- 
times thinks of as “a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with 
grief.” His grieving was not for himself but for his breth- 
ren. He saw and felt the bitterness of their lot. He 
marked out the only path along which men may expect to 
find a common welfare. His Spirit alone can suffice to 
awaken and to direct those whose care for themselves and 
for their country will be noble and worthy, because it is 
“rooted and fixed in God.” 

There is no denying that such passages as those in- 
cluded in the present lesson are almost bitter in their un- 
compromising severity. The prophet makes no concessions 
to expediency. He uses the harshest terms to describe those 
whom he denounces. He is well aware that they are the 
élite of the land, that they are rich, powerful, and “repre- 
sentative.” He knew that he would incur their ridicule, 
their scorn, and, finally, their wrath; but none of these 
things moved him. In other words, he had all the marks 
of men whom some to-day call radicals. And if this is 
clear at this late day, it was tenfold more obvious at the 

The recognition of this fact is of considerable importance 
in the understanding of the Bible. It means that there are 
forms of radicalism—radicalism that challenges the social 
order—which have a rightful place in God’s scheme of 
revelation. The divine messengers are sometimes storms 
and lightnings (Psa. 104. 4) and sometimes stormy, fiery 
prophets whose words smite and slay (Hos. 6. 5). God 
has seen fit to raise up and to bless these men, with all 


their vehemence. Radicals in thought and in word, they 
are no less men of God. They go to extremes. They set 
forth ideas that later prophets, as radical as themselves, 
do not hesitate to modify and even to contradict. Indeed, 
in nearly every instance the Biblical prophets were men of 
this character, and it is this kind of men who have most 
signally advanced the cause of God and have enlarged the 
scope of the divine revelation. 

They are not comfortable men to live with, but they 
themselves neither seek nor offer comfort. They call to 
others to take up the message they proclaim, not because 
they wish to be radical for the mere sake of being radical, 
not because they wish to involve society in turmoil and 
revolution, but because, in view of the conditions they 
see about them, they feel that nothing can be done but to 
strike at once to the heart of the matter; and they lay the 
ax at the root of the tree (Luke 3. 9). He who would 
follow the prophets must bid farewell to ease and comfort. 
The vigor and rigor of this small but mighty company 
make them seem stern and forbidding. But they are the 
ones who prepare the way for Him of whom it is said “he 
spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” 

(Psa. 33. 9). 
QuESTIONS To Discuss 

What weakness in our Nation can be traced to the luxury 
and power made possible by great wealth? 

- What opportunity have the rich and strong really to 
know how thz poor and weak have to live? 

Would Amos have had anything to say on the question 
of women in politics? 

Can expensive houses, clothes, and entertainments be 
justified on the ground that they keep money in circula- 
tion and give employment to men and women? 

Would you call Amos a “radical” ? 



Amos 5. 7-125; 8. 4-7 


One of the surprises that come over and over again to 
the careful Bible student, and especially to the student of 
the prophets, is the strangely modern character of many 
of the subjects with which the prophets dealt. After due 
allowance is made for differences of time, language, cus- 
toms, and the rest, there remain passages so strikingly ap- 
propriate to our own situations that they might have been ~ 
written yesterday instead of twenty-five hundred years ago. 

A good illustration of this fact appears in the present 
lesson. Amos has here sketched the business man of the 
ancient Hebrew world—his methods, his customers, and 
his “pull” with the courts. The picture is true not only 
for its own time, but it will be true as long as the traffic 
of the world is carried on for the enrichment of the few 
rather than for the service of all. It is true that the amaz- 
ing developments of modern business far surpass anything 
of the kind the ancient world produced, but certain traits 
reappear in all periods of commercial history, and the man 
sketched here is true to type. 

Note that Amos has given us a remarkable number and 
variety of these pen portraits. His book constitutes a kind 
of portrait gallery, in which one may find nearly all the 
typical characters of that day. At first one does not realize 
how clear and numerous these are. They are done so con- 
cisely, and most of our Bible reading is done so rapidly, 
that only after persistent attention does one begin to get 
the vivid portrayals of which Amos was such a master. 
Men and women, rich and poor, judge and priest, victor 
and vanquished, proud profiteer and impoverished con- 
sumer, throng the pages of this diminutive tract we call 
the book of Amos. And they are not huddled together in 




an indistinguishable mass; each is as clear-cut as a cameo 
and so convincingly outlined that one feels instinctively 
that they are absolutely true to life. 

Here is our business man, as Amos sees him, in all his 
characteristic zeal for the slogan “Business is business.” 
He is against those foolish religious customs that interfere 
with trade. “New moon and sabbath’—sacred days in 
which business gave way to religion—were only irksome 
to him. He had no sympathy with such a religion and he 
hated to have the stream of trade interrupted (8.5). When 
we think of what has been happening in the wheat and 
flour market during the last couple of years, it is interest- 
ing to see that similar questions were rife in Amos’ day. 
Here are wheat merchants profiteering (as we might say) 
by charging high prices for short weights and for an in- 

_ferior article. Apparently they “got by” with this sort of 

thing without serious interference. 

Bap Mortves In BusINESS 

It must be admitted that irregularities of this kind are 
still matters of course in the Orient, and exactness in that 
day was hardly to be looked for when weights, measures, 
and money lacked the definite standards established by 
modern scientific methods. George A. Barton writes: 

A glance at the weights here described makes it evident that 

the standards of the ancient Hebrews were not exact. If 
these are representative weights, the shekel must have varied 

from two hundred to more than three hundred grains troy. 

This is what one acquainted with the Palestine of to-day would 
expect. The peasants still use field stones as weights, selecting 
one that is approximately of the weight they desire. Even 
among the merchants of modern Jerusalem, where one would 
expect more exact standards than among the peasantry, odd 
scraps of old iron are used for weights. ... Indeed, of the 
weights found at Gezer, so many were under the average 
standard, and so many above it, that the inference lay close 
at hand that many men had one set of weights by which to 
purchase and another set by which to sell.* 

A standard coinage, issued by a government, necessarily 
obviates the delay, the bother, and the easy inaccuracy of 

1Arch@ology and the Bible, page 161, 




weighing out a certain amount of metal (gold, silver, or 

bronze) whenever a payment had to be made; but Amos 
lived long before the day of a coinage of this kind. 

It is all the more significant that in the face of a certain 
amount of inexactness, which might be natural and ex- 
cusable under the circumstances, Amos denounces the 
practice that is fraudulent as a matter of principle. Such 
action is utterly foreign to the character of God as Amos 
understands him and so must necessarily be foreign to any 
man who desires divine approval. For God cannot ap- 
prove any act or principle which contradicts his own 

Much has been said and written, and vastly more will 
be said and written about the iniquities of trade and the 
possibilities of overcoming or preventing them, but all will 
be vain until the heart of the trader is touched to new 
motives and new aims. He has sought profits at the ex- 
pense of his fellows, and the world generally has ignored 

the price the people have had to pay in order to provide 

these private profits. He has valued his property vastly 
more than the persons of those who developed and _ pro- 
tected it, and the world has closed its eyes to the folly of 
permitting such a sacrifice of man upon the altar of Mam- 
mon. There are in the Bible many denunciations against 
the idea of human sacrifice and against those who “made 
their children to pass through the fire.” Horrible as such 
practices seem to us, they were at least done in the supposed 
interest of deity and as acts desired by the gods. But what 
can be said and what would some of those old prophets 
have said of those who make men, women, and children 
pass through the fire of our cotton mills, glass factories, 
and steel plants—a fire that burns out the real life of the 
victims yet dooms them to a continued existence deadened 
in every faculty? And this sacrifice is made not at all in 
the interest of any deity, even the most barbarous and 
primitive, but solely in the interest of the selfish and self- 
appointed deities who claim the products of the sacrifice.1 

1If this statement seems unduly severe, let it be recalled that in the fall of 1902, 
during the strike of the anthracite coal miners in Pennsylvania, Mr. Baer of the 
Reading Railroad publicly claimed that he held the coal properties by divine right; 





Poor Man’s JUSTICE 

Amos sees as clearly as any modern investigator that the 
brunt of this burden falls on the poor. They have to pay 
the prices asked or do without their shoes or their flour 
(8. 6). If they pay they must take what they get whether 
the quality is what it ought to be or not. If it be asked 
why they do not bring their cases to court, it must be said 
that justice is the most expensive commodity on the mar- 
ket, and few, if any, of the poor can afford it. So far as our 
own courts are concerned, this is due primarily not to any 
reluctance on the part of the court to administer justice 
impartially to all, but to the traditional machinery of the 
law, which, in the course of its development, has resulted 

in raising almost insuperable obstacles in the path of those 

who most need protection.? 

In Oriental countries justice is notoriously difficult to 
obtain, and Amos is both daring and original in the way 
he strikes at a situation recognized by all and opposed by 
none but the victims, who were usually helpless in the 

matter. His denunciation of the way justice toward the 

poor is perverted by the bribes of the rich (5. 7-12) takes 
its place alongside his denunciation of the fraudulent con- 
duct of business as a scathing indictment not alone of his 
own people but of all peoples among whom these evils are 
found—and where are they not? 


It needs only a moment’s reflection to realize that this 
indictment cannot be made until one sees the facts of so- 

and as recently as December, 1920, the Wall Street Journal said: ‘‘When the real 
adjustment comes, the unskilled worker finishes where he belongs—at the bottom 
of the list.. He will be able to live on two dollars a day when he is lucky enough 
to get that amount regularly. He will thank goodness that he has no family of 
five or, indeed, anybody but himself to support; nor will any employer pay him on 
a basis of any such fatherhood.” The New York Christian Advocate, from which 
this quotation is taken, entitles its article “The Red Rag” and says, among other 
comments, that, ‘‘to the Journal writer the unskilled laborer is no more than a lump 
of coal or a ball of crude rubber, nothing but a necessary factor in production of 

2See Justice and the Poor, a report issued by the Carnegie Foundation and 
carrying the indorsement of no less an authority than Elihu Root, 



cial life with an unprejudiced eye and then is moved to 
challenge them on the basis of high principle. Amos saw 
the facts and was urged to speak by the high principle 
which refused to be silenced. Looking back upon his 
position from the vantage point of our own later day, we 
can see without difficulty that in Amos the awakening 
conscience of the Hebrew people found a voice. 

Amos himself was, of course, a Hebrew. The fact that 
he belonged to a pitiably small minority, so far as these 
ideas were concerned, made him no less a member of his 
own race and a citizen of his own country. Time alone 
could tell whether he or those fellow citizens who opposed 
him were on the path of true progress or most truly ex- 
pressed the characteristic genius of their people. And 
time has told. There is no doubt to-day that Amos repre- 
sented the best and highest tendencies of his time. ‘The 
inclusion of his book in the sacred canon of the Hebrews is 

proof enough that subsequent generations of his own people 

recognized his greatness. 

There is something strange, at first, in the idea that men 
whom a nation honors as its greatest men were in their day 
that nation’s severest critics. Yet that is true of all the 
prophets. No nation has ever been more sternly or more 
bitterly rebuked than the Hebrew nation was by its own 
prophets; but the true life of the Hebrew spirit is seen in 
the fact that, though belated, it awoke to some sense of 
where its true greatness appeared. This means that the 
nation came to regard as part of its most precious litera- 
ture, its sacred Scriptures, those protests which revealed as 
well as rebuked conditions that other nations accepted as 
matters of course—protests that challenged the accepted 
order of social, political, and religious life. Indeed, at 
the time they were uttered many of the Hebrews them- 
selves resented these criticisms and opposed the critic. 
The resentments and oppositions are all but forgotten 3 
the critic and the criticisms endure. 

Why is this? Because those to whom the Scriptures 
have come are dimly, blindly aware that somehow these 

Scriptures contain a divine wisdom that is able to make a 

nation wise unto salvation—a wisdom that finds its work in 



establishing an equitable social order. That divine wis- 
dom has been only partially apprehended, much still awaits 
recognition and application ; but it is there and it will some 
. day appear. “There is nothing hid save that it should be 

Gop Spears To-Day 

How shall this wisdom be brought to light? In two 
ways: First, through the awakening conscience of the 
nation itself as embodied and made vocal in the persons of 
men and women who are there to meet just this emergency. 
Such men look with the clear-seeing eye of an artist upon 
the world about them, they look within their own hearts, 
they look into the Scriptures and read its imperishable 
words, they look to God, the Father and Lover of mankind; 
and the rays that shine out from all these sources are 
brought to a burning focus in their hearts. They realize 
the heavenly joy that would come to the world if men 
would walk in this light. They utter their denunciations 
of the accepted state of affairs. Their protests echo from 
city to city, arousing the same resentments and oppositions 
which met such protests in days of old. They call for the 
new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth right- 
eousness. And those who have ears to hear know that 
once more the voice of God is calling to his people. 

Second, through an awakening church. ‘True, there 
are those who regard the church as hastening to decay, who 
realize that every institution tends to become a lifeless, 
rigid thing, unable to respond to the needs of current life. 
Yet in the last few years the church has shown some sur- 
prising signs of vitality. These signs appear especially in 
just the field with which the present lesson has been con- 
cerned—namely, business. There is not room here to set 
down the official action of the great Protestant denomina- 
tions, the Roman Catholic Church, and other religious 
bodies that set forth in terms appropriate to the present 
time the call of religion to a reconstruction of the social 
order according to the principles which found their earliest 
proclamation in the words of Amos. In this call the 
church voices the awakening conscience of the community, 




speaks with a truly prophetic spirit, and moves on to that 
leadership which is rightfully hers whenever and as long 
as she listens obediently to the voice of her Lord. 

QuEsTIONS TO Discuss 

What do Amos’ character sketches show of his powers 
of observation ? 

Are there any in your community whose characters 
Amos would have sketched? How about yourself? 

Are methods used in business to-day which aid dis- 
honesty? Is this due to accident, ignorance, or to set 
purpose ? 

Are the poor able to pay as much for legal advice as 
large corporations? What bearing has this on the admin- 
istration of justice to everybody impartially ? 

Does religion encourage us to reveal and to rebuke such 
conditions or to keep still and not make trouble? 

What is God’s word to-day to the church in the matter 
of business? How is the church responding to it? 


Amos 3. 13-15; 4. 4, 5; 4-6, 14, 15, 21 27 


ONE of the best-known incidents recorded in the book of 
Genesis is the one told of Jacob, who “lighted upon a cer- 
tain place” on the evening of the fateful day of his flight 
from his brother Esau (Gen. 28. 10-19). This “certain 
place” was none other than the “Beth-el” of Amos 3. 14. 
' Its fame went even further back. It was supposed to have 
been the place where Abraham, having come to a land 
which God would show him, built an altar to Jehovah 
(Gen, 12. 8y. 

As the years passed, the town at this place became a city 
of more or less importance. But not until after the death 
of Solomon, when the whole group of northern tribes (that 
is, Israel proper) threw off the yoke of the Davidic dynasty, 
did the city reach its greatest glory. It then became vir- 
tually the capital of the northern kingdom—the city where 
the king dwelt. Not the least of its importance was due to 
its sacred history. There was no shrine in the land that 
. was more venerable, and when the great altar was set up, 
with images of the “gods which brought Israel up out of 
Egypt” (1 Kings 12. 28; compare Exod. 32. 4), it was 
natural that the people should accept it as indeed the place 
of “the king’s shrine and a royal temple” (Amos 7. 13). 
What Jerusalem later became to the Jews, what Mecca 
became to the Mohammedans, what Rome became to 
Europe in the Middle Ages, Bethel was becoming to the 
northern Israelites. 

Here, one might think, would be the best kind of place 
in the world to preach religion; and so it would—if the 
religion preached was of the kind the city practiced. But 
Amos, a prophet o /c@ Dew order of things, saw in Bethel 

j 53 


\s a symbol and center of wickedness. As Rome inflamed 
Luther, so, two thousand years earlier, had Bethel inflamed 
Amos. One’s idea of God necessarily determines one’s 
idea of worship; and no one could think of God as Amos 
did and suppose that the worship officially conducted in 
Bethel could have divine approval. 

What kind of worship did the God of Amos desire? 
That is the question whose answer, as given by Amos him- 
self, has placed Amos in the front rank of the religious 
teachers of the world, has revolutionized our ideas of re- 
ligion, and has helped to establish the unique place held by 
the Hebrew people as the bearers of a divine revelation. 

Tur WorsHip Amos ConDEMNED 

Amos’ answer was twofold. In the first place, he said, 
Jehovah did not desire the kind of worship Bethel stood 
for. But he did not say it as mildly as that; he said it 
fiercely and in bitter scorn. Could sarcasm be more biting 
than “Come to Beth-el, and transgress; for this is the sort 
of thing you like’? The words in 4. 4, 5 are all in this 
strain, and their harshness should not be overlooked. Amos 
did not mince matters, did not compromise in the slightest 
degree, made no allowance for possible exceptions, but 
struck out from the shoulder to smite the sin he saw. 

When we read such hard words, our first thought is 
that there must have been something so desperately wicked 
about the popular worship that the people ought to have 
known better and ought to have acted differently. When, 
however, we notice the practices which Amos condemned, 
we cannot but be amazed at the idea of finding in just 
these things any ground for such rebukes. Notice what he 
specifies: sacrifice, tithes, thanksgivings, free-will offerings 
(4. 4, 5); feast days, solemn assemblies, music, both vocal 
and instrumental (5. 21-27). These constitute the very 
stuff of which most religion (even yet) is made; and will 
Amos, with one daring gesture, sweep them all away as 
not only useless but wicked ? : 

The ceremonies and ritual that Amos saw at Bethel— 
that is, these observances he rebuked—are generally re- 
garded as having come down from very ancient times, sanc- 


tioned by Moses himself; and there can be no doubt that - 
the people at large obeyed them in good faith and in good 
conscience. Yet Amos goes so far as to say that in the 
_ early days, when the Hebrews were in the wilderness under 
the guidance of Moses, they did not bring sacrifices and 
offerings to Jehovah. 

If Amos was right about this, we shall have to revise 
some of our ideas of what actually occurred during those 
years in the wilderness—a subject that would carry us 
far beyond the proper limits of the lesson before us. It 
may be said in passing, however, that this word in Amos 
tends to confirm the view of recent scholars that much of 
the elaborate system of worship observed later among the 
Hebrews grew up during the centuries following Moses. 
However that may be, it is clear that Amos had no regard 
for them, and that there was nothing in their past history, 
as there was nothing in their current practice, to prevent 
him from denouncing them in the name of the Lord. 

Perhaps the radical character of Amos’ position will 
stand out more clearly if it is recognized that he includes 
in his list acts that are urged upon us to-day as necessary 
parts of our own religion. Consider the whole matter of 
tithing and of free-will offerings, which Amos mentions 
specifically in 4. 4, 5. Consider the whole matter of church 
attendance, special days, and special music, which he 
speaks of in 5. 21-27. Are these not exactly the things 
that make up a large part of our own church life? We 
know they are. They are no different, either in spirit or 
in fact, from the acts upon which Amos pours out his 

This view of religion comes with something of a shock 
to one who does not realize what radicals the prophets were. 
He begins to feel as those first hearers of Amos felt when 
it seemed to them that Amos was pulling down about their 
ears the whole splendid structure of religious life and prac- 
tice, which at the first had been ordained by God himself 
and had been confirmed by generations of reverent and 
obedient observance. 

Yet it is also clear that if Amos had simply approved and 
encouraged the type of religion he saw about him at Bethel, 




we should never have heard of him. The men who do 
no more than indorse the well-established institutions of 
their time are not the ones who make history, whether 
they act in the field of politics, art, science, or religion. 
Progress always springs from protest. Advance means 
change. No customs are sacred simply because they are 
ancient. The test of all life (including the religious life) 
is its ability to survive the upheavals caused by new visions 

of truth. It is only by means of such a process that the 

indestructible elements can be revealed. The “yet once 
more” (Heb. 12. 27) has perennial applications; and re- 
peatedly, in succeeding ages, it “signifieth the removing of 
those things that are shaken, . . . that those things which 
cannot be shaken may remain.” 

Tsk WorsHie Amos DESIRED 

Amos, however, had no satisfaction in destruction for 
its own sake. He wished to pull down only that he might 
build up. And the second part of his answer is positive 
and constructive. He said, in effect: “There is a kind of 
worship that Jehovah really desires. He really desires 
that men should ‘seek him’—not his temple but himself— ; 
and there are plain, straightforward acts of worship which 
will be abundantly acceptable to him.” But how different 
these acts are from those heretofore regarded as worship- 
ful! This new worship that Amos proclaims finds its ex- 
pression in hating evil and loving good, in seeing not only 
that justice is administered in the place of justice (“the 
gate”), but that it overflows the land like a flood (5. 14, 
15, 24). 

There had come into the heart of Amos a revelation 
of that tremendous principle that a city’s religion is not 
to be measured by its churches and cathedrals, its churchly 
ceremonies, offerings, and solemn assemblies (and how 
solemn they are!), but by its treatment of the “righteous,” 
the “just,” and the “poor” in their citizen life (2. 6, 7; 
5. 12; 8. 4-6). He does not ask for mercy nor for charity, 
but for justice. In our separation of church and.state we 
have assigned worship to the church and justice to the 


state. The position of Amos is that the exercise of justice 
is the kind of worship God desires. 

What Amos means is just this: Acceptable worship 
must be what God likes (compare “this is what you like to 
do,” 4. 5), and God likes justice between man and man; 
especially does he like the poor and the weak to receive 
justice at the hands of the rich and the strong. And that 
means, stated even more generally, that Amos finds the 
religious center of gravity in man’s behavior to his fellow 
men. He probably would say that man’s attitude toward 
man is his attitude toward God. The attitude toward man 
is not a by-product, a side issue, an accessory, of one’s at- 
titude toward God; it ts that attitude. The field of true 
worship, as Amos presents it, is thus entirely shifted from 
ceremony to service, from ritual to righteousness, from the 
mysterious to the matter-of-fact, from the priestly to the 

There is no denying the fact that if Amos was right, it 
was necessary to make a wholesale revision of the re- 
ligious ideas of his day; and in so far as those ideas are 
current in our own day, the same wholesale revision is 
necessary if we are to accept Amos’ point of view. He held 
that the essential field of religion, of true worship, was 
not in a church building, but in the place of daily business, 
not in the celebration of special days, but in the humanizing 
of “week” days, not the church use of money, but the com- 
mercial use of money, not in private advantage but in 
public justice. 

It has long been the custom among us to regard business, 
week-days, commerce, and the courts as secular instead of 
sacred. This is where Amos completely shifts the empha- 
sis. These are sacred. In them men are to worship. The 
acts and days and places that custom has so long called 
sacred Amos will have nothing to do with; but in the com- 
mon life, day by day and man to man, he demands, with 
an insistence that the centuries cannot silence, that men 
shall exercise the basic principles of humanity and justice 
as the pure expression of the worship God desires. To 
seek these is to seek God. To know these as the founda- 
tions of all righteous living is to know God as heis. Until 


Swe are ready to address ourselves to a thoroughgoing ap- 
plication of this rule of Amos in our church and com- 
munity life, it will be idle to discuss the possibility of 
applying the Golden Rule. The rule of Amos precedes the 
tule of Christ. 

Amos Spoke WitH A Port’s Passion 

The prevailing tone, which sounds through nearly all the 
words of Amos, is so stern and so forbidding that it is of 
special importance not to let his denunciations hide his 
demands. He has this positive message that, if men would 
accept and practice, undoubtedly carries within the seed 
of all the highest developments of a nation’s life; and his 
interpretation of true religion in terms of common life is 
what gives him his undying fame. 

It may be asked whether he was quite as severe as the 
words of his book would indicate. Did he really mean that 
ceremonial worship was wicked? Did he mean that special 
times and seasons, special acts and offerings, were really 
odious in the sight of God? Or would he have said that 
these were all right provided the other things—humanity 
and justice—prevailed throughout the daily life? Would 
he have said that if humanity and justice were made su- 
preme and dominant, the temple and its ritual would have 
been harmless ? 

Unfortunately, we cannot answer these questions. We 
have nothing but his book upon which to base an answer; 
and the position taken in his book is the one set forth 
above. It is a familiar fact, however, that when a great 
soul has been set on fire by a new and overwhelming reve- 
lation of truth and duty he is not likely to stop in the ut- 
terance of his great message to discuss pros and cons and 
to weigh modifications and exceptions. The prophet, like 
the poet, “mad with heavenly fire, flings men his song 
white-hot.” It would be as useless, as it would be imper- 
tinent, to raise questions of application and consistency. 
The prophets proclaim the mighty principles that, divinely 
revealed, divinely direct the lives of men toward divine 
goals. We lesser souls, who cannot reach so high, nor see 
so far, can deal with ways and means by which the great 


principles become personal possessions. And this we will 
do if only the spirit of the prophets kindles ours! 

QuEsTions To Discuss 

What would Amos have thought of the Christmas and 
Easter programs in our churches and Sunday schools? 

What religious acts referred to by Amos appear in 
present-day religion ? . 

Does he speak of them with approval or disapproval ? 

Would he be regarded as a heretic to-day? By whom? 

Is his idea of true worship easier or harder to carry out 
than the customary “church activities”? Why? 

How and in what degree can our churches be inspired 
by the spirit of the prophets? Whose spirit was that? 



Amos 38. 3-6; 4. 6-13; 5. 1, 12, 18-20 

Amos’ New Doctrine 

One of the differences between Amos and the prophets 
who went before him is found in the way he speaks of the 
political welfare of the nation. The earlier prophets were 
devoted to the political defense and advancement of the 
national prosperity. They usually appeared when the na- 
tion was threatened by a foreign foe and, in the name of 
Jehovah, roused the people to patriotic enthusiasm. They 
were intense nationalists and felt that Jehovah, the God 
of Israel, was bound to protect his people and to preserve 
the nation. 

In Amos an entirely new type of prophet arose. These 
prophets of the later type “look not on the outward ap- 
pearance, but on the heart” (1 Sam. 16. 7). They see 
clearly the foreign foes that approach from without, but 
they are more concerned with the moral and religious ene- 

mies within. They realize that a nation’s most serious 

foes are the social sins which weaken the body politic. On 
this account they do not regard foreign foes solely as politi- 
cal dangers; they see in them agents by whom God will 
punish a weakened and wicked nation. This means that, 
quite contrary to the national feeling aroused by the earlier 
prophets, these later prophets can view the downfall of the 
nation not as an ordinary political calamity but as a pun- 
ishment sent by Jehovah. According to this later view the 
national disaster does not mean Jehovah’s defeat, as the 
earlier prophets would have felt, but shows him in his true 
character as a God of righteousness, who punishes a wicked 
nation even though it be his own. 



Tt is not difficult to see that this apparent indifference of 
the later prophets to the nation’s political security would 
seem to the people to be irreligious and unpatriotic—irre- 
ligious because it contradicted the orthodox idea of Jeho- 
vah as the defender of his people; unpatriotic because it 
persistently proclaimed the downfall of the nation. 

The passages which make up the present lesson set 
forth this new and highly unwelcome idea—namely, that 
the nation’s position was in no wise secure, that it was 
threatened with disastrous invasion, and that Jehovah 
himself was bringing this disaster upon it. Before taking 
up the message as a whole, let us notice the separate pas- 


A group of comparisons, such as the Oriental loves, lead- 
ing up to the point and climax of the whole, is given in 
3. 3-6. Its true character is so obscured by the way it is 
ordinarily printed that it is worth reproducing in a more 
appropriate form: 
~ “Do two walk together, except they be agreed? 

Doth a lion roar in the forest when he hath no prey? 

Doth a young lion give forth his voice, if he have taken 

Doth a bird fall in a snare upon the earth where no snare is 
set for him? 

Doth a snare spring up from the ground, unless something is 
to be caught? 

Doth a trumpet sound in the city, without alarming the 

Doth disaster come upon a city, unless Jehovah brings it?” 

This series of seven questions (a significant number) is 
intended, of course, in the sense of direct statements. Amos 
has some definite disaster in mind, and apparently others, 
too, realize that some danger threatened. But it would not 
have occurred to them that Jehovah should bring it. So, 
much as one to-day would build up an argument, Amos, in 
true Oriental fashion, heaps up illustrative questions, all 
of which demand the answer he desires for the last and 
chief question of all; the conclusion being: “No; if disas- 
ter comes upon a city, Jehovah brings it.” 


“PprparE TO Meer Tuy Gop” 

The next passage, 4. 6-13, portrays a variety of disasters 
that have befallen the nation from time to time. However 
the Hebrews had previously accounted for them, Amos 
feels that their true source had been unrecognized, and 
that in reality they had been sent by Jehovah. And, in 
part because their source and purpose had not been under- 
stood, these calamities had failed to lead the people to re- 

The refrain “Ye have not returned unto me” (verses 6, 
8, 9, 10, 11) shows the passage to be composed of stanzas, 
somewhat similar to those in 1. 3—2. 16. As in that earlier 
passage, so here the concluding stanza differs strikingly 
from those which precede. In the present instance it is 
hardly more than hinted at. Its beginning plainly appears 
in the words “Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel” 
(verse 12), but with that it abruptly breaks off. What 
follows gives no hint of what the “thus” means; while 
verse 13, echoed in 5. 8 and 9. 6, deals with an entirely 
different idea. 

Did the original conclusion correspond to 2. 14-16 and 
3.11? It surely seems, after the list of catastrophes given 
in 4, 6-11, that nothing remains but destruction. Was 
the end so horrible that some devout scribe, copying for 
his own~use the words of the great prophet, felt that these 
words had better be omitted? Or did some accident of 
quite an ordinary kind happen to the early manuscript, 
blotting or tearing it so that the lines which seem needed 
here were lost? No one can say. Perhaps the passage is 
more terrifying with its conclusion left to the imagination. 
In any case it reénforces the principle set forth in 3. 3-6— 
that Jehovah is the one from whom these chastenings come. 

The idea back of the words “Prepare to meet thy God” 
is not wholly clear. In their present position the words 
evidently mean that the time for repentance has passed, 
and that nothing but the final doom remains. But they 
are ambiguous. One can easily imagine circumstances 
under which “to meet thy God” would mean joy and not 
sorrow, delight rather than despair. God is not always 


vindictive, and even sinners may be forgiven. In any case 
one is not justified in taking these words for any dogmatic 
purposes. Doctrines are not to be built upon texts of 
doubtful meaning. 

On Aa Feast Day 

The brief words of 5. 1, 2 are highly characteristic. The 
word here translated “lamentation” means especially a 
lament for the dead, not simply a lament in general. Amos 
personifies the nation under the figure of the “virgin of 
Israel” and describes her as lying dead, forsaken, unburied. 
He is referring to the fate he sees awaiting the nation in 
the future, but he sees it so clearly that it seems to have 
happened already—the unburied corpse lies right there be- 
fore him. 

It would be interesting to know the circumstances under 
which Amos made such a pronouncement. His book is 
almost wholly silent on such matters. To the collectors 
of these words the circumstances and backgrounds were too 
familiar and, from their point of view, too unimportant 
for special record. They were far more interested in what 
the prophet said than in the circumstances under which 
he said it. These words, however, seem to imply a certain 
audience, as if Amos had uttered them on some public 
occasion when he could count on having a crowd to hear 
him. It might have been, as some have supposed, on the 
occasion of the harvest festival, when many would have 
come to “rejoice before Jehovah.” Such times were times 
of relaxation and recreation, times of feasting and singing. 
One can imagine how someone would stir a group of feast- 
ers by reciting such words as: 

“God give thee of the dew of heaven, 

And the fatness of the earth, 

And plenty of corn and wine: 

Let peoples serve thee, 

And nations bow down to thee” (Gen. 27. 28, 29). 

To this all would respond with “Amen” and “The Lord 
hath fulfilled his word, Hallelujah!” Suddenly a sound 
is heard which all know only too well. It is the wailing 




for the dead. It comes nearer. And then, to the amaze- 
ment of all, it proves to be no funeral procession—only this 
grim prophet. His piercing eyes take them all in. What 
is he saying? 

“The virgin of Israel is fallen— 

She shall no more rise: 

She is forsaken upon her land— 

There is none to raise her” (Amos 5. 2). 

What in the world does he mean? ‘Then, as he sees the 
eyes of all fixed upon him, he continues with terrible earn- 
estness : 

“Hear this word which I take up against you, even a death- 
. chant, O house of Israel: 

Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! 

What is the day of the Lord to you? 

It is darkness and not light.... 

Even very dark, and no brightness in it” (5. 1, 18, 20). 

But he cannot hold them long. There is too much 
festivity in the air. Such an idea is ridiculous! Who can 
imagine disaster in the face of all this prosperity? And 
then someone says, just loud enough for a few to hear, 

. “He’s crazy,” and the spell is broken! They begin to 

laugh, they call him names, they tell him to go back where 
he came from,—and then turn again to their feasting. 

If this did not all happen in just this way, it is never- 
theless well within the bounds of possibility; and in prin- 
ciple this is what has happened over and over again when 
a careless, self-satisfied people has been confronted by an 
Amos, a Paul, a Savonarola, a John Wesley. 


The particular message which appears in the passages 
grouped together for the lesson is one that reaches down 
deep into the very heart of faith. It seems almost a matter 
of instinct to regard a general catastrophe as an act of God. 
If we are caught in it, we call on God to save us. If it hap- 
pens to others, we ask why God did it. It makes little 
difference what kind of disaster occurs; the first feeling 


is the same. This is the feeling that underlies these words 
of Amos and that is, in a way, developed in the lesson. 

He first states the general fact that when evil befalls a 
city, it is Jehovah’s doing. Then he takes up in more detail 
certain evils that have actually happened—famine, drought, 
blasting and mildew, pestilence, defeat in war. Although 
we should regard some of these as natural events, Amos 
groups them all together as the voice of God calling the 
nation to repentance. Finally, in what he regards as the 
approaching death of the nation, brought to pass by enemy 
invasion, he sees only the act of God. 

As we read these statements, they are so earnest and so 
clear that we cannot help saying to ourselves, “Of course ; 
that is just the way it all happened, and exactly what it all 
meant.” One can be deeply religious, however, and still 
have the question arise in his mind whether it was all as 
simple as these brief statements make it seem. We do not 
doubt that God was back of these events, as he 1s back of 
all events; but the meaning of these events, the purposes 
they were meant to serve, the divine motive that led to 
them, the idea that they were punishments—these are 
questions not to be answered so easily. 

It must be borne in mind that Amos was not the only 
one of the sacred writers who dealt with this subject, and 
that Amos’ view—namely, that disasters such as he de- 
scribed were national punishments—is not the only view 
represented in the Bible. In the Old Testament the whole 
great book of Job shows that calamities befall the right- 
cous; in which case, naturally, they cannot be regarded as 
punishments. In the New Testament Jesus tells in words 
of undying beauty of the heavenly Father who “maketh 
his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth 
rain on the just and the unjust” (Matt. 5. 45). He 
also, in one place, tells that such tragedies as being slain by 
Pilate or losing one’s life because caught under a falling 
tower are not signs of any special sinfulness on the part of 
the victims (Luke 13. 1-5). While this does not neces- 
sarily mean that events of this kind are never punishments, 
it clearly shows that one cannot always be sure whether a 
certain disaster should be regarded as a punishment or not. 


Ss The fact of God’s blessings is only another side of the 
same question. Few would be so bold as to say that they 
have personally deserved all the joys and comforts of life 
that have come to them. And if one’s welfare cannot 
always be regarded as a reward of merit, neither can one’s 
ill-fare always be regarded as a punishment of demerit. 

It would seem, then, that one should not be too hasty in 
his conclusions regarding subjects upon which the Bible 
writers themselves hold different ideas. When taken in 
their proper order and considered in their proper relation 
to each other, it is seen that these different writers form 
a company of men through whom the divine revelation 
came as they were able to receive it. Hach in turn had a 
vision of some aspect of the truth, true as far as it went, 
but not complete; and each in turn built upon the founda- 
tion laid by those who went before. Indeed, he not only 
built upon that foundation, but sometimes modified or re- 
modeled the foundation itself. He advanced man’s knowl- 
edge in some one direction, adding his own contribution 
to the sum of the whole. Aspects of the subject which he 
did not develop were taken up later by those who followed 
him, or they still await development. 


To say that some of these subjects await development is 
saying that revelation concerning them is still to come; 
and this is in harmony with John 16. 12, 13, where it is 
plainly indicated that the followers of Jesus, then and 
thereafter, were the ones through whom later truth was to 
be received. This gives us our own true place in the great 
stream of religious life, of which the prophets, the apos- 
tles, and the church of later ages all form a vital part. It 
is not to be expected that every individual member of the 
church should become the channel of the fullest possible 
revelation. That is no more true to-day than it was in the 
days of Amos, of Paul, of Augustine, or of Luther. But 
it means that the God of truth still lives, that his children 
still need him, and that he is still leading them into ever- 
richer apprehensions of his love. 

It is in this light that these words of Amos and, indeed, 


Amos himself, are to be understood. He was one of that 
splendid company of prophets through whom “God, ... 
at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past 
unto the fathers” (Heb. 1. 1). He appeared at a time 
when it was necessary to shake the national spirit out of 
its religious complacency and to rouse the people to new 
thoughts of God and new standards of life. He realized 
that the supreme need of the hour was to make the people 
see that their reliance on God would be in vain unless they 
met the obligations he laid on them. These divine obli- 
gations dealt with life in a much deeper way than the 
people had hitherto understood. Failure to meet them 
meant disaster. With a foreign foe on the horizon Amos 
felt that the disaster was at hand, and so his message was 
definite and imperative. 

Looking back over the story, two impressive results ap- 
pear. One is that thirty-five or forty years after Amos 
the whole northern kingdom actually fell a prey to the 
great empire of Assyria (B. co. 722). The other is that the 
lesson taught in these words of Amos—namely, that no 
nation can survive or expect God to preserve it which does 
not practice, throughout the whole body politic, the prin- 
ciples of justice and humanity—is a lesson not yet learned 
by the nations of the earth, It has been learned by small 
groups of people from time to time and by individuals 
here and there; but never yet by nations in a national 
way. It will only be learned as men who have found it 
out for themselves make it their business to teach others. 

QuEsTIONS To Discuss 

How can the hand of God in history be recognized ? 

How can one be ready to meet God? 

What would Amos have said about this? 

Does God have equal control of “natural” events and of 
“national” events ? 

How can the divine purposes be discovered ? 

What can we do toward averting the disaster which 
properly befalls national iniquity? 



Amos 7. 1-9; 8. 1-3 

Wuat Dip Amos SEE? 

At first reading the present lesson seems to take us as 
far as possible from any sort of familiar experience. It 
brings us face to face with some of the experiences that 
seem to put a prophet away off in a place by himself. Now, 
while it is true that these prophets were men whose great- 
ness towered far above the level of their time, and while 
it is true that the Scriptural language often tends to con- 
ceal rather than to reveal the true nature of the experience 
in question, many of those experiences are quite clear and 
convincing. They only need to be restated in a simple and 
more modern form. 

Read carefully the brief but striking passages that make 
up the lesson. Note the four well-defined “visions” that 
“the Lord showed” Amos—the grasshoppers, the fiery 
drought, the plumb-line, and the basket of summer fruit. 
Note that these are things that Amos had doubtless seen 
more than once; the third and fourth, at least, he must 
have seen many times. This helps us to understand the 
general sense of the visions that Amos saw. So far as the 
objects themselves were concerned, everybody had probably 
seen them at one time or another. What they had not seen 
was the meaning which Amos gives them; so that what 
Amos really “saw” was some meaning or message that these 
natural objects might serve to illustrate. These natural 
objects and events might have suggested other meanings 
to other observers, but these are the meanings Amos saw. 

Note that the first and second visions are alike in repre- 
senting that the disaster which they threatened was not 
carried out. The third and fourth represent the disaster 
as carried to completion. So we have two pairs of visions, 



each pair setting forth its own part of the message. Note 
that in the first pair the disaster is represented as sent 
from God, with no special reason stated as to why it was 
sent. In the second pair the disaster comes as a result of 
some inner weakness or defect of the people and is a logical 
result of the conditions that they have permitted to exist. 
Note also that in the first pair Amos protests against the 
severity of the approaching disaster. In the second pair 
he has nothing to say beyond answering the question 
“What seest thou ?” . 

Note that nothing is said as to how “the Lord showed” 
Amos these things—whether in a dream of the night, 
whether in & trance, or whether in a time of meditation 
such as a prophet or any serious-minded person might de- 
vote to serious things. As soon as it is realized that the 
message is the thing, rather than any special way in which 
it is made known, it is clear that such “visions” as are here 
cescribed could grow out of ideas that arose wholly within 
the mind of Amos, and which he puts in this Oriental, 
pictorial form. One need not suppose that Amos saw a 
kind of moving picture, with appropriate words inter- 
spersed. Amos is concerned with the will of God, and as a 
poet to-day might set forth a noble thought in the form 
of some visible event (compare Lowell’s “The Vision of 
Sir Launfal”), so Amos, himself a poet in spirit, sets forth 
in the form of “visions” the thoughts and revelations that 
have come to him concerning himself and his people. The 
Hebrews used the word “show” as freely as we do, as, for 
instance, in the famous and searching words “He hath 
showed thee, O man, what is good” (Mic. 6. 8), where 
nothing definite in the way of time, place, or manner is 

It is important, further, to notice that the whole of each 
vision belongs to what “the Lord showed” Amos; including 
what Amos hears himself saying and what he hears the 
Lord reply. It has already been pointed out that the 
physical objects would be more or less familiar, apart from 
any special message they might suggest; so that what is 
really meant is that Amos found these natural objects sug- 
gesting or illustrating certain truths God had made known 


Sato him. With those truths in mind he saw everything in a 
new light. Everything spoke to him of the message he 
felt called upon to proclaim. His heart was full of it, and 
it mattered not what he saw—a pest of grasshoppers, a 
drought, a plumb-line, or a basket of summer fruit—, each 
one offered some reminder or illustration. The vision, re- 
garded as something which might be seen by human eyes, 
is less important than the message. The message is the 
picture; the vision is only the frame. 

In brief, these clear-cut word pictures are vivid portray- 
als of Amos’ own view of his message and of his relation 
to it. Their highly pictorial character must not divert 
the attention from the truth each was intended to convey. 
The Oriental used then, as the Oriental uses to this day, a 
manner of speech much more pictorial and fanciful than 
we of the West would dream of using. We leave that kind 
of thing to the poets, but the Orientals use it in ordinary 
conversation. Amos and his people were Orientals and 
had their own manner of speech. It is important for us 
to understand their manner as far as we are able in order 
to find beneath the surface of the Oriental language the 
essential massage, the note of reality, the heart and life, 
which convince us of our kinship with this great soul of 
a distant past. 

Tue Mrssacge—Part I 

On a first reading it might seem that these visions, like 
all the words of Amos so far considered, deal directly with 
the people and the future just ahead of them. This is 
true only in part. More careful study shows that what we 
have here is an even more important revelation of Amos’ 
own thought, a leaf out of his own spiritual experience. 
It is all the more valuable because the book has so little 
on this profoundly interesting subject. In the books of 
Isaiah and Jeremiah accounts are given of the so-called 
“call” of each, in which the prophet definitely surrenders 
himself to the proclamation of whatever message God shall 
send him. The book of Amos has exactly one verse on this 
subject—namely, 7. 15—; and this verse has generally been 
regarded as the only reference to Amos’ personal, inner 


experience. In the verses that form our lesson, however, 
while we do not have an account of Amos’ call we do have 
an insight into some of his spiritual experiences in relation 
to his prophetic work. It is in this light we shall study 
them. Their value in this connection has been too often 

Let us consider first the first pair of visions. It was 
shown above that the words of Amos and of the Lord, as 
given in the visions, were part of the visions. They repre- 
sent what Amos heard himself saying and what he heard 
the Lord reply. Note that in each case (verses 2 and 5) 
the words of Amos represent his approach to God, and that 
the words of the Lord (verses 3 and 6) represent the Lord’s 
response to this approach. It is because they faithfully 
represent the feeling toward God which Amos really had 
and the attitude he was sure God had toward him that he 
uses them in the visions he thus relates. They must have 
represented the feelings of Amos’ own heart; otherwise, 
they would never have been repeated and preserved. In- 
teresting as they are for the particular petitions they utter, 
they are more interesting and more valuable as evidences 
of Amos’ feeling of a perfectly free access to God and of his 
conviction that God would immediately respond to his 

Where are we to suppose this all took place? The an- 
swer is right at hand. It took place where all such trans- 
actions take place—in the heart of the seeker after God. 
Words are not necessary in order to have the experwence, 
although there can be no doubt that Amos prayed often 
and earnestly for his people. Words are necessary only 
when we come to describe the experience to others. Not 
any particular words that God may use, but the conviction 
in my heart that he has received me and answered me is 
the essential factor in my experience. And as it is with 
the believer to-day, so it was then, and so it was with Amos. 
It had been so with Elijah, who found God, not in the 
wind or the earthquake or the fire but in the still small 
voice. So Amos, in these simple words, has opened the 
door of his heart, and for a moment we may see him face 
to face with his God. 



No idle curiosity can excuse our presence here. The 
place is holy, and we must come with deepest reverence. 
At the moment when, as it seems to Amos, God is about 
to pour out his punishment upon a rebellious people, Amos 
dares to reason with him and dares to bid him stay his 
hand. It makes us think of the parable Jesus told about 
the gardener who pleaded for the barren fig tree (Luke 13. 
6-9). For a moment Amos seems kinder and more for- 
bearing than God himself, and God becomes willing to con- 
sent to Amos’ appeal—at least, so it seems to Amos at the 


The boldness of Amos in this appeal was due to his 
understanding of his people, his sympathy with them, and 
his love for them. He has often been regarded as harsh 
and stern. And this is true of much that finds a place in 
his book. But these two visions alone are enough to show 
that, however stern he might be, he was never unsym- 
pathetic; however harsh, he was never bitter. It is his 
love for his people that sends him to God in this daring 
fashion. He never would have gone on his own account, 
but for his people he does not hesitate. He knows them as 
weak, erring, and insignificant (“small,” verses 2,5). He 
knows that they can never survive such punishments as’ 
God might visit upon them. 

And the punishments are withheld! Knowing the 
people as he does, Amos realizes that they have no idea 
that punishment is at hand, and naturally there would be 
no one to call upon God to delay his visitations. So Amos 
somehow feels the burden of his people’s danger upon his 
own shoulders. He will plead their cause even if he be the 
only one to do it. Abraham asked God to spare Sodom in 
case there should be found ten righteous persons there 
(Gen. 18. 22-33). Amos, who feels himself, like Elijah 
(1 Kings 19. 14), the only surviving faithful one, dares to 
ask that the nation be spared even if they are all sinners. 
It was a daring proposal, and we can almost imagine the 
awe with which Amos made it and the deeper awe that 
came to him as the conviction deepened in his soul that 
these disasters really had been delayed. God had heard 
him! But further experiences awaited him, 


Tor Merssace—Part II 

The third and fourth visions quickly show themselves 
as a kind of second chapter to the first pair; and as they 
proceed to correct the conclusions Amos might have 
reached on the basis of the first two visions, they also cor- 
rect the ideas which many people to-day hold regarding 
the power of a prophet’s prayer. 

Note that in these visions the Lord is the first speaker, 
instead of Amos, as in the first pair. Note that in each 
ease the object Amos sees is of a kind that carries certain 
qualities and conclusions with it. Note that the plumb- 
line gives a standard of what might be called “vertical 
truth.” It cannot be diverted nor deceived; it is simply 
“there.” If held alongside a wall, no word is necessary. 
The wall is plumb or it is not. In the presence of the 
plumb-line it shows its own approval or condemnation. 
Nothing further need be said. If the Lord sets a certain 
standard before the people, the people meet that standard 
or they do not. When the time has come for the test, all. 
the prayers in the world cannot change the fact. 

The basket of summer fruit which Amos sees in the 
fourth vision is equally plain and convincing. The sum- 
mer fruit has reached its highest point of growth and glory, 
and from the moment it is gathered it starts toward decay. 
This is in the nature of the case. Fruit is the sort of 

thing that has this quality. After it is ripened and gath- 
’ ered, all the prayers in the world cannot delay the ap- 
proaching dissolution. It has lived out its day, its time is 
up; and no matter how keen one’s affection for it, it cannot 
be kept in its present state, its end is at hand. Amos knew 
all this as well as anybody. 

Taking these two visions together, they present another 
side of the situation of which the first visions showed but 
one. Viewed as reflections of Amos’ spiritual experience, 
that experience is seen to be somewhat as follows: Amos 
was a lover and champion of his people. In his devotion 
to them he did not hesitate to appeal to God himself in 
their defense. As a prophet he felt no restraint in the 
divine presence ; indeed, he was confident, at first, that 



not only could he appeal to God, but that his appeal must 
be—was—granted. This is not all, however: the Spirit of 
God was leading him to see another factor in the case. He 
is shown that there were qualities and conditions in the 
people themselves which no prayer but their own could 
change. No other person praying for them, no prophet, 
not even Amos, with all his first assurance, could avert 
by prayer a consequence which the nature of the case com- 

This is why, in the second pair of visions, Amos has no 
answer. He sees that God is not the only factor. The 
people themselves make God’s patience unavailing. The 
Lord shows him the plumb-line and the summer fruit, and 
Amos knows that no appeal of his and no willingness on 
the Lord’s part to hear and to grant that appeal can give 
straightness to the leaning wall or life to the dying fruit. 
Amos was not so much stern as sad. It would sober any 
man to face such facts as these. 

It is one of the tragedies of life that there are limita- 
tions to the power of love. ‘There are standards inde- 
pendent of men and (we say it reverently) of God. There 
are conditions that carry inevitable results in their train. 
No matter how tenderly and devotedly a mother may love 
her child, if that child does certain things, the mother is 
simply helpless. All the love in the world cannot avert the 
consequences. If, however, the child himself attempts 
his own amendment, the first step toward salvation has 
been taken. The other step is that taken by the heavenly 
Father, who always comes more than half way to meet a 
returning child. 

This is the great truth that Amos learned in these 
“visions.” He left no stone unturned to arouse the people 
to take that first step, for he realized now that without 
that step on their own behalf no prayers of his could save 
them. He was convinced that the divine standards of life 
and action must be met. That is what God stood for, and 
that is what Amos himself stood for. If the people per- 
sisted in their failure to meet these standards, the people 
themselves had put their case beyond remedy. 

We who live in the later day of the revelation of God’s 


love in Christ know that Christ. himself acknowledged the 
same conditions; but we know also, in the words of the 
great apostle, that while “the wages of sin is death,” “the 
gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” 
(Rom. 6. 23). But even that gift is helpless until it be 
sought by the one who needs it. 


If these visions of Amos are more concerned with ideas 
than with physical objects, might not similar visions be 
received to-day ? 

_ Has the second vision any bearing on the question of 
praying for rain? 

Can prayer prevail with God unless the Spirit of God 
prevail in the life of the one who prays? 

Was Amos any less answered in the third and fourth 
visions than in the first and second? 

Can you think of any means Amos failed to use by which 
the people could have been stirred to undertake their own 
amendment ? 



Amos 8. 4-14; 9, 1-10 

Toe Day oF THE LoRD 

WHEN it was said in a previous lesson that Amos was 
the first to proclaim certain teachings, it was not meant 
that every word of his book dealt with ideas never heard 
before. ‘There were some beliefs held by the Hebrews long 
before Amos appeared which in all probability Amos him- 
self shared at first but which, in the light of later revela- 
tions, Amos was compelled to correct or to deny. One of 
these concerned “the day of Jehovah” (King James Ver- 
sion: day of the Lorp, or more briefly, “that day”). Like 
some of the other ideas already discussed, this seems at 
first to be far removed from modern ways of thinking. ~ 
But the principle underlying this term is one of the most 
persistent in the whole field of religion, and in some form 
or other it finds expression in every age. ; 

The several references to this “day” in Amos indicate 
that it was a commonplace of current religious thought. 
It went back to a time earlier than any, written prophecy. 
Indeed, there seem to be grounds for supposing that in 
Egypt, a thousand or more years before Amos, there were 
religious teachers who dealt with similar ideas.1 Coming 
down to the present time, we find many forms of belief 
which, in principle, are only this ancient “day of the 
Lorp” brought down to date. 

Briefly stated, the idea of “the day” was that Jehovah 
should deliver his people from ‘their enemies and thus © 
usher in a time of happiness, of prosperity, and of peace. 
At different periods of the nation’s history the deliverance 
of the people and the overthrow of the enemy were differ- 
ently understood. At first it probably meant a victory in 

1Compare Archeology and the Bible, Barton, Chapter XXIV. 


some particular battle. No question was raised about the 
righteousness of the nation’s cause; it was taken for 
granted that Jehovah and Israel were on the same side, 
and that they belonged together. When Israel was threat- 
ened by an enemy, no one supposed that Jehovah would 
ask, “Is my nation righteous and does she deserve victory ?” 

For this reason “the day” had long been regarded as a 
day of triumph. Indeed, there had been many such “days” 
when Israel had been victorious and Jehovah had been ex- 
alted. There could be no better illustration of this whole 
circle of thought than Exod. 15. 1-18. This stirring poem 
expresses admirably the point of view of the Hebrews in 
Amos’ day who “desired the day of the Lord.” The same 
idea, in almost the same words, appears to-day in our feel- 
ing that God is on the side of our nation when any war is 
on; and that our victory is a victory for righteousness— 
that is, for God. 

Amos regards the whole matter in a different light. He 
holds that God is more concerned to have the nation right- 
eous than to have it victorious. If it is unrighteous, it 
shall be defeated, and it deserves to be. Perhaps a few 
might escape (3. 12), but the majority—practically the 
whole nation—would go down to doom, This violently 
reversed the whole popular idea of the day. It became now 
a day of judgment rather than a day of victory. 

It is not surprising that Amos took such an extreme 
view. His conception of the righteous character of God 
- would lead him to a very dark view of the unrighteousness 
of the nation, and his zeal for Jehovah would not make 
him lenient toward sinners. It often happens that re- 
vealers of new ideas run to extremes. It needs an extrem- 
ist to compel the attention of an indifferent public. At 
this distance it is possible to look back and see how power- 
fully Amos set forth his unwelcome message and to see 
also how later prophets modified some of his extreme 

One idea at least he established in a way never to be for- 
- gotten—namely, that a day would come when God would 
reckon with his people on the basis of sin and righteous- 
ness. This idea has gone through many forms .and has 


\« had an interesting history. We have already seen that 
Amos presented it in an extreme form. Isaiah, who fol- 
lowed Amos, reasserted the principle of judgment but held 
that a larger portion of the nation would survive this judg- 
ment. It would still be a small portion (remnant), but 
not as small as Amos had supposed. : 

As the centuries passed, and changing conditions led to 
new and different thoughts on religious subjects, the Jews 
found themselves a very small nation, exploited and op- 
pressed by great world empires—Persia, Greece, Rome. 
Under these influences, aggravated by their sufferings, 
they came more and more to regard themselves as a right- 
eous nation oppressed by a sinful world. The distinctions 
Amos had set up were in large measure ignored, and the 
nation thought of itself as a whole once more and as the 
special object of Jehovah’s uncritical care. 

The judgment-day idea consequently took on a new form 
—namely, the overthrow and punishment of the great non- 
Jewish empires, which constituted practically the whole 
political world so far as the Jews were concerned, and the 
triumph and exaltation of the Jewish nation, which, 
through God’s miraculous act, would now be raised to 
glory. Note that the sin that Amos had found in, the na- 
tion itself is now transferred to “the world” as contrasted 
with the Jews. 

This later form of the idea, involving a relatively small 
group of righteous persons, raised by divine intervention 
to victory over a sinful world, had its influence on the form 
taken by the later Christian idea of a Judgment Day. It 
must be remembered that the early Christians were Jews 
before they were Christians, and that they naturally car- 
ried over much of their native Judaism into their newly 
acquired Christianity. Before the close of the first century 
they had undergone more than one persecution that would 
tend to revive their earlier Jewish ideas of a day when God 
would vindicate his little group of faithful ones and punish 
their oppressors. : 

While we to-day can see how these Jewish ideas were car- 
ried over into Christianity, the early Christians them- 
selves would not be conscious of what they were doing. 


Being Jews, they naturally held fast the hopes which col- 
ored so much of the Jewish thought of that time. When 
they became Christians, it would not occur to them that 
they should leave behind them some of the most cheering 
and encouraging elements of their Jewish faith. So they 
bring these ideas with them and, so far as this subject 1s 
concerned, ‘Christianity becomes a kind of revised version 
of Judaism. It is highly probable that some of the ideas 
about the Judgment held by many Christians to-day are 
really more Jewish than Christian. 

A detail that is not without interest in this connection 
is the way a significant word has been used in two mean- 
ings. In Amos—and the Old Testament generally—the 

word “Lorp” is used for Jehovah, the God of Israel, and 
“the day of the Lorp” meant the day of God, of J ehovah. 
In the New Testament the word “Lord” is used of Christ. 
So the early Christians could read from the Old Testa- 
ment references to the day of the Lorp (Jehovah) and ap- 
ply them to a day of the Lorp (Christ), with which origi- 
nally they had nothing to do. This coincidence of the 
word a1 ie transfer of the Jewish ideas into the Chris- 
tian religi 7 


In 8. 8, 9sand 9. 5 the prophet represents the earth itself 
as in some way and in some measure sharing in the judg- 
ment that is to be visited on the nation. If such references 
occurred het only they might be dismissed without se- 
rious consideration; but such expressions appear so fre- 
quently that they raise the question, How did the prophets 
think of the world in its relation to the great messages 
they had to proclaim? What is the significance of such 
statements as “thé‘land shall-tremble for this” (8. 8) and 
“T will cause the sun to go down at noon” (8. 9) and “the 
land shall melt” (9. 5)? In the first place it is quite 
clear that Amos is not thinking of what people to-day 
mean by the end of the world. He is referring to the pun- 
ishments that shall come upon the people and he evidently 
regards these punishments as near at hand. 

The prophets, as a rule, do not seem to anticipate a de- 



struction of the world. They expect punishments that 
they describe in terms of natural events, but the blessed 
time that was expected to follow these punishments was 
always regarded as taking place upon the earth. In order 
to be a suitable place for the purified nation which sur- 
vived the punishments, the earth itself was renovated and 
renewed. It is in this sense that we read of “new 
heavens and a new earth” (Isa. 65. 17), in which the same 
natural conditions appear which belong to the present 
earth. ) 

Similar expressions are used for less extensive events, 
asin Amos 1.2. Often heaven and earth are called upon 
as though they might act as witnesses of the charges 
brought against a rebellious people, as in Isa. 1. 2. Winds 
and lightnings act as messengers for divine errands (Psa. | 
104. 3, 4). It is thus evident that references to nature 
such as are found in the present lesson are not to be 
separated from these other ones, which are of a milder 
character. They all belong together and are parts of that 
view of nature characteristic of the Hebrews generally 
and of the prophets in particular. 

The Hebrews generally shared with the rest of the world 
at that time an idea of nature very different from that held 
to-day. When it is considered how recently/men have 
learned about gravitation, the shape of the earth, eclipses, 
earthquakes, light, and electricity, it is no wonder that in 
ancient times,;men ignorant of these things regarded the 
earth as almost a living thing, whose actions were directed 
not by certain “natural laws” but by feclingl« of the earth 
itself, as it responded to acts of God, of man, or of spirits 
(compare Isa. 1. 2; Jer. 2. 13; Isa. 49. 16 Psa. 65. 11-18; 
77. 16; 96. 11; 98. 8). To understand such expressions 
as these and to sympathize with them it is quite necessary 
to think of the world as these old Hebrews thought of it. 
For them such words involved no conflict with their ideas 
of nature and of the world. They must not be tested by 
modern scientific discoveries, but must be taken in the 
spirit in which they were meant. | 

The prophets were not only Hebrews, sharing these views © 
of life and of the world; they were also poets. To the 


natural imagery of the Oriental mind they added the free- 
dom and originality of thought which led them to use 
familiar facts and theories as poets in all ages have done. 
In their prophetic discourses they go further than the 
average man in representing nature as influenced by the 
acts of God and man. When they say that “the top of 
Carmel shall wither,” that “the sun will go down at noon,” 
that “the land shall melt,” and many other such things, 
they cannot be regarded as making scientific statements. 
They are speaking as Hebrews and as poets, and their 
references to nature have the same exalted fervor as their 
impassioned words on other subjects—for example, Amos 
2.10; 3. 9, 10, 12; 5. 1, 2, 6; 6. 12,13. They are neither 
geologists nor astronomers but religious teachers, who 
utter their messages in terms that their hearers would 
recognize at once as appropriate to the profoundly serious 
character of the message itself. 


Among the punishments that Amos announces is “a 
famine of the words of the Lorp,’ when men shall “run 
to and fro to seek the word of the Lorp and shall not find 
it” (8. 11, 12). Amos is right in indicating this as a 
serious fate. We are so accustomed to the idea that the 
Bible is the Word of God, and that in it we can find the 
word of the Lord whenever we desire it, that at first we 
do not realize that Amos was not speaking of any col- 
lection of the words of God which had been uttered to 
other people on other occasions in an earlier time; he 
meant what the Hebrews called “the living word”—a 
spoken word from some teacher or prophet, through whom 
God sent the needed word at a needy time. He saw no 
comfort in the idea that the people might have consulted 
the words that God had anciently uttered through Moses 
or Samuel or David or Elijah. He realized their imme- 
diate and constant need of living leaders who could direct 
the people according to the divine will. 

The idea that the words of the Lord, or the Word of 
God, could all be contained in a single writing or a col- 
lection of writings such as our Bible would have caused 



the prophets great surprise. Nobody would have dreamed 
of such a thing at that time. “The word of God” was 
their term for God’s will in action. It was this word that 
inspired the prophets, it was this that created the world 
(Gen. 1), it was this that accomplished the divine pur- 
poses among men (Isa. 55. 11), that melted the hard 
heart and broke the stubborn will (Jer. 23. 29), that 
sought out men’s inner motives (Heb. 4. 12), that brought 
to spiritual birth the first Christian fellowship (1 Pet. 1. 
23). It is unfortunate that this large, rich, true, and 
Scriptural conception of God’s immediate and unfailing 
resources of leadership should ever have given way to re- 
liance upon a collection of past words that, precious as 
they are beyond all measure, cannot be and were never in- 
tended to be a substitute for “the living word.” As the 
divine leadership of the Hebrews in the wilderness could 
not serve for the guidance of David in his kingdom; as 
the divine direction of David and his kingdom could not 
serve to guide the returned exiles when they undertook 
to reéstablish their homes and their worship; as the divine 
counsel that aided the returned exiles could not ade- 
quately direct the life of the growing Christian church: 
so it is now and ever shall be that the supreme need of all 
who would worthily live for God is to find him and hear 
him at first hand. The prophet Jeremiah voiced this in 
ee words, but they are not yet understood (Jer. 
31. 34). ) 

It is as necessary to-day that men find the word of the 
Lord as in the days of Amos. We have advantages that Amos 
and his people ‘did not have. We have the examples and 
the testimonies of “the goodly fellowship of the prophets, 
the glorious company of the apostles, and the noble army 
of martyrs.” Above all we have the life and teachings of 
Jesus. These are our guides, tried and trustworthy, lead- 
ing us toward the goal discerned so long ago by Amos and 
Jeremiah, where God 

“, . . stooped to heal 
My soul, as if in a thunder peal 
Where one heard noise and one saw flame, 
T only knew he named my name.” 



Is a Day of Judgment to be feared or welcomed? (Com- 
pare Psa. 96. 11-13.) 

Is it necessary that all be judged on the same “day”? 

In view of the changes through which the idea has 
passed, can we be sure that the last word has been spoken 
on the subject? re 

To what extent is the future of our earth revealed in the 
poetic language of the prophets? 

Does spiritual and ethical righteousness depend on the 
destruction of the earth? 

If such an event should occur, would the survivors be 
any more righteous afterward than before? 

Is righteousness a condition of body or of spirit? 

Does the “word of God” or the “word of the Lord” in the 
Bible refer chiefly to spoken or written words? 

Where is the word of God to be looked for? 

Is any light thrown on this subject by the fact that 
those through whom the word of God came, always pre- 
sented it as something new in their own day, and made so 
little reference to any words spoken previously ? 




Amos 9. 11-15 

Tur Happy ENDING 

Arter the storm a calm! The stormy little book of 
Amos, with its wars and famines, its pestilences and earth- 
quakes, comes to a most surprising close in a picture of 
peace and quiet, of homes and happiness. The stormy 
spirit comes to anchor in a haven of rest. 

As one reads the books of the prophets one cannot escape 
the feeling that they were more or less pessimistic in their 
outlook. So much of what they said consists of criticism 
and condemnation that the first impression is one of dark- 
ness and gloom. Further reading, however, shows that 
after a certain amount of warning and rebuke, a contrast 
is introduced by a passage that gives a brighter message,— 
a ray of light is permitted to relieve the darkness. The 
present lesson is a passage of this character. —_. 

Before taking it up in detail let us ask why there should 
be any happy ending at all. Why should not the nation 
go down to a gloomy destruction if it is really as sinful 
as the prophets say? Does it not fully deserve such a fate? 
If there were nothing to be considered but sin and punish- 
ment, one should have to answer that punishment was un- 
avoidable, no matter how severe, whether it would destroy 
the nation or not. — 

Yet the problem never seems to work out just that way. 
Sin itself cannot be dealt with as an abstract proposition. 
It cannot be separated from the sinner himself. The sin- 
ner is a human being whom God loves. God loved—loves— 
the world, and he is more concerned for humanity than 
for theology. And while earnest souls have been labor- 

1Compare “The sabbath was’ made for’man, and not man for the sabbath” 
(Mark 2, 27). 


iously working out elaborate theories of sin and punish- 
ment, the human sinner, whom they had quite forgotten, 
has come to himself and said, “I will arise and go to my 
Father”; and, like the mists before the morning sun, the 
elaborate schemes have evaporated before the love “that 
casts out fear. So, somehow or other, these universal 
dooms never quite happen. 

It is a curious and interesting fact that this very race 
of Hebrews, and especially its prophets, who have given us 
the most gloomy forebodings of terrible futures, are also 
the ones who seem to have felt most deeply and to have 
set forth most glowingly the hopes and Ste a that most 
effectively discount the terrors the prophets predict. The 
chorus of despair grows faint, and a new ‘ae is heard: 
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy vic- 
tory ?” 

This no denial of the principle that te ee a man 
soweth that shall he also reap.” But no one is ever lim- 
ited to a single sowing, and earlier crops can often be 
crowded out by later plantings. Where life is concerned, 
no one can tell at any particular time what; possibilities lie 
just ahead. 

Some instinct of this kind seems to ee been rooted 
deep in the prophetic consciousness. Despite their words 
of warning and of punishment they were never quite con- 
vinced that Jehovah’s work for righteousness would end 
in dismal failure. Out of this profound assurance arises 
the oft-noted. fact that while many ancient peoples looked 
back to a distant past as the time when they had their 
golden age, the. Hebrews looked forward to a time in the 
future when 

“All we have willed or hoped’ or dreamed of good shall exist.” 

Their golden age was yet to come. In spite of failures 
and in spite of fears, though sdéme, or even many, indi- 
viduals might seem to go the way of destruction, they were 

“... that somehow good 
Will be the final goal of ill.” 




In the long last there would be a happy ending. And 
we feel that they were right. Their faith is also ours. 

“Unto the upright there ariseth 
Light in the darkness.” 

Wuo Drew THis PICTURE? 

Men’s ideas about the blessed future have differed as 
widely as their ideas about the judgment. They agree in 
the fact that there shall be such a time; but just when or 
where it shall be, or just what form it will take when it 
arrives are questions to which very different answers have 
been given. The passage before us shows a twofold in- 
terest—agricultural and national. 

According to the first idea the blessed future will be a 
kind of husbandman’s paradise, characterized by a fertil- 
ity rich beyond compare. Such a picture is quite as inter- 
esting for what it reveals about the one who drew it as for 
what it actually portrays. Such a future would make but 
little appeal to a merchant or a soldier or a mechanic or a 
statesman. It is evidently designed for a particular class 
of persons. ‘ 

It confirms what was said in a previous lesson pout the 
prophets expecting the blessed future to tak ‘place on 
earth. Even if these words were regarded as poetical in 
their fervor, their reference is nevertheless to the earth 
on which we now live. The words are not figurative nor 
symbolical so far as this point is concerned. They are, 
indeed, highly colored, but they are direct and straight- 
forward and speak quite frankly of a kind of paradise that 
would be heaven to a man whose life and whose delight 
were to plow, to plant, and to reap. . 

Such a future, however, could hardly have satisfied 
Amos. If the rest of the book truly represents his feeling 
—and there is no reason for doubt about it—, this kind of 
future was far removed from his ideals. True, he was an 
out-of-doors man and to that extent would feel a certain 
sympathy with the picture. But it lacks elements the rest 
of his book regards as essential. Nothing is said of justice 
to the poor, square dealing by merchants, nor true worship. 


It is barely possible that, after all, Amos might have 
felt that a return to a primitive, agricultural simplicity of 
life would be the best way to overcome the evils he so 
vigorously denounced. Instead of thinking that city life, 
with its commerce, its luxury, and its refinements of 
civilization, could be purified, perhaps he regarded it as 
hopeless and felt that the only cure for its evils would be 
to abolish it altogether and let everybody get back to the 
land. In view, also, of the high ethical spirit represented 
in the rest of the book, it is difficult to suppose that Amos 
looked forward to a future as materialistic and as self- 
centered as this—a life whose chief attraction seems to be 
the prospect of laborless crops. 

According to the second idea the nation is to be restored 
from captivity to be reéstablished in perpetual se- 
curity. ‘The tabernacle of David, which has been over- 
thrown, is to be restored. This tabernacle (literally, booth, 
or hut) seems to mean the Davidic dynasty, which, as we 
know, ceased with the Exile. This situation would in- 
volve a\most un-Amos-like exaltation of the nation. 

A further characteristic of the rest of the book is the 
way Amos ignores the idea of patriotism. He seems to be 
quite unimpressed by it, even to the extent of regarding 
with a certain complacency his nation’s ,downfall. He 
shows as much concern, in some respects, for nations that 
were enemies of Israel as for Israel itself. The passage 
before us looks toward a national reéstablishment with con- 
siderable enthusiasm. Strange to say, it is not the resto- 
ration of the nation to which Amos preached, but of a 
nation under the dynasty of David. The northern king- 
dom, where Amos seems to have done all his preaching, 
had revolted from-the-sway of»the Davidic line two cen- 
turies before Amos comes on the scene; and there would 
be nothing attractive to the people of the northern king- 
dom in any promise involving the surrender of their own 
independence and a future submission to some descendant 
of David. \ : 

It is somewhat surprising to note in this passage—if, 
indeed, it be from Amos at all—the absence of any reason 
given for the nation’s return. Amos does not condemn 


\* the people without giving reasons in great variety for his 
condemnations; and it is hard to understand how he could 
promise a blessed future without indicating some repent- 
ance on their part or some change in their attitude which 
would justify this very different outlook. 

The more carefully the passage is considered, the more 
ground there seems to be for the idea, held by many Bible 

students, that this passage has been added to the book by. 

some writer who lived when the line of David had been 
definitely cut off, when the people were in captivity, and 
when the hope of a return to Palestine was springing up 
in the hearts of faithful exiles. There would be nothing 
strange about this. We know that just as the book of the 
Psalms grew gradually by the addition of new Psalms to 
earlier small collections; and just as the Old Testament 
itself grew from time to time as successive books were 
written, in a similar way many of the books of the prophets, 
while bearing the names of those whose words make up 
the greater part of the books, were expanded by later 
prophets who continued and applied the teachings of the 
first. [ 

So when the question is asked, “Who drew this picture °”? 
the answer would be, “Someone far more deeply concerned 
with the future than Amos ever shows himself to have 
been.” And if it was someone other than Amos, it was 
probably a writer who lived during the captiyity -the pas- 
sage refers to. . 

OrHeR Virws—anp Ours 

The present lesson should be compared with other pas-_ 

sages bearing on this subject. Read Isa. 30. 26, where 
it is said that the moon shall be as bright as the sun, and 
the sun seven times as bright as it is now. Read Isa. 65. 
17-25, where the “new heavens and the new earth” are 
simply a kind of edition de luze of the present earth, with 
Jerusalem, Mount Zion, as the place chiefly concerned. 
In this new earth we see home-building, vineyard-plant- 
ing, children and aged people, with happiness and peace 
everywhere, even among the animals. 

While not all the pictures of the blessed future are as 



materialistic as these, if several of them are read one right 
after the other, one cannot fail to be impressed with the 
preponderance of earthly traits in all. As it becomes 
clear, however, that these highly colored descriptions 
spring from the poetic freedom of prophetic speech, one 
recognizes these passages as expressing the hopes and 
aspirations of those who were sure of the ultimate security 
and happiness of the faithful. They are not charts of the 
future nor revelations of the celestial calendars; they are’ 
something far more significant: they are joyful utterances 
of a trust in God that no disaster could disappoint. 

' Many of the ideas thus set forth were taken over into 
Christianity, just as the ideas of the Judgment were taken ; 
and many Christians do not yet distinguish between those 
elements that are Jewish and those that are Christian. In 
view of the numerous, varied, and sometimes conflicting 
descriptions of the future which appear in the Bible it is 
no wonder that even to-day there is no general agreement 
as to the character of the future life. Many are trying to 
discoverits nature through supposed communications with 
those on the other side. Yet these not only differ widely 
from each other, but their “revelations” exhibit the same 
earthly and physical traits as those of the ancient Hebrew 
seers. | 
We, as Christians, are on safest and surest ground when 
we rest back on the indications that come to us from Jesus 
Christ. While he used the pictorial, prophetic method 
in some of his teachings on this subject, he stands apart 
from all others in the way he regards the future as de- 
termined by spiritual and ethical principles, even where 
he is most poetic and concrete. He lays no special empha- 
sis upon what external conditions of 
the future life, but he lays unflinching and overpowering, 
emphasis on those qualities of heart and mind, of thought 
and will, which make a man what he really is. He shows 
clearly that the conditions which make for future happiness 
are spiritual conditions, and that these are operative here 
and now. The qualities that make for true happiness 
there make for true happiness here, and vice versa. 

This is the deeper meaning of the Beatitudes. They 




have that timeless quality which appears in so much—in- 
deed, in practically all—of Jesus’ teachings. In these fa- 
miliar and matchless words Jesus is giving utterance to 
his thought of life’s true character, there as well as here. 
For Jesus there was no hard-and-fast boundary between 
present and future; he lived in a pure present. And when 
he spoke of those qualities of spirit which “bless” a man 
he was speaking and thinking of qualities that belong to 
eternity. He who possesses them here possesses them for- 
ever. They can neither be corrupted nor stolen; they are 
eternal possessions. And just because they endure from 
present to future, he who has found them now has in him- 
self the strongest assurance that the blessed future will be 

“Strive, man, to win that glory; 
Toil, man, to gain that light; 
Send hope before to grasp it, \ 
Till hope be lost in sight.” 


To what extent is dne’s idea of future happingss influ- 
enced by his idea of present happiness? 

Would the prophets be subject to this kind of influence ? 
Would they be any the less spokesmen for F if they 

Turning the question around, is it n 
one’s idea of a blessed future is an accurate | 
what he most enjoys and most desires? 

Would a farmer’s paradise necessarily he a merchant’s 
paradise? or a scholar’s? 

Are the Jewish beliefs that were taken over into Chris- 
tianity by the first Christians a-necessary part of Chris- 
tianity ? 

Did Jesus and Paul accept Judaism as a whole? Did 
they cover the whole subject in the matter of acceptance 
or rejection ? 

Should not Christians to-day be permitted to exercise 
discrimination in such a matter? 

true that 
ndication of 



Amos 7. 10-17 

As OtHErs Saw Him 

THIs passage is different from all the rest of the book 
(except 1. 1) in being a story about Amos rather than a 
report of his words. It probably serves, by this very dif- 
ference, to indicate the true character of the book. The 
words in verses 14-17 needed some kind of explanation if 
they were to be understood, and so the description in verses 
10-13 is supplied by whomever made this collection of 
Amos’. words. The whole book may indeed have been 
brought together by the writer of this brief bit of descrip- 
tion. He evidently felt the dramatic intensity of the situa- 
tion he here describes. We should have been grateful if he 
had given us much more description of this kind. Many of 
these words of Amos are so striking just as they stand 
that they would be even more vivid if we knew the cir- 
cumstances under which they were spoken. 

This is the only place in the book which gives us the 
slightest hint of the impression Amos made upon those 
who heard him. No one can read his glowing words with- 
out wondering \how they were received. Did they make 
the people angry? Or did the people listen in a patron- 
izing way and say, “Poor man, he means well; but that 
sort of talk will never get him anywhere’? Probably most 
of the people were on the side of Amaziah and the king. 

The absence of any report of the way the people felt 
toward Amos makes it extremely difficult to estimate the 
‘importance he had in his own day. The fact that his little 
book is now in the Bible gives us the idea that he was a 
‘great man, and he was. But there is no evidence that 
he was regarded as a great man from the first. There is 



\. no evidence that any of the prophets whom we know as 
“creat”? were ever received with approval by the people at 
large. They were always in a small and unpopular mi- 

It should not be overlooked, however, that opposition is 
no proof that a man is a prophet. A man may be highly 
unpopular and a general nuisance, and not be a prophet 
on that account. One does not become a prophet simply 
by arousing the antagonism of his neighbors. 'The martyr 
pose is not always evidence of the martyr spirit. To be a 
prophet he must make a positive contribution to the spirit- 
ual life of the people, must lack any impulse to self-seeking, 
and must be far removed from petty politics. There is a 
largeness of word and purpose about all the true prophets 
which lifts them above the levels of life and thought upon 
which most of us live, move, and have our being. 


As Elijah had confronted Ahab in Samaria a hundred 
years before this time, as Paul was to confront Peter at 
Antioch eight hundred years later, so Amos the prophet 
confronts Amaziah the priest at Bethel. Two types of 
religion, represented in two typical personalities, here 
stand face to face. 

Amos stands for God’s immediate access to the human 
soul. He represents no institution, whether religious or 
national. He regards neither king nor priest, palace nor > 
temple. He barely alludes to the past, and then only to a 
past so far distant that it serves to contradict all that an 
Amaziah would regard as firmly established. He cares 
nothing for orderly methods nor for courtly ceremonies. 
He stands for one thing, and one thing only: that is the 
living voice of the living God in the living present. He 
embodies that picture of the prophet sketched later in such 
bold strokes by Jeremiah: 

“He that hath my word, 

Let him speak my word faithfully. 

Is not my word like a fire, 

And like a hammer that shatters the rock?” 
(Jer. 28, 28, 29). 


The word “prophet” is subject to some misunderstand- 
ing in this passage. We have formed our idea of prophets 
on monumental characters such as Amos, Isaiah, and Jere- 
miah without realizing that these men were quite excep- 
tional. Aside from the fact that they sought the will of 
God without reference to priest or sacrifice they had little 
in common with the better-known and more numerous 

“sons of the prophets,” who represented the more profes- 
sional side of prophecy. These latter seem to have been 
quite as conventional and quite as professional in their own 
way as the priests were in theirs. The great prophets were 
of a different order. 

Amos uses the word in this double sense in verses 14, 15. 
He first denies being a (professional) prophet or a member 
of the prophetic guild (sons of the prophets) and then 
proceeds immediately to say that the Lord had told him to 
prophesy. Amos’ own idea of prophets and prophecy ap- 
pears in words which may have been uttered on an oc- 
casion similar to this one: 

“Surely the Lord Jehovah will do nothing, 
But he revealeth his secret 
Unto his servants the prophets. 
The lion hath roared: who will not fear? 
The Lord Jehovah hath spoken: who can but prophesy?” 
(Amos 3. 7, 8). 

One cannot help feeling that these words are a quick and 
stinging rebuke to some who had been telling Amos that 
he was not areal prophet, and that he did not have “the 
word of the Lord.” They supply another indication that 
prophets of the ‘Amos type were neither familiar nor popu- 
lar. It is as much of a mistake to suppose that all the 
men called prophets. by the Hebrews were like Amos or 
Isaiah as to suppose that all preachers in our own day are 
like Henry Ward Beecher or Phillips Brooks. 


Amaziah forms a contrast to Amos in almost every 
respect. He stands for the religion handed down from 
the fathers, for the institutions that had grown out of and 



around that religion, for precedent and propriety. He 
also stands for patriotism and is a champion of the king 
as well as of the temple. He thinks it outrageous that 
Amos should threaten the nation with captivity and dis- 
aster. Such language, according to Amaziah, is treason- 
able and seditious. He thinks Amos should be deported. 
Amos belonged in the south: why didn’t he stay there? 
Bethel had no room for troublesome intruders. If Amos 
didn’t like the way things were going in Israel, let him go 
back where he came from. Furthermore, Amos is not only 
an outsider but a clumsy farmer as well. He doesn’t know 
how to behave himself in a royal sanctuary! 

We can almost hear Amaziah’s ringing tones, vibrant 
with righteous indignation in a holy cause, when he says 
to Amos: “O thou seer, go, flee away into the land of 
Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there; but 
prophesy not again any more at Bethel, for it is the 
king’s shrine and a royal temple.” J 

It is quite in keeping with his character, as indicated in 
this brief dialogue, that he should have this “businesslike” 
view of priesthood and prophecy. He is a man who knows 
no inner imperative apart from the profitable and respect- 
able demands of his profession. He is not necessarily bad 
nor narrow nor reactionary. Indeed, he may have been a 
very good man up to his lights. He simply had no under- 
standing of the prophetic spirit which spoke in Amos, so 
he took it for granted that Amos, like himself} regarded his 
work as a means of comfortable support. / 

Such people—and they are many—cannot understand 
how other people can follow a calling or pursue a line of 
action that brings no financial return. The idea is simply 
unintelligible that some souls can be lit/ with an inner 
flame, led by a wondrous star, and live obedient to a 
heavenly vision, taking no account of loaves and fishes— 
souls that cannot live by bread alone, to whom hardship 
and poverty are the least of their troubles, who, in the 
words of the apostle, “approve themselves as ministers of 
God in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in dis- 
tresses, . . . as dying and, behold they live, as chas- 
tened and not killed, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as 


poor yet making many rich, as having nothing and yet 
possessing all things” (2 Cor. 6. 4-10). 

Experiences of this kind lie beyond the reach not only of 
wicked people but of many good people too. They were 
beyond the reach of Amaziah. At first one feels a little 
sorry for him, that with his high position and its corres- 
ponding opportunities he should seem so mean and in- 
effective alongside this vigorous and unconventional shep- 
herd-preacher. It is only because of our detachment from 
the whole situation, however, that we can regard Amaziah 
in this light. Centuries of history have reversed the 
original relations of Amaziah and Amos. In the days when 
both were living Amaziah was the lofty one and Amos the 
lowly. Amaziah had every advantage—an assured position, 
the reverence of the people, the favor of the king. He 
stood on the side of respectability and orthodoxy. He 
represented the elements that controlled the national life, 
from the king down. 

If we had been there probably we should have supported 
Amaziah rather than Amos. This assertion is made on 
the assumption that in matters of this kind people are 
much the'same in all ages. They would far rather be led 
than be forced to seek out new paths for themselves. When 
it comes to.religion, independence seems as dangerous as 
it is difficult. And who should be more acceptable as lead- 
ers than those who are already prominent, who already 
enjoy the general confidence, who have the support of the 
ruling classes; and who represent the old-time religion? 
Amaziah is not to be lightly pitied nor dismissed. He per- 
sonifies the “general opinion” of his day and of all days. 

“HitHer—Or” Versus “BotH—AND” 

When two such highly characteristic and divergent ideals 
as those embodied in Amos and Amaziah confront each 
other, our first impression is that one of them is wholly 
good and the other wholly bad. We feel that we must 
approve one and condemn the other. This feeling is in- 
tensified in this particular instance because of the place the 
book of Amos holds in the Bible. The mere fact of its 
presence there is enough to assure us that Amos must have 



been right, and that all who opposed him or whom he 
condemned must have been wrong. 

The contents of the book further confirm this idea. 
Not only is Amos presented as warning, rebuking, and de- 
nouncing the whole community, but the book leaves the im- 
pression that the people well deserve all that Amos says to 
them or about them. This little story about Amaziah is 
the only place in the book where anyone “answers back,” 
and even here it is Amos who dominates the situation; 
so that, at first, there seems to be no question but that 
either Amos is all right, and Amaziah is all wrong, or 
Amaziah is all right, and Amos is all wrong. 

It may be granted at once that to Amos and Amaziah 
themselves such a choice was necessary. Each one felt 
himself to be in the right and the other in the wrong. But 
we stand far enough away from them to see that life as a 
whole is larger than their views of it, and that we need 
both types of leaders. In order that the principles pro- 
claimed by Amos should become the practical basis of 
daily life, it would be quite as natural as it was necessary 
that they should produce some kind of an organization de- 
voted to their application. Men have to work in groups 
this way. As soon as that is recognized, it is clear that 
there must be such men as Amaziah who will represent the 
organization and its purposes. There must be, ES to speak, 
a chairman of the meeting. 

In other words, Amos and Amaziah stand for two as- 
pects of life which are equally essential yet which seem at 
times to be in violent contradiction with each other— 
namely, inspiration and organization,, one speaking 
through the individual, and the other through the group, 
one supplying principle and motive, andthe other supply- 
ing form and method. In the larger field of human life 
as a whole we cannot say either Amos or Amaziah; we 
must include both Amos and Amaziah. There must be 
such men as Amos—men who are inspired and who inspire. 
These men must awaken our consciences by giving us new 
standards of life and action. They must humiliate us by 

pointing out how far short we come of the glory of God. 4 

They must blaze the trail for further progress along the 



ascending and unending path of righteousness, the upward 
calling of God in Christ Jesus. 

There must also be such men as Amaziah—men who 
can teach and administer. These men must show us how 
to organize for practical use the spiritual gains brought 
us by the others. These men must preserve spiritual val- 
ues through the long centuries that lack outstanding 
prophets. They must teach succeeding generations the 
way of life as far as that way has been made known. 

These facts have an important bearing on our thought 
of the church. The church is obviously a great organiza- 
tion, preserving the religious inheritance of the past, teach- 
ing successive generations, consoling, correcting, leading 
men from age to age. Yet to do its highest work it must 
be saved from the drying-up process that seems to be the 
fate of all organizations. It must be prevented from turn- 
ing its attention inward upon its own affairs as if it were 
an end in itself. It must not only keep old ideals fresh 
and vital, but must be expectant and receptive of new ones. 
This spirit of life, this eager vitality, is awakened and re- 
vived by seers and prophets. ‘They are the ones to shake 
us out of indolence, to open blind eyes and to unstop deaf 
ears. Until they appear, we do not realize how mechani- 
cal and formal we have become, nor how much farther we 
have to go. 

The prophet is necessary if there is to be any religious 
progress, while the church is necessary if the prophetic 
ideals are to be preserved, administered, and made prac- 
tical for the rank and file. Prophets themselves make 
poor church members, while churches seem too slow and 
ponderous to satisfy the prophets. Yet the church gives 
the prophet his background and his inspiration, while the 
prophet gives the church its visions and its vitality. Not 
either—or but both—and should represent our attitude 
toward Amos and Amaziah, toward prophet and church. 
Without the prophetic spirit the church is lifeless, and 
without the churchly means and methods the prophet is 
helpless. The ideal is that the organization should be di- 
rected and administered in a way to make practical and 
effective the high aims and far visions of the prophets. 



QuzEsTIoNns To Discuss 

Ts there anything in the book of Amos that prevents us 
from regarding it as having been written by someone who 
collected his sayings rather than by Amos himself? 

Ts there any good reason why a few words of other teach- 
ers than Amos should not have been included ? 

To what degree has a man a right to criticize and to de- 
nounce institutions that represent a nation’s religions and 
political life? } 

Is the fact that a man’s words tend to disturb the peace 
a sign that he speaks for God? Is it a sign that he doesn’t? 

Is there any way by which, if such a man should speak 
to-day, we could be sure that he was or was not speaking 
for God? 
eo we have been sure about Amos if we had lived 
then f . 

Can service. be unselfish if it be paid for in money? 
Where can we draw the line? How about ministers? or 
Sunday-school teachers ? ~ | 


Tue Note or REALITY 

OnE of the reasons why many earnest Christians do not 
get more out of their reading and study of the Bible is 
because it seems so unreal and far away. Its formal lan- 
guage, its unfamiliar names, its strange customs, its for- 
eign and ancient background, and, above all, its hallowed 
associations all tend to remove it from any contact with 
life as we know it and live it. The people referred to in 
the Bible are regarded as being “in the Bible” rather than 
in the earth. They are “Bible characters” rather than 
“human characters.” The Hebrew nation, so far as its 
story appears in the Bible, is thought of as having lived, 
moved, and had its being in an atmosphere of “religion,” 
occupying a world all its own—a world that had little or 
nothing in common with the ancient world we study about 
in school. 

While it is true that these ideas are not always stated in 
just these words, years of observation confirm the opinion 
that for most readers the Bible has all the unreality here 
indicated. ‘This does not mean that the readers are not 
religious or sincere. Most of them are undoubtedly earnest 
and devout, and many of them are living lives that are 
beautiful examples of the Christian spirit. Neither does 
it mean that this feeling of distance and unreality prevents 
a man from “getting good out of the Bible.” Innumerable 
passages spring immediately to mind as words that, beyond 
all others and beyond all question, are “profitable for teach- 
ing, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in. right- 

The sayings of the Bible, enriched by centuries of sacred 
associations, justify all that has been affirmed of their 
power and beauty, but they do not stand alone. Back of 



\*them are the men who first spoke them and who lived 
them before they were spoken. David lived and loved before 
the Psalms were written; Isaiah prayed and taught before 
there could be a book of Isaiah; Peter and Paul and the 
test were telling the gospel story and living Christian 
lives before there was any New Testament. The Spirit 
of God in the heart of man produced the Scriptures. That 
is, God came into the Scriptures by way of man; he did 
not come to man by way of the Scriptures. 

This means that the task of the Bible student is not to 
make the Scriptures real but to discover the reality already 
there. Amos, Amaziah, and Jeroboam were real people, 
leading busy lives according to their place and calling. 
The lesson they have for us cannot be found from their 
words alone. ‘The character and principles that lie back 
of the words must show us what the words mean; for the 
same words spoken by different persons may have quite 
different meanings. ‘There could be no more striking 
illustration of this than the way the words of Jesus are 
felt to derive their chief value from his character and 
spirit. It was because he lived his gospel that the gospel 
words speak with divine power. When this reality has once 
been discerned, the Bible becomes a new book. Its pages 
glow with a new light and its words speak with a new 
spirit. Its figures come to life and call to us across the 
centuries : P 

“Seek ye the Lorp while he may be found; 
Call ye upon him while he is near” (Isa. 55. 6). 

For out of lives as earnest and as perplexing as our own 

they sought the Lord. Out of tribulation and distress, out 

of doubts and fears, they called upon him. Their search 

is ours. And despite the immeasurable advantage and 

illumination that have come to us since their day the end 

is not yet. 
THE Nore oF Progress 

As soon as the note of reality has been struck, its sound 
carries far beyond a single event or individual. As Amos 

is recognized in terms of real life he loses his isolation and 

is seen as one of many men who in their own way wrought 


and taught the will of God so far as it had been revealed 
to their time. 

In the study of a prophet like Amos at least two steps 
are involved. The first step is to examine his book and 
anything else about him that can be found in order to dis- 
cover the man himself and just what he stood for. No 
matter how severe his words nor how extreme some of his 
ideas, the task is not to criticize but to construct. He 
must be permitted to stand on his own feet, to see things 
with his own eyes, and to speak his message in his own 

This kind of study neither denies nor obscures the work 
of the Spirit of God. It is not until such study is per- 
formed that the divine process can be recognized and ap- 
preciated. The prophets were men quite out of the or- 
dinary in their sensitiveness to the divine Spirit and in 
the intensity with which they gave themselves to the procla- 
mation of the divine will. But this very sensitiveness and 
intensity mark them out as men whose messages must be 
carefully distinguished from their personalities. Only as 
their personal traits and points of view become clear 
can we escape the danger of accepting as the word of God 
some word of the prophet which springs from individual- 
ity rather than from inspiration. 

The second ’step is to give the prophet his place in the 
great stream of progressive revelation which flows through 
the Bible. Moses, Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, and many 
other prophets had arisen before the time of Amos, each 
one in his own day speaking the word of the Lord as the 
Lord made it known. After Amos were to come Isaiah, 
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and many others, differing among 
themselves as “one star differeth from another star in 
glory.” When given his proper place among these other 
prophets the teachings of Amos fall into a true perspective. 
It can then be seen where he advanced beyond his prede- 
cessors, where he fell below those who followed, and where 
his words had purely local and ternporary significance. 
Unless this second step is taken, it is easy to be misled as 
to the ultimate value or importance of any word of any 
prophet, including Amos, 



The revelation that comes in the life and words of any 
one of the Old Testament characters is not a complete or 
final revelation. It was not complete for any one type of 
teacher, because priest and prophet, sage and psalmist, 
differed from each other quite as widely then as such men 
would differ to-day, representing as they do such different 
aims and points of view. Even less was it complete for 
any one .ime, because successive priests, prophets, and 
sages were continually striking out new paths, enlarging 
upon the work of their predecessors, at times correcting it, 
and even on occasion superseding it entirely. In a word, 
revelation was progressive, “shining more and more unto 
the perfect day.” 

Tuer Note or CHRIST 

If it had not been for Jesus, probably few outside the 
Jewish race would ever have heard of the Jewish Scrip- 
tures. The collection of writings which we call the Old 
Testament, and which the Jews call the Scriptures, was 
prought over into Christianity by the first followers of 
Jesus; and until the new faith produced writings of its 
own, these were the only Scriptures the Christians had. 
Even after numerous Christian writings had appeared, it 
was some time before they were held in as high esteem as 
the writings received from the Jews. As a matter of fact, 
these were never displaced. And when, as the years passed, 
the Christian writings were finally accepted as the equal 
of the Jewish Scriptures in sanctity and authority, the 
two collections were joined together, the former being 
called the Old Testament, and the latter the New. 

Once the Christians had produced a literature of their 
own, they would not have needed the Jewish writings any 
further, unless these had some vital relation to the new 
faith. It was realized not only that Christ was to be 
found in the Old Testament, but that the Old Testament 
was preparatory for the New; so that from the days of the 
first followers of Jesus the Jewish Scriptures have formed 
part of the Christian Bible. 

At first the references to Christ were found almost ex- 
clusively in symbols and types or in prophetic predictions 


that were regarded as anticipating his historic appearance ; 
and in some parts of the Old Testament these were not 
difficult to find. But these are not the only anticipations 
of Christ which the Old Testament affords, and more re- 
cent study has recognized that the whole Old Testament, 
in all its narratives, sermons, psalms, and proverbs, is the 
record of an agelong approach to God as revealed in Jesus 
Christ. Throughout the long devious history of Hebrew 
religious thought the valleys were being exalted, the moun- 
tains and hills made low, the crooked made straight, and 
the rough places plain, that the glory of the Lord might 
be revealed. 

Under the guidance and inspiration of their religious 
teachers the Hebrew people were slowly being led to deeper 
ideas of sin and righteousness, more spiritual ideas of God, 
more ethical ideas of man’s relation to his fellows, and 
purer ideas of love and hope. Without this kind of prepara- 
tion in the life and thought of the people special predic- 
tions and symbolic interpretations would have accom- 
plished little in the way of real preparation. 

True, the people as a whole did not keep pace with their 
prophets; but those who did, few though they were, formed 
a leaven whose influence was not confined to their own 
immediate circle, and it was they who made possible the 
little group that welcomed Jesus when he came. It may 
well be doubted whether any of the apostles would have 
been ready to receive and to preserve the Golden Rule if 
Amos and those who followed him had not taught justice 
to the poor and kindness toward the weak. As a matter 
of fact it was when the prophets were most active among 
their own people that they were doing their most fruitful 
work as heralds of the One who was to come. They ad- 
dressed themselves to whatever situation the people were in 
at the time. They set forth new standards of human ac- 
tion, they rebuked the people for not meeting these 
standards, they warned them of the punishments that 
would follow disobedience. In this way they were break- 
ing up fallow ground and sowing the seed of a purer and 
truer religion. In a spiritual sense the Christian religion 
is the harvest of that sowing. 



Jesus is thus both the fulfillment and the interpretation 
of these preparations. Until he came, the searching words 
of the prophets, their appeals, their warnings, their hopes, 
were scattered here and there along the path of Hebrew 
history. They had little inner connection and they gave 
no indication of forming parts of any large clear design. 

The messengers reflect the isolation of the messages. 
The prophets were well aware of the inner urging of the 
divine Spirit. Their feet were set on the heavenward 
road. They had unfaltering trust in God, and nothing 
could shake their confidence in the righteousness of his 
cause and its ultimate victory. But it was a direction they 
were sure of, not a goal. . 

Then, in the fullness of time, Jesus came, and all the 
scattered lights that had shone here and there through the 
years were drawn together to a focus. All the graces and 
virtues, the hopes and high aims, that had inspired and 
ennobled the Hebrew race previous to that time now fell 
into place, as men caught a glimpse of “the measure of 
the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Immediately those 
prophetic messages took on new meaning. They were re- 
cognized as partial expressions of the spirit that was in 
Jesus, and as such it was realized that they were true fore- 
gleams of the true Light. é 

This kind of a fulfillment of the prophecies includes 
them all. It does not seek here and there a word or a 
figure that may be applied to Christ. It goes at once to 
the heart of the matter: man’s faith and man’s duty. It 
concerns the very spirit of the great work to which Christ 
gave himself—that of leading men to love God with all 
their hearts and their neighbors as themselves. 

The more clearly this purpose of Christ is understood, 
the easier it is to see the true nature of the prophetic work 
and the vital importance of the prophets themselves. It is 
possible to recognize an underlying harmony of purpose 
which relates the prophets closely to one another despite 
the numerous differences and occasional contradictions. 
They differed greatly among themselves in personal char- 
acteristics and they were called to meet very different 
situations; so that they necessarily differed in manner and | 


message, “but all these worketh that one and the self-same 
Spirit, dividing to each one severally as he will.” 

It is in this “goodly fellowship of the prophets” that 
Amos belongs. The fervor of his utterance and the fre- 
quent harshness of his words have made him seem, at 
times, almost forbidding. Yet these cannot obscure his 
heartfelt burden for his people and the spiritual perplexi- 
ties that this occasioned in his own soul. If he stood 
alone, as the only prophet, we might have a most unfavor- 
able impression of prophecy. But when he is recognized 
as one who had to break new ground in the field of re- 
ligion and as only one of the earliest in a long line of 
inspired teachers, his uncompromising rigor can be under- 
stood and forgiven, and his enduring contribution to reli- 
gious thought properly appreciated. 

And even though he has no word which taken by itself 
points directly and individually to Jesus, there moves 
through all his message that new sense of justice, of the 
value of man as man, and of the deceitfulness of riches, 
which links him immediately with the Great Teacher. 
Christ thus interprets and fulfills the message of Amos; 
and in the light of this interpretation and fulfillment 
Amos stands forth, clearly outlined against the dim back- 
ground of a distant past, as one whose glory it was, accord- 
ing to his light and his opportunity, truly to prepare the 
way for the Christ, the Saviour of the world. And man 
can have no higher glory. 


Gather up what has been learned on the following sub- 
jects and any others that may suggest themselves: 

What constitutes true worship? 

How can men best serve God? 

The dangers of wealth and luxury. 

The rights of the poor. 

The importance of civil and social justice. 

The power and limitations of prayer. 

The relation of the prophets to the coming of Christ. 













8S1585 Le ; 
ongacre, Lindsay Bartholomew, 1870 
mos : prophet of a neworder / 

Longacre, Lindsay Bartholomew, 1870- 

... Amos, prophet of a new order, by Lindsay B. } 
acre... New York, Cincinnati, The Methodist bool 
cern (°1921, 

105 p. 19. (Life and service series) 

Bibliography: p. 10) 

le Bible. O. Te Amon--Criticism, imterpretation, et 

Library of Congress @ 

BSI585.L6 CcsC/ef