Here, I. God puts his people Israel in mind of the great things he has done for them, in putting them into possession of the land of Canaan, the greatest part of which these ten tribes now enjoyed, Amos 2:9, 10. Note, We need often to be reminded of the mercies we have received, which are the heaviest aggravations of the sins we have committed. God gives liberally, and upbraids us not with our meanness and unworthiness, and the disproportion between his gifts and our merits; but he justly upbraids us with our ingratitude, and ill requital of his favours, and tells us what he has done for us, to shame us for not rendering again according to the benefit done to us. “Son, remember; Israel, remember, 1. That God brought thee out of a house of bondage, rescued thee out of the land of Egypt, where thou wouldst otherwise have perished in slavery.” 2. That he led thee forty years through a desert land, and fed thee in a wilderness, where thou wouldst otherwise have perished with hunger. Mercies to our ancestors were mercies to us, for, if they had been cut off, we should not have been. 3. That he made room for them in Canaan, by extirpating the natives by a series of wonders little inferior to those by which they were redeemed out of Egypt: I destroyed the Amorite before them, here put for all the devoted nations. Observe the magnificence of the enemies that stood in their way, which is taken notice of, that God may be the more magnified in the subduing of them. They were of great stature (whose height was like the height of the cedars) and the people of Israel were as shrubs to them; and they were also of great strength, not only tall, but well-set: He was strong as the oaks. Their kingdom was eminent among the nations, and over-topped all its neighbours. The supports and defences of it seemed impregnable; it was as fine as the stately cedar; it was as firm as the sturdy oak; yet, when God had a vine to plant there (Ps. 80:8, 9), this Amorite was not only cut down, but plucked up: I destroyed his fruit from above and his roots from beneath, so that the Amorites were no more a nation, nor ever read of any more. Thus highly did God value Israel. He gave men for them and people for their life, Isa. 43:4. How ungrateful then were those who put such contempt upon him! 4. That he made them possess the land of the Amorite, not only put it into their hands, so that they became masters of it jure belli—by right of conquest, but gave them a better title to it, so that it became theirs by promise.
II. He likewise upbraids them with the spiritual privileges and advantages they enjoyed as a holy nation, Amos 2:11. They had helps for their souls, which taught them how to make good use of their temporal enjoyments and were therefore more valuable. It is true the ten tribes had not God’s temple, altar, and priesthood, and it was their own fault that they deserted them, and for that they might justly have been left in utter darkness; but God left not himself without witness, nor them without guides to show them the way. 1. They had prophets that were powerful instructors in piety, divinely inspired, and commissioned to make known the mind of God to them, to show them what is pleasing to God and what displeasing, to reprove them for their faults and warn them of their dangers, to direct them in their difficulties and comfort them in their troubles. God raised them up prophets, animated them for that work and employed them in it. He raised them up of their sons, from among themselves, as Moses and Christ were raised up from among their brethren, Deut. 18:15. It was an honour put upon their nation, and upon their families, that they had children of their own to be God’s messengers to them, of their own language, not strangers sent from another country, whom they might suspect to be prejudiced against them and their land, but those who, they knew, wished well to them. Note, Faithful ministers are great blessings to any people, and it is God that raises them up to be so, that they may justly be reckoned an honour to the families they are of. 2. They had Nazarites that were bright examples of piety: I raised up of your young men for Nazarites, men that bound themselves by a vow to God and his service, and, in pursuance of that, denied themselves many of the lawful delights of sense, as drinking wine and eating grapes. There were some of their young men that were in their prime for the enjoyment of the pleasures of this life and yet voluntarily abridged themselves of them; these God raised up by the power of his grace, to be monuments of his grace, to his glory, and to be his witnesses against the impieties of that degenerate age. Note, It is as great a blessing to any place to have eminent good Christians in it as to have eminent good ministers in it; for so they have examples to their rules. We must acknowledge that it bodes well to any people when God raises up numbers of hopeful young people among them, when he makes their young men Nazarites, devout, and conscientious, and mortified to the pleasures of sense; and those that are such Nazarites are purer than snow, whiter than milk; they are indeed the polite young men, for their polishing is of sapphires, Lam. 4:7. Those that have such men, such young men, among them, have therein such an advantage, both for direction and encouragement, to be religious, as they will be called to an account for another day if they do not improve. Israel is here reckoned with, not only for the prophets, but for the Nazarites, raised up among them. Concerning the truth of this, he appeals to themselves: “Isa. it not even thus, O you children of Israel? Can you deny it? Have not you yourselves been sensible of the advantage you had by the prophets and Nazarites raised up among you?” Note, Sinners’ own consciences will be witnesses for God that he has not been wanting to them in the means of grace, so that, if they perish, it is because they have been wanting to themselves in not improving those means. The men of Judah shall themselves judge between God and his vineyard, whether he could have done more for it, Isa. 5:3, 4.
III. He charges them with the abuse of the means of grace they enjoyed, and the opposition they gave to God’s designs in affording them those means, Amos 2:12. They were so far from walking in the light that they rebelled against it, and did what they could to extinguish it, that it might not shine in their faces, to their conviction. 1. They did what they could to debauch good people, to draw them off from their seriousness in devotion and their strictness in conversation: You gave the Nazarites wine to drink, contrary to their vow, that, having broken it in that instance, they might not pretend to keep it in any other. Some they surprised, or allured into it, and with their much fair speech caused them to yield; others they forced and frightened into it, reproached and threatened them if they were more precise than their neighbours; and, by drawing them in to drink wine, they spoiled them for Nazarites. Note, Satan and his agents are very busy to corrupt the minds of young people that look heavenward; and many that we thought would have been Nazarites they have overcome by giving them wine to drink, by drawing them in to the love of mirth and pleasure, and drinking company. Multitudes of young men that bade fair for eminent professors of religion have erred through wine, and been undone for ever. And how do the factors for hell triumph in the debauching of a Nazarite! 2. They did what they could to silence good ministers, and to stop their mouths: “You commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not, and threatened them if they did prophesy (Amos 7:12), as if God’s messengers were bound to observe your orders, and might not deliver their errand unless you gave them leave, and so you not only received the grace of God, in raising up those prophets, in vain, but put the highest affront imaginable upon that God in whose name the prophets spoke.” Note, Those have a great deal to answer for that cannot bear faithful preaching, and those much more that suppress it.
IV. He complains of the wrong they did him by their sins (Amos 2:13): “I am pressed under you, I am straitened by you, and can no longer bear it, and therefore I will ease myself of my adversaries, Isa. 1:24. I am pressed under you and the load of your sins as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves, is loaded with corn, in the midst of the joy of harvest, as long as any will lie on.” Note, The great God complains of sin, especially the sins of his professing people, as a burden to him. He is grieved with this generation (Ps. 95:10), is broken with their whorish heart (Ezek. 6:9), a consideration which, if it make not the sinner’s repentance very deep, will make his ruin very great. The great God that upholds the world, and never complains that his is pressed under the weight of it (he fainteth not, neither is weary), yet complains of the sins of Israel, yea, and of their hypocritical services too, that he is weary of bearing them, Isa. 1:14. No wonder the creature groans being burdened (Rom. 8:22), when the Creator says, I am pressed under them.
V. He threatens them with unavoidable ruin. And so some read, Amos 2:13; “Behold I will press, or straiten, your place, as a cart full of sheaves presses; they shall be loaded with judgments till they shall sink under them, and shall make a noise, as a cart overloaded does.” Those that will not submit to the convictions of the word, that will neither be won by that nor by the conversation of those about them, shall be made to sink under the weight of God’s judgments. If God load us daily with his benefits, and we, notwithstanding that, load him with our sins, how can we expect any other than that he should load us with his judgments? And it is here threatened in the Amos 2:14-16 that, when God comes forth to contend with this provoking people, they shall not be able to stand before him, to flee from him, nor to make their part good with him; for when God judges he will overcome. Though his patience be tired out, his power is not, and so the sinner shall find, to his cost. When the Assyrian army comes to lay the country waste by sword and captivity none shall escape, but every one shall have his share in the common desolation. 1. It will be in vain to think of fleeing from the enemy that comes armed with a commission to make all desolate: The flight shall perish from the swift; those that have been famed for happy escapes and happy retreats shall now find their arts fail them; they shall have no time to flee, or shall find no way to take, or they shall have no strength or spirit to attempt it; they shall be at their wits’ end, and then they are soon at their flight’s end. Are they, as Asahel, as swift of foot as a wild roe? (2 Sam. 2:18), yet, like him, they shall run the faster upon their own destruction: He that is swift of foot shall not deliver himself, Amos 2:15. Or do they say (as those, Isa. 30:16), We will flee upon horses, and we will ride upon the swift? Yet they shall be overtaken: Neither shall he that rides the horse deliver himself from his pursuers. A horse is a vain thing for safety. 2. It will be in vain to think of fighting it out. God is at war with them; and are they stronger than he? Isa. there any military force that can pretend to be a match for Omnipotence? No: The strong shall not strengthen his force. He that has a habit of strength shall not be able to exert it when he has occasion for it. And the mighty, whose should protect and deliver others, shall not be able to deliver himself, to deliver his soul (so the word is), shall not save his life. Let not the strong man then glory in his strength, nor trust in it, but strengthen himself in the Lord his God, for in him is everlasting strength. And, as the bodily strength shall fail, so shall the weapons of war. The armour as well as the arm shall become insufficient: Neither shall he stand that handles the bow, though he stand at a distance, but shall betake himself to flight, and not trust to his own bow to save him. Though the arm be ever so strong, and the a 844 rmour ever so well fixed, neither will avail when the spirit fails (Amos 2:16): He that is courageous among the mighty, that used to look danger in the face, and not be dismayed at it, shall flee away naked in that day, not only disarmed, having thrown away his weapons both offensive and defensive, but plundered of his treasure, which he thought to carry away with him, and he shall think it as much as he could expect that he has his life for a prey. Thus when God pleases he takes away the heart of the chief of the people of the earth, and causes those who used to boast of their courage, and their daring enterprises in the field, to wander and sneak in a wilderness where there is no way, Job 12:24.