And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said to me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel.
: —Holy Scripture seldom teaches more impressively than when it teaches by contrasts. There may be instituted a contrast between two classes of religious workers.
1. Professional religious workers. In every age there have been such men — conventional religionists, whose creed is compromise, and whose maxim is, "Sail with the stream."
2. Men whose hearts the Lord has touched. Such was Amos. Observe the surroundings of his life. What Was it the mere professionals were afraid of in his message? They may have feared lest the people should be roused to think. More probably they felt the inward uneasiness which hollow profession must ever experience when brought into contrast with genuine piety and the power of the Holy Ghost. The presence and testimony of Amos condemned them. The priest Amaziah suggested that Amos would be wise to flee away to the land of Judah. There would have been nothing necessarily sinful in following this advice. The presence of the prophet in Jerusalem would have been hailed with the warmest sympathy and welcome. He would have gained a wide popularity, and would have been an object of general admiration. And we are all liable to be influenced by such motives. We do not like to stand alone, beset with continual difficulties arising from our position. No doubt Amos would have yielded had he not been walking in the Spirit, and it is only this that will keep an.y of us at the post of duty. We are often tempted to run away from the cross given us to bear, flattering ourselves all the time that in doing so we are seeking opportunities of greater usefulness. We cannot get away from the Cross; it is the law of true Christian experience. Satan will always entice us to run away. Consider the temptations of the prophet more in detail.
1. Immunity from danger is promised. Amos was in a state of continual danger where he was.
2. If Amos would only go across the border, he had a clear prospect of obtaining what none of us can do without — bread. He might count upon a comfortable maintenance, a good living. A judicious use of his religion would have got him on in the world, and his godliness might have been made the steppingstone to rank and fortune. The position of Amos where he was must have been very precarious; he had left his regular means of livelihood, and was living a life of faith. He must have been living, as we say, "from hand to mouth." To stay where he was would be to continue in poverty, perhaps to starve.
3. There was something more than even bread. Which of us does not know the yearning of the human heart for sympathy? How painful it is to stand alone! Which of us is altogether indifferent to popularity?
4. Even this was not all. The temptation is backed by an attempt to get up a question of casuistry. The king has commanded you not to speak, and you are disobeying him. How dare you arrogate to yourself such airs of superiority, and set yourself up as better than every one else? This is one of the severest trials of the Christian life. It does seem to those who do not take pains to find out the truth, as if we assumed an attitude of religious superiority. But, after all, our position is not as trying as Amos's was. Our only safety is .ever to put our direct duty to God before our indirect. Be loyal to Him-personally, first; be loyal to Him indirectly, through your king or your parent, second; and remember you cannot be loyal to Him indirectly, when you have ceased to be loyal to Him directly. Against all these considerations of expediency and self-interest what had Amos to set? Only one mighty word from the lips of God. It was this that kept him at his post. "Go, prophesy unto My people Israel." That was all; but it was clear. The voice said, "Amos, go!" From that moment Amos lived for God and His work; he turned his back on the sheepfold, gave up the gathering of sycamore, and began to deliver his message. Everything seemed to wave him back to his primitive seclusion. But against all opposition rang out the clear inner voice, "Amos, go; have not I sent thee?" And he went, with his life in his hand. He went, in the face of the jeers, and scoffs, and threats of the world, and the advice of such religious professors as Amaziah. We do not want two-faced Christians. We want men who, like Amos, are carried forward by the mighty consciousness of the Divine call, men in whom inmost heart the mighty, some of God is heard, calling them as by name, and bidding them Go.
(W. M. Hay-Aitken, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.