Seek him that makes the seven stars and Orion, and turns the shadow of death into the morning, and makes the day dark with night…
Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his Name, This recognition of God amidst the phenomena of nature is characteristic of Amos. He looked on the Pleiades and Orion, as they shone radiantly in the heavens, changeless in their relations, calm amidst human vicissitudes, and constant in diffusing their light upon a troubled world, and bade men seek him who created them. He speaks of night, that "shadow of death," and reminds his hearers that, though it be long and fearsome, the light of dawn comes at last, and God turns it into morning; and again, after the work of the day is done, and tired men want rest, God draws the curtains, and "makes the day dark with night." The last clause is more obscure. Sometimes the waters have been "poured out upon the earth" in destructive deluge, and this has occurred at the command of God; but we prefer the application of the prophet's words to that familiar and constant display of the Divine power by means of which the waters are secretly gathered up into the sky, that they may be poured out in showers of blessing upon the earth. Our text is true of nature; but it is also true of that of which nature is the symbol and shadow, as we shall endeavour to show. It reminds us -
I. THAT GOD OVERRULES THE OUTWARD CONDITIONS OF HUMAN LIFE. "Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion." The words are literally true. Philosophy teaches us to find an adequate cause for all effects, and science acknowledges that the First Cause eludes its search, and is beyond its sphere. Revelation declares, "God made the sun to rule by day, and the moon to rule by night: he made the stars also." More than this primal fact is, however, asserted here. Amos was speaking to those who saw in the stars more than material lights. His hearers believed in astrology, which has been prevalent in all ages, from the very dawn of history. This superstition, which has left its mark on the earliest records of our race, in the literature of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, Hindus, and Chinese, was not without effect on the people of Israel, as many passages in Scripture show. Indeed, it only received its deathblow when the Copernican system was finally established; for even Kepler would not deny that there was a connection between the movements of the stars and the fortunes of men. Now, two constellations so peculiar and brilliant as Pleiades and Orion naturally had special powers ascribed to them. Thus Rabbi Isaac Israel, in his remarks on Job 38:31, says, "Some of the stars have operations in the ripening of fruits, and such is the opening of the Pleiades; and some of the stars retard and delay the fruits from ripening, and this is the opening of Orion." In other words, the Pleiades were associated with the spring, when Nature was bursting into new life, when she was emitting the sweetest influences from every blade and flower, when ships which had been shut up through stress of weather could put out once more to sea. Hence the question, "Canst thou bind the sweet influence of Pleiades?" - Canst thou prevent the outpouring of vernal life? Whether you will or not, the change comes; for it is of God. Similarly, Orion was associated with autumn, when the earth was throwing off her beauty, and the voyages of the ancient times came to an end, and frost bound the streams as in fetters of iron. "Canst thou loose the bands of Orion?" - Canst thou check the storms, and break up the reign of frost? Now, says Amen, look beyond these constellations to him who made them; and when you rejoice in the spring, or dread the approaching winter, when you are glad over the pleasantness of life, or faint under its adversity; - think of him who is above and beyond all material forces and all visible influences. There is a spring and autumn known in human experience which have their sources beyond ourselves and beyond all visible agency; and our hearts rest in the assurance of this. Compare the lot of two children in dissimilar circumstances - the one with every comfort and care, as if "born under a lucky star," and sharing "the sweet influences of Pleiades;" the other in the drunken home, with curses temporal and moral on every side. These children do not choose their lot, they do not appear to deserve treatment so different; yet their circumstances are not the result of chance nor the decree of blind fate, but are to be ascribed to him "who made the seven stars and Orion," and, as the Judge of all the earth, he will do right. (Suggest other examples of seeming unfairness in men's circumstances.) This Divine revelation in Scripture affirms of God that he appoints the lot of each, and this with a view to the training of character, which far outweighs the pleasantness or the painfulness found in mere circumstances. Adversity will by and by appear to be but a small thing to him who amidst it proved himself faithful, and prosperity will seem in the retrospect of little worth to him who, through his thanklessness and prayerlessness, has failed to "lay hold on eternal life." Whatever influences surround us, we are, for our own sakes, called on to recognize God as overruling them. If we are prosperous, it is "the Lord who gives power to get wealth;" if we are in adversity, we are not to blame our luck or our friends, but to seek the comfort and help of him "who maketh the seven stars and Orion."
II. THAT GOD OVERRULES THE INWARD EXPERIENCE OF MEN. "He turneth the shadow of death into the morning," etc. The Hebrew word translated "shadow of death" almost always means more than natural night, however black that may be (see references in Job and Psalms). Admitting this figurative use of the word here, the reference of the prophet would seem to be to the changes from sorrowfulness to joyfulness, and from joyfulness to sorrowfulness, which we frequently experience. These are not dependent on circumstances. The wealthiest men have often said of their surroundings, "I have no pleasure in them;" while the poor and persecuted have sometimes made their miserable abodes resound with praise. We may illustrate this from the life of our Lord. At one time "he rejoiced in spirit" at another time he was "exceeding sorrowful, even unto death;" yet the Father's hand was recognized in both experiences. God inspires the children's songs, and he gives the cup of agony. What abundant reason we have to praise God for certain inward changes - the carelessness turned into serious and sad penitence, and this again into the joyfulness of pardon! To many a weeping penitent, sitting in darkness, he has come and "turned the shadow of death into morning." Others have been in the darkness of doubt. They have cried, "Why hast thou forsaken me?" They have felt around them for some hand to help in their dire extremity; At last the sense of Christ's love has come home to them, and though their questions are not all answered, they believe in him, and enter into rest, and soon they find that "he that believeth does not walk in darkness, but has the light of life." God turns for them the shadow of death into morning. Soon "the shadow feared of man" will come. Yet even the darkness of death shall be transformed into the brightness of heaven; and in the place where "there is no need of the sun or moon to shine," because God himself is the Light thereof, we shall see how God has forevermore turned the shadow of death into morning.
III. THAT GOD TRANSFORMS CURSES INTO BLESSINGS. God "calls for the waters of the sea." They secretly ascend to heaven, and then descend in refreshing showers. The transformation effected in that phenomenon is noteworthy. If we pour sea water on flowers, they will die; but when it is called up into the heavens the pernicious salt is left behind, the water is purged from its destructiveness, and the curse is made a blessing. A transforming influence passes over all that comes to us, if it is caught up to heaven. Suppose prosperity comes to you. It may enervate and destroy your spiritual life, but if praise to God is associated with it, and habitual prayer that you may use this for God, you may become by your very prosperity a more generous, tender-hearted, and Christ-like man. If adversity is yours, and you take all your troubles before the Lord, they will be transfigured before you in the light of God's love and Christ's sufferings, and through your valley of Achor you will enter into deeper rest and nobler hope.- If doubts or temptations try you, they will not curse, but bless you, if they arouse the earnest prayer, "Lord, help me!" Christ was never more precious to Thomas than when, after his doubts, he exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" But his doubts would have ruined him had they kept him from the presence of the Lord. Let all your troubles and joys be wafted, by prayer and praise, into the heaven of God's presence, and they shall be poured down upon you in showers of spiritual blessings.
CONCLUSION. If you would know the comfort of the text, you will only find it in obedience to its first Clause, "Seek him!" "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found," etc.; "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace." Then, under the quiet light of the stars, or in the splendours of sunset and dawn, or watching the fall of the heaven-sent showers, you will have thoughts of him who rules over all, as of one who through Jesus Christ is your Father and your Friend. - A.R.
Parallel VersesKJV: Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name:
WEB: seek him who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns the shadow of death into the morning, and makes the day dark with night; who calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out on the surface of the earth, Yahweh is his name,