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 LINDSAY B. LONGACRE

Printed in the United States of America



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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.

GREAT BUT LONESOME 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 present.


- 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 on.

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! } QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION __ 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 encyclopedia.

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

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—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

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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?


4 ia)


THE GOD OF NATIONS AND OF MEN 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 enmi

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. 27-33).

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 other. 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 concerned. 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