Charles Simeon Commentary - Amos 3:3 - 3:3

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Amos 3:3 - 3:3

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Amo_3:3. Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

IT is not always safe to judge of God, and the things which relate to Him, by the things which take place in our intercourse with men: for the distance between God and man is such as precludes all parallel between them. Yet, in a way of illustration, it is often of great advantage to consider what occurs in common life; because, from observations of that kind, we are enabled to attain a correct judgment with more facility than we could by any laboured process of rational investigation. Hence this mode of illustration is frequently adopted by the inspired writers. In the passage before us, the Prophet Amos had delivered this message from God to all the children of Israel: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities [Note: ver. 1, 2.].” Then the prophet, anticipating an objection to this, proceeds to obviate it [Note: The text, and following context, to ver. 8, are the prophet’s own words, and not a continuation of his message. The not attending to this has perplexed many, and thrown an obscurity over what is very plain.]. He supposes an objector to say, ‘Your alarm is groundless: for it never can be, that God should so act towards those whom he has chosen for his peculiar people.’ To this he replies, ‘There is good reason for you to be alarmed: for I appeal to you, Can there be any real friendship between persons (whether they be of the same family or not), if in their general views and habits there be no agreement? You may call yourselves the Lord’s people, if you will; but, “if you walk contrary to him, he will walk contrary to you [Note: Lev_26:23-24.]:” and this he has both authorized and commanded me to declare. There is, therefore, abundant reason for you to fear and tremble. You well know, “that if a lion roar, or a young lion cry,” there is a reason for it. If “a bird fall in a snare, or a snare be taken up by the owner,” it is not without a reason: and “if the trumpet be blown in the city to sound an alarm,” there is a reason for it. So then is there reason for you to fear and tremble: for God, who reveals his secrets to his prophets, has revealed to me his determination to punish you: and, as sure as effects, whether amongst the rational or irrational creation, result from causes, and may be traced to them; so surely shall your punishment follow from the indignation which you have excited in the bosom of your God: “The lion hath roared: who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken: who can but prophesy?”

The prophet’s appeal is indeed very convincing: for as a congeniality of mind is necessary to the existence of friendship among men, so is a conformity of mind to God’s revealed will necessary to the maintenance of friendship with him;

I.       In this world—

Without a correspondence of taste and sentiment, there can be no friendship amongst men—

[We may occasionally associate with persons, however widely they may differ from us: they may even be numbered amongst our most intimate acquaintance. But we cannot take them to our bosoms as endeared friends. In order to such communion as that, there must be some resemblance in our general habits, both of sentiment and pursuit; something whereon we can meet, as on common ground; something sufficiently important to us both, to form a bond of union betwixt us. Our favourite employment, whatever it be, will operate as an attraction to others similarly employed: but from persons who have no taste for these occupations we shall feel, comparatively, but little attraction. Those who are immersed in the study of arts and sciences will not very much affect the society of those who have no taste but for trifling amusements; nor will the votaries of pleasure desire an habitual intercourse with them. Still less will those in whom there is a great moral disparity affect the society of each other; the honourable with the base; the pious with the ungodly and profane. Each will form his connexions rather amongst those who are of a kindred spirit with himself, and walk most intimately with those who love to be found in his paths.]

Nor can friendship with God exist, where there is no conformity to his image—

[Enoch and Noah “walked with God:” and “Abraham was called the friend of God.” But in them there was a love to his revealed will, and a desire to be conformed to it. The most difficult commands from God did not excite rebellion or murmuring in their hearts. They loved holiness; and were therefore prepared to move in sweet accord with him. But, had their minds been averse to his holy ways, they would rather have fled from him, like Cain, than have walked habitually as in his presence, and sought all their happiness in him. God has informed us how hateful sin is in his sight; and what is that way in which alone he will receive returning sinners; and what is that heavenly conversation which he expects from all who come to him by Christ. But, suppose a person to think lightly of sin, and to doubt whether it have really subjected him to God’s everlasting displeasure: suppose him to disapprove of salvation by faith alone, and to prefer establishing, either in whole or in part, a righteousness by the law: suppose him, further, to complain, of God’s requirements as too strict, and to plead for indulgences which he forbids; can we suppose that God will come to him, and find pleasure in him; or that he can really delight himself in God? The point is clear: the diversity of their mind and will forms an insurmountable barrier to their union, and must of necessity produce an alienation of heart from each other; as God has said by the prophet, “My soul lothed them; and their soul abhorred me [Note: Zec_11:8.].” To the same effect he speaks also by the Apostle Paul: “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols [Note: 2Co_6:14-16.]?”

Here, then, the point is clear. The services of God and Mammon are incompatible with each other [Note: Mat_6:24.]. Whichever we most affect in our minds, his servants we are [Note: Rom_6:16.]: and friendship with either precludes a possibility of union with the other.]

Nor is a resemblance to God less necessary for an enjoyment of him,

II.      In the world to come—

There cannot, even in heaven, be any union between God and an ungodly man—

[“There is no repentance in the grave.” What a man, in his decided character, is at the time of his death, that he will remain to all eternity: “As the tree falls, so it will lie [Note: Ecc_11:3.]:” “He that is unjust, will be unjust still; and he that is filthy, will be filthy still [Note: Rev_22:11.].” Suppose a man to have had no love for holiness here, but rather to have felt an alienation of mind from holy men and holy exercises; how can he, all at once, feel delight in a holy God, and in the employment of the heavenly hosts? How can he, who has never for one single hour been filled with love and gratitude in this world for all the wonders of redeeming love, how can he, I say, join in the songs of the redeemed to all eternity? If there were nothing more than a consciousness of his own state to affect him, he would be glad to recede from a place where there was not a being like-minded with himself, or an occupation suited to his taste. He had a dislike to the exercises of devotion here; and he would dislike them there: he fled from God’s presence here; and he would flee from it there. Like our first parents after their fall, they would endeavour to hide themselves from him, instead of going forth to meet him; and Paradise itself would be to them a place of torment.]

The manner in which the prophet declares this truth greatly augments its weight—

[He does not utter it in a way of simple affirmation; but he makes it the subject-matter of an appeal: “How can two walk together, except they be agreed?” He constitutes every man a judge in his own cause. We need not any of us be told, that to the existence of real friendship there must be a similarity of taste: those who are perfectly opposed to each other in the things that are most agreeable to themselves, can no more become united with each other, in the bonds of endeared friendship, than light and darkness can coalesce. Observation and experience prove this beyond a doubt; nor can any one be so ignorant as not to know it.]

Well then, may this teach us,

1.       The necessity of true conversion—

[“The carnal mind,” says the Apostle, that is, the mind of every man by nature, “is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be [Note: Rom_8:7.].” “A new heart, therefore, must be given us, and a new spirit must be put within us [Note: Eze_36:26.].” We must become altogether “new creatures; old things passing away, and all things being made new [Note: 2Co_5:17.].” This, as our Lord tells us, is so necessary, that “except it take place we can never enter into the kingdom, no, nor ever see it [Note: Joh_3:3; Joh_3:5.].” To speak of this as necessarily attendant on baptism, is contrary to fact; for there are thousands who are baptized, as there were thousands circumcised amongst the Jews, who have never experienced this change. But this change must be wrought in us, if ever we would behold the face of God in peace. “That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit [Note: Joh_3:6.].” The former being altogether carnal, is incapable of enjoying a spiritual kingdom: it is the latter which alone can fit us for the exercises and enjoyments of the heavenly world. You well know, that if a man had no taste for music, he could not, for any length of time, feel pleasure in the melodies which, to a lover of music, afford the highest gratification. So neither can we, without a taste for the employments of heaven, or, in other words, without “a meetness for heaven,” ever hope to participate in the blessedness of the just.]

2.       The importance of separation from the world—

[The world wonder at the saints, for standing aloof from them; and often impute it to pride: as though the Lord’s people said to them, “Stand off; I am holier than thou [Note: Isa_65:5.].” But the godly, in associating with the world, do not meet on equal terms. All the sacrifice must be on their part. The world will propose to them to join in every vanity: but if, in return, they were asked to join in reading the word of God and prayer, for the sake of spiritual edification and comfort, they would regard the proposal almost as a symptom of insanity. And, if you were to wait till such a proposal were made, or even approved, by them, you would wait till the sun had ceased to run its course. It is not for nought that the Apostle says, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate [Note: 2Co_6:17.].” There is abundant occasion for it: for friendship with them is constructively nothing less than enmity itself against God [Note: Jam_4:4.].” We must “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed in the renewing of our minds, if ever we would prove, to the satisfaction of our God, what is his good and acceptable and perfect will [Note: Rom_12:2.].”]

3.       The happiness of real piety—

[Where the soul is really in accordance with the revealed will of God, there will God delight to “dwell, as in a temple [Note: 2Co_6:16.].” To such persons “he will manifest himself as he does not unto the world [Note: Joh_14:22.];” “He will come unto them, and make his abode with them [Note: Joh_14:23.];” and “they shall walk in the light of his countenance [Note: Psa_89:15.].” O! who shall adequately declare the blessedness of friendship with God? — — — And if in this world the saints have such great advantage, what shall they have in the eternal world? Who shall declare their felicity, when they shall stand in his immediate presence, and behold the full brightness of his glory in the person of his dear Son? If it be so sweet now to have “the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost [Note: Rom_5:5.],” what shall it be to behold the Saviour “face to face [Note: 1Co_13:12. 1Jn_3:2.]?” If a taste of the waters of life, though taken from polluted cisterns, be so sweet, what shall it be to drink of them at the fountain-head? Let those who walk with God in this world know, that they shall, ere long, “walk with him in white,” where distance and parting shall be no more [Note: Rev_3:4; Rev_3:12.].”]