Amo_3:8. The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?
THERE is not any thing more strange and unreasonable than that utter disregard which is shewn to the word of God. If we see appearances in the sky, we can form some judgment of the weather: if we take notice of common occurrences in the world, we can draw plain and obvious conclusions from them. The prophet justly observes [Note: ver. 4–6.], that if a lion roar, we conclude he has taken, or is about to seize, his prey: if a bird be caught in a snare, we take for granted that the snare was laid with that design: if an alarm be given in the city, we suppose that there is reason for that alarm: or if any disastrous event have taken place, we consider it as ordered by an overruling Providence. Yet when God speaks in his word, we imagine that there is no occasion for it, nor any need to regard it. But it becomes us to attend with reverence to all his messages, whether of wrath or mercy. Whatever he has revealed to us by his servants the prophets, he will surely do: and they are commanded to make known his determinations, “whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear.” Hence the prophet Amos, desirous at once to expose the obstinacy of the unbelieving Jews, and to vindicate his own faithfulness towards them, addresses himself to their consciences in this animated expostulation, this convincing apology.
To bring home his words to our own hearts, we shall consider,
What God hath spoken to us—
[There is no description of persons whose character God has not delineated, and whose end he has not determined. And it would be a pleasing task to exemplify this remark in the Divine declarations concerning the righteous: but God’s voice in the text is compared to the roaring of a lion: on which account we must confine ourselves rather to his denunciations of wrath and vengeance which he will execute on the ungodly.
What then hath he spoken to profane sinners [Note: 1Co_6:9-10.]? Alas! how numerous their classes! how dangerous their self-deceptions! how awful their end [Note: See also Eph_5:3-6.]! And is not such a declaration more terrible than the roaring of a lion? Let us then hear and “fear [Note: Deu_31:12-13.].”
To self-righteous Pharisees his voice is not less tremendous. In the parable addressed to those who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous,” the preference given to the self-condemning sinner is strongly marked; and God’s determination to “abase the self-exalting” is plainly declared [Note: Luk_18:9-14.]. Yes; before God, and angels, and men, shall such characters be abased in the day of judgment, when publicans and harlots shall be admitted into heaven before them [Note: Mat_21:31.]. Is not this a just ground of fear to those, whose hearts are not broken with a sense of sin?
But more dreadful still are the threatenings denounced against hypocritical professors of religion. Their doom is characterized as the most severe of any [Note: Mat_24:51.]: and the wrath which they heap up to themselves, while they hold the truth in unrighteousness, is beyond measure great [Note: Job_36:13.]. Let the proud and passionate, the malicious and revengeful, the worldly and covetous, the impure and sensual professor, hear this: and let them know, that the Lamb of God will be a lion to them, if they walk not more worthy of their high calling [Note: Psa_50:16-22. with Hos_13:6-8.].
There is however one description of persons, against whom God’s threatenings are more awful still. He declares that negligent and unfaithful ministers shall perish under the accumulated guilt of destroying the souls committed to their charge. The blood of all whom they have neglected to warn shall be required at their hands [Note: Eze_33:6.]. Surely if the voice of God to others be as the roaring of a lion, to these it is rather as the voice of thunder. O, that it might be for ever sounding in the ears of all who are in the service of the sanctuary, till there should not be found one negligent or unfaithful minister in the Christian church!]
What effect it should have upon us—
[With respect to ministers, should they not fear? Does it become them, in the very face of such warnings, to indulge a slothful spirit, or to withhold the truth from their people through fear of offending them? Ought they, however their hearers may wish it, to speak smooth things to them, and to prophesy deceits [Note: Isa_30:10-11.]? Should they be intent on feeding themselves rather than the flock [Note: Eze_34:2-3; Eze_34:10.]; and be more studious to establish a reputation as preachers, than to save the souls committed to them? Surely, when it is considered whose ambassadors they are, and to whom they must give account, and what must be their doom if any perish through their neglect, they can never study too earnestly to approve themselves to God [Note: 2Ti_2:15. Act_20:28.], that they may give up their account to him with joy, and not with grief [Note: Heb_13:17.].
With respect to others, of whatever description they may be, it becomes them well to fear, when “the Lord God,” the almighty and immutable Jehovah, speaks to them such momentous truths [Note: There is a peculiar emphasis in the name by which Jehovah is here called. See also Jer_5:21-22 and Rev_15:3-4.] What is there that can justify any man in casting off the fear of God? Can we deny that he hath roared as a lion? or are we stronger than he, that we dare to provoke him to jealousy [Note: 1Co_10:22.]? Or can we elude his search, when he shall summon us to his judgment-seat [Note: Jer_23:24 and Job_34:22 and Psa_139:7-12.]? Or have we any reason to doubt whether he will execute his threatenings [Note: Eze_24:14.]?
Let every one rest assured, that it were far better that a roaring lion should rush out of a thicket to devour him, or that the artillery of a whole army should be pointed at him, than that one single threatening of Almighty God should be in force against him: for as his destruction is more certain, so will it be infinitely more tremendous.]
Be not averse to hear the terrors of God’s law—
[Though, of themselves, the threatenings of God’s word will never produce true contrition, yet it is necessary that all should know what the Lord God saith concerning them, in order that they may feel their need of a Saviour. In this respect, the law is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ [Note: Gal_3:24.]: and if, by hearing of the wrath to come, we be induced to flee from it, we shall have reason to bless the watchman that sounded the alarm.”]
Be thankful to God for the promises of the Gospel—
[Blessed be God, the Gospel is full of “exceeding great and precious promises:” and “to him that trembleth at God’s word” these promises are made [Note: Isa_66:2.]. Let not then a slavish dread of God’s wrath keep us from embracing the overtures of his mercy. Let us rather flee to Christ the more earnestly, in proportion as we see our guilt and danger. The Israelites were commended by God himself for making this improvement of his terrors [Note: Deu_5:25-26; Deu_5:28.]. And, if we have Christ as our mediator and advocate, we have nothing to fear from heaven, earth, or hell.]