I. There is a great difference between being at ease and being contented.—Every Christian should learn contentment even in pain and suffering. St. Paul said that he had learned in whatsoever state he was therein to be content. Peace, too, is not only a privilege of the Christian, but a duty—peace with God, the peace of God in the heart. The Christian should not be feverish and fretful. He should never worry. This quietness of faith is founded upon obedience and trust.
II. But there is a kind of ease which is full of danger.—It is that ease against which our text warns us. The people of Israel were living at ease in sin. They were neglecting God, paying no heed to His commandments, and yet were giving themselves no thought about the consequences. People live on the slopes of a volcano, build their homes there, make their gardens, cultivate their vineyards, go on with their plans, forgetting that under them sleep the terrible fires which any hour may break out and destroy them. They are at ease in a false security. So are all who live in sin, and have no thought of sin’s guilt.
III. Luxury is not the best thing in this world.—The people of Israel had rich houses, their bedsteads inlaid with ivory, and on their tables the richest and costliest provisions. They thought they were wondrously fortunate. No doubt their neighbours also envied them. But we see here that they were in a state of great danger. Wealth always has its dangers, and luxury very often destroys the soul. There is no time when we need to watch our spiritual life more carefully than when we are prospering in worldly things.
IV. Pleasure is not the best thing in this world.—The people of Israel seemed to have no lack of pleasure. They had their feasts, their revels, with all kinds of musical instruments and other instruments of pleasure. Wine flowed so freely that they drank it not in ordinary cups, but in great bowls. They anointed themselves with the costliest ointments, but meanwhile their souls were dying. Indulgence in pleasure is always perilous.
V. Sin brings its sure and terrible penalties.—All this luxury and indulgence foreboded coming ruin. The people were forgetting God, disregarding His commandments. They forgot that there was any judgment, that God thought or cared about their sins. Then captivity came with all its curse. The course is always the same. If we live in sin we must meet the penalty.
(1) ‘The meaning is “recklessly at ease.” Such ease is the expression of the “don’t care” spirit. A young man says, “Anyhow, I am going to have a good time.” He means an evil time. God’s warnings, the certainties of retributions, he scoffs at. Like Esau, he seizes the mess of pottage, and capitulates to the present. Said an old boatman bewailing his present plight of ignorance and inability, “I played truant when I could have gone to school; I would not learn; now here I am.” He had his foolish ease, now he had his pain. This sensual, pleasure-loving ease, which refuses to look before and after, will bring doom always. Mr. Lowell used to delightingly quote this sentence from Samuel Johnson: “Whatever withdraws us from the power of our senses, whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings.” ’
(2) ‘Sinful indulgence brought to Israel captivity; sinful indulgence brought to Rome, Greece, Egypt, Nineveh, Babylon, ruin. Now imagine, as well as you can, what would it be that a man like Amos would call to our attention if he were to speak out in these days. Would not national pride be one of the sins which he would bring to our remembrance?—proud of our size, proud of our inventive genius, proud of our wealth, proud of our power, and now, in these last days, proud of our navy. Bragging is heard on every hand, as though we could beat the world.’