Woe to you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light.…
t: — To the overthrow of the ten tribes for their idolatry Amos refers in the text. He asserts the absolute certainty of that overthrow except on their national repentance.
I. THE HARDENED IMPIETY OF UNGODLY MEN. Numbers of these impenitent and blaspheming Jews openly defied the judgment of the Almighty, mocked at the messages and warnings of God's Word, and, as though to show their utter contempt of the prophet and the prophecy, expressed their desire to "see the day " — to brave the worst — as though convinced that, in spite of warnings, the judgment announced would never take place, or if it did, it would not be nearly so formidable as was described. It is not safe to despise death, as some affect to do, nor that God whose minister death is, since the dread realities of the unseen world will far surpass our utmost apprehension. The Arabians have a saying that there are three things not to be trifled with. It is not good to jest of God, of death, or of the devil. Not of God, for God neither can nor will be mocked. Not of death, for death mocks the pride of all men, one time or other. Nor even of the devil, for the devil puts an eternal sarcasm on those who are too familiar with him.
II. THE CAUSES OF THIS HARDENED IMPIETY.
1. It proceeds from infidel presumption. Infidelity is often more of the heart than of the head. A man never set about proving Christianity untrue, hut he wished it first.
2. Sometimes from a one-sided view of God's character. At one time they argue that God is merciful, and therefore they trust to escape. At other times they think that others having escaped is an encouragement to them, and that threatenings long delayed may never be fulfilled. They presume upon security because sentence against an evil work is not speedily executed. The silence of providence emboldens them.
3. From their practical immoralities. These darken the understanding, and sear the conscience, and blind the mind to its own guilt and deformity.
III. THE THREATENED JUDGMENTS TO WHICH THEY STAND EXPOSED.
1. The certainty of the punishment. "The lion out of the forest; the bear from the wood; and the serpent by the sides of the house" appear. These Jewish hypocrites defied the threatened judgment, but they could not escape it.
2. The slight and casual agency by which it was brought about. Amos paints to the life. To this day this is no uncommon circumstance. The naturalist in Jamaica tells us that the most common reptile of the serpent tribe in the East and West Indies, is the small black snake, which may often be seen hanging half out of the loose walls, so much used as fences, and thus lying motionless for its prey. Now apply these images to God's judgments on the ancient Jews. Their own writers interpret this almost literally of the captivities they should suffer from the Chaldeans, the Persians, and the Grecian armies. Their words are, " Fleeing from the face of Nebuchadnezzar, the Lion, you will be met by Ahasuerus the Persian, and encounter the Persecution instigated by Haman; or (the Empire of the Chaldeans being destroyed), next the Medes and Persians shall arise, compared by Daniel himself to 'the Bear,' as their symbol. But When, at the command of Cyrus and Darius, your captivity is ended, and ye return to Jerusalem, and lean your weary hands upon its ruined wails in hope of peace and safety, then shall come Alexander the Great, the head of the Grecian Empire, — or Antiochus Epiphanes, the Great Persecutor, who shall bite like a serpent. Yet not without, as in Babylon or Susa, but within, in the very borders of the Holy Land itself. By all which it appears," say they, "that the day you anticipate is a day not of joy but of sorrow, not of light but of darkness."
3. Guard against all approaches to this sin. Things do not suddenly come to the worst between man and God. Again, let the young beware of abusing the Divine forbearance to embolden them in sin. But though you escape the lion and the bear, you may, in an unexpected moment, be stung by the serpent to the heart, in the chinks and crevices of the wall.
4. Learn the value and preciousness of that Gospel which reveals a method of escape from greater evils than those which threatened ancient Israel.
5. Beware of neglecting the grace of the dispensation under which you live.
6. Implore especially the grace of the Holy Spirit to renew and restore your nature. To have a proud heart under humbling dispensations, and a hard heart under softening ones is awful.
Parallel VersesKJV: Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light.