on Amos 2 :11
on Amos 2 :11
And I raised up of your sons for prophets - Amos turns from outward mercies to inward, front past to present, from miracles of power to miracles of grace. God's past mercies live on in those of today; the mercies of today are the assurance to us that we have a share in the past; His miracles of grace are a token that the miracles of His power are not our condemnation. God had, from the time of Moses, "raised up" prophets. Eldad and Medad Numbers 11:26-29 were images Of those, whom God would raise up beyond the bounds of His promise. Samuel was an Ephrathite 1 Samuel 1:1; Ahijah the Shilonite, that is, of Shiloh in Ephraim, lived on to old age in the kingdom of the ten tribes after their schism, the witness against the apostasy of Jeroboam 1 Kings 14:7-14; 1 Kings 15:29, yet acknowledged by the king whose rise and of the destruction of whose house he prophesied 1 Kings 14:2, 1 Kings 14:4.
Jehu, son of Hanani, was the prophet of both kingdoms 1 Kings 16:1, 1 Kings 16:7, 1 Kings 16:12; 2 Chronicles 19:2; 2 Chronicles 20:34; Micaiah, son of Imlah, was well known to Ahab, as "prophesying evil concerning him" 1 Kings 22:8, 1 Kings 22:18 continually; unknown to Jehoshaphat 1 Kings 22:7. That wondrous pair, marvelous for superhuman sanctity and power among the marvelous miracles of God, Elijalh and Elisha, were both "sons" of Israel, whom God "raised up; Elijjah the Tishbite" 1 Kings 17:1, born doubtless at Thisbe, a village of Naphthali , and one of the sojourners in Gilead; Elisha of Abelmeholah 1 Kings 19:16, on the west side of the valley of the Jordan . And even now He had raised up to them of their own "sons," Hosea and Jonah. Their presence was the presence of God among them, who, out of the ordinary way of His Providence, "raised" them "up" and filled them with His Spirit; and where the presence of God is, if there is fear, yet there is also hope.
And of your young men for Nazarites - The Nazarite was a fruit of the grace of God in its moral and religions workings, superhuman in holiness and self-denial, as the prophets were of that same grace, conferring superhuman wisdom and knowledge also. Of both, God says, "I raised up," teaching that both alike, holiness of life and superhman wisdom, were His own special gift to each individual, His own creation. God survived His people, called, and "raised up," by His grace, out of the crowd, those souls which responded to His call. The life of the Nazarites was a continual protest against the self-indulgence and worldliness of the people. It was a life above nature. Unless any prophet like Samuel 1 Samuel 1:11, was also a Nazarite, they had no special office except to live that life. Their life taught. Nay, it taught in one way the more, because they had no special gifts of wisdom or knowledge, nothing to distinguish them from ordinary people, except extraordinary grace.
They were an evidence, what all might do and be, if they used the grace of God. The power of the grace of God shows itself the more wondrously in these who have nought beside. The essence of the Nazarite life, as expressed by its name, was "separation," separation from things of the world, with a view to God. The separation was not, necessarily, for more than a limited time. In such case, it answered to the strictness of the Christian Lent. It was a considerable discipline for a time. In those simpler days, when luxury had not been so busy , the absolute prohibition of anything fermented Numbers 6:3-4, whether from the grape or any other substance or vinegar made of either, or any liquor or refreshing food or drink, made in any way from the grape, fresh or dry, its husks or its kernels, while it cut off every evasion, involved the giving up not only every drink, in any way exciting or stimulating, but very much also, which was refreshing. Water, which in the east has seldom the freshness of ours, was their only drink. This, which to individuals may be an easy rule, would not be so in the main.
Those only think an undeviating rule slight, who have never tried one, nor set themselves on system to conquer self-will. Such a rule would not be acted upon, except for God. The long never-shorn hair was probably intended to involve the neglect of personal appearance. Yet this was the body only of the vow; its soul was the dedication to God. The Nazarite not only "separated himself from" Numbers 6:3 those earthly things; he "separated himself to" the Lord Numbers 6:2, Numbers 6:5-6 : he "consecrated to the Lord the days of his separation Numbers 6:12 : all the days of his separation he was holy to the Lord Numbers 6:8 : the separation of his God was upon his head." Numbers 6:7. The vow was a great and singular thing. "When man or woman shall vow a special vow of a Nazarite" Numbers 6:2. The ritual of the Nazarite likened him to the priest. Giving him no priestly office, it yet even intensified some of the rules of the priesthood.
The priest was to abstain from wine and strong drink, only "when" he "went into the tabernacle of the congregations," that he might "put difference between holy and unholy, and teach Israel the statutes" of the Lord Leviticus 10:9-11 : the Nazarite, so long as he remained such. The priest might defile himself for certain very near dead Leviticus 21:1-3; the high priest alone and the Nazarite, "neither for father nor mother" Leviticus 21:11-12; Numbers 6:7 : and that for the kindred reason; the high priest, "because the crown of the anointing oil of his God" was "upon him;" the Nazarite, "because the consecration of his God was upon his head!" His consecrated hair was called by the self-same name Numbers 6:19 as the mitre of the priest. It appears to have been woven into "seven locks" Judges 16:13, itself a number of consecration. If his consecration came to an end, that hair was mingled with the sacrifice Numbers 6:18, and on "his" hands alone, besides the priest's at his consecration, was part of the offering laid Numbers 6:19.
All Israel was, in God's purpose, "a kingdom of priests" Exodus 19:6; and, among them, the Nazarite was brought yet nearer, not to the priest's office, but to his character. This must have diffused itself indefinitely through the outward and inward life. Further strictness probably lay in the spirit of the vow. The outward appearance of the Nazarites appears to have been changed by their abstemiousness. "Her Nazarites were purer than snow; they were whiter than milk" Lamentations 4:7. Their countenance had that transparent purity, which sometimes results from a pure abstemious life; as Athanasius is said to have been "bloodless." John the Immerser, the counterpart of Elijah, ate only of the food of the wilderness, "locusts and wild honey;" his clothing was the hair cloth Luke 1:15; Luke 7:33; Matthew 3:4.
Of James the Just it is related with reference to the Nazarite vow ; "He was holy from his mother's womb; wine and strong drink he drank not, nor ate any living thing; the razor came not up upon his head; he anointed him not with oil, and he used not a bath." Nazarites there had been in the most disorganized times of Israel. The histories of Samson and Samuel stand over against one another, as Nazarites who, the one forfeited, the other persevered in, his vocation. Elijah's ascetic character is as if he had been one of them, or deepened the lines of their rule. Ahaziah's ungodly messengers described him contemptously as "a man, lord of hair," as though he had nothing but his prophet's broad mantle of hair, and "the leather girdle about his loins" .
The Rechabites, although Kenites by origin 1 Chronicles 2:55, had been enrolled in the people of God, and had received a rule from their father, uniting with the abstinence of the Nazarites, a mode of life which kept them aloof from the corruptions of cities Jeremiah 35:7, Jeremiah 35:9. The rules of their Nomadic life were consecrated to God, for He says, "There shall not be cut off from Jonadub, the son of Rechab, a man standing before Me for ever" Jeremiah 35:19, that is, as the servant of God. God uses as to them the term which marks the service of the Levites Deuteronomy 10:8, priests Judges 20:28, and prophets 1 Kings 17:1. Jonadab, the author of their rule, was plainly an ascetic, through whose presence Jehu hoped to cast a religious character over his ambitious execution of God's command .
But the value which the artful, though impetuous 2 Kings 9:20, bloodstained, captain attached to the presence of the ascetic shows the weight which they had with the people. Strange sight it must have been, the energetic warrior in his coat of mail, and the ascetic, as energetic, in his hair-cloth. Deeper far the cotrast within. But the more marvelous the contrast, the more it attests the influence which the unworldly ascetic had over the world. Like the garb of the prophets, their appearance was a standing rebuke to a life of sense. Like the patriarchs, it professed that they were "strangers and pilgrims upon the earth." They who sought nothing of the world or of time, were a witness to the belief in their eternal home. The Nazarites must now have been a numerous body, since Amos speaks of them, as a known class, like the prophets, of whose numbers we hear incidentally .
Yet the memory of these, who, amid the general corruption, were, each in his own sphere, centers of pure faith and life, is embalmed in these few words only. So little reason is there to think that God's commands were neglected by all, because their observance is not related. Amos appeals publicly to the people that the fact was so, that God had raised up Nazarites as well as prophets among them. He had His "little flock" Luke 12:32, His "seven thousand" 1 Kings 19:18, who escaped the eye even of Elijah. The gift of the Nazarites was a special favor to Israel, as a memorial what the grace of God could do for man, what man could do, with the grace of God. His "raising up Nazarites, out of their young men," men in their first bloom of unmarried , virgin (Deuteronomy 32:25; 2 Chronicles 36:17; Jeremiah 51:22; and in the plur. Psalm 78:63; Psalm 148:12; Isaiah 23:4;. Jeremiah 31:13; Lamentations 1:18; Lamentations 2:21; Zechariah 9:17; and by Amos himself, Amos 8:13), life their picked "very chosen men," such as furnished the prime of their warriors , stengthened that teaching.
Even now, one devoted to God in his youth is a witness for God, leaven of the world around him. But the Nazarite had also to bear an outward mark for good, to be singular. His appearance bespoke that he had chosen God. His vow was not only a living up to the law; it lay beyond the law, the free-will offering of those whom God called. At an age, when so many do things unlawful, to gratitfy passion, these abstained even from things lawful. "Canst thou not do what these youths and these maidens can? or can they either in themselves, and not rather in the Lord their God?" was Augustine's upbraiding of himself , on the eve of his conversion, in thought of those who were living a devoted virgin life.
Is it not even thus? - It were enough that God, the Truth, said it. But He condemns not, without giving space for excuse or defense. So he describes the Day of Judgment Matthew 25:24-30, Matthew 25:41-45; Matthew 22:11. "The books were opened - and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works" Revelation 20:12. Now, in the time of grace, the question asks, what, written under the picture of Christ crucified, once converted a sinner; "This have I done for thee: What doest thou for Me?" What did they? What had they done? What would they do?
on Amos 2 :11
2:11 Nazarites - Persons who bound themselves to a very sober and holy life; either for some certain time, or for their whole life.