Tom Hayes


Amos 6:8

It was a sad commentary on the man's vocabulary, and even more on his life, but a fellow worker said about him, "He swears every other word!" In most people's thinking, that means that he constantly uses profanity. When the Bible speaks of swearing, however, it is always associated with, or equated with, taking an oath. That's the idea set forth in the words of our text, "The Lord God hath sworn by Himself" (Amos 6:8).

But, didn't Jesus teach us not to swear? Indeed, He did say, "Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is His footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black" (Matt. 5:34-36). Why would He tell us not to do something, and then turn around and do it, Himself?

Well, we know that Jesus was teaching that a Christian's word should be his bond. If we speak the truth, swearing, or taking an oath, is totally unnecessary. However, it seems when God swears, He does so to reveal His holy seriousness to His people. Many of His special covenants are even accompanied with this mark and seal. Therefore, as the Lord promises to judge His people for their sins in this text, He confirms it with an oath.

The Lord had promised Abraham that He would give the land of Palestine to his seed. Now, He tells his offspring that He must remove them from the inheritance He promised to give them. With this verdict, He swears, or makes an oath, ensuring the execution of His promise. When God swears to do something, He will do it! He is faithful to Himself and to His word, and even if He promises judgment, He will bring it to pass.

1. He Swears In Solemnity

This chapter, like all the other divisions of the prophecy of Amos, confronts us with the solemn side of God. Of course, the oath itself and by itself is a sobering emphasis. But, in all reality, from the first word until the last, we sense that the Lord's grief over Israel's sins is so great that something must be done. For sure, "God means what He says, and says what He means!" And, He has a lot to say throughout these early verses.

A. A Woe Concerning False Tranquility

In the opening rebuke, we see how God feels concerning spiritual apathy. It is possible to have peace, and not have the peace of God. One can be at rest, and not at rest in God. This false tranquility, which is nothing more than complacency, disinterest, or unconcern, is not something the Lord takes lightly. Backed up by His oath, He says, "Woe to them that are at ease in Zion" (6:1). For sure, the divine response is enough to cause us to seek to be aroused in faith before He is aroused in judgment!

B. A Word Concerning Faulty Trust

The heart of God is further unveiled as He pronounces His disdain for those who "trust in the mountain of Samaria" (6:1). To trust in "the mountain of Samaria," a safe fortress in the Northern Kingdom, suggests placing trust in something else besides the Lord. Not only is it possible to have a peace that is not true peace, but it is possible to have faith that is not genuine faith. It is a faith, or a belief, that God doesn't believe in (see John 2:23-25), an attitude that He must judge.

C. A Word Concerning Fleshly Tendencies

A false peace and a false faith cannot produce anything but a false lifestyle. In their minds, because they were God's covenant people, the children of Israel were convinced that He would not judge them (see 6:3). Consequently, they lived as they pleased, submerging themselves in selfishness and sensuality. Nothing was spared in their banquets of fleshliness and revelry (see 6:4-6). Thus, God swore that nothing would be spared in His judgment of their evil ways (see 6:7).

2. He Swears For Surety

The oath before us is not the first or the last divine oath in this prophecy. Earlier, Amos wrote, "The Lord God hath sworn by His holiness" (4:2). And, later, we are told, "The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob" (8:7). In our text, however, He doesn't swear "by His holiness" or "by the excellency of Jacob." He swears "by Himself!" In other words, He swears by all that He is, a more than sufficient surety, or pledge, to accompany His promise.

A. The Oath Was Articulated By God

Any statement must be examined in the light of who made or makes the statement. The oath before us does not just express the revenging heart of a prophet. This is a word from God! By all means, the Lord used the man from Tekoa to pen it, but it is the revelation of the broken heart of God! God, Himself, is speaking, and swearing to bring judgment. The oath, then, is trustworthy and sure, because the One making the statement is dependable and faithful.

B. The Oath Was Authenticated By God

The Lord not only assured the Northern Kingdom of His plan of judgment by making an oath, but He attached His name to it, further establishing the validity of the oath. As it is said about the Abrahamic covenant, "because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself" (Heb. 6:13). He didn't just make a flippant promise, a promise that meant nothing. Rather, He put His name on it, authenticating each word! With His name on it, the promises will definitely come to pass.

C. The Oath Was Administrated By God

Having made the will, and having signed it, the Lord took on the role of the chief executor of that will. Motivated by His holiness, the faithful God set in motion the terrible judgments He had promised. Because of His compassionate heart, we cannot help but believe that He longed to show His love to His people in a continued fashion. Because of their hard hearts, however, He had to say, "therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein" (6:8).

3. He Swears With Severity

The words of the first seven verses of this prophetical portion reveal why God had to judge Israel. Our key text, which contains the oath itself and the Name behind it, unveils the certainty of this judgment. In the remaining verses of the chapter, the severity of God and the nature of His judgment is declared. Israel had bitterly opposed their God and mocked His claims with their sins. Now, they must receive the bitter recompense for their wrong!

A. He Deals Severely With The Persistent

The children of Israel not only were idolatrous and immoral, but to make matters worse, they were also impenitent. And, because of their sins, and their persistence in their sins, God had to deal severely with them. The future would be one of pain, sorrow, and death. They would be besieged, starved, and the objects of various forms of cruelty (see 6:9, 10). The entire drama is a harsh reminder that "the way of transgressors is hard" (Prov. 13:15).

B. He Deals Severely With The Pretentious

Because of the constant abuse of the poor and needy, the Lord described the kingdom's judicial system as overflowing with "gall" and "hemlock," or poison and bitterness (6:12). In a hypocritical manner, they passed severe judgment on helpless people and only slapped the wrists of their friends. But, God is no respecter of persons, and never overlooks anybody or anything (see 6:11). The scales of His judgment are always balanced and all pretense will be judged just as greatly as all blatant, open wickedness.

C. He Deals Severely With The Proud

Lastly, we are made aware of God's intolerance with and His judgment of the pride of man. To say the least, the God of all grace was the Source of all Israel's blessings. However, the people had assumed credit for everything. Thus, the God Who resists the proud (see James 4:6), judged their haughtiness. The words of Solomon are applicable to every generation. "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall" (Prov. 16:18).

After four years as a prisoner of war in England, John I, King of France, was allowed to return to France with the understanding that if he could persuade his people to agree to certain terms, he was a free man. If he could not persuade them, he promised by oath to return to England. When he could not prevail upon them to accept the terms, he returned to England, and eventually died there. Oh, dear friends, if a defeated king would keep his word, we can be sure that the victorious King of kings will not do less! Oh, may we "have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear" (Heb. 12:28). Amen.